October 16th, 2007

Day 31: Capua

Carol Szurkowski and Irat Feiskhanov

 

Today we woke up in lovely Capua.  We were well-rested.  Why, we wonÕt explain.  In any case, for our first adventure, we went to the amphitheater, which was built to the same specifications as its Flavian counterpart in Rome. We wandered around the understructure (similar to architectural underwear) with Professor Ulrich.  But first, outside the amphitheatre: we were shown carvings in the stone paving that enabled the Romans to accurately cut the blocks they would use for springing arches.  Professor Ulrich pointed out that there were different column orders along each level of arches on the amphitheatre: the bottom was Tuscan, the second—Doric, the third—Ionic, and the fourth, the top—Corinthian.  This was to give the visual effect of increased lightness and grace as your eyes move up the structure. 

Inside, that is, in that underwear part, we saw the passages, where we could imagine all the hustle and bustle that must have taken place in preparing the spectacles above.  We could imagine lions and all sorts of exotic beasts (played for us today by dogs and cats, the local wildlife) coming into the theatre through the underground entries. 

We could imagine the amphitheatre being flooded for mock naval battles.  We could even imagine reenactments of myths, which for todayÕs audience might be a little shocking, so itÕll be kept comfortably in the minds of the classics students.

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            After we had feasted our imaginations on all the spectacles that must have taken place here in ancient times, we moved inside to have a look at the gladiatorial museum, where we learned about the many different kinds of gladiators and their weaponry. Each of us picked out the equipment we would most like to be wearing if we were going to be forced to fight a starving lion to the death, but the general consensus was that regardless of how one were armed, the experience would probably be less than pleasant.

            We then stopped by the Civic Museum in Aletri, where we were welcomed by a very welcoming curator. He explained to us the importance of an inscription that had been found in the town listing all the public buildings that Betilienus, a leading citizen of this small ancient city, had donated. We also saw some very early religious artifacts, including a small statue of Hercules and an inscription fragment. Once we left the museum, we followed the ancient city walls up to a spectacular vantage point from which to bid farewell to Samnium and Professor Ulrich. We got back on the bus and headed back to our (mostly) comfortable rooms at the Candia, exhausted but so much wiser after our 5 day excursion into the mountainous and often nauseating Samnite terrain.