Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Roman remains of Italica

Chosen for its prime location as a port and fort on the Guadalquivir River, the site of the older settlement of Turdetani was dedicated for veterans of the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE) by the Roman Emperor as a reward for their service in defeating Hannibal (247-180? BCE). The archeological remains of the new settlement, Italica, are found in the quiet town of Santiponce, only about six miles outside of Sevilla.

Italica was the birthplace of both the expansionist Roman emperor Trajan (53-117) (replica of original statue above) and his successor, Hadrian (76-138). Hadrian’s interests were not directed as much toward increasing the size of the Roman empire as in unifying it and making its borders defensible. His hometown benefitted from his keen interest and investments in outlying posts.

The walls erected around Italica enclosed more than 120 acres of an urbanized area laid out in a grid. Although the population never rose above 10,000 or so, the enormous amphitheatre seated up to 25,000 spectators. The “games,” generally played by enslaved gladiators, attracted visitors from far and wide, including the larger Roman neighboring city of Hispalis, or Sevilla.

While few walls of individual houses remain, some mosaic floors of the homes of the wealthy are still on site. Some mosaics have been taken to the Sevilla Archaeological Museum, but many were removed before Italica belatedly was protected as a National Monument in 1912. The central part of most mosaics made their way into the homes of Sevilla’s aristocrats. At least many in private hands were secured and well-preserved. They can be seen in several homes now open to the public as museums (photos later).

Lacking the favored patronage of an emperor, the fate of the prosperous city was dealt a death-blow by the shifting course of the Guadalquivir River. By the third century the once-vital port was left high and dry – abandoned.

Postcard from Campeche, Mexico: Masking death to attain immortality

The quest for eternal life. We’re not sure it worked for the elite dignitary who wore the jade face of a divinity into the depths of his tomb at Calakamel almost 2,000 years ago, but the jade has a lasting power of its own. Following the Calakamel mask’s vacation trip to Paris and Mexico City, the impressive jade relic kindly returned home to Campeche in time for our visit.

In preparation for an excursion to one of the ancient Mayan sites, we toured both of Campeche’s archaeological museums: Museo Arquelogico de Campeche housed in the ancient Fuerte de San Miguel, one of the fortifications built to frustrate pirate attacks, and Baluarte de la Soledad in the base of one of the city’s gates. The two collections are small but significant, and both are well explained and well displayed.

A jade mask would be a pretty expensive fountain of youth purchase today, but short-term mortal appearance appears to take priority over dreams of immortality. Retin-A might represent a bargain alternative.