International workshop for lost city, Bovillae, held on Rome campus this summer

Molly Wierman, News Editor

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In light of recent archaeological discoveries, the possibility of what lay beneath the vineyard is drawing attention from scholars from all over the world. Photo courtesy of Emma Polefko.

The Roman city of Bovillae was the subject of an international workshop held at the University of Dallas Rome campus May 15-16. The city was located on the present site of the UD Rome campus and was lost after centuries of neglect.

The International Workshop on Ancient Bovillae attempted to apply the disciplines of archaeology, history, and art to assemble the story of the lost city by using the research of scholars from such institutions as Benedictus College in London and the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome. Presentations at the workshop included “The Remains of Bovillae: New Data from Old Research” by Professor Paolo Liverani of the University of Florence and “Clodius, Milo and the Battle of Bovillae” by Dr. D.H. Berry of the University of Edinburgh. The Association of American College and University Programs in Italy (AACUPI), the City of Marino and the Region of Lazio were among the workshop’s sponsors.

Bovillae once drew large crowds with its chariot racing stadium, school for actors and preeminent order of priests, according to the workshop’s press release. It also held an important shrine to the family of Julius Caesar and Emperor Octavian Augustus. The city reached its prime in 100 A.D. Three hundred years later, it ceased to exist as a city altogether.

Treasure hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries and urban expansion over the past 200 years destroyed the site of Bovillae. Some traces of the city survived, including a bust of the Roman emperor Titus on temporary exhibition at the Rome campus, a cistern in the campus vineyard, and a Dionysiac frieze now at the Vatican Museums.

Dr. Peter Hatlie, Director of the Rome Program, highlighted important historical lessons from Bovillae’s disappearance.

“If we want to learn from the past, [we] better not neglect our study of even the stories of failure … because we don’t want to repeat their mistakes and thus suffer the same fate … due to sheer ignorance,” Dr. Hatlie said.

The workshop bore significance not only for its attempts to compile and examine Bovillae’s particular story of failure but also for its eclectic participants.

“It was an especially important meeting given that people who normally do not dialogue with one another — elite scholars, seasoned professional archaeologists, local politicians and the public at large — sat down and seriously deliberated what in the world happened to Bovillae,” Dr. Hatlie said. “What remains is the question of what, if anything, to do about this great loss.”

However the workshop and its attendees decide to answer this question, Dr. Hatlie believes this lost city can play an important role in any UD student’s journey to Rome.

“It’s just lovely to reflect upon the fact that we sit atop a site of great historical importance, where once hoards of people came to worship at the shrine of the family of Julius Caesar and Octavian Augustus, where even more people came to cheer on the elite charioteers who raced in this privileged imperial hippodrome, where the sacred roads between Rome and its foundational city of Alba Longa met and crossed, symbolizing Rome’s affinities to its Latin ancestors,” Dr. Hatlie said. “To me, our being the University of Dallas at Bovillae is cause for excitement and anticipation. It ought to make students’ stay at campus even more magical and stimulating.”

Senior Lucie Buisson believes the discovery will benefit the university.

“I think it might put UD on the map of the academic world, and it could draw people in,” Buisson said. “It’s really exciting being part of discovering the past for a school that loves the Western tradition.”

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