Ancient Folks In Sicily
Sicily continues to amaze me. The historical past right here is so multi-layered and so ancient that I, from Boston with its proud and (very) younger history, am overwhelmed and discover it incomprehensible on many ranges when confronted with 8000 years or so of history.
From what I understand, this stunning island was a vacation spot for the numerous civilizations that had the power to sail their vessels and take advantage of the favorable winds to get right here. These historic civilizations every left their marks, trading or conquering, making babies, creating temples and shrines.
Agrigento (situated on an opposite coast from Siracusa and Ortigia) is astounding. At one time, the city/city had about 200,000 people and 15 Greek temples, and most of the temples (or parts of them) survive at the moment. The Valley of the Temples is a wonderfully preserved treasure, with many temples testifying to the wealth and power of the Greeks (and giving evidence of their slaves who did the building) who lived and worked right here. Some of the temples are illuminated at night, making a view that did go away me breathless; the day time, shut-up view is also simply amazing and that i could really feel the history, the tales and the lives of these historical occasions. I was informed that no human sacrifices did take place here. I do know that the priests had been the one individuals allowed in the inner sanctum and that the ‘congregation’ was at all times in front of the temple and never inside the construction itself. The temples are high on a bluff overlooking the sea, affording what should have been (and nonetheless is) a powerful statement of the facility and wealth and favor bestowed on the city by the gods and, also, serving as a warning to any attainable invaders approaching from the sea.
Fashionable Agrigento is a bustling, fun, proud city, full of good food and attention-grabbing historical past. Authors Luigi Pirandello and Andrea Camilleri, amongst others, have been born in Agrigento and considered it their home. Pirandello was actually born in a villa exterior the town referred to as “Chaos” (the place his family and pregnant mom had sought refuge from a plague epidemic) and Camilleri actually used real places in Agrigento (renamed Vigata in his novels) for his hero Salvatore Montalbano to work in, live in and eat in. Since I have learn and loved the novels and seen among the motion pictures and television reveals which were made from the books, I had a fantastic time touring some of the actual websites with Michele, an ideal native guide. The Montalbano tv collection is, supposedly, the longest working present in Italy, and still enjoys immense popularity; the meals-obsessed and temperamental detective, full of character and complications, makes wonderful comments about life in each Sicily and Italy. The town is happy with each the actual creator and the invented hero. Michele advised me that ‘the air, the sea, the view’ in Agrigento all encourage and nurture creativity, as they’ve accomplished for hundreds of years.
And then there may be the miraculous Villa Romana del Casale, located in-land here in Sicily, close to the city of Piazza Armerina. This glorious Roman villa (really a palace) was the summer time residence of a wealthy Roman common, and it was excavated by Paolo Orsi (a well-known archaeologist) in the 20th century after having been buried beneath mud from an earthquake or mudslide for a long time. This villa is large and really very effectively-preserved, displaying the appreciable wealth of the family and the imposing life-model they and their friends were accustomed to around the 12 months 300 or so. The villa has over forty rooms, and, miraculously, has unbelievable mosaic floors which might be supposed to be the very best instance of ‘in situ’ (on-site) Roman mosaics on this planet. Visitors are allowed to walk on plexiglass floors which afford a tremendous view of the mosaics beneath, and the stroll by way of the a number of chambers is outstanding and awe-inspiring, displaying the assorted rooms the place guests had been formally and informally welcomed in response to their standing; the much less important guests had been confined to the outer rooms, and the more essential ones had been invited into extra lavish and intimate rooms which had been additional into the center of the villa. The true inside sanctum was reserved for the household, and there are suites which must have been for the kids, stuffed with mosaics depicting stories and themes which are kids-oriented and playful. The artistry is absolutely breath-taking, was created by African artisans, and exhibits (utilizing only pieces of mosaic) facial expressions on the individuals and the animals of the stories; it’s a masterpiece in so many ways, giving us a glimpse into the historical world. The good hall, which is a large lengthy space, exhibits the complete story of the animals, hunted and captured (by slaves, probably) in the jungles of Africa, boarded on ships (by slaves, most likely) and transported by sea and, finally, ended up within the Coliseum in Rome. The entire mosaic tells a whole story and gives us a wonderful glimpse into these historic times and into the artistry that continues to be awe-inspiring. Some of the well-known mosaics right here is the so-called’ Girls in Bikinis’, displaying younger feminine athletes of their sporting attire and Stone Island Jackets in competitions. Villa Romana del Casale is certainly a spotlight worth seeing.
