Today we visited Eurialo, the
great fort outside of Syracuse, probably built initially by Dionysius I as part
of his strategy to enclose the whole ridge with a wall in order to prevent an
attacker occupying the ridge and investing the city (as Athens tried to do in
414-3). That fort probably had little in common with the present one, since it
was updated in response to developments in siege warfare by the tyrants that
followed him until Syracuse was brought into the Roman empire.
The key is to keep catapults
away – ironically, the basic mechanism was invented by Dionysius’ engineers –
but the whole fort represents a battle to keep the catapults back. So lots of
ditches – and your own catapult to
get theirs, preferably on a high tower so you can get them when they
cannot get you, but are frantically filling in your ditches (which you sally
forth to clear out).
Nice place for a catapult…
With a good view over the
And a nice view of the Great
Harbor, scene of Athens’ crushing naval defeat of 413. Moral of the story – don’t’
Nice gate too…
And we also visited the crypt
and catacombs of St John (San Giovanni). The above-ground ruins are
picturesque, but relatively recent (Medieval). The below ground crypt and
catacombs are amazing, but you have to go with a guide, who hurries you through
and won’t let you take photos. You will have to come on the program!
On Friday 14th we went to Morgantina, a Sicel settlement in inland Sicily — we had moved the day forward about 2 weeks to avoid bad weather, but in the event, it was another glorious day. More pictures of the site are to the right, but the mosaics were looking fine. The fillet mosaic in the House of Ganymede was being cleaned, so we got a nice look; the guilloche and wave borders are from the House of the Arched Cistern:
We were joined during our lunch in the theater by some dogs:
The did not, however, follow us to the Archaic citadel, where we examined the four-room house where the Euthymides Crater in the local museum was discovered, and saw numerous sherds of Siculo-Geometric and Greek imports, some with painted lines:
On Sunday those who wanted to took a trip to Catania’s Serie
A team. Their opponents were Cagliari, Sardinia, who lay 3 points behind them
in the table. Catania had started well, but had recently begun its familiar
slide towards the relegation zone… a victory, as the program noted, was “a
must.” Cagliari featured the oddly named Acquafresca, who is a rising star and plays for the U-21 national team. Kick off:
Five minutes in 0-1 to Cagliari…
But Catania equalized through its popular offensive
midfielder, Mascara, not far from the half:
And just before the end, Sabato scored from a free kick
resulting from a lot of pressure up front!
2-1 Catania. And even better, with Palermo losing, they
leapfrogged their dreaded enemies in the table. And Acquafresca certainly
On Friday, as part of a larger examination of the politics
of theater in both Athens and Syracuse, we visited the impressive theater in
Syracuse. Most of the visible remains date from the renovations of Hieron II in
the third century BCE:
Inscriptions naming wedges as belonging to Hieron’s family
can still be seen:
This one names the wedge as “[The section] of Queen
Earlier incarnations of the theater date back to the first Hieron, and hosted among other things a performance of Aeschylus’ Persians. The cavea echoed once again to the sound of Xerxes rending his robes and his chorus commiserating:
In addition there is a very interesting quarry, with some
very fine oranges, the huge altar of Hieron II, and the Roman amphitheater, and
we also made a quick stop into the papyrus museum.
On Sunday, we were all lucky enough to be invited to the house of the excellent parents of our excellent Italian instructor, Rocco. The house was just outside Lentini, the site of the early Chalcidian colony of Leontini — not far from Catania, the second settlement — after Naxos — of Naxos’ founder Theocles, and unusual in that it is not on the coast. It does, however, command some excellent agricultural land, as we could tell from Rocco’s parents’ garden — the deal was that we would be fed if we picked olives!
All returned safely from our long field trip to western Sicily and Tunisia — incredible sites, fine weather, and not too rough a crossing to Africa (though getting through passport control was another matter)…
Selinunte (where we finally mastered double-angle contraction):
Dougga, with tortoise:
And Piazza Armerina:
More pictures of the sites on the pages to the right…
And I missed the entry for our field trip right before this to Naxos. Pictures of the site are also available to the right, but we also took the afternoon off and went swimming. There were some very large waves…
Today we had a temple day visiting the two Doric temples in Ortygia. Here we are outside the Temple of Apollo, just inside the city gate
And with our trusty driver
For the temple of Athena, and the spring of Arethusa, which we also visited, see the pages to your right.
Or Catina, as it was known. Last week students also spent a day piecing together the bits of Roman Catania — for pictures see the page for Catina in the photos section to the right of the page.
Megara Hyblaia, one of the first Greek colonies/settlements on the island, and a well preserved site, is our stop this week. Again, there are pictures in the photo section of the site.
And here we, gathered by the west gate, where the main road that runs across the north of the agora passes through the city wall:
Just to the North of Catania, you can find a small, but very pleasant town called Acireale. Its highlight is a fine Norman castle, on an island for around the first century of its life, but then connected to the mainland by a lava flow:
The rock you can see in the distance to the right of the castle is part of a small chain of rocks, said to be the large crags that Polyphemus threw at Odysseus as he escaped. The name Aci Castello comes from joining Castello to the river Aci (there is also an Aci Trezza and an Acireale). This river is said to be what remains of Acis, the boyfriend, so Ovid tells it, of the Galatea whom Polyphemus fell in love with, much to her horror. He relieved his disappointment by killing her lover, who then turned into this river. Galatea’s name remains in one of the metro stations in Catania.
Our resident director, Alan, took a party of students there last weekend, after they had, to the bafflement of all who saw them, picked up the trash on the ply-wood beach…
Pictures from the opening week orientation trip to Mt Etna: students, faculty, faculty families, our resident director and our vulcanologist guide.
[My son with hotel crushed by 2002 eruption]