Saturday, March 28, 2015

Classical Italy Day 4: A lifelong student (part 3)

Truth be told, I was most excited to visit the next two stops -- Sperlonga and Terracina -- en route to Rome.  The former was the location of Tiberius' coastal palace.  The latter has a temple to Jupiter Anxur overlooking from a high promontory the modern day city.   

I ran from the bus to get the tickets for Sperlonga and to save the group some time.  However, when I turned around the group was nowhere to be seen.  I searched the museum, the archaeological site, and the bus all to no avail.  In their anxious desire to see the site and the Tyrrhenian Sea, they must have snuck past me like Greeks in the night raid of Troy.  I didn't hear a sound.  They went straight down to the sea.  Admittedly, the sign was confusing and did not clearly point to the site but rather between it and the path they took to the water.  A brief panic ensued when I lost the group, but it then occurred to me that they could only be down by the water -- there was nowhere else to go.  

The students slowly snaked their way around to the Tuberius' villa. Sperlonga relates to the Latin word "spelunca," which means cave.  A huge grotto with a pool of water was part of the palace complex.  Tiberius used to entertain guests and let then swim with the fish in the grotto.  Katie Lewis described this and other stories related to the cave when she stood above us in the grotto.  

Students enjoyed climbing around the cave and walking to the beach afterwords.  Nathan found a road less travelled and I followed him through a grove of olive trees to the beach.  I also found time to look at the museum carefully.  There were four statue groups at the grotto: Odysseus blinding Polyphemus, Jupiter in the form if an eagle snatching Ganymede into heaven to be his cupbearer, Odysseus and Diomedes stealing the Palladium from Troy, and the Sea monster Scylla snatching men from the sea with her many dog midsection.  I realized that all statuary groups, in addition to being large and impressive aesthetically, involved rape or physical assault and that a few scenes related to the sea.  I could see for the first time the similarities between the Laocoon statue in the Vatican and the Odysseus statue in the museum.  

A few students had elected to stay on the bus but when their peers came back and told then they were missing out, those students sprinted to the site to see it.  While this site took longer than anticipated, it was well worth it.  

Next stop Terracina and some breathtaking views...

No comments: