Calder Classics

A Date with David

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Today was an extraordinary day as we continued our reading of Lucretius and visited yet another iconic site in Florence. The morning's reading of Lucretius' great didactic poem, On the Nature of Things, struck us with the sheer beauty of its poetry along with its scientific and philosophical outlook. We read a portion that introduced the sacrifice of Iphigenia, carried out by the Greeks, in order to obtain the winds to sail to Troy and begin the Trojan War. Reluctantly putting this masterpiece aside, we stepped out into Florence’s sunshine.  

Later that afternoon we visited the Galleria dell’Academia where Michelangelo’s David transfixed us. Michelangelo's work symbolizes all that the city of Florence hoped to represent- strength and courage, displayed though the immense size of the statue. Not only is David huge, but he also possesses fine features such as the strikingly realistic veins running throughout his hands, showing Michelangelo’s commitment to detail even in a statue so big. Lucretius and Michelangelo struck me as similar in their commitment and mastery of their art. At the end of the day we concluded that the main difference between the two were the instruments they employed-one a pen, the other a chisel. 

By Carly Lawrence

The Pantheon and Beyond

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Yesterday, the Calder Classics Rome group took a walking tour of Trajan and Hadrian’s Rome—mostly Hadrian’s—with visits to the Pantheon, Temple of the Deified Hadrian, and Castel Sant’Angelo. While very little of the Temple of the Deified Hadrian remains today, as its interior has long since been repurposed for the Borsa, or stock exchange, the Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo are very much intact in some semblance of their original form.

Our first stop, the Pantheon, was mostly restored during the Renaissance, but in a classical style, and is therefore considered to be one of the best examples of the full effect of ancient Roman architecture today— that is to say, impressive. With gorgeous, multi-colored marble floors and walls painted with the illusion of marble to match, and a massive concrete dome, the building is breathtaking. Its exterior is perhaps less impressive than it once was, due to its age and exposed brickwork, but the interior is extraordinary both in terms of aesthetic and engineering. The dome, with an oculus in the middle left open to the elements and cutouts all along its face, remains entirely intact from the time of its construction nearly two thousand years ago, and continues to be the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The Pantheon is still in use today as a Catholic church and is the final resting place of several Italian kings and artists, including the painter Raphael, but the structure itself was the real center of attention (as an architecture enthusiast, it was pretty extraordinary).

Next, we walked through the Piazza Navona to see the remains of its time as an ancient stadium, not unlike the Circus Maximus. We then continued to pass by the remaining façade of the Temple of the Deified Hadrian, until we reached our final destination: the Castel Sant’Angelo. Unfortunately, we were unable to go in, but the unusual, imposing building set against a backdrop of Rome and Vatican City was interesting enough. Originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family, it was later used as a papal fortress and castle (complete with a dungeon and passageways to the Vatican). Much of the castle-like structure comes from this later medieval period, although the round center chamber of the original design—the emperors’ tomb itself—remains intact. It was also featured quite prominently in Angels and Demons, which several of us watched last night, making for an amusing crossover.

Afterwards, our group split up during our break. Robert, Matteo, Tommy, Beth, and I headed to the Capuchin Crypt, a bizarre series of rooms decorated with human bones. Amongst the pillars of skulls and ornately arranged shin-bones, under chandeliers made of ribs and vertebrae, lay the bodies of fully-clothed Capuchin monks as if asleep, mostly decayed but ready for resurrection when the time should come (judging by the final room, which featured an image of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, the Capuchins believed in such a thing). As morbid and ominous as it was, the crypts were strangely beautiful.  The bones, such a peculiar choice of medium, were painstakingly arranged in patterns on the walls and ceilings, creating designs not unlike the intricate carvings of many Renaissance structures. Perhaps the most unsettling thing in those rooms was an inscription in the first chamber, translated into several languages: “What you are now, we used to be. What we are now, you will be.” It was a cheerful reminder of our own mortality, even if we can’t all hope to end up as a kind of macabre fresco.

Following our foray into the realm of the dead, we did the logical thing: stop for hamburgers, which were surprisingly good. Then, the five of us walked to the Villa Borghese in hopes of seeing some Bernini sculptures. Unfortunately, it was closed, but we rented a large bike and pedaled through the gardens, fully enjoying the beautiful architecture, sculpture, and, as the heat had finally nearly broken, weather. Though a bit dried out by the blazing sun, the landscaping was picturesque, like something out of a movie—a Roman Versailles, if you will; a modern Domus Aurea. Finally, we walked back past the Trevi Fountain (under construction, although we still stopped to toss in coins) to the school, where we finished reading parts of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura and Beth taught an introductory Greek lesson.

