Charlie, Dominic, and Irat
Day 6, September 20
The twelve feet clearance sign loomed ahead, blocking the bus from entering one of the great pearls of Etruria. Protected behind the low clearance bridge stood the villas of movie stars and Italian elites. Scattered about the side of the hill, the villas lined the road leading to the pearl within the pearl, the ancient ruins of the Roman colony, Cosa. For such a site, we were not easily deterred by a bus preventing bridge. Leaving Giuseppe and his tasteful music behind, we journeyed under the bridge and began an adventurous hike to the ruins. Many minutes later we happened upon a beautiful courtyard covered with ivy and flowers, from which we entered into the site. Michael nearly had to utilize his track star abilities to run back down the hill to retrieve the forgotten measuring tape from the bus, but fortunately the site director was willing to give Briar and Lily Dahn a lift. From there we followed the trail to the forum, and we noted the continued activity of the Cosan excavation, as archaeologists continued the work of the great Frank Brown. Moving along, we stopped to study the clearly demarcated walls of a large Roman house, located in close proximity to the forum. It is amazing to think that someone could own such a great property so close to the center of city life!
Reaching the forum we gathered on the remaining steps of the comitium. As we sat there, Professor Stewart reminded us that the Cosans gathered at the comitium would be standing in contrast to the seated senators. Power never stands! Professor Stewart helped us to understand the history of Cosa and the process of Roman colonization. We learned that Cosa had been founded as a Roman colony in 273 BC after the defeat of Ceveteri. Indeed, the process of conquest involves three steps – conquering, getting people to like you, and as the Romans discovered, making a colony. How does one make a colony? Well as Professor Stewart noted, you put your fellow Romans in a foreign landscape. You send poor citizens to a conquered area, give them a little land, and create a mini-Rome. As we looked around us, we could see the hallmark of this Roman microcosm, the forum. Starting in 334 BC when Rome began colonizing, arriving Romans would stroll through colonial fora as “somebodies” who in Rome would be “nobodies.” Here in Cosa we found all the trappings of the Roman Forum. There was a curia where the Cosan senate would meet and a comitium outside it where the people of the city could gather. Next to the curia, as in the Roman forum, we observed a temple dedicated to Concord, reinforcing the connection between the senate and the harmony of the city. Along the side of the Cosan forum we observed the remains of a basilica where among other things the adjudication of trials would take place. The scant remains of the basilica made it difficult to envision the building, but with a lesson on basilical roofing methods from Professor Stewart, our imaginations became less hazy. Leaving the forum we stopped to note a series of holes in the ground, which some scholars have suggested were the ovula where voting took place.
Concluding our visit to the site, we measured and examined the remains of an Etruscan temple. Comparing our finds to Vetruvius’ ratios for the design of an Etruscan temple, we found that his approximations were not perfect for the site, though fairly close. Standing on the pediment of this temple, we soaked in the amazing view of the beach below us, which we would later enjoy.
Leaving the site, we ventured down to the harbor of the modern city of Cosa where we salvaged a late lunch. There we were heckled by an Italian old man who attempted to guess our nationalities and was fascinated by Radha’s hair. It was at this time that we noted first evidence of Lily Dahn’s entrepreneurial spirit, as she pawned off pieces of sea glass she had collected with Carol. Well fed and eager for adventure, we relied on Giuseppe to take us to a spiaga (beach). We found a place, but spent 45 minutes wandering the park before finally finding a beautiful and uninhabited sandy beach. We eagerly jumped in for a swim, some of us too eagerly! Even Professor Stewart couldn’t resist the call of the water, donning Zeke’s 50 Cent T-shirt and diving in for a swim. After a long and memorable day, we returned to the Hotel Tarconte.