Hagia Sophia and UNESCO World Heritage

Hagia Sophia © David Gill

The historic area of Istanbul was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. One of the finest structures in this part of the city is the 6th century church of Hagia Sophia that was turned into a mosque following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Under Kemal Atatürk the building was turned into a museum emphasising the secular nature of the republic.

It is now proposed to turn the structure back into a mosque (“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque“, BBC News 2 July 2020). The topic has been widely discussed in Greece (e.g. “Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sophia’s status“, ekathimerini.com 1 July 2020). France has now added its voice to the debate (e.g. “France says Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia must remain open to all“, ekathimerini.com 2 July 2020).

Fortuna and Bowes

Inscription from Bowes (Cambridge, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) © David Gill

Two inscriptions from Roman forts on the road across the Pennines are now displayed in Cambridge: one is the Brough Stone now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the other is an inscription from Bowes, Co. Durham, now in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (RIB 730; D 1970.3). (For the site of the fort now occupied by a castle.)

The Bowes inscription was transferred, along with 15 other inscriptions from various sites in Britain, from the library of Trinity College to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1970. The altar has been known since at least 1600 when it appeared in Camden’s Britannia. It was found at the Roman fort of Bowes (Lavatrae) to the north-west of Richmond.

The altar is dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. The dedication is made by Virius Lupus, the governor of the province (from AD 197), who restored the bath-house that had been destroyed by fire. Virius Lupus is also known from another project at Ilkley that is dated to exactly the same period (RIB 637). The garrison unit is named as the 1st Cohort of Thracians (see also RIB 740 from the governorship of L. Alfenus Senecio, 205–c. 208). The work was carried out by Valerius Fronto, the cavalry prefect of the Vettonians, based at the fort of Binchester (Vinovia) to the north-east of Bowes.

Athens: the Agora of Caesar and Augustus

Agora of Caesar and Augustus, Athens © David Gill

The city of Athens deserves to be explored on foot. The agora of Caesar and Augustus lies to the east of the main agora area. The monumental Doric propylon for this space still stands at the west end of the agora. The inscription shows that the gate was dedicated to Athena Archegetis; it is dated to the archonship of Nikias, i.e. 11/10 or 10/9 BC. The architectural style evokes the 5th century Athens of Perikles.

There is an open colonnade inside the propylon, some 111 m long.

Agora of Caesar and Augustus, Athens © David Gill
Agora of Caesar and Augustus, Athens © David Gill

The Hurlers, Bodmin Moor

The Hurlers, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

The Hurlers are located on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Parts of three circles can be identified.

The site is in the care of English Heritage and is managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

Quay Place to close

Quay Place, opening 2016 © David Gill

In October 2016 Quay Place opened in Ipswich. It was a partnership between the Churches Conservation Trust and Suffolk Mind, and allowed this fine medieval church to have a new lease of life. The project was presented as a case study in the DCMS Heritage Statement (2017).

It has now been announced that Quay Place is due to close due to the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic (“Coronavirus: Suffolk Mind to close Ipswich’s Quay Place“, BBC News 15 June 2020). The future of the building is unclear.

East Anglia’s Heritage and Recovery

Norwich Cathedral, Binham Priory, Framlingham Castle, Castle Rising, Ickworth © David Gill

The rich range of heritage in East Anglia contributes to the visitor economy. In ‘normal’ times Ickworth is one of the National Trust’s most visited properties (with over a quarter of a million visitors in 2018). Norwich cathedral and castle are key attractions for anyone visiting the city.

But 2020 is not going to be a ‘normal’ year.

What sort of sites will attract visitors as the heritage sector starts to re-open? Will they be the out of the way locations like Binham Priory? Or the parkland surrounding Ickworth? What about the landscape surrounding the prehistoric mines at Grimes Graves?

This Thursday, 18 June 2020, Tech East and Norfolk County Council, in partnership with the New Anglia LEP and Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, will be holding Tourism + Tech, a ½ day conference aimed at helping tourism businesses recover and grow. One of the key questions to be asked is how can digital help to grow and transform visitor economy businesses?

Key speakers include Pete Waters, Executive Director of Visit East of England, James Kindred of Big Drop Brewing Co., and Jason Middleton, Programmes Manager at New Anglia LEP.

10 key heritage sites in Suffolk

10 key heritage sites in Norfolk

The severed portrait head from the Alde

Portrait of the Emperor Claudius (British Museum) © David Gill

The bronze head of the Emperor Claudius (or perhaps Nero) was found in the spring of 1907 in the River Alde at Rendham, west of Saxmundham, in Suffolk. As Jocelyn Toynbee observed: ‘The lower line of the neck is torn and ragged, and there can be little doubt but that this head was violently hacked from its body and carried off as loot from some important Roman centre’. The suggestion is that it was removed from the Roman colony at Colchester: see Janet Huskinson, CSIR GB I, 8, no. 23.

The head (‘The Saxmundham Claudius’) was purchased by the British Museum after it had been sold at Sotheby’s in 1965 (inv. 1965.12-01.1).

Damnatio Memoriae: The Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill

The Arch of Septimius Severus stands at the west end of the Roman forum. The inscriptions that appears on both sides of the arch remind us of how individuals can be erased from history. The original text would have been in bronze letters attached to the marble.

The inscription refers to the emperor Septimius Severus (in line 1) and his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla) in line 3. The titles of Severus as well as his son allow the inscription to be dated to AD 203.

The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill
The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill
The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill

The fourth line currently reads: Optimis Fortissimisque Principibus (‘excellent and strongest princes’). The holes on line 4 show that the inscription originally read (Claridge): P. Septimio L. fil. Getae Nobiliss(imo) Caesari. Line 4 was preceded at the end of line 3 with et (as line 3 is preceded by an et at the end of line 2).

The arch was originally dedicated to Septimius Severus, Caracalla (M. Aurelius Antoninus) as Augustus and P. Septimius Geta as Caesar. In AD 212 Geta was murdered by his brother Caracalla: and Caracalla then proceeded to erase the memory of Geta from public monuments.

Barton Farm Villa: Orpheus

Barton Farm Villa (Corinium Museum) © David Gill

The Orpheus mosaic was discovered at Barton Farm outside Circencester in 1825. At the centre is the figure of Orpheus, wearing a Phrygian cap, and playing a lyre. The mosaic is dated to the fourth century AD.

A circle of birds surround Orpheus, among them a peacock.

Barton Farm Villa (Corinium Museum) © David Gill

Orpheus’ music has enchanted a group of animals, among them a lion, a tiger and possibly a leopard. The front of a fragmentary fourth animal can be seen.

Barton Farm Villa (Corinium Museum) © David Gill

The Corinium Museum has displayed the mosaic so that it can be viewed from the first floor of the museum.

Wallsend: viewing the fort

Wallsend Roman fort © David Gill

The most easterly fort on Hadrian’s Wall can be viewed from an elevated platform. It overlooks the east gate of Segedunum; Hadrian’s Wall joined at the west gate. To the south side of the road can be seen the commander’s house and the praetorium; on the north side are the end of two barrack blocks.

To the south of the fort can be seen the reconstructed bath-house.

Wallsend Roman fort © David Gill