And then there may be the Paolo Orsi (archaeologist) Museum in Siracusa, recently renovated and actually, really excellent. The collection of artifacts and artwork dates about 8000 years, to a time I can’t even begin to imagine. The artifacts have all been present in Sicily, and most of the sites from where they arrive haven’t even been utterly excavated yet, so rather more stays to be found, apparently. The tools, the vases, the ornaments courting from such ancient times are unbelievable, and my former naive conceptions about the crudity and ignorance of those historical peoples were really fallacious. Among the vases and the jewelry and the adornments are nonetheless so very beautiful, and the designs and the utility of the artwork and artifacts are surprisingly subtle and eternal. The excavation sites are situated throughout this wonderful island, and some are right right here in Ortigia or Siracusa and in neighboring towns, emphasizing as soon as again the importance of this area to the event of civilization as we know it.
And, then there may be the Neopolis Archaeological Park in Siracusa, an enormous natural park full of archaeological sites from different eras of Siracusa’s history and thought of one in all crucial archaeological websites in Sicily and even in the Mediterranean. The natural topography is fascinating and consists of remnants of Greek stone quarries, altars, houses, the Greek theater, the Roman amphitheater, the Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius – a huge slave-made cave with unbelievable acoustics) and extra.
The Teatro Greco (Greek theater), site of plays in ancient times, nonetheless hosts the Greek tragedies (presented by INDA, the Italian national drama institute) every summer, and this is the a hundredth year of the modern stagings. Each night time a Greek play is presented, in Italian, in this lovely outdated setting to a packed home. This year the program consists of Aeschylus’s ‘Agamemnon’ and ‘Eumenides’ in addition to Aristophanes’s comedy, ‘The Wasps’. Ticket costs range from 26 to 60 euros per seat, and cushions are offered in the reserved seat part, making sitting on the unique stone benches a bit extra comfortable. I went to see “Agamemnon” one night time a couple of weeks in the past, and felt fairly overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was sitting the place ancient Greeks sat, watching a play that historical Greeks watched; the expertise was wonderful and the production was beautiful and concurrently outdated and new. The night was beautiful in so some ways – the solar was shining when we arrived at the theater, so it was heat when we sat down, and after the sun set the night time turned cool and snug (and with no bugs!). The set was fabulous and the Greek chorus was incredibly animated, dancing and expressing their opinions and fears with their bodies in addition to with their words (which, after all, I did not understand anyhow). The ‘floor’ was coated completely in dirt, and the cast members rolled around and danced round and played round within the dirt, one way or the other adding one other dimension to the phrases and actions. The play is timeless and the story is ageless; seeing it offered in this marvelous theater was a true gift.
More fashionable history (however still many centuries in the past!) might be found in every single place in Sicily. In Ortigia, for instance, Jews might have been part of the historical past for about 2000 years. One story is that the Jews have been brought to Sicily as slaves by the Romans after they destroyed Jerusalem within the year 70, however rumors abound that the Jews have been present even earlier than then, mostly as traders and merchants.
By the Center Ages, Jewish communities were flourishing in Sicily and had been to be present in 50 towns throughout the island, including Palermo, Messina, Taormina, Catania, Siracusa, Agrigento and Agira, the place they worked as cloth merchants, medical doctors, bankers, farmers, tradesmen and goldsmiths; there have been, perhaps, as many as 100,000 Jews residing in Sicily earlier than they had been expelled from the island in 1492 by its Spanish ruler, King Ferdinand.
The Jews that remained after 1492 confronted execution unless they transformed to Catholicism. At that time Siracusa’s Jewish inhabitants was second solely in size to that of Palermo and Jews accounted for a quarter of Ortigia’s inhabitants. The mikveh (ritual baths used by religious girls and males) in Ortigia is considered one of the many traces of Jewish communities on the island. It was unearthed in 1989 during restoration work on a medieval palazzo once owned by the Jewish Bianchi household.
The mikveh, which dates from the 6th century, lies 30 ft under ground below the Residenza Alla Giudecca resort in the center of what was once the city’s Jewish quarter (the ‘Giudecca’) which also housed a synagogue. When the Jews fled into exile they filled the mikveh with rubble and sealed its entrance, concealing it from prying eyes, so it wasn’t found until the 20th century. The mikveh dates from the sixth century and was in continuous use until the 15th century when it had to be abandoned.