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Via Appia Antica
Posted on Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - 12:47 pm:   

More Rome 2012, along the Appian Way.

Appian Way Antica (photos by Celsia)

Walking along ancient Roman road in Appia Antica

Ancient church ruins

Ancient Roman sculpture

Ruins nel campo, Circus of Maxentius.

more ruins, Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella

and more ruins, castrum Caetani.

Roman artifacts

Ancient Roman writing

Also on Appian way is the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, where Peter upon departing Rome, as he knew he would be killed there, was confronted by Jesus, who said "quo vadis?" (dove vai? - where are you going?). Peter then returned into the city, where he founded his church (now represented by Archbasilica San Giovanni Laterano, where Peter's communion's table is believed to still reside), and was indeed later martyred. Jesus' feet imprint remained in the stone where he stood on the Appia, or so goes the legend (as described on church's plaque).

Alleged footprint of Jesus, imprinted in marble stone (a copy)

Walking along the Appia on a spring afternoon was total joy, it felt like walking in Rome itself along the ancient pavement stones. Where the road was still intact, the old cart wheel groves were still aligned and clearly visible, whereas rebuilt sections show them misaligned and poorly spaced. The ancients knew how to build roads that were tight and properly leveled to let water run off, whereas the newer rebuilt pavements were not as well crafted, though at least they are still there. So much of the ruined sections had stones quarried by ancient builders for their castles and churches, but some virgin pavement is still in place. It was a moving experience, as if one was already there, simply revisiting an old familiar place.

Viva Roma!
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Cat Who Prayed children story
Posted on Sunday, June 29, 2014 - 01:37 pm:   

Cat Who Prayed (children story)

El Tigre.jpg
El Tigre

El Tigre lives in the sacred temple area of Torre Largo Argentina in Rome. Long ago it was part of a vast complex of Roman temples. The columns of those ancient ruins still stand amidst the tall grasses and spring flowers. This is also where is believed was assassinated Julius Caesar.  Now it is a sanctuary to some of Rome's abandoned cats. Though not as warm and cozy as the homes they once knew, it is home now. Here they are cared for by kind volunteers who feed them and mind their health. This is where El Tigre lives, a well loved member of this famous feline colony in the heart of Rome.

Altar of San Nicola at Giuturna Temple of Largo Argentina, in Ancient Rome

While the cats slept well hidden among the marble stone of the temples, early morning light filtered through the wild brush. El Tigre was already up and making his rounds of the temples. He hopped from stone to stone, then down into the tall grass, ran across the small stone piazza before the ruins of the Medieval church called San Nicola, then up the steps into the temple dedicated to the water nymph goddess Giuturna (Juturna in English), next to  Statio Aquarum. This temple next door was where ancient Rome's water was apportioned, a holy place itself. El Tigre gave it only a passing glance, his orangey silhouette flitted by like a fuzzy shadow. He was in a hurry. His next leap landed him on the white stone altar of the apse of San Nicola, now empty and roofless but for a curved portico still sheltering faded frescos. He stopped there.

El Tigre gave a glance around, satisfied he was alone, he faced the frescos. Atop the large square altar, his tail up straight, hind legs flexed, he bowed his head low into the bowl of the square stone. And there he remained motionless, like praying to the temple goddess. Seen from below, only his tail was showing, up like a proud exclamation mark.

By now other cats had stirred from their hidden sleeping places. Some were grooming languidly. Stretching in typical cat fashion, or scratching on a fallen branch to sharpen their claws, they whispered quietly.  They had noticed El Tigre up on the altar.
"Look, El Tigre is praying again" whispered calico, gold and black Huntress. She was talking to saffron colored, three legged Zampina.
"He does that every day," Zampina responded. "What do you think he's praying?"
Another, Fluffy Nero, who was staring up at the altar, joined them. They had gathered below in the temple.
"I think he's praying to Giuturna for our fellow cats who disappeared over the wall. Who knows where they go? So dangerous out there!"
They all shivered in agreement. It was dangerous on the streets outside, where cars and motorinos roared by the square, even the squeeling trams and busses. They shuddered at the thought.

The sun had risen enough to shine on the temple, and El Tigre, still paying them no mind, sat up. He continued facing the old frescos behind the altar, sitting still as if contemplating the saints. Another cat, bobbed tailed silvery, pretty Babbette, who had been chasing imaginary shadows joined them.
"He's praying for the cats in the infirmary," she says. "We know some will be operated, to make them healthy again. Some never come back!"
All looked up at El Tigre on the altar, giving each other knowing looks. They shuddered again. El Tigre remained sitting still like a statue, not even turning to look at them. He appeared deep in thought.

Some time had passed and El Tigre stirred himself, his meditation seemed over. He began preening up on the altar, even gave the others a passing glance. They were happy he noticed them. As his forepaw washed his ear and face, another cat came sauntering over. They all exclaimed cheerfully at his approach.
"Nerone!" they cried. "You are back from over the wall!"
He gave them a cheerful look.
"El Tigre is praying again? No doubt he sees the world better from up there."
All nodded it was so, as they saw the sanctuary mostly from below. The outside world was less scary if they were safe below. It took courage to go beyond the wall. So in their eyes, Nerone was a brave cat. Sure he was one of them, but he came and went as he pleased. Nerone continued: "Big things are happening beyond the wall. There are flags waving by the river, large numbers of people marching and shouting." He had seen this by the river Tevere but kept a safe distance, careful not to get stepped on.
They stared at him in disbelief. The only people they saw were the curious tourists looking down at them, or the volunteers. Sometimes a crew came to dig the temple ruins, which bothered their serenity and upset their sleeping places. Cats find it very important to sleep. But no one came shouting. Well, some children did, but they shouted with glee at the cats. All cats sometime ventured up the stairs to stare at the tourists. Huntress at times forgot her fears while chasing pigeons, until she realized the people there and quickly ran back. But the children was another story. As long as they kept their distance, especially if they gave them treats, which was forbidden, and parents kept them under control, then children were alright.

