On to Piazza Armerina and Siracusa, Sicily

March 11, 2016

Leaving Agrigento this morning, we went on to Piazza Armerina, and from there southeast to Siracusa, mentioned in Acts 28:12. While at Piazza Armerina we visited the Roman Villa of Casale. A portion of the Roman wall and one of the entrances is seen here:

Entrance to Roman Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Entrance to Roman Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The largest mosaic in the world, a hunting scene, is here.

Mosaic Hunting Scene. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mosaic Hunting Scene. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This villa, as was generally the case when there was running water, was serviced by lead pipes, which caused the inhabitants to have lead poisoning.

Lead pipe at Villa of Casale. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Lead pipe at Villa of Casale. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We are looking forward to touring Siracusa tomorrow, as well as Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano.

For now, here is further info re: the Roman villa of Casale:

The Villa Romana del Casale  is a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily, southern Italy. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, and has been designated as one of 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

Plan of the villa
The villa was constructed (on the remains of an older villa) in the first quarter of the 4th century AD, probably as the center of a huge latifundium (agricultural estate) covering the surrounding area. How long the villa had this role is not known, maybe for fewer than 150 years. The complex remained inhabited and a village grew around it, named Platia (derived from the word palatium (palace). The villa was damaged and perhaps destroyed during the domination of the Vandals and the Visigoths. The outbuildings remained in use, at least in part, during the Byzantine and Arab periods. The site was abandoned in the 12th century AD after a landslide covered the villa. Survivors moved to the current location of Piazza Armerina.

The villa was almost entirely forgotten, although some of the tallest parts of the remains were always above ground. The area was cultivated for crops. Early in the 19th century, pieces of mosaics and some columns were found. The first official archaeological excavations were carried out later in that century.

The first professional excavations were made by Paolo Orsi in 1929, followed by the work of Giuseppe Cultrera in 1935-39. The last major excavations took place in the period 1950-60. They were led by Gino Vinicio Gentili, after which a cover was built over the mosaics. In the 1970s Andrea Carandini carried out a few localized excavations at the site. (Wikipedia)

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Selinunte and Agrigento, Sicily

March 10, 2016

Tonight we are in Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily. One of my group, Dr. Eric Awwad, is wearing a pedometer and today logged 5.8 miles of walking in our visiting archaeological sites today. Our local guide took this group photo (minus 2 or 3 of our folks) at the Temple of Concordia in the Valley of the Temples in ancient Agrigento.

Mauldin Group photo at Temple of Concordia at Agrigento.

Mauldin Group photo at Temple of Concordia at Agrigento.

This is the most famous structure of the Valley of the Temples, and is one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world. It dates back to the 5th century BC.

Earlier we were at Selinunte, where among other fascinating ruins we saw the Temple of Hera (also known as “Temple E”).

Temple of Hera at Selinunte. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Hera at Selinunte. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I’m glad my wife Linda is with us on this trip.

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Linda at Selinunte, Sicily. Photo by Sonja Winburn.

Yes, we had a little rain today. Tomorrow we are to visit the Roman villa of Casale and from there make our way to biblical Siracusa.


Monreale and Mondello Beach, Palerma, Sicily

March 9, 2016

Our trip concluded today with a view looking out from Mondello Beach.

Looking out from Mondello Beach, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Looking out from Mondello Beach, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We’ve had very co-operative weather today (though it is sprinkling tonight). Our morning began with a visit to Monreale where we had the opportunity to visit the Cathedral. “The building of the monument takes us back to the high point of the Norman kingdom in Sicily, which coincides with the reign of William II (1172-1189)” (Monreale: The Cathedral and the Cloister, p.3).

Monreale Cathedral. Dates back to the 12th century. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Monreale Cathedral. Dates back to the 12th century. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We are to leave Palermo in the morning for Selinunte and then Agrigento to visit the archaeological areas including the Valley of the Temples. There is an incredible amount of history and historical sites in the country of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean.

We plan to post more as time permits.

 


Giovanni Falcone Monument in Capaci

March 8, 2016

My group arrived safely in Palermo, Sicily this afternoon, all in apparent good health, and all of our luggage also!

Our actual touring of archaeological and biblical sites begins tomorrow. On our way to our hotel our tour host pointed out the Giovanni Falcone Monument on the A29 Coastal Highway, at the location where Falcone was assassinated, and gave us some interesting information.

Here is a photo I took from inside the bus while we made a quick stop.

Giovanni Falcone Monument near Palermo, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Giovanni Falcone Monument near Palermo, Sicily. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Wikipedia has this info:

Giovanni Falcone, 18 May 1939 – 23 May 1992) was an Italian judge and prosecuting magistrate. From his office in the Palace of Justice in Palermo (Sicily), he spent most of his professional life trying to overthrow the power of the Sicilian Mafia. After a long and distinguished career, culminating in the famous Maxi Trial in 1986-1987, he was killed by the Corleonesi Mafia in May 1992, on the A29 motorway near the town of Capaci.

His life parallels that of his close friend Paolo Borsellino. They both spent their early years in the same neighbourhood in Palermo. And though many of their childhood friends grew up in the Mafia background, both men fought on the other side of the war as prosecuting magistrates. They were both killed in 1992, a few months apart. In recognition of their tireless effort and sacrifice during the anti-mafia trials, they were both awarded the Italian “Medaglia d’oro al valore civile” (Gold medal for civil valor). They were also named as heroes of the last 60 years in the November 13, 2006, issue of Time Magazine.

