Communion Of Dreams

Italy, 2012: Source code.

I had mentioned previously that there “just happened” to be a major Roman coloseum behind our villa.

Well, no, actually, I said that the villa was built as the base for an archeological expedition to excavate and explore said coloseum.


“Our” coloseum.

But why was the coloseum there?

Friday afternoon, following a routine morning workshop and delicious lunch, we went to find out.

* * * * * * *

It started with a walk. Not a long walk. But one which came with a certain degree of excitement. Because we had to walk along about a half mile of heavily-used road. Which had no sidewalk. Which was only barely big enough for two cars to pass one another. And which was entirely on a long blind curve.

Yeah, fun.

Actually, we did it just fine, though on the way back later that afternoon two cars smashed side-view mirrors getting past us, sending bits of each flying. That was exciting.

Much too exciting. More than a few of us got a good set of scratches from stepping off the road into the blackberry bushes along the side when it happened.

* * * * * * *


We were going to Cumae.

Well, actually, we were *in* Cumae all along, from the villa to the actual archeological site. *That’s* why the coloseum was behind our villa: it was part of the whole settlement.

But we were going to see the oldest part – which was Greek, and dated back to about 800 BC. They came from here:


Recognize that? It’s the same island you can see in the first image in this travelogue. It’s Ischia. Which is where the Greeks first established a trading colony. Which they used as a base for establishing Cumae a short time later.

Here’s Ischia again – from on top of the Cumae settlement:

And here are some other images from the upper part of the settlement, which was first a Greek temple (to Apollo?), then a Roman temple to Zeus, then an early Christian basilica:

The larger blocks at the bottom of the structure are typical of Greek building techniques.





During the Christian era, graves for the clergy were dug within the basilica. Here are some images showing those:

Tight fit.



* * * * * * *

Below the temples at Cumae was something quite special: the Cumaean Sibyl. Special because of the role that this Sibyl played in the early legends of Rome. The Sibyl was later employed by the Christians as having been a prophet of the birth of Christ. (And you thought that retconning was a modern idea…)

Here’s where the Cumaean Sibyl was supposed to have resided:


Looking in …


… and looking out.


* * * * * * *

As noted, the entire Roman settlement at Cumae was quite substantial. As we descended from the hill where the temples were, then past the Sibyl’s Cave, we came to the lower settlement area which contained plenty of evidence of a full set of Roman baths as well as a Forum and other structures. Here’s an overview of that area from the hill:


And here are some images from down among the ruins:


Note the terracotta pipes, used to draw steam through the walls and heat a sauna.

And here’s another shot of the coloseum, after we got back to the villa, to tie it all together.


* * * * * * *

One last thing, which explains why I titled this travelogue the way I did.

Cumae is important for one other reason, which I didn’t know until I started doing some research for writing this, and which has a very direct connection to my writing this.

Specifically, Cumae is the home of the Cumaean Alphabet. Which was a form of Greek used by those early colonists. It was adopted by the Etruscans, then by the Romans, and is the source of what we know now as the Latin Alphabet. Which became the alphabet we use today.

Jim Downey


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