This is my first post for a long time. I had hoped I would quickly get back into a routine of writing but unfortunately I have not been able to. So to start off easy I thought I would share some images of a recent trip to Chedworth Roman Villa, as a step back to regular postings.
The building of the villa commenced in approximately 120 AD. The development of the site and villa itself continued throughout the 2nd to the 4th century AD. The reconstruction below shows the villa as it would likely have been at the end of its development.
The site was discovered in 1864 and excavations were quickly undertaken. Shelters were erected to protect the unearthed mosaics and a museum built to store the finds from the site. The National Trust who manage the site have undertaken a number of projects since 2011 to provide a much improved visitor experience. The Trust are currently raising funds to create a further shelter to allow for the display of a recently discovered mosaic (the photo below is of an artists reconstruction of the mosaic as it has been recovered to protect it).
The images below are of a few of the mosaics. However, they do not do them justice (I am not a skilled photographer) and I would encourage a visit to the site if you are able to get there.
The most impressive mosaic is found in the villa’s dining area. The northern section of the mosaic is an intricate geometric pattern. Those dining at the villa would be sat in this section overlooking the mythological mosaic that would have been the main talking point of the room.
The images of the mythological section of the mosaic are depictions of various myths of Bacchus and his entourage. The central part of the mosaic is lost and several of the outer panels are damaged to the point that the subject matter cannot be identified. However, three sections are relatively intact. The first of these represent Bacchus and (presumably) Ariadne. Bacchus holds in his hands symbols of divinity and is looking backwards towards the female figure who faces him. This image is flanked by images of Satyrs and Maenads in the panels either side.
In the corners of the mythological section of the mosaic are personifications of the seasons. Unfortunately my photos did not come out very well due to the lighting in the room so I have only included the one image. Below is the image of summer, a flying naked youth who is holding a basket and garland of flowers.
There are mosaics throughout the other parts of the villa. These are more often than not geometric patterns in the corridors and bathing areas. However, there are some communal areas such as the changing room for the baths where more complex imagery can be found. The more complex pattern would have been appropriate for the changing rooms, as refreshments may have been served and board games played as a social activity before bathing .
This post has focused on only a few areas of the large and palatial villa. I would reiterate that it is well worth a visit to see the mosaics up close, as well as other parts of the villa such as the Nymphaeum, bathing house and museum (I found the hand print on one of the tiles a fascinating connection to the past).
It has been a busy few months for me as I have been writing my dissertation. I did not appreciate quite how much time it would take out of my life and as such I had to pretty much ban myself from Social Media and blogging in order to keep focused. Things are going relatively well and I am due to submit on the 30th January. I look forward to publishing my dissertation on my blog once it is finished and also returning to writing posts.
In the interim I wanted to share the article I recently had published through the University of Birmingham’s Rosetta Journal:
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did presenting and writing it.
It is understandable that Vergil would have wanted to model his Dido Queen of Carthage on a strong and powerful figure from myth. The Medea of Apollonius’ Argonautica whilst providing this also has vulnerabilities which create a more realistic character which Vergil could make use of; for example in considering aspects of love and relationships. However, it is clear that Medea is not the only influence drawn upon by Vergil as there are indications of Homeric characters such as Nausicaa. This essay argues that, notwithstanding other influences, Vergil primarily draws upon comparisons with the figure of Medea. The analysis will focus on three particular areas the first meeting of Dido and Aeneas, the cave marriage scene and language used by Dido after Aeneas leaves Carthage.
The influence of Medea on Vergil’s representation of Dido commences at an early stage within the Aeneid. Aeneas comes to Carthage shrouded in a mist that ensures he is protected from harm; a scene reminiscent of Jason’s arrival at Colchis in Apollonius’ Argonautica which in turn recalls Homer’s Odyssey. The imagery used creates a link for the audience between the Argonautica and Aeneid. This is seemingly intended by Vergil to draw similarities between the figures of Medea and Dido. This connection is enhanced during the first encounter of Dido and Aeneas through the intervention of Cupid who ensures she falls in love with him. Love is used as some form of protection for the hero; Medea aids Jason in his quest and Dido’s love protects Aeneas from Juno’s wrath. This scene recalls the first meeting of Jason and Aeetes during which Medea is struck by the arrow of Eros. As Spence suggests, ‘Vergil’s use of Apollonius’ Argonautica…is… important in establishing the tragic context’. Vergil’s choice to include the intervention of the god of love within the opening book of his epic arguably prepares his audience for the future doomed relationship of Dido and Aeneas. Dido is described as ‘growing more grievously lovesick, Feeding the wound with her life-blood, the fire biting within her’. Comparison may be drawn with the descriptions of the passions of Medea and Phaedra. Phaedra’s heart is ‘seized’ and Medea is ‘smitten’ with love for Jason. The language used by these characters has strong parallels with the description of the ‘fire biting’ Dido’s heart. The language used also creates images that the audience would have connected with the suffering of the Carthaginian queen. Particularly as the tragic consequences of love influenced by the gods within myth, violence and death, would have been well known to Vergil’s audience.
