ROME’S SMALL THINGS FORGOTTEN II

Not so many walking routes taken you over Tiber Island. But once there you discover a hamlet on a minuscule footprint elevated high above the racing waters. At the island end of the Pons Cestius (as it was known) – a bridge with late Republican roots, but much restored when the Tiber works were made by the new government of Italy in the late 1880s – is a staircase down to water’s edge.

Pons Cestius

The iron gate suggests this is really off limits but, of course, it isn’t. A wide counter separates the island proper from the river. Now nearly at water’s level, Rome seems far above, and distant. The first swifts have arrived, skimming over the water amped up by Monday’s storm.

My destination is the far end of the island, in the near shadow of the Pons Fabricus. Fashioned into the sharpened south end of the island is a Roman trireme. At first it seems almost plastic, but this half-size vessel is real alright. The prow is made of a combination of travertine and tufa blocks. One figure is very clear is the head of Aesculapius, his healing staff is beside him, entwined with snakes. It is a reference to a great Republican healing temple on the island, founded after some snakes escaped and made their way to the island.

The Tiber Island trireme

The trireme is one of Rome’s treasures, forgotten…

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