Loci In Locis

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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.

Erma Di Socrate
October 31, 2014


On the Paideia Blog thus far, we have generally focused on that which is beautiful. And strolling through the many rooms of the Palazza Nuovo at the Musei Capitolini, it is easy to see why: the surfeit of awe-inspiring classical sculptures here in Rome is overwhelming. Within just a few steps, you can admire the Dying Gaul, blush for the modest Venus Capitolina, and witness the very real intimacy between Amore e Psiche.

Now, let us contemplate the ugly.

The Sala dei filosofi, or Hall of the Philosophers, is situated just a few steps away from these marvels – but its aesthetic is decidedly more austere. From all angles of these two rooms, you are faced with rows of busts of famous Greek and Roman philosophers, politicians, and tragedians. The likenesses of the rhetorician Cicero, the mathematician Pythagoras, and the playwright Euripides surround you. All the great intellects of antiquity are represented.

Many of the faces in the Sala are, unfortunately, not of great visual interest: some bear the historical figure’s signature features (Pythagoras’ cap, Homer’s scruffiness), while others would appear rather indistinct. Scanning around the room, however, two busts are surprisingly inelegant, even goofy. They are two mid-4th century B.C.E. representations of Socrates, the famed philosopher and, to some, Athens’ great public nuisance. Socrates’ exaggerated lips, markedly stubbed-nose, and bulging, wide-set eyes do not suggest a man of gravitas, especially in comparison with the other grand visages in the Sala dei filosofi

The Crucifixion of Saint Peter
September 26, 2014


Just inside the unassuming Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo lie two, slightly obscured, masterpieces of the Baroque era. In fact, you might not even know they existed, were it not for the hordes of tourists twisting their necks to see them. Neither piece takes the central position over the altar in the Cerasi Chapel.1 As you look up to the left, you see the striking image of Saint Peter’s crucifixion portrayed by the Baroque painter, Caravaggio.

The painting’s immediate features are enough to stun any viewer. Caravaggio’s renowned use of chiaroscuro (the dramatic shift from light to dark) places Peter’s particularly bedraggled body and troubled expression in the spotlight, while dimming our view of his executioners’ faces. Caravaggio’s brutally naturalistic depiction of St. Peter marks a drastic departure from Michelangelo’s idealistic figures. And then we have the drama of the scene itself: A crucified man is being turned upside down. Caravaggio shows his figures in the midst of the action and deliberately places each gruesome, straining muscle in the foreground – including one man’s behind. Peter himself appears more like the working man than a saint. Perhaps most puzzling to the viewer is Peter’s emotional state. Is his a face of anguish, determination, or something else?

The Last Judgment
May 25, 2014


The exact textual sources that Michelangelo referred to while painting his Last Judgment are disputed, but as the artist in question was both an extremely learned man and a devout Catholic, it is reasonable to assume that he read the Latin Vulgate Bible.1 St. Jerome translated the original Greek of the New Testament in the fourth century for the text, and it is viewed today as one of the most influential pieces of writing in Latin. Greek, the language of many Christians during the religion’s early stages, was the common tongue of the lower classes. This posed a problem when St. Jerome approached it, as the emotional and historical importance of the Bible would demand the very highest of Latin. The result is fascinating and innovative. The translation reflects the fact that it is not a high style– it is straightforward, simple, and clean– but it is still quite beautifully styled. It is powerful, faithful, and accessible to both the highest of priests and the types of common people who were responsible for the production of the original Greek text. It determined how people read and wrote Latin for centuries to come.

The Tomb-Crane Relief
April 25, 2014

The importance of crafting and broadcasting a public image in Rome cannot be overstated. Future posts will handle one of the most exalted forms of personal propaganda, the public portrait, but for those in lower status groups without careers in the public eye, self-aggrandizement had to take other forms. Men like Trimalchio, a fictional freedman in Petronius’ Satyricon, found that the best way to make a name for himself in a truly eternal way involved his death. This may seem ridiculous, but it was not an uncommon tactic.1 Tombs were often built before the deaths of their future residents. Trimalchio’s tomb, which we will hear described in the passage below, would mark his name in stone forever, thereby ensuring both the longevity of his memory and public awareness of his virtues.