"But Freud had a second fear: a fear of Rome's layers. In formal treatises, he compared the psyche to an ancient city, with many layers of architecture built one on top of another, each replacing the last, but with the old structures still present underneath. In private writings he phrased this more personally, that he was terrified of ever visiting Rome because he was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right
is a blog of well researched long-form (yet highly readable!) articles on ancient to Renaissance Italy, written by a professor of European History. Some highlights:
"Machiavelli made two big, big breakthroughs. If I treat each in turn, with the proper historical context, I think I can make Machiavelli make sense.
Machiavelli, founder of Modern Political Science and History.
Machiavelli, founder of Utilitarianism/Consequentialist ethics.
The latter issue is where Machiavelli picks up such titles as Arch-Heretic, Anti-Pope, and Destroyer of Italy (also father of modern cultural analysis and religious studies). The former, however, is even more universal in its penetration into modern thought."
Machiavelli I (Addendum)
Machiavelli II - The Three Branches of Ethics
Machiavelli III - Rise of the Borgias
Machiavelli IV - Julius II, the Warrior Pope
Why We Keep Asking "Was Machiavelli an Atheist?"
Spot the Saint
"Renaissance art, religious art especially, is aesthetic, but it is also narrative. Sculptures, paintings and other artifacts were created to retell and comment on stories and people whom the audience was expected to already know. Being able to identify different subjects, especially saints, by their vocabulary of recurring attributes is a kind of cultural literacy which all Renaissance people had, but most modern viewers lack."
John the Baptist and Lorenzo
Sebastian and Catherine of Alexandria
Peter and Paul
The Heavenly Court
Reparata and Zenobius
Franciscans (Friars Minor)
Nicholas and Befana
Agatha and Lucy
Spot the Saint mini-quiz
Mary Magdalene and John the Evangelist
The Four Evangelists
Jerome and Cosmas & Damian
Accuracy in Historical Fiction
"She's not of sufficiently high social status to have domesticated rabbits in Northern Europe in that century. But I guess it's not fair to press a point since the research on that hasn't been published yet."
A Passion for Porphyry
"The only porphyry in Europe lay in things the Romans built, so every prince and republic and sculptor who wanted this symbol of Roman power had to steal it from the source. Want to put in a nice porphyry floor for a Church? Loot it from a Roman temple. Want to advertise the imperial majesty of Mary Queen of Heaven? Make the altar out of an old, repurposed porphyry sarcophagus."
The Scariest Library
"I am going to spend the next 5,000 words complaining about library architecture. Let's see if I can keep you excited."
Venice I: What's Carnival Really Like?
Venice II: Mask Culture
"In Venice one is either (A) in Saint Mark's Square, (B) on the Rialto bridge, or (C) lost."
Really Real Fake Centurions
"Legio I Italica is a group of top quality, professional Roman Legionary reenactors, who travel around Italy by invitation, making camp in various towns and cities in order to educate Italians, young and old, about the real life of the legions and the ancient world."