A stereotypical image of today's Romans associates them with eating saucy bucatini all'Amatriciana, rather than caring about their fitness and health. This widely held view is not entirely accurate: a stroll in the early morning or in the late afternoon in one of the many parks of Rome shows that jogging and exercising are pretty popular, especially among the not so very young.
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla seen from Piazzale Numa Pompilio (to the left SS. Nereo e Achilleo); Via di Valle delle Camene is located to the right of the main road
Via di Valle delle Camene is a popular spot for jogging: it is a slightly winding narrow street which runs parallel to Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, an alley which links a large square dedicated to King Numa Pompilius with Circus Maximus. The area was redesigned in the early XXth century and on that occasion the references to Numa Pompilius and the Camenae were made. Jogging there helps exercising the mind, not just the body...
Livy wrote a monumental History of Rome at the time of Emperor Augustus. He associated Romulus, the first legendary king of Rome with events
which are typical of the founder of a nation, including the killing of his twin Remus. Then Livy decided to emphasize
the sacral aspect of the City by portraying Numa Pompilius, the second king, as a very pious man:
The justice and piety of Numa Pompilius was at that time celebrated. He dwelt at Cures, a city of the Sabines, and was as eminently learned in all law, human and divine, as any man could be in that age. He set about establishing anew, on the principles of law and morality, the newly founded city that had been already established by force of arms.
Livy - Book I - translation by John Henry Freese, Alfred John Church, and William Jackson Brodribb
In Ancient Rome (and in Ancient Greece) religious ceremonies were performed by magistrates (including kings) and the traditional iconography of Numa Pompilius shows him with his head covered in the act of officiating. Augustus attached great importance to his being the Pontifex Maximus (Highest Priest) and he was often portrayed as such. This is a major difference versus the civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean where priests played a major role.
Cycling: the area is busy with bikers too; the three smiling
gentlemen were waiting at Valle delle Camene for a cruise group (ships call at Civitavecchia) who had enrolled in a guided tour of Rome by bike
And while the people of their own accord were forming themselves on the model of the king, as the most excellent example, the neighbouring states also, who had formerly thought that it (Rome) was a camp, not a city, that had been established in their midst to disturb the general peace, were brought to feel such respect for them that they considered it impious to molest a state, wholly occupied in the worship of the gods. There was a grove, the middle of which was irrigated by a spring of running water, flowing from a dark grotto. As Numa often repaired thither unattended, under pretence of meeting the goddess, he dedicated the grove to the Camenae, because, as he asserted, their meetings with his wife Egeria were held there. Livy
(left) Terme di Caracalla; (right) view towards Circus Maximus, S. Maria in Cosmedin and S. Pietro. Jogging at Valle delle Camene is a good occasion to feel the passing of time by casting a glance at the monuments of ancient, medieval and Renaissance Rome
Fons Camenarum was a spring at the foot of the Caelian Hill where later on the Mattei built their villa. The Camenae were four nymphs who lived in the grove of black poplars around the spring. Their names were: Carmenta (who among other powers possessed that of prophecy), Postvorta (goddess of the past), Antevorta (goddess of the future) and Egeria (goddess of wisdom). Egeria was the wife of Numa Pompilius and according to Livy they met at this spring: according to another tradition they met at Ninfeo di Egeria, a fountain next to a sacred wood, not far from Via Appia.
Stadio delle Terme; it was built for the 1960 Olympic Games between Terme di Caracalla and Palazzo della F.A.O., the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. It is located opposite Valle delle Camene
The fountain and the sacred wood lost their charm with the growth of Rome; at the end of the Ist century AD, the writer Juvenal
described the site with these words:
But while all his goods and chattels were being packed upon a single wagon, my friend halted at the dripping archway of the old Porta Capena. Here Numa held his nightly assignations with his mistress; but now the holy fount and grove and shrine are let out to Jews, who possess a basket and a truss of hay for all their furnishings. For as every tree nowadays has to pay toll to the people, the Muses have been ejected, and the wood has to go a-begging. We go down to the Valley of Egeria, and into the caves so unlike to nature: how much more near to us would be the spirit of the fountain if its waters were fringed by a green border of grass, and there were no marble to outrage the native tufa! (Juvenal - Satire III - Edition and translation by G. G. Ramsay).
