|The group at Valle dei Templi.|
We woke up early and boarded the bus to see the Valle dei Templi. I was surprised to see so many well preserved temples in such a small area. Joel and I joked that they were probably fake; it was too convenient to have so many temples nearby. Around the 5th century BCE, the Greeks built these fifteen temples within seventy years. We saw a few of them and of course we all stopped to take a few selfies.
Our tour guide pointed out that there was minimal innovation between the temples. It was interesting because I never considered how the lengthy time it took to build them didn’t leave much time to try new things. Each temple took about twenty years to build, and the average lifespan then was forty years. An architect really only had time to build one temple within a lifetime.
We learned about how the Greeks valued perfection, and they achieved this perfection with symmetry. There was also a lot of numerical symbolism. For instance, the ratio of columns and even the square footage held meaning. I knew that statues and paintings could be religious, but I never really realized that even the number of columns was meaningful before.
Before arriving at the Valley of Temples, we did a reading on a temple called the Olympiad. This temple was huge, three times larger than the Parthenon. From the reading, we learned about the significance of numbers in the architecture and how the architects spent time making sure that the numbers were correct. They had to alter certain aspects of the building to make sure the columns were the right ratio. It was really interesting to see the Olympiad after reading about it.
We all got on the bus again, and most people fell asleep (and took pictures of other people sleeping). We stopped to get lunch in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. It was delicious though. The waiters explained how all of the food was grown right there on the farm, and it was all very fresh. I tried many new kinds of food, including a delicious meat that I am going to pretend was cow.
Our last stop of the day was a Roman Villa. We saw many beautiful mosaics that were impressively intact. My favorite part of the stop was seeing the Roman baths. There were several different rooms of different temperatures of water along with a gymnasium and a changing room. However, I think the bathroom was most characteristic of Roman culture. It had several seats all in one room and just really exemplified how the Romans were not ashamed of their nudity. The guide talked about how the baths in general were a sort of ancient country club where informal business could be done as well. I just found the lack of privacy in the whole bath complex interesting.
My favorite mosaic was in the gymnasium. It showed four chariots and crowds cheering them on. The people in the crowds had bread in their hands, and we talked about how the rulers of the Roman empire provided entertainment and bread to appease the citizens.
Altogether, it was a big day. I think it’s safe to say we were all happy to pass out on the bus on our way to Syracuse.