Roman theater

Not exactly what Vitruvius intended

Caesarea theater 2.jpg

Roman theaters, like this reconstructed example at Caesarea-by-the-Sea, had elaborate backsets on the rear of the stage. These sets were decorative but had practical functions too: they were used by the actors, they served as storage spaces, and they also helped “control” the sound inside the room. These backsets were called the scaenae frons or the “facade of the tent” (from the Greek skene for “tent” or “hut.” It is likely that early backsets were simple structures used by the actors to hide themselves from the spectators and to create dramatic mystery.). In later times, they were made of carved stone.

The electronic set pictured here converts ancient space for modern use. I’m sure it offers “control” for the sound, but it just seems out of place in such a setting (sigh).

Oh, by the way, Vitruvius was a Roman architect who described how things were built two thousand years ago. Imagine his response to this! Do you think he would have been pleased?


We just picked up our first group of the summer in Tel Aviv. We are now headed inland to the Sea of Galilee.

Sorry for the delay in posting. I should be getting back to business this week. Thanks for following.



Yesterday I posted a view to the Messina Strait from the Roman theater in Taormina (see here). From this vantage point one captures the rugged beauty of Sicily’s northern coast as well as a view to the site of old Naxos (on the distant plain). Today I offer a second view.

The 5th century Athenian historian Thucydides suggests how Sicily got its name and how Naxos became its first Greek settlement.*

As for the island: its original name was Trinakia (Θρινακία) or “three-cornered” (consult a map of the island and you will see why). However, it was subsequently settled and renamed by peoples from Iberia (Spain or southern France). These settlers brought with them the name of their river, Sicanus. Hence, Trinacria became Sicanai or “Sicily.” See all this from Thucydides here.

Note 1: modern scholars are not so sure that Thucydides got it right. Archaeologists suggests that the culture connected with the Sicanai shows strong influence from southern Italy** and Mycenae.***

Note 2: The Apostle Paul sailed by this point on his way to Rome around the year 59. See Acts 28:11-13.

As for Naxos, Thucydides continues: This settlement was made by seafarers from the island of Euboea, just east of the Greek mainland. Their original home was Chalcis or Chalkida. Thucles is named as their founder. See the quote here.

*Thucydides was an historian and military man from Athens, Greece. His History of the Peloponnesian War is considered by many to be the first “modern” or “critical” history to be written. The quotes above are drawn from this famous 5th century BC work.

**The Late Bronze Age Fossa Grave culture. Read about this on pages 646-647 in the Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age (Oxford, 2013).

***See page 72 in John Fine’s The Ancient Greeks: A Critical History (Harvard, 1985).

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We are headed back to Tel Aviv in less than a week. I’ll be meeting a group from Chantilly, Virginia to share with them a tour of Israel-Palestine. Temperatures should be on the cool side as we circle the country through Galilee, the Jordan Valley, the Judean Wilderness, and Jerusalem.

Know that you are always invited to participate in one of our Bible Lands adventures. See the list of trips scheduled for 2019 here.