Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Tomb of Caecelia - A Party Stop

Our next stop on the Appian Way is perhaps the best known. I am stepping a little out of strict chronology here but The Tomb of Caecilia Matella was a really happenin' place when we were there. It does not seem like the place to end our journey down a long, ancient necropolis.

This seems to have been the focal point of the "Via Appia Day" celebrations.  Lots of local vendors and political causes had tents set up.  A band was playing what I assume to be traditional Italian folk music.  Little girls in dresses were dancing to it.  All very much like a Fellini movie.  

Oh, and we ran into another re-enactor.  Who better than Pan - or perhaps a more generic satyr - to be the life of the party!

The Tomb of course was open and free of charge that day.  Here is a look from across the road.  The tomb proper is the round section on the left.  It was later incorporated into a 12th century fortress of the Caetani family.  In the fashion of the times they used this as a toll booth and to protect themselves from other local families.  It sounds as if they were all unpleasant robber barons.

Unlike our last stop there is no real doubt as to who was buried here.  Her name is still on a monumental stone up front.  It translates to:

To Caecelia Matella, daughter of Quintus Creticus (and wife) of Crassus

The tomb is 1st Century BC.  Quintus Creticus was Consul in 69 BC and the Crassus referenced appears to be the son of the famous Marcus Crassus who was a general under Julius Caeser.  The identification is made a bit difficult by there being three generations of the Crassus family with near identical names.

Although the tomb has survived in better shape than most similar structures the complex as a whole is quite the hodge podge. Excavations have been ongoing here since at least the mid 1500's albeit the early ones were nothing more than treasure hunts. Here a former gate into the fortress has been sealed off with various bits and bobs found over the years.

I am always interested in the post Roman history of places like this.  Many of the early engravings from artists off to see Important Ancient Sites tend towards the romantic. While looking for information on this tomb I did run across an online book that provided me with much useful information.  The serious student is directed HERE

The inside of the main tomb was somewhat of a disappointment to me.  It resembles nothing so much as the inside of an industrial chimney.  Obviously there are interesting parts that are off limits to visitors, especially on a day when herds of same were out in force.

The interior of the fortress is now open to the elements and has an assortment of relics that have been unearthed in the area. Naturally many of the better pieces are in museums.

The focused traveler certainly sees more, checks more things off his or her list.  But the joys of unfocused travel are not to be dismissed.  While wandering about to no particular purpose I stumbled across this:

CHRESTUS LICTOR CAESARIS.  I was at least aware that a Lictor was a minor official in Roman times.  The primary use of the title was for the bodyguards assigned to the Emperor and to lesser functionaries.  It had a few secondary meanings as well.  A sub class of Lictors had religious duties being present at sacrifices and serving as bodyguards for the priests.  The term "Lector" is unrelated btw.

And Chrestus?  An intense debate as to the relationship between this name/title and that of Christ/Christians existed that I knew nothing about before I found this stone. 

No comments: