Been busy re-writing my first published book, making an illustrated novel out it. Reliving the moments from which the story line is based has been a lot of fun, that being a thirty-day trip to England and Europe made almost a decade ago.
Having stayed away from Social Media for a bit, I don’t miss it, frankly. Do you miss me? Probably not. My photography has suffered as well, although, I went out today since it was such a gorgeous one. Picked a tick out of my hair this evening, the dastardly arachnid.
As I type, every little itch brings about paranoia that another nasty nit is lurking somewhere, looking to insert its chelicerae into a fat section of skin for sucking my blood. Found one clamped on my butt in the shower once. Click here here for a post from last year around this time, which goes into the subject a little deeper.
They’ve begun to allow dogs at my apartment complex, whereas only cats were allowed in the past. I like to have silence whenever writing, not total silence, mind you; but the incessant yipping of small canines drives me nuts.
My next-door- and downstairs’ neighbors have little rat-looking mongrels that bark at any noise they hear. Why do they have to do so, squealing repeatedly in high gear, like playing a 33 1/3-r.p.m. record of an operatic aria on 78? Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Guess you never owned vinyl. Never mind.
Anyway, getting back to the second edition of my first novel, the leadoff tome—one of three in the Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, in which the other two volumes were illustrated from the get-go—has edited excerpts added previously on occasion to this blog, complete with supplemental photographs taken during the trip. I incorporated the rewritten sections into the foregoing endeavor, saving me some effort.
Here’s another chapter to wet your whistle. I hope you enjoy the snippet as much as I have while redoing it. Thanks for reading and for your continued support.
I Found My Thrill on Palatine Hill
Arch of Constantine – Palatine Hill in Background
Part two of our tour had almost begun. We were told to regroup by the steps going up to the Roman Forum. Before embarking, I bought a hot dog and a bottle of water, consuming them posthaste.
Anabel, our new tour guide, took us along a path leading past the Arch of Constantine, through a gate where we were admitted to the bottom of the hilltop, and up a steep flight of steps, knocking all of the wind out of me. By the time we reached the summit of Palatine Hill, I had to stop for a bit to rest and catch my breath.
Farnese Gate to Palatine Hill
Steps to Farnese Gardens Atop Palatine Hill
Having kept up with Anabel nevertheless, I made it to the top with her before everyone else. We sat on a bench and chatted while awaiting the rest of our group to finish their climb. She was an American from Brooklyn who went to Spain and studied art.
After a couple of years in Barcelona, Anabel packed up her car with all of her belongings and toured the French Riviera on the way to the Mediterranean west coast of Italy, where she and her Labrador retriever settled in Rome. The adventuress began working at her present job and remained in Italy ever since. The last time she was in America was at the turn of the new millennium in the summer of 2001.
“Don’t you miss New York City?” I said. “I worked there quite often as a field technician several years ago.”
“You gotta be kidding me,” she said with a perfect Brooklyn accent. “I put up with too much grief living there. Anyway, it’s an artist’s dream to be here in Rome. We’ll talk later, OK?” Anabel got up to assemble our group and began her lesson about how Palatine Hill related to Ancient Roma.
“It all started with twin brothers, Romulus and Remus,” our guide said. “Legend places the beginning of Ancient Rome on top of this very hill, for it was from here Romulus first built the walls that would eventually encircle the entire city.”
Like an eloquent orator, she went on to delve farther into the fascinating fable. “According to Roman mythology, the twins were found in a pool down below this hill by a she-wolf, who suckled the two as if they were hers; and the boys were fed by a woodpecker.” Anabel looked about the group and exhibited a wry smile when glancing in my direction.
The part about the she-wolf sounded mythologically correct, but babies being fed by a woodpecker was a bit off in left field. I raised my hand and asked her, “What exactly is a she-wolf in Roman mythology, and how did a woodpecker come to play into this scenario?”
“Good question. My interpretation comes directly from its usage during the Roman period. ‘She-wolf’ commonly meant ‘a prostitute.’” She paused for what I had assumed was for dramatic effect. The woman certainly had captivated her audience. “As for the part about the bird, Picus, who was the son of Mars, had been turned into a woodpecker by a witch for scorning her love.”
