A Star Attraction: The Dionysus Mosaic

Millions of tiny fragments of glass, stone, and ceramic comprise the incredibly intricate and colorful mosaic known as the ‘Dionysus Mosaic.’  The mosaic was once part of a villa on the site of the now Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne, Germany.  Most sources say that it was created around 220 or 230 A.D.  The mosaic is a major attraction to the museum, and I must say that I can see why.  There are a number of figures, animals, and designs to investigate.  This lovely mosaic is so well-known in this area that when President Clinton visited Germany during his presidency, his hosts had a dinner party on it.  Stew on that, conservators.

For more information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romano-Germanic_Museum

 

A Layered Cake: Cologne Cathedral

The city of Cologne, Germany has a long and interesting history.  When I visited the city, everywhere I looked there was some reminder of ancient and Medieval cultures.  Much of Cologne was destroyed during WWII, but an impressive amount remains.  And, nothing is quite so impressive in Cologne as the Kolner Dom/Cathedral.  Beyond being an excellent example of Gothic architecture, as well as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a beautiful building.  Construction began in 1248 to house the reliquary of the Three Kings (a giant golden box supposedly containing the bones of the Biblical Magi) but the cathedral remained incomplete until the 19th century.  Consequently, the Dom has a multilayered history from the ground-up.  The interior of the Dom is everything you could possibly want from a cathedral: beautiful stained glass windows, mosaics, murals, ornate altars, etc.  After exploring every inch of the nave, you can actually hike up one of the towers and lookout on the city (I can’t imagine doing that climb more than once).

Around and underneath the Dom are Roman ruins of various sizes, from a random wall or arch to larger architectural remains.  Just meander over to the parking garage near the Dom and you’ll find a lovely bit of Roman ruins.  Within the Cathedral Treasury, which houses an amazing assortment of ecclesiastical robes and jewels, you can also view the grave goods of two Frankish burials of a woman and a boy.  Ah, a structure to fulfill every need of a history/archaeology nerd.

To learn more:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/292

Textbook Review of ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome’ by Chris Scarre

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If you need the entire history of the Roman Empire reduced into a nutshell, with fantastic maps and photographs of archaeological ruins and busts, then this is the book for you!  The history of Roman civilization is a huge topic to tackle, especially in the span of a semester.  As a Classics minor, I had a difficult time remembering the major dates, people, and places figuring from 800 BC to 540 AD, from the origins in Rome, to fall of the Western Empire.  The Atlas provides a visual depiction of the rise and fall of Rome.  I personally like being able to see a broad depiction in order to better understand the major themes of a civilization.  Scarre provides detailed maps of important places of expansion, as well as information on trade, literacy, and cultural life in different periods.  The timelines are excellent; the timeline is broken down into The Roman State, Building and Construction, Literature and Philosophy, and Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean.  This book, however, cannot stand alone since it is a broad overview.  It is a great companion to classical texts and textbooks on the Roman Empire.  It is also perfect for a quick overview before an exam.  For those simply interested the rise and fall of Rome, the Atlas provides a great overview with fantastic images.