It doesn’t look like much in the picture above, but this restaurant just unearthed in Southern France has archaeologists quite excited. It is located in what was once the Roman seaside town of Lattara, and two millenia ago it catered to local diners as well as Roman immigrants that had settled in the area. Few such Roman taverns have been found making this discovery particularly compelling. Archaeologists have concluded that the restaurant made its own bread, served food and in an adjacent space they served libations as well (traces of alcohol have been identified in bowls imported from Italy for that purpose).
For more on this discovery see Archaeology Magazine.
And for more on the port city of Littara (remains pictured below) see the website for the local museum, Henri Prades of Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole in Lattes.
It’s easy to forget that all of Turkey was once the heart of the Roman Empire after the far-sighted Emperor Constantine moved the Empire’s capital from Italy to Turkey (to Byzantium-Constantinople-Nova Roma-Istanbul).
Yet evidence of Rome’s presence in Turkey (not to mention Syria/Libya/Israel/Egypt/Algeria etc.) is everywhere, sitting patiently in the shadows, enduring benign and not so benign neglect by the country’s current government.
Hence this intriguing article. There seems to be a rebirth of interest in Turkey’s Roman past among academics and ordinary citizens, and a growing movement to preserve and promote that past. As you will see in the link below, the paper, Hurriyet, references what appears to be the last Roman church where traces (ruins) are still visible in the capital of modern Turkey, Ankara – far from Istanbul / Constantinople, wedged in between modern buildings, almost forgotten and rapidly disappearing.
The article speculates that the church known as Saint Clement’s was built as early as the 4th century, and the paper calls for the Roman building to be preserved. From a glimpse at the picture above, one cannot help but hope that the call to action is heeded. Saint Clement the man (and the structure) is described by Wikipedia as:
In 303, Ancyra was one of the towns where the co-Emperors Diocletian and his deputy Galerius launched their anti-Christian persecution. In Ancyra, their first target was the 38-year-old Bishop of the town, whose name was Clement. Clement’s life describes how he was taken to Rome, then sent back, and forced to undergo many interrogations and hardship before he, and his brother, and various companions were put to death. The remains of the church of St. Clement can be found today in a building just off Işıklar Caddesi in the Ulus district. Quite possibly this marks the site where Clement was originally buried.
Other Roman structures still exist in Ankara, including traces of the Roman Baths below. See this Wikipedia on Roman Ankara for more on Ankara’s Roman past.
I am always captivated by news of archaeological discoveries in modern cities that have descended from Roman towns, forts and metropolises. I’m particularly thrilled by finds in seemingly incongruous locations, those that remind us of how truly sprawlng the Roman Empire once was, like this recent discovery in London.
This week, archaeologists conducting a survey of the ground beneath 21 Lime Street in central London in preparation for the construction of a new office building discovered a remarkably well preserved Roman fresco in what must have been a stunning home built in Roman Londinium’s first decades in the first century CE. The home was subsequently flattened by the Romans who built the largest temple north of the Alps on that same site. This mosaic, discovered twenty feet underground, was preserved when it was deliberately buried under that new structure. The quality of the craftmanship is still evident as is the wealth of the family that commissioned it for their home, as is indicated by the rare pigments that were used in its creation (like the very rare cinnabar used for its red coloring). For more on the discovery see this article in the New Historian.