We will plan to post more as we have opportunity along our tour.


Paul Landed at Syracuse

January 20, 2016

In the book of Acts we read of Paul’s route from Caesarea, Israel, to Rome, as a prisoner, with the trip’s various stops along the way. As they journeyed in the Mediterranean there was a shipwreck which resulted in their staying for the winter at the island of Malta. Then Luke, who was on that journey with Paul continues, “After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days” (Acts 28:11-12).

Syracuse is mentioned in the NT only as having been a harbour where St. Paul lay at anchor for three days on his voyage from Malta to Rome. The shipwrecked crew and passengers, after spending three months in Malta, set sail on the Dioscuri, evidently one of the Alexandrian fleet of imperial transports carrying grain from Egypt to maintain the food supply in Rome.† They started, evidently, very early in the year, probably in February, before the settled weather and the customary season for navigation (mare clausum 11 Nov. to 5 March) had begun. That implies that a suitable and seemingly steady wind was blowing, which tempted them to embark, and carried them straight to Syracuse, a distance of about 100 miles. On the voyage from Malta to Rome as a whole, see RHEGIUM.

Nothing is said with regard to any preaching by St. Paul in Syracuse, nor could any be expected to occur. The ship was certainly waiting for a suitable wind to carry it north to the straits of Messina; and under such circumstances no prisoner was likely to be allowed leave of absence, as the ship must be ready to take instant advantage of the wind (Ramsay, W. M. (1911–1912). SYRACUSE. In J. Hastings, J. A. Selbie, A. B. Davidson, S. R. Driver, & H. B. Swete (Eds.), A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology (Vol. 4, p. 645). New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark.)

Sicily is noted for its rich history (Greek, Roman and more), culture, theater & amphitheater, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. But my special interest in it has to do with its being included among biblical sites!

Siracusa Theater Greg and Carlo_Picogna

At Greek Theater at Syracuse. Greg Picogna (r) with his father Carlo (now deceased). Photo taken in 1998.

Also at Syracuse you can view the Fountain of Diana.

At Syracuse, Fountain of Diana, goddess of the hunt. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

At Syracuse, Fountain of Diana, goddess of the hunt. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

Giulio Moschetti (1847-1909) created this fountain in Syracuse; it portrays Diana, the mythical goddess of the hunt, in all of her calm and pride.

Another famous site in Syracuse is the “Ear of Dionysus” (Italian Orecchio di Dionisio). It was most likely formed out of an old limestone quarry. It is 75.5 feet high and extends 213 feet back into the cliff. Because of its shape this unusual formation has extremely good acoustics, making even a small sound reverberate throughout the cave.

Ear of Dionysius at Syracuse. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

Ear of Dionysius at Syracuse. Photo supplied by Greg Picogna.

I’m looking forward to seeing these sites at Syracuse, along with other locations in Sicily and Italy, with my tour group coming up in March.


The Greek Goddess Hera

August 25, 2015

While taking a group to Italy (2012) I had the occasion to visit the Vatican Museum in Rome, where among other many artifacts, I photographed a statue of the Greek goddess Hera.

Hera, Vatican Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hera, Vatican Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There is a replica of the temple of Hera in central Alabama:

Hera Temple at Wetumpka, AL. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hera Temple at Wetumpka, AL. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jasmine hill gardens and outdoor museum, “Alabama’s little corner of Greece,” now features over 20 acres of year-round floral beauty and classical sculpture, including new statuary honoring Olympic heroes.

The Olympian center welcomes visitors with a video presentation of jasmine hill’s history and a display of Olympic memorabilia from the games of past years. a tour of jasmine hill, now completely accessible to visitors with disabilities, offers spectacular and ever-changing views, including our full-scale replica of the temple of Hera ruins as found in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic flame. http://www.jasminehill.org/

Wikipedia:

Hera is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow, lion and the peacock were considered sacred to her. Hera’s mother is Rhea and her father Cronus.

Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy. Scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, “Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos.” Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus’s lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris also earned Hera’s hatred by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess.

Bust of the Greek goddess Hera at temple site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Bust of the Greek goddess Hera at temple site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

SA′MIA (Σαμία), a daughter of the river-god Maeander, and wife of Ancaeus, by whom she became the mother of Samos. (Paus. vii. 4. § 2.) Samia also occurs as a surname of Hera, which is derived from her temple and worship in the island of Samos. (Herod. iii. 60; Paus. vii. 4. § 4; Tacit. Ann. iv. 14; comp. HERA.) There was also a tradition that Hera was born or at least brought up in Samos. (Paus. l. c.; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 187.) (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. 3, p. 702).

There are the ancient remains of a temple devoted to Hera at Agrigento, a city on the southern coast of Sicily. (That location is included in my planned itinerary for Sicily/Italy March 2016.)

Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by Jose Luiz.

Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by Jose Luiz.

Personal note: We have not been posting much for the last several weeks due to some family sickness and deaths, and the priority which that rightly requires. We hope to be posting more regularly now in the near future. Thank you for your patience.