As summer has arrived in Athens, I finally have some time to reflect on the travels I made outside of Greece this past May.
I started the month in Paris. This was my first visit to this majestic city, and I explored it with an old friend, Zoe Abrams, who has been there this past year, working for her own bookselling company, Zoe Abrams Rare Books. We had an amazing time exploring book markets, gardens, churches, and food. At the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Fontaine de Medici (1630) was a wonderful way entrée into thinking about modern water-displays. A typical Renaissance grotto-style fountain, with statues of Polyphemus surprising Acis and Galatea, it is interesting to observe how water on a grand scale–in such an aesthetically pleasing environment was employed in France. I am sure there is
much more to come on this later. The cavernous, Neo-Classical Panthéon nearby provided reminders of 19th century French nationalism, in addition to stunning views of the city. I look forward to future explorations of this city!
Then, I was off back to the States. I had some meetings and events to attend in New York City. It is always nice to go back to the city that I spent two summers learning ancient Greek at the CUNY Latin-Greek Institute. I was fortunate to see the amazing Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World exhibit at the Met. Never would I have imagined all these incredible pieces of Hellenistic art would be in the same room–allowing one to study and discern the ethos of this period in art and culture. Then, I headed back to my Alma Mater, the University of Virginia, where I was able to walk in my official graduation ceremony. Putting on those robes really does made everything feel ‘official.’
I ended the month back in Europe, traveling to Trier, Germany. There, I attended the 40th Annual Meeting of the Frontinus Gesellschaft, a Germany society that promotes the study of Roman water (from engineering, to fountains, to legislation). In addition to seeing great papers and meeting many scholars, we had the opportunity to visit a number of Roman water-related sites in and around Trier, including Luxembourg City and Metz, France. Being able to see
these water systems on-site is always so helpful in understanding better not only how they functioned, but also how they interacted with the surrounding landscape. While at the conference, I was reminded of the issues of global water supply, which are so important right now. The wet Moselle region around Trier was an interesting landscape to think about these issues, especially after living in dry Greece for so long. There are truly stark divides in the environments of the Roman Empire, which most certainly influenced the fountain building
culture of the Romans.
It was also pretty incredible to spend time in Trier itself. Becoming one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire in 286 CE, it was a unique opportunity to examine Roman culture on the northern frontiers for an extended period of time. Hailing as the oldest city in Germany, with one of the oldest churches, the Roman monuments abounded, from the famous city gate, the Porta Niger, to the impressive Aula Palatina, where the emperor would have held court. There were also hidden gems, such as
remarkable Constantinian wall paintings found in the remains of the Roman palace underneath the Cathedral. But what made the experience even better was to see the ancient and modern worlds come alive in this space. Walking down the streets, seeing relics of the Romans, while hearing the vociferous bells ringing in the distance. I overheard a Trier resident telling someone, “It’s either raining in Trier, or the bells are ringing!” Ich muß gehen each Trier zürück!