Our illustrious speaker further noted that Romulus and Remus were the bird’s half brothers, for Mars had seduced and impregnated the boys’ mother, a Vestal Virgin put to death as the result; and she was buried alive for breaking her vow of chastity. “The woodpecker felt obligated to feed the twins until they were rescued by a shepherd and his wife, who raised the boys until they became men.”
What a bunch of malarkey, I thought. Anabel concluded by saying, “Romulus killed Remus over a territorial dispute here on Palatine Hill, thereby initializing the official site of Ancient Rome.”
Remnants of Aqueduct Claudius
Septimus Severus’ Baths – Domitian’s Stadium
Domus Flavia – Domitian’s Palace
Our trusty tour guide pointed out the rest of the ruins on the hilltop: a central forum, an aqueduct-fed water-distribution tank originally setup to send piped-in running water to the once-elaborate network of palaces scattered about; and a temple sat atop where the early emperors lived and worshiped.
The Roman Forum and the Vestal Virgins
The Forum from Palatine Hill
We stopped on the terrace overlooking the Roman Forum. Down below were the ruins of a few other temples that surrounded Caesar’s Forum: the site of the Roman Stock Exchange; and Curia Julia, or the building where the Roman Senate was housed, which stood prominently and remained totally in intact.
I was particularly fascinated by the site where the House of the Vestals was located. At one time it was a three-story, fifty-room palace; housing the Vestal Virgins, who were the only women priests in any of the covens existing for tending to the Roman deities.
House of the Vestal Virgins
This heavenly harem wasn’t occupied by your ordinary bevy of youth and beauty. At the inception of the order, the priestesses of Vesta were strictly of royal birth, some of whom had been the daughters of Roman kings, but later were recruited from patriarchal families.
The virgins remained chaste while practicing their vows and keeping the Eternal Fire of Vesta lit, for it was believed that if the flames were extinguished, the entire empire would be in danger of destruction. Had the fire gone out on a Vestal Virgin’s watch, the one on duty would have been flogged.
If the girl or woman was found to be unchaste, she would have been put to death exactly the way Romulus and Remus’s mother had met her maker. At the end of their thirty-year term, a priestess could then marry if she wished to do so; however, if the maiden did, the woman would then be subjected to the servitude of her husband and the loss of all her other privileges, including living in the lap of luxury. For this reason, most of the virgins remained affiliated with the priesthood.
The Vestal fire was extinguished forever in 394 CE by the Christian Emperor Theodosius, who outlawed any pagan veneration within the empire, thus ending a Roman tradition which had existed for well over a millennium.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but once Theodosius had banned the gods believed to be protecting Rome and its citizens for the preceding eleven hundred years, the fall of the Western Roman Empire, with the Holy Roman Empire in Constantinople subsequently following suit in a relatively short period of time afterward, had both ultimately ensued the purging of the Roman deities by Christianity.
Our tour had ended. All of the group applauded Anabel for a job well done. I asked her if she was through for the afternoon. She told me one more tour was left to go. “When you are done later, would you care to have dinner with me at a place of your choice? It will be my treat,” I said. “Consider it as my tip to you for an unforgettable lecture on Palatine hill.”
“I would like that. Meet me at the entrance where we climbed the stairs to get up here. I’ll be there at five o’clock. Since it appears you are such a lover of ancient history, I’ll take you to a restaurant inside part of the original Pompey Theater, where Julius Caesar was assassinated.”
“Terrific! I’ll walk down to the forum in the meantime and check out the ruins until then. Ciao, Anabel. I’ll see you later.”
“What is your name, Citizen?”
“Ciao, Michelino, I’ll be looking for you then.”
I took the steps leading down to get a closer look at the remnants of one of the earliest and greatest cradles of a democratic society. Finally, I was visiting the ruins I had always dreamed about seeing, marking another must-do off the bucket list
Arch of Titus at the Edge of the Roman Forum