Semenzaio Comunale at the foot of Villa Mattei: the nursery of the City of Rome is a reminder that the area was used for farming and grazing after the fall of the Roman Empire
Valle delle Camene is a flat land between the Caelian and the Aventine hills; local springs and a brook coming from Porta Metronia required a careful maintenance of Cloaca Massima, the system of sewers designed by the ancient Romans to avoid floods. This occurred until the Greek-Gothic War; after that period Valle delle Camene became marshy and very unhealthy in summer.
(left upper corner) Site of the Republican walls; (right upper corner) inscription below a sacred image; (lower section) S. Sisto Vecchio:
1478 lintel of the side entrance: coat of arms of Cardinal Pedro Ferrici (perhaps a work by Andrea Bregno)
Valle delle Camene was immediately outside the Republican walls of Rome; what is left of them is buried because over the centuries floods raised the level of the ground: some modern inscriptions (ASSE DELLE MURA SERVIANE) indicate their location and Piazza di Porta Capena,
the name given to a large square at the other end of Via delle Terme di Caracalla,
is a reminder of the gate mentioned by Juvenal (Capena after Capua, an important town near Naples); he said the gate was dripping because that stretch of the wall was used to support an aqueduct bringing water to the Palatine Hill.
Pope Pius VII was very precise in establishing the discount (100 days) granted in Purgatory to those who preached in front of a sacred image placed on an external wall of Villa Mattei along Valle delle Camene.
The cultivated jogger will surely admire the elegant 1478 lintel on the side entrance of S. Sisto Vecchio; he is likely to be puzzled by the word "Tirasonensis" and probably he will run home to go through his books searching for its meaning. As a matter of fact Cardinal Pedro Ferrici y Comentano was making reference to Tarragona, a historical town in Catalonia (Spain). The appropriate Latin word to designate someone from Tarraco (as the town was called by the Romans) is Tarraconensis and Hispania Tarraconensis was the largest of the three Roman provinces in Iberia. The mistake is due to the loss of knowledge of Latin during the Middle Ages; the correct spelling of some words was forgotten.
Relatives and friends attending a wedding at Valle delle Camene
Joggers at Valle delle Camene come next to a small casino of Villa Mattei which is now used for non-religious weddings. According to agreements between the Italian State and religious institutions, ceremonies which take place in a church (or a synagogue) are valid for the Italian authorities as long as mention is made of the Civil Code clauses regulating this matter. Usually the ceremonies which take place in this building involve people who are on their second marriage; weddings are unlikely to be grandiose, but still relatives and friends are happy to attend them to smile and wish the newly-weds well.
Other Days of Peace pages:
A Sunny Day in Villa Borghese
At the Flea Market
At the Beach
Voicing Your Views ..... and feeling better
Christmas in Rome
Celebrating the Foundation of Rome
A visit to Roseto di Roma
The procession of La Madonna de Noantri
Running the Marathon
Watching the Parade
Finding Solace at the Protestant Cemetery
Attending 2007 July Events
Rome's Sleepless Night
Attending Winter Ceremonies
Sailing on the River to see the Bridges of Roma
An October Outing to Marino
Attending a Funeral ...and enjoying it!
A Special Spring Weekend
Embassy-hunting in Parioli
Celebrating Eritrean Michaelmas in Rome
Visiting Rome at Dawn
Visiting Rome in the Moonlight
Visiting Rome on a Hop-on-Hop-off Bus
Visiting Multi-ethnic Rome
Playing in the Snow at the Janiculum
Watching the Pride Parade
Visiting the Movie Sets at Cinecittą
Looking up at the Ceilings of the Vatican Palaces
Reading Memoirs of Hadrian at Villa Adriana
Walking the Dog at Valle della Caffarella
Reading Seneca at the Baths
Spending the Last Roman Day at St. John Lateran's Cloister
Reading Ovid at St. Peter's