El Tigre had finished his morning toilet and jumped down from his altar. He jauntily sauntered over. Fluffy gave him wide berth, as they once had a fight; all were friends now. But Nerone greeted him cheerfully.
"Isn't Babbette lovely today?" She coquettishly  looked away shyly, but it was evident she enjoyed the compliment.
"As lovely as every day," El Tigre responded nonchalantly.
Zampina remained silent, a little jealous of the attention for her friend. Missing a paw irked her, but she was used to it, running and climbing with the best of them. Huntress was eyeing some pigeons in the distance.

El Tigre2.jpg
El Tigre on marble stone

By now all the cats had drifted down to the stairs of the temple. El Tigre sat on the top step, Nerone one lower. All the others at the bottom of the steps. More cats joined them, curious of this gathering. Also the two black and white Patches came over, Patches One and Patches Two, to see what this was about. All knew they were related, but none knew how. So they sat in anticipation as El Tigre composed himself on his lofty spot. Nerone, in a great show of supplication, spoke first.
"No one remembers now, but it is long said amongst us cats that the waters rose and a great flood covered the temples. It is said water goddess Juturna (he used her English name, Nerone was an English cat) was angry, so she made the waters rise."
This story was familiar to the sanctuary cats, as they heard it before. El Tigre, who now composed himself in deep meditation, looked down on them. Nerone continued.
"In the spirit of Julius Caesar who died here, on the steps arear Statio Aquarum, let the Oracle speak!"

And thus El Tigre spoke.
"Like water flowing, washing all things, water flows both good and bad. Water, like love, flows everywhere without judging."
He looked every cat in the eye to make his point. They all sat silent before him, trying to understand.
"Water flows without knowing. Yet it knows all. As rain it knows the air. When flowing in the Tiber river, it knows the fishes and rocks. It flows over or around them. The water goddess Guiturna is like that. She knows without knowing."
El Tigre paused again so his words be better absorbed, as he was speaking a paradox. To "know without knowing", was confusing to the cat audience. But they were curious to hear more.
"There is no good or bad in the goddess, she merely is, without judging. It is we who must know good from bad."
Cats like paradox, so they listened though not really understanding.
Except Nerone had a question.
"Surely Giuturna must judge. If water comes to a rock, it must judge whether to go over it or around." Fluffy nodded in agreement. El Tigre closed his eyes to more deeply reflect.
"It is the rock who must judge" he pronounced.
By now some cats were getting restless, others were stretching or scratching themselves. Zampina scratched an invisible itch with an invisible leg. But all were respectful of El Tigre, as he continued speaking.
"The water will obey in calm submission where is the rock."
All nodded that it was so, that water obeyed the rock. Except none understood how it was the the rock that "judged". They remained puzzled, but eager to hear more. El Tigre obliged.
"Same as love is everywhere, so water is everywhere. To drink, to wash, to swim in. We must be thankful for all the water, same as we are thankful for all the love around us, for our parents, for our friends."
El Tigre paused to see if they were still with him. The two Patches, One and Two, sat with blank looks on their faces, so he continued.
"Same like the birds in the sky," Huntress looked up at him eagerly, "or flowers in a field, all is beautiful. So we must be grateful and see it all with love, and be thankful."
Babbette nodded in agreement, she liked flowers. Nerone, Fluffy and Zampina all appeared eager to hear more, so he continued.
"Same as the water will flow over or around a rock, so will the spirit flow over or around our judgment. If we make good judgment, it will flow with goodness. But if bad, it will flow badly."
El Tigre closed his eyes and thought deeply.
"Water does not judge, like love does not judge. It merely is." He paused again.
"Everything we do must be to do good," he said, "for it is we who must judge. We are the rock!"
The cats were happy to hear that they are the rock.
"But why must we judge?" asked Babbette.
"For the love of the gods," answered El Tigre. The he sat up and raised his tale, a signal that he had finished.
"For the love of the gods," they all chanted in unison. All the cats were happy that love was like water, like birds and flowers, everywhere. And for this they thanked El Tigre.

Now all the cats seemed satisfied, but they were also thinking of breakfast. As they began down from the temple steps, Nerone turned to El Tigre.
"Did you really have those thoughts while you were praying atop the altar, when you faced the saints?"
El Tigre gave him a sly look.
"No, really. I was just thirsty so went up to drink some rainwater." He gave him a wink.
"Ah," responded Nerone. "Water goddess Juturna!"
"Yes,  Giuturna," agreed El Tigre. "Her words."

Then all the cats hopped off, away to see what the kind volunteers at the sanctuary had prepared them for breakfast. All paused momentarily when they came to the Statio Aquarum temple, as if unsure of going around it, or over it. They did both... The gods were pleased.


Nerone then left them and hopped up on the wall. There, like other cats at times were fond to do, he paraded back and forth, black tail up, to the delight of the children, and for the tourists to take his picture. Then he hopped down and ran off into his private little world behind Largo Argentina towards the river, by the monastery, where the nice English lady had his breakfast.

Largo Argentina.jpg
Largo Argentina, Giuturna Temple with Statio Aquarum on left

IDA Rome

Also see: The Cat Who Prayed (original)

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