The ancients knew more than we realized - Globetrotter
Published 12:15 pm, Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Here we are in the modern era and think that we have developed all sorts of modern conveniences, including indoor plumbing, efficient sewer systems, libraries and other amenities. They were, we assumed, the conveniences of the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries. Didn't the Puritans use outhouses? There were several times in my travels, however, when I was surprised and amazed at the facilities archeologists have uncovered from ancient civilizations. Three examples stand out in my mind.
The first was our visit to the prehistoric town of Akroteri on the beautiful island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea . After driving up a winding road more precipitous than the Grand Corniche on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, we reached this amazing excavation of a town built in the Minoan era before 1500 B.C. We strolled past uncovered facades of houses with faded mosaics facing each other across roads. The houses were equipped with indoor johns and huge jugs for carrying supplies up the steep ascent from the sea below.
The city of Ephesus in the coast of Turkey was another example of the sophisticated lifestyle of the ancients. The town dates from the 7th century B.C. and was a thriving community in the 6th century. It was conquered by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and eventually taken over by the Romans. Most of the restored excavations date from Roman times. There is an Agora, or town square, with an Odeon (or town hall) for meetings. There was a Latrina, (a building with public toilets). We took pictures of each other sitting on them. We walked passed restorations of houses of the wealthy with mosaic terraces in front. At the end of the stone paved road were a temple to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, a magnificently restored library and a large and well preserved horseshoe shaped theater.
The third site where archeologists had uncovered ancient Roman ruins was in Jerusalem. After visiting the famed Waling Wall and Temple Mount , we visited Jerusalem 's Jewish quarter. Underneath the bustling Main Street were the remains of the Cardo Maximus -- Latin for Main Street -- dating from around the 1st Century A.D. We explored an underground museum where a number of houses built in the time of Herod the Great had been excavated. They were homes of wealthy Romans with mosaic tiles still intact, elaborate baths and other relics revealing the comfortable (perhaps even indulgent) lives that they had lived there so long ago. It was a weird feeling to realize that there was busy 20th Century commercial life going on above us.
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As history explains it, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the "Dark Ages" of the 4th to 13th centuries, many of the amenities that the Romans had enjoyed disappeared and had to be reinvented at the time of the Renaissance and later. These three early examples -- and there are others in Greece, Rome itself, and elsewhere -- of the advanced life styles of the ancients are a source of wonder to me.