Drawings of Bassae temple frieze now in Cuba

Thanks to Explorator for this link.

Interestingly (for me), I saw a set of casts of the Bassae sculptures in Lyme Park last Thursday. It's a National Trust house near Stockport. According to the guide in that part of the house, one of the owners apparently sold the originals to the British Museum and got the casts in return.

Exhibition of friezes from the Temple of Apollo Epicuris

• Collaboration between Havana’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Winckelmann Institute of Berlin

BY MIREYA CASTAÑEDA — Granma International staff writer —

THE Museum of Fine Arts Universal Art collection is exhibiting, for the first time in Cuba and in Latin America, 23 chalcographies depicting friezes from the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, Greece, accompanied by plaster casts of three blocks of friezes, donated by the Winckelmann Institute.

The engravings, which are part of the Julio Lobo collection, were published in a limited edition in 1814 in Rome, based on drawings made on-site by the German Martin von Wagner (1777-1858).

Thanks to his audacity —because Von Wagner drew and edited without the consent of archeologists— humanity can now enjoy this exquisite sculptural art from the Classical Greek period.

A World Heritage Site since 1886, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius (he was given this surname, which can mean rescuer or liberator, either for having supported the citizens of Arcadia in their fight against Sparta, or for having protected them against the plague during the Peloponnesian War) at Bassae is one of the most-studied buildings from ancient Greece because of its uncommon characteristics.

In the first place, it is aligned in a north-south direction, in contrast to the majority of Greek temples, which are east-west. This position is owing to the very small amount of space available on the steep, narrow mountainsides. To compensate for this difficulty, the building has an opening in its east wall to let in light, which moreover illuminated the statue of its deity.

Another unique characteristic was its decor, which includes the three classic orders – Doric columns on the peristyle, Ionic in the portico and Corinthian in the interior. While its exterior is little-adorned, its interior exhibits the friezes that now, in engravings and plaster casts, may be seen in Havana, the 23 blocks with scenes of battles, Greeks against Amazons and centaurs.

The temple in honor of Apollo was planned by Ictinus, the creator of no less than the Parthenon, in Athens. The temple is believed to have been built between 450 and 425 B.C.

The location of the Temple of Apollo Epicurius was located in a mountainous area of Peloponnesia that contributed to its preservation, far away from wars and even the acid rain that is wearing down other monuments close to major cities.

While it was discovered in the 18th century, excavation did not begin until 1810 by scientists Charles Robert Cockerell and Otto Magnus von Stackelberg. More thorough investigation was done in 1836, and the oldest Corinthian capitals were revealed.

Unfortunately for Greek culture, the 23 friezes in marble were taken away by Cockerell in 1815 to the British Museum, where they are now on exhibit, together with the famous Elgin Marbles collection of friezes that were also taken away, from the Parthenon.

Since the great Greek actress Melina Mercouri was minister of culture, Greece has justly demanded their return, given they are part of the country’s heritage.

It was precisely from those originals now in London that the Winckelmann Institute in Berlin proceeded to make the plaster casts, and it made three to donate to the Dihigo Musuem of the University of Havana, which has lent them to the Museum of Fine Arts to accompany the significant exhibition of 23 engravings.

Regarding the exhibition and some explanations, we talked with María Amelia Castro, a Greek art specialist at the museum.

What kind of relations exist between the Museum of Fine Arts and the Winckelmann?

“The Winckelmann Institute for the study of classic archeology at Humboldt University in Berlin has provided us with scientific advisement for many years, not just for this exhibition, but for previous projects. We even have a great joint project – the publication of a well-reasoned catalog of the entire Lagunilla Collection, our great collection of ancient art. At the Winckelmann Institute, we carried out the entire investigation related to this exhibition; it provided us with a bibliography, viewing similar engravings, meeting with specialists. It is scientific help that goes back many years.”

Tell us about the donation.