All in all, a long, fascinating day full of history, art, architecture, and—strangely enough—pelvic bones.

By Claire Schultz

The Unsurpassed Uffizi

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This afternoon the Florence Session II Group visited the renowned Uffizi Gallery after reading de rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius in the morning. Lucretius’s de rerum natura is a didactic poem that demonstrates his Epicurean beliefs. We translated the very first section of the text, where Lucretius invokes and praises the goddess of love, Venus. The poem goes on to describe how nature flourishes when Venus arrives.

In the Uffizi Gallery, Botticelli’s famous paintings, The Birth of Venus and Primavera depict exactly what Lucretius eloquently discusses. Although the paintings are beautiful on their own, the poem brought the stories behind them to life. Here are photos of the Botticelli works: 

(Did you know that there was real gold used to paint Venus’s hair?)

Another highlight of the Uffizi Gallery included comparing the Michelangelo painting Buonarroti and the replica of the statue Laocoon and His Sons. The painting is a close-up of Mary Joseph and baby Jesus with other figures in the background, while the sculpture shows Laocoon and his two sons struggling to escape vicious snakes. It was very fascinating to observe that the bodies in the painting mimic the twisting positions of Laocoon and his sons in the sculpture, especially after reading The Aeneid's description of Laocoon's death in my Latin class at school.  

After the gallery, we made a quick visit to a paper store which makes all of their paper designs by hand. The owner of the shop even gave us a demo of the intricate process. Then we ended our day with some delicious freshly made pasta for dinner!

By Gabby Herzig

Prandium Romanum (Roman Lunch)

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This morning we embarked upon an adventure in the culinary arts, striving to recreate an authentic, ancient Roman meal from Apicius’ recipes within the St. Stephen’s kitchen. With the help of the two chefs, Paolo and Tamara, bridging any language barriers, we soon learned how to properly hollow zucchini, slice chicken, grind beef, and cut onions. Once these essential skills were mastered, it was time to fill the zucchini pods with the beef, and the most daring few grabbed gloves to play with, mold, and utilize the red material, which resembled a brain. It reminded us of the fried brains we ate in the Jewish ghetto. While music played in the background, the three main dishes came into being: chickpeas with string beans in an incredible honey-wine sauce, zucchinis stuffed with beef, and chicken with peas. These three plates became our lunch for the day, as we were able to experience a meal similar to ones the Romans had, a fact made more exciting because we were a part of the preparations every step of the way. These surviving recipes provide a link to the past, but a somewhat unsure one, as scholarly commentary exists to try to identify specific words that we do not understand now, such as the word aphros, which could mean either celery or cider apple or perhaps something entirely different.

With lunch taken care of, this afternoon was devoted to filmmaking, as we reenacted sections from Latin texts that we have read here in Rome. While one group acted out Horace’s Satire 1.9 when he is harassed walking down the Via Sacra, another enacted Cicero’s Prima Oratio In Catilinam. Check the blog again soon to see these videos and our acting skills.

Written by Rachel Edelson

Calder Classics Takes the Colosseum

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Today we sojourned back in time to the former stage of the greatest gladiatorial showdowns of all time: The Colosseum. The visit began with us entering the fabled gates, as eager to witness the interior as the Romans were to see the grand spectacles, which once took place within. Crispin welcomed us to the grand arena by delivering a detailed description of the kind of events that once took place on the harena below. Visions of the grotesque events began to  prevail throughout my mind. We eventually stepped out onto the terrace between the second and third tiers of seats. From here Crispin explained to us the intricacies and importance of seating in the Colosseum. We learned that social class dictated which gate one would enter through, and that each gate would lead to a different section. For example senators would enter through special unmarked gates, which lead to the Podium, an area providing the best views for the most distinguished guests. Soon after Crispin left we indulged in more modern affairs, such as taking selfies and panoramas.

After our photoshoot the group diverged, and Tommy, Matteo, and I decided to visit the museum located in the concourse of the ancient stadium. We marveled at the profusion of antiquities; I personally favored a statue of Polyphemus, for I had never seen a three eyed sculpture before.

Written by Robert Connolly.


