Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Termini Part 3 - It's Not What You Think!

View Trophies of Marius in a larger map

West Face of the so called Trophies of Marius
Termini Part 1 - Santa Maria Maggiore
Termini Part 2 - Basilica Santa Prassede

It should come as no surprise that a very large number of places in Rome have names that bear absolutely no relation to what they actually are. The rather imposing ruin above, just a couple blocks south east of the Arch of Gallienus (which is really Porta Esquilina) is almost universally called The Trophies of Marius. It's in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, another one of those places one used to avoid.
Yes, I Am the Trophy of Marius
These days it's mostly a big playground where local moms bring their little ones and haven for well fed stray cats. But in fact...

In fact the monument in question is what remains of a huge fountain built above the Aqua Julia's distribution reservoir. It was named for a pair of sculptures from the reign of Domitian that were found there. They were moved to the Capitoline in 1590.
Aureus Showing the Nympheum
But even the date of those those sculptures were misleading because the fountain was actually built during the reign of Alexander Severus and probably finished around 226 when it is shown on an aureus of that emperor. It's identified in the regionary catalogs as Nymfeum Alexandri and may have been associated with the Aqua Alexandrina, the last aqueduct to be built in Rome.

The Temple of Minerva Medica

This huge monument next to the Termini rail yard is yet another mis-identification - it has nothing whatsoever to do with Minerva Medica or any other Minerva. In fact it's another nympheum, this time probably belonging to the Horti Liciniani. The dome collapsed in 1828. Up until fairly recently there was actually a small house built into one of the side buildings. William P. Thayer (responsible for the wonderful Lacus Curtius site (which seems to be offline as I write this) once rang the bell but got no answer.

Hong Kong Food and Beverage

Pork Shu-mai
OK, by now you're probably getting hungry. And if you're looking at the Temple of Minerva Medica why not head back up Via Giovanni Giolitti to #105 and the best Chinese food in Rome: Hong Kong Food and Beverage like we did.

Ma-Po Tofu in Rome!
We ordered the shu-mai shown above, pork with black mushrooms, and ma-po tofu. The last was near perfect. Not just for Rome, but anywhere I've eaten it. If it had any weakness it was a bit short on the ma-la of Sichuan peppercorns. But I'm comparing it to the uncompromising version served at Philadelphia's Han Dynasty.

It's easy to get into a mindset of "all-Italian-all-the-time". After all, you're in Rome, and surrounded by beautiful markets and fabulous restaurants (large and very small as we'll soon see). If you happen to be near Termini, Hong Kong Food and Beverage is the perfect break. And if you're not interested in Chinese, hit up any of the half a dozen kebab joints on this stretch of Via Giolitti. Just look for the one that has the longest line.

There's more to come! Next up, a nice chunk of aqueduct and one of the most famous republican tombs in Rome.

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