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Latin love poetry by moonlight

July 9, 2012 – 11:46 am

"Nocturnal pleasures - literature and seduction in Rome".

Romantics among you will be interested to hear about night-time visits to the Roman city of Italica, just outside Seville, which take place on weekends throughout the summer. The theme: Latin love poetry.

Italica is one of Andalucia’s most important archaeological sites, with its magnificent amphitheatre and exquisite mosaics. It was the first Roman city built outside Italy, and was the birthplace of the Emperor Trajan.

The amphitheatre at Italica, which seated 25,000 spectators, was the third-largest in the Roman Empire,

Throughout July, August and September, on Friday and Saturday nights (6 – 29 September, Thursday and Saturday), after-dark visitors will be greeted with a reading (in Spanish, not Latin!) of Catullus’s famous poem, Odio y Amo (I hate and I love), to transport them back to Roman times.

Visitors will walk around the site with lanterns, creating a wonderfully romantic mood, and will learn about the Roman ideal of Arcadian love. Arcadia was the classical concept of Utopia – a place where everything is happy and peaceful. Sounds like great escapism to me.

First of all they will see the amphitheatre from the woods above, and then proceed to other parts of the site: the main residential area, with the Casa del Planetario, Casa de los Pajaros and the Termas de Neptuno.

Peacock mosaic from La Casa de los Pajaros at Italica.

The actors will explain, through more poetry, how men and women in Roman times loved, and the fallout – sadness and desperation. I couldn’t help thinking of Sevillano love poet Antonio Machado when I read this – he has plenty in common with Ovid, Tibullus, and the rest of them. But these tours also include a rarity in Latin literature: Sulpicia, who was a woman poet. I did a degree in Latin, and I’ve never heard of her (although it was over 20 years ago; my memory may be letting me down).

It sounds to me like a wonderful idea. The price is reasonable – 5 euros – and it only lasts an hour, so it’s not long enough to find yourself getting seriously fed up with 2000-year-old love poetry, if you find it isn’t to your taste. A chance to step back in time to an early epoch in Seville’s long history.

For more information on Placeres Nocturnos, go to Engranajes Culturales website.

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