“The plaster casts are exceptionally valuable. While they are not works of art in and of themselves, they are reproduced on a scale that allows those of us who cannot travel to all of the museums in the world to appreciate the work in its original size, its main characteristics and above all its texture, in its projection. Moreover, these are not just any, commercial-type plaster casts that are made on a mass scale; their molds were taken from the originals in the 19th century, during the time that they were sold to the British Museum in London. This is something that cannot be repeated, because molds will never again be taken from those originals. The Winckelmann Institute, which possesses one of the best collections of plaster casts in Europe, has the molds, and reproduced three of these fragments for us, donated to the Faculty of Arts and Literature, which is where the plaster cast museum is. They will be used the entire time as a theoretical and technical support for the exhibition, and when it closes on May 26, they will be returned to the University of Havana’s Dihigo Museum, where they can always be studied.”

It complements the exhibition…

“That’s right. We present the engravings, and with those three plaster casts, we give the public the opportunity to compare the engraving with the natural size of the fragments, and they can recognize many aspects.”

A lot is owing to Von Wagner…

“The Temple of Apollo Epicurius is so unique, with such an importance and specific particularities, that of course there is a large bibliography, many publications. There are excellent photos, lithographs, everything offered by technology, but the first one to draw it, there, at the foot of the fragment, was Martin von Wagner, who later became a draftsman and a representative of King Louis of Bavaria to try to buy a fragment. Von Wagner became an important figure, a great collector, architect, engraver and painter. There is a museum named after him in Germany.”

The engravings belong to the Julio Lobo Collection…

“The file with these engravings using the chalcography technique, according to the data in our archives, entered the National Museum in 1972. In effect, their origin is the National Library’s Julio Lobo Collection, which had it in its care, and probably because of its characteristics, it became part of the Museum of Fine Art’s collections. Now these engravings are going to be exhibited for the first time in Cuba, and I am sure for the first time in Latin America, because it was a limited and special edition in the early 19th century. I have seen two similar copies in very specialized libraries in Europe.”

The exhibition “Engravings of the friezes from the Temple of Apollo Epicurius,” in the temporary exhibition gallery on the fourth floor of the Universal Art building, may be seen from April 4 to May 26.

Circus Maximus to be (very partially) rebuilt

From The Independent – thanks to Explorator for the link.

It's good that visitors will get some idea of the Circus Maximus with a rebuilt spina. I didn't know that the Circus was used for gladiatorial shows before the building of the Colosseum. Is that true? And what is the correct use of 'lay waste'? Does it take a direct object (as I was taught by Hillard and Botting) or should it really be 'lay waste to', as seems the common use today?

By Peter Popham in Rome
Thursday, 3 April 2008

It still bears its thrilling ancient name, and the antique ruins on the Palatine Hill, the heart of ancient Rome and home of the Caesars, still gaze down upon it. But now it takes a feat of the imagination to see Circus Maximus as it must have been in its pomp.

Today it is little more than a long, narrow park, 340 metres in length, with a small archeological dig fitfully in progress at its south-eastern end. It can still hold a crowd: Genesis played a free concert here last year, and Bob Geldof persuaded Rome's mayor, Walter Veltroni, to let him use it for the Italian leg of the Live-8 spectacular in 2005. The rest of the time it is the haunt of dog-walkers, joggers and the occasional conceptual artist.

But 2,000 years ago this was the most exciting spot in the city. Long before the building of the Colosseum, crowds in their hundreds of thousands packed the stands to watch 12 teams of charioteers scorch the earth. Gladiators and wild animals fought in mortal combat, and the central arena was often flooded so miniature triremes could battle it out for the Romans' delight. If a particularly large number of people had to be crucified, Circus Maximus was the obvious place to do it.

The strip's last big show was in AD549. Then the Barbarians arrived and laid it to waste, and for the next millenium and a half it was no more than a very large allotment with a fancy name.