The Forum

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On Monday, both the Rome and Florence kids went to the Circus Maximus and then the Roman Forum. Both of these places are filled with such amazing stories and background. In order to get ourselves in the mood for our visit to the Circus Maximus, we read a section from Ovid’s poem, Ars Amatoria (the Art of Love) about how to pick up a lady at the Circus Maximus. Ovid has many suggestions such as: sitting really close to her, fixing her pillow, picking up her cloak when it falls and cheer really energetically for the charioteer that she roots for.  (Some of these suggestions seem pretty good to me—I would like to have somebody who would pick up my coat when it falls.) The Circus Maximus, which is a big dirt track at the base of the Palentine Hill in Rome, was used for all the chariot races that occurred in Rome. There were four teams that people in Rome rooted for: White, Red, Blue, and Green. The Romans followed chariot teams with the same enthusiasm as people follow soccer in Italy today. The emperor sat in a seat at the very beginning so that he could start the race by dropping his napkin. The best seats in the house were at the very end of the track because that was where all the underhanded attempts to win occurred.

After that we went to the Roman Forum. Julius Caesar was in the process of building the forum, but he was killed before he could finish. His adopted son, Augustus, completed it.  It is said that Augustus, “found Rome a city of mud and left her a city of marble”.  In other words, Augustus decided to finish what his father had started and erected a ton of marble buildings, which he then dedicated to his family and himself. Many of the buildings were used as religious centers and law courts. For example two basilicas, named Aemalia and Julia, both of which are in ruin today, were used as centers for the Roman courts. The forum was also contained the living quarters for the Vestal Virgins. We actually got to see where they stayed and it was huge!

Both trips posing with the Vestal Virgins

Both trips posing with the Vestal Virgins

Written by Reid Boyer.

A Tour of SACI

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Today the highlighted sightseeing location was SACI, or the Studio Art Center International Florence. There, the director, David Davidson, gave us a personal tour of the facility. We were also able to look at a temporary exhibit currently open at the school titled “Ephemera.” Deborah Zlotsky, the artist, has created an exhibition specifically for SACI using objects that only last for a brief time. The artist uses everyday products such as notebook paper, plastic, napkins in her work. In Latin, we translated an apotheosis (a story depicting a person ascending to heaven) written by Petronius in his Satyricon. This Latin translation related to our Roman excursion where we saw the Forum and talked about the apotheosis and procession depicted in the Arch of Titus. In the apotheosis that we translated, the same style of procession was depicted and helped us conceptualize what we saw at the Forum. Today was hot but definitely a day to remember. 

By Matthew Hayashi

Latin Comes to Life

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On July 20th, the Roman and Florentine Calder Classics groups came together for a tour of the Circus Maximus and Roman Forum. At the Circus Maximus, we learned about the great competitions that once took place there, including chariot races. The chariot races were made vivid by the Florentine group's reading of "Phaeton and Phoebus." The Roman group's reading of "Ars Amatoria” helped us understand the flirtatious nature of men at the Circus Maximus. Next we visited the Roman Forum, where we saw what was once the center of Roman trade, religion, and politics. The scorching heat was worth bearing to see the beautiful arches and basilicas made centuries ago. We even got a glimpse of the Colosseum! The two groups had a great time together. It was also a sad day as the Florentine group said goodbye to Matteo Boria and Sarah Murphy, who will join the Rome Calder Classics group. The train ride home through the Italian countryside was a great end to our day.

By Sam Gallen

Visit to the Artist Lorenzo Pezzatini's Studio

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On Friday, the students of Calder Classics journeyed to the studio of a gifted contemporary artist, Lorenzo Pezzatini. Lorenzo showed us his Filo, an abstract string of red, blue, and yellow, and explained its significance and beauty, which is so clearly depicted in his pieces. Throughout his life, Lorenzo Pezzatini faced many challenges and successes that are not only shown in his pieces, but also in his Filo. The Filo became his own language, one that inspires all of his creations.

By Emma Swenson

Bargello Museum

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This afternoon, we visited the Bargello Museum, a collection exclusively for statues. We saw beautiful art of every size, from tiny and detailed to massive and grand. Some of the most impressive works included a gorgeous chapel, covered in frescoes depicting heaven and hell, a statue of Mercury, balanced precariously on his toes, and Donatello's David. A polar opposite of Michelangelo's, this statue embodies the character of the biblical fable, looking young, weak, and being also the underdog in the world of art critics. 

By Anson Jones

Santa Croce

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OPA! This Latin-loving group visited Santa Croce in Florence. We didn't get to meet Dante, but we saw where he used to sit and now where he lays - except his body isn't actually there. His cenotaph still looked beautiful to us despite his absence. 

By Sarah Murphy

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