Magna Graecia and the Intensive Track to Hades

In the morning, we woke up for our first breakfast at the Villa Virgiliana, and then we headed out for the archeological site of Paestum, a city that was founded by Greeks but eventually allied with the Romans.
True to its multicultural history, Paestum sported two side-by-side Grecian temples, in addition to the forum, basilica, amphitheater and other traditional accoutrements of a Roman city. We examined these two temples and discovered which was older by noting differences in style.
To our surprise, both temples, each within a stone’s throw of the other, were dedicated to the same deity, Hera. Apparently, the townspeople identified this goddess with so many domains– ranging from childbirth to the protection of horses– that she merited two places of worship.
While at the temple, we also practiced our Ancient Greek pronunciation by holding a faux ceremonial “sacrifice” at the front of one of the temples. Kudos to Will for courageously playing the victim!
After roaming the ruins for a little while longer, our group headed over to Paestum’s museum to see a variety of artifacts found at the site. My favorite relic, an image from an ancient casket, depicted a man diving headlong from the top of a temple. According to our teachers, the picture symbolized a human’s bold confrontation of the Underworld.
Once we had finished exploring the museum, we traveled to the ruins of Baiae. Mr. Langford gave a presentation on the town’s history, describing first its famous healing springs and then its other, less wholesome attractions– think Las Vegas. Next, we toured the remnants of this great resort city, imagining a theater for water-shows in its former glory and marveling at still-visible mosaics. The highlight, though, was our visit to a building with a massive domed roof.
“Echo,” one student said, and the sound echoed several times.
“Narcissus!” I shouted in reply.
After one more stop for a group picture, we headed back to the Villa Vergiliana for some adrenaline-pumping ping-pong and a delicious dinner. Then there was the talent show; let’s just say our teachers “came, saw and conquered.”
– Oishi

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