But now, after the centuries of neglect and years of debate and campaigning, Circus Maximus is finally to get some attention. Beginning on 20 June, the city's archeological authorities are to begin a careful and respectful restoration.

Eugenio La Rocca, Superintendent of Rome and lecturere in archeology at Rome's Sapienza University, said: “We are trying to realise the old dreams that Rome has maintained from the 19th century up to the present. We will do our best to restore this site, which was of the utmost importance in our history.

“[Emperor] Tarquin drained the site 2,500 years ago, but it was Julius Caesar in 46 BC who erected the first buildings here, which were consumed by fire in AD64. With the Emperor Trajan, the performances began to assume the wondrous proportions that we only know today from films.”

Professor La Rocca stressed that he will not be attempting to restore the Circus to its former glory. “We will clean up the whole site to make it practicable and legible, and give it a simple curved enclosure,” he said. During chariot races the long track was divided by a raised spine of beaten earth, and this is one element the authorities plan to recreate.

They will also continue excavating, with greater urgency. Despite the fame of the Circus, Professor La Rocca told La Repubblica newspaper, “Paradoxically we have little information about it. Pliny claimed it could hold 250,000 spectators but others said 150,000, which seems much more likely.” Treasures recovered from the Circus and other sites will eventually find a home in a new Museum of the City of Rome, to be built a few steps away.

Silchester page in Google Earth Hacks

A page with basic information about Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester), but, more interesting, an aerial view.


Classical website links organised on del.icio.us

John Whelpton has been working hard on behalf of Classicists. He writes:

I’ve now started putting sites from my list of Classics links onto del.icio.us

I’m not entirely happy with the tags I’ve chosen and I haven’t yet transferred everything (they don’t allow you enough space for the longer annotations) but the more important sites are now at http://del.icio.us/Velptonius

Most of the tags are self-explanatory except perhaps `star’, which is for the sites I use most extensively myself and/or think are particularly well designed.

John also raises an interesting question;

Arising out of Mary Beard's remarks about Vicipaedia and Nuntii Latini (Helsinkienses). I agree with your own comments, of course, but her reference to the Nuntii audience as `the waiting handful' made me wonder how large the audience is. I could ask the editors direct but, on past experience, they're very slow to reply. Do you have any idea how widely the site is read/listened to in Europe and North America? I would guess it's a thousand or two (any rate more than the 138 people who've also bookmarked it on del.icio.us!) but I've no real idea. I asked this question on the Latinteach.com forum but got no response, though the site itself does have a link to Nuntii.

Roman house design updated in Florida

From the Herald Tribune

An article about a Florida house called Tradewinds, showing how ideas used by the Romans still work well. This is a brief excerpt:

Of perhaps greater interest to the average homeowner, Mouen shows us how Roman-era domestic architecture can be adapted to 21st-century lifestyles, and how ancient climate-control principles can provide comfort that meets a 21st-century standard.

Mouen's U-shaped plan is an adaptation of a Roman courtyard villa with living spaces opening off a central courtyard. In this case the central area is occupied by a swimming pool and a spa. It is open at one end to capture the view of the adjacent Lake Susanna, and to funnel the cool breezes blowing off the water into the interior rooms.

The Paris section of the CICERO Latin Competition

In France the European Cicero Competition took place both in Paris and Strasbourg this year.

In Strasbourg 23 students worked on the cultural test and 13 on the language test, in Lycée Fustel de Coulanges, a former Royal College founded by King Louis XIV.


The competition was organised there by the ARELAS, an association of classics teachers in the East of France.


In Paris 50 students worked on the cultural test and 54 on the language test, in Lycée Henri IV, also called Lycée Napoléon during the XIXth century, on the site of Ste Genevieve’s Abbey founded in the Middle Ages,
in the presence of Patrick Voisin, the Director of the Competition.



Some competitors even came from the West and the South of France, not only from the Paris area.

All details in the French blog