Though comparisons can be drawn with Medea it has been argued that there are Homeric influences within Vergil’s representation of Dido, and at first she is presented as a Nausicaa like figure. This is borne out through imagery such as the assistance of the shipwrecked hero, the banquet for Aeneas and the Phaeacian representation of Dido’s palace. Though evidence such as this supports the comparison it is difficult to ignore the clear dissimilarities between the characters. Nausicaa is unmarried, a virgin and a princess. On the other hand Dido is not a virgin, widowed and queen. Nappa in considering the comparison of Nausicaa and Dido concludes that although such associations have been made between them, unlike Nausicaa, Dido is forced to feel and act on passion. This marks a clear distinction between the two figures and would indicate that the arguments for a character model based on Medea are more appropriate.
Vergil appears, to a certain extent, to recreate Apollonius’ marriage scene of Medea and Jason within the Aeneid. However, unlike the Apollonian scene Vergil’s description of the marriage is brief. Dido considers herself and Aeneas married following the scene and Juno acknowledges the union with a sign; ‘fires flashed in Heaven, the witness to their bridal’. Though recognised by the gods the legitimacy of such a marriage might indeed be questioned as it is undertaken outside of civilisation, in the wild. Dido refers to herself as wishing that she could live outside of wedlock like a wild animal following her discovery of Aeneas’ plan to leave. Ogle and Pease suggest that this section refers to Dido’s ‘own self-reproach, since wild animals do not have legitimate wedlock, only promiscuous passion’. It might be argued that the union was not legitimate as they were driven by such passion and as such Vergil’s Roman audience would not have seen this as a marriage. This argument is supported by Fantham et al who consider that Romans would see the marriage as ‘unofficial and unsanctioned love’. When compared with the union of Medea and Jason the scene within the Aeneid appears somewhat lacking in ceremonial trappings. In Apollonius’ marriage scene there is a ‘bowl to the blessed ones, as is right’, a bridal couch, sheep are sacrificed and the scene is blessed by the presence of nymphs. The legitimacy of Jason and Medea’s union may also be questioned as they are forced to marry outside of the desired location of his father’s hall and also out of necessity to protect her from being returned to the Colchians. Furthermore, Jason in part justifies his marriage to Creusa by reminding Medea of her barbarian origins. Seemingly it was Vergil’s intention to use this scene to limit the possibility of marriage legitimacy in order to ensure that Aeneas could leave Dido. The question of legitimacy may also be considered within the political sphere of Rome. Barrett proposes that Vergil’s reference to Dido’s desire for Aeneas to father her child at Aeneid 4.327-30 is intended to draw a comparison between the couple and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Cleopatra is said to have claimed that Caesar was the father of her child Caesarion . It is argued by Barrett that Vergil through drawing these comparisons is claiming that like Aeneas Caesar did not father a child by a foreign mistress. These claims are supported by the analysis of Eidinow who through examining the use of language within Dido’s speech concludes that it brings to mind Caesarion. Though Caesarion may have been executed by the time the Aeneid was published knowledge of Cleopatra’s claim may not have been forgotten. The literary comparison may have been intended by Vergil to dispel the idea.
The language used by Dido following her abandonment by Aeneas recalls the anger and wrath of Medea within Euripides’ Medea. This section can also be compared with the distress expressed by Medea in book four of Argonautica. Medea speaks to Jason ‘seething with grim anger’ and longs ‘to set fire to the ship, to destroy everything before their eyes, and then throw herself into the consuming flames’. Dido similarly expresses such anguish, anger and distress over Aeneas’ departure. However, whereas Medea secures Jason’s temporary reassurance, Aeneas abandons Dido who subsequently commits suicide; though the ending of the Argonautica is not the end of Jason and Medea’s story. It is proposed by Spence that if Dido commences the story as Nausicaa she ends it as Medea and like both is destined to ‘be disappointed by a stranger with whom she has fallen in love’. This certainly appears the case. Particularly, as through the well-known myth of Medea and Jason Vergil’s audience witness the tragic consequences of love and experience the pity and fear of a tragic performance as described by Aristotle.
