Loci in Locis is an art and Classics blog that pairs artwork from sites in Rome with a thematically-linked Latin or Greek text. Posts aim to replicate on a small scale the context-based learning experience provided by Paideia’s Living Latin in Rome programs on a bimonthly basis. By marrying text, place, and image, we are able to form close and personal relationships with the classics in a way we might not be able to through text alone.
Loci in Locis is written and run by Paideia’s Rome Fellows. This year's Rome Fellows are: Tyler Dobbs, Gabriel Kuhl, Amanda Reeves, and Rebecca Williams. The blog is edited by Meaghan Carley, Senior Rome Fellow.
“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous,” Gibbon writes in a passage as debatable as it is memorable, “he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.”
Gibbon proceeds to praise the procedural norms and political freedom — “the forms of the civil administration” and “image of liberty” — that flourished under the emperor Trajan, his predecessor Nerva, and his successors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. Gibbon saves the most lavish compliment he can think of for the end of his paean: these five rulers aimed to be “accountable ministers of the laws.”
In so lauding the Nervan-Antonine dynasty, Gibbon — an English Whig and Enlightenment critic of Christianity — tells us as much about his own preoccupations as he does about the accomplishments of the five emperors in question. If, following Machiavelli (whose religious views foreshadowed Gibbon’s) we call these Five Emperors “Good” (buoni) we at least ought to ask, “Good” in what way? “Good” for whom? “Good” in comparison to whom?
Wandering just a bit too far past the Forum Romanum, you’ll find a church, San Giuseppe dei Falegnami, that seems more or less like any other in Rome: Its medieval façade opens onto a pleasant piazza, with an exterior marble carving depicting scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul. Inside, candles and the requisite repository of Catholic ritual confirm your expectations as you meander between the pews, gazing upwards at the beautiful frescoes of scenes like the Nativity. But while the church itself may seem ordinary, it is in fact the site of a tortured and twisted history.
Walking through a graveyard is, in some ways, very similar to studying Classics. There are a lot of names you don’t recognize, a lot of strange designs and quotes and statues scattered about. The Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome has numerous graves and tombstones— but for every name we recognize, like John Keats or Percy Blysshe Shelley, there are names that are much less familiar to us. What we sometimes forget is that even if we don’t know who these people were, they still have a story, and those stories are worth telling.
February 11, 2017
A deep, inky black with pale veins spreading throughout like the most delicate snow-covered branches against a midnight sky; gently wavering stripes of garnet, burnt orange, and yellow, an earthly reflection of Mars’ celestial bands of color; creamy white clouds with soil brown rims; a flowering of pink, red, and peach; sharp lines, rich hues, unimaginable, ever-varied patterns no artist could have dreamed up. This is not a post about a statue or painting, an artifact, or even a building: this is an ode to material, to the marble masterpieces of mother nature.
Representation of a Maverick: Agrippina
January 30, 2017
Monarchies are renowned for having complicated families, but one of the most powerful, most corrupt, and most complex was the Julio-Claudian in the first century AD. Some of its emperors, such as Caligula and Nero, are infamous for their wanton decadence; others, like Augustus and Tiberius, for their ambition. But as much as the men were marked for their excess, the women of the family may have been even more extreme.