BSR Summer School day 1: The Tiber

3/9/08 – 3.30pm

Back at the BSR following a long and tiring day walking round in the searing heat.  Actually the heat isn’t as bad as I thought it would be – though that’s not really saying much – and I’m coping ok.  I’m really tired now though and will have a little nap soon.

The morning started at 8.30, when we left the BSR and crossed the park opposite (which is apparently the gay prostitute zone) and got the bus (which was ridiculously crowded) to the Forum Boarium, the cattle market and also mythical focus of ancient Rome.  We saw two Republican temples:  a round one supposedly dedicated to Hercules, and a pseudoperipteral one to Portunus.  Opposite the temples, at the entrance to the old cattle market, is the arch of Janus, and in the immediate vicinity of all this are a couple of interesting churches where they’d reused parts of former Roman temples.

Then we had a break for refuelling before getting another bus to the Monte Testaccio. Or did we walk?  I forget.  Anyway, the Monte Testaccio was amazing.

Monte Testaccio

Amphora sherds on Monte Testaccio

It’s an artificial hill composed entirely of broken amphora sherds and there’s a nice view of Rome from the top, including of the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius.  The hill is not open to the public – we had a special permit – and it’s incredible because you’re literally walking on all these bits of pot, which seems so wrong!  The pieces of pot can be reconstructed and traced back to their source, mostly Spain, via the inscriptions on a lot of them.  They would have been used for transporting olive oil, a vitally important commodity in ancient times, and were purposefully smashed up and added to the hill after they’d been used (there’s some speculation as to the possible reasons why).

Pyramid of Gaius Cestius

The Pyramid of Gaius Cestius viewed from Monte Testaccio

After that we had lunch – panini supplied by the BSR and a giant apple which I couldn’t finish – and some of us got ice creams.  I had an enormous banana one!
After lunch we saw more ruins – the Porticus Aemilia – and then back down the Tiber to the Forum Boarium where we started.  It was when we were walking along the river bank that we had a rather unpleasant encounter.  There were quite a few needles lying around and it was horrid because there were a man and woman – both very dodgy-looking – standing in the middle of the path and we had to walk past them to get up to the road again, and the guy was crouching on the ground and he was in the middle of injecting himself – the needle was literally sticking out of his arm.  It was so disgusting; I’ve never seen anyone in the middle of doing that before.  I’ve got such a fear that they might go crazy and randomly inject me and give me AIDS or something.  Urgh.

Anyway then we got the bus back and I had a cold shower.  Don’t have anything til lecture at 6.30 now so I think a lot of people, including me, are napping now.


Had a good nap during which – unusually for me – I actually had a proper sleep.  Still feeling quite tired but it’s a good job I did have a snooze earlier or I’d never have stayed awake during the lecture – not because the lecture was boring (on the contrary) but because the lecture theatre is still uncomfortably warm and dark.

As I said, the lecture was really interesting:  all about the Forum Romanum, which we’re visiting tomorrow.  It’s definitely a good arrangement – the intensive site visits combined with the lectures.

Had a brief game of table tennis before dinner with three other people – was rubbish at it, of course.  Dinner was spent talking to the only other Oxford person here and the meal consisted of ravioli followed by some unidentified meat, green beans and salad, followed by a wonderful vanilla panacotta, followed by espresso.  Apparently Wednesdays are special in that we get actual dessert instead of just fruit.

Don’t appear to be sunburnt thus far which is great, as was out in the sun all day and only put one application of factor 20 on first thing.

About Rachel Ingram

I graduated from Oxford University in 2009 with an MA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History from St John's College. After graduating I worked as a Geographic Researcher at, spending lots of time researching and writing travel guides to worldwide destinations, developing my copywriting skills. After working as a copywriter and content consultant at (formerly SEOptimise), where I most enjoyed working with travel clients, I went self-employed. I now divide my time between freelance copywriting and running the business I set up with my boyfriend - - selling aviation gift experiences. In my spare time I'm training for a Private Pilot's Licence, and I also enjoy travelling, wine and baking. My favourite authors are Charles Dickens, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Bill Bryson.
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