In such a short piece it is difficult to consider every aspect of the Dido’s character. However, it is apparent that Vergil’s Dido is primarily modelled on Apollonius’ Medea. However, it cannot be discounted that figures such as Homer’s Nausicaa and Cleopatra also influenced the representation. Through the use of Medea Vergil is able to present a complex character within a traditional tragic persona. Vergil achieves this by using similar plot devices to that of Apollonius; the action of Cupid, the cave scene and language used. The similarity of the cave marriage scenes and questions regarding the legitimacy of the union allow Vergil to justify the departure of Aeneas. Furthermore, the audience through witnessing the arrival of Aeneas, the actions of the gods and rising passion of Dido fully appreciate from the beginning how Dido and Aeneas’ love will play out; as it follows the path set out by Medea and Jason’s relationship in Apollonius’ Argonautica and Euripides Medea. This assessment is best summarised through a statement made by Dido to Aeneas,
Unfaithful man, did you think you could do such a dreadful thing and keep it dark? Yes, skulk from my land without one word? Our love, the vows you made me – do these not give you pause, Nor even the thought of Dido meeting a painful death?
The anguish, wrath and passion of Dido here is a clear indication of her having been modelled on Apollonius’ Medea.
Apollonius Jason and the Golden Fleece (The Argonautica), Translated by R. Hunter, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Aristotle Poetics – Aristotle in 23 Volumes¸ Loeb Classical Library Vol. 23, Translated by Fyfe, W.H. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0056 [Accessed: 5 December 2014]
Cassius Dio Roman History, Loeb Classical Library Vol. 5, Translated by Cary, E. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955. Perseus Digital Library http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/47*.html [Accessed: 5 December 2014]
Euripides Medea – Euripides, Loeb Classical Library Vol.1. Translated by Kovacs, D. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1994. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0114 [Accessed: 4 December 2014]
Euripides Hippolytus – Euripides Loeb Classical Library Vol. 2, Translated by Kovacs, D. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0106 [Accessed: 4 December 2014]
Plutarch Antony – Plutarch’s Lives Translated by Perrin, B. (1920) Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2008.01.0007 [Accessed: 4 December 2014]
Vergil The Aeneid, Translated by C. Day Lewis, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Eidinow, J.S.C. ‘Dido, Aeneas, and Iulus: Heirship and Obligation in Aeneid 4’, in CQ 53, 2003, 260-267. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3556495 [Accessed: 5 December 2014]
Fantham et al Women in the Classical World, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Gordon, P. ‘Phaeacian Dido: Lost Pleasures of an Epicurean Intertext’, CA 17, 1998, 188-211. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25011082 [Accessed: 5 December 2014]
Nappa, C. ‘Unmarried Dido: Aeneid 4.550-52′, Hermes 135, 2007, 301-313. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40379128 [Accessed: 5 December 2014]
Spence, S. ‘Varium et Mutabile: Voices of Authority in Aeneid 4’, in C. G. Perkell (ed.)
Reading Vergil’s Aeneid: an Interpretive Guide. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. [e-book] Available at http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ [Accessed: 4 December 2014]
 Apollonius 3.210-3; Vergil Aeneid 1.413-5; Homer Odyssey 7.14-8
 Apollonius 3.83-9; Vergil Aeneid 1.660-3
 Apollonius 3.275-88; Vergil Aeneid 1.718-22
 Spence, 1999:87
 Vergil Aeneid 4.1-4
 Euripides Medea 8; Euripides Hippolytus 27-9
 Nappa, 2007:311; Spence, 1999:88
 Gordon, 1998:198-9
 Nappa, 2007:312
 Vergil Aeneid 4.160-73
 Vergil Aeneid 4.550-2
 Ogle and Pease (1925) cited in Nappa, 2007:305
 Fantham et al, 1994:298
 Apolloniuis 4.1128-1169
 Apolloniuis 4.1160-1169
 Euripides Medea 536-9
 Barrett (1973) cited in Eidinow, 2003:264-5
 Cassius Dio 47.31.5
 Eidinow, 2003:265
 Plutarch Antony 81-2
 Euripides Medea 465-519
 Apollonius 4.350-92
 Vergil Aeneid 4.584-629
 Spence, 1999:88
 Spence, 1999:88; Aristotle Poetics 1449b
 Vergil Aeneid 4.305-7
Due to various reasons it has been an exceptionally long time since I have published on my blog. I am happy to finally be back and able to return to it on a more regular basis. Today I have published my recent essay on the representation of Medea in Apollonius Rhodius and Euripides:
I hope you enjoy reading this work and feel free to comment and/or make suggestions.