Samnite

Charlie and Zeke
Day 27, October 13, 2007

This morning we drove east from Avezzano to Sulmona, passing through Corfinium, the Italic capital city during the social wars of 91 BCE.

In Sulmona, we found ourselves on a mountain face, standing on one in a series of ancient, man-made terraces. From our vantage point on the lowest terrace, dating from the 1st Century BCE, we were at the foot of another terrace from the 4th Century BCE and able to look up at 6th Century BCE cave in the mountain face above.  Professor Ulrich helped us date the terraces by pointing to the use of various wall-construction techniques, ranging from opus incertum to opus reticulatum. The terraces were host to the temple of Hercules Curinus and served as a central meeting location for the largely disjointed people of Paeligni to perform political and religious exercises. Standing on the mountainside reinforced our understanding of the difficulties that would have faced the Romans in attempting to conquer the Samnites — such a transitory people, embedded in such a rocky terrain.

After a quick lunch in Sulmona, we drove north towards the Adriatic coast, crossing the Appenines, to Chieti where we spent the afternoon in two museums — La Civitella and Il Museo Archeologica Nazionale d’Abruzzo.

La Civitella caught our attention with its unorthodox presentation of material from antiquity; stationary battle scenes were projected into a Styrofoam amphitheater, an exhibit called “Archaeology from the Romans until Yesterday” placed dog tags from World War II and what could only be described as noise music played in the background and next to potsherds from the Iron Age.

After making our rounds, we settled down in front of two terracotta temple pediments from the 2nd Century BCE. We briefly discussed the temples’ prop-and-lintel roof construction, which was fairly “old-fashioned” for the 2nd Century, and explored the liberties taken in the museum’s complete reconstruction of the pediment reliefs. Shortly thereafter, we moved onto the second pediment in which the sculptures had not been restored and were displayed as loosely arranged terracotta fragments. We each chose a sculpture in the pediment to describe and present to the group. Examining the limited remains of our statues tested our attention to detail and forced us to become aware of the danger of our own preconceptions; all judgments were reserved until the act of describing was finished. By the end of our two hours in front of the pediment, we all felt comfortable reconstructing the various contrapostos of the statues by examining the musculature of knees and arching of feet.


In the early evening, we walked through Chieti to Il Museo Archeologica Nazionale d’Abruzzo where we encountered another unorthodox presentation of archaeological materials — this time alongside Pop Art. Black and white silhouettes of Kennedy and Khrushchev were placed between busts from antiquity. We were most excited to see the larger-than-life statue of Hercules from the altar at Alba Fucens, a selection of Hercules votives from Solmona, a terracotta statue of a Samnite warrior and a kline with amazingly preserved bronze finishing.


After an hour drive southeast along the coast, we arrived at our hotel on the beach in Vasto.

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