Elephant No. 40 – Aleria, Corsica 

On our way back to the airport in Corsica we stopped off at Aleria, which had been the biggest Roman settlement in Corsica (also known as Alalia to Herodotus and other Greeks). A quick foray to the archaeological site and museum (neither of which would be high on my list of Corsican recommendations!) yielded this fantastic elephant plate!

The plate dates to the 3rd century BC and is decorated with three colours (white, red, yellow) on a black glaze. Around the edges you can see laurel leaves, and there is also a man on the larger elephant, though very faded. It’s very similar to another elephant plate found in Capena from around the same time which has been better preserved. It’s possible that both plates refer to the victories of Pyrrhus in 280 BC, who defeated the Romans with the help of some elephants, or perhaps to his defeat in 275 BC, where elephants also had an important role. Eight of his elephants were actually captured alive and then displayed in the triumph in Rome following his defeat. A different interpretation of the plate suggests it could be depicting Dionysus returning from India on elephant, or alternatively the elephants could be simply decorative with no link to history or religion. Either way it was a great find!

All crowded round to see the exciting elephant

The other highlights of the small museum included these large Italian vases

May Day in Oxford

This Thursday morning, the 1st May, I celebrated May Day. It’s a tradition that I have taken part in for the past three years, as there’s always lots going on in Oxford to mark the date, much of which is specifically connected to my college, Magdalen. I always find it an interesting holiday as it blends so many different cultures – originally a pagan festival marking the start of summer (it’s approximately halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice), it was adapted when Christianity was adopted in this country, and now also has strong associations with International Workers’ Day… (more…)

The Women’s Boat Race

The Women’s Boat Race



Boats racing at Henley

I’ll be the first to admit that I know next to zilch about the strange sport of rowing. With a heavy contingent of rowing-crazy friends among my acquaintances though, I can usually just about follow the ‘rowing chat’ – even if it sometimes (read: often) bores me to death. As someone who dislikes both early mornings and most forms of exercise, I just don’t think I’ll ever understand their motivation! However, Henley is just about the loveliest place that you can spend a sunny English weekend in spring, which is exactly what I did last week, to watch the annual Oxford-Cambridge women’s boat-race. To be honest, the race itself you only watch for about five minutes (and it was quite exciting even I have to admit), but it’s one of the nicest bits of the countryside that I know, and I’d be happy to go back another weekend, rowing or no rowing. (It would also be especially nice to go not with a splitting hangover!) It’s very easy to get to from London – only about an hour on the train – so if you have a spare sunny Sunday approaching, I’d recommend a visit. The river sparkles in a very nice river sort of way, and there’s good pubs in the town itself.


In the summertime…

April is a not a bad month: it’s when you can properly start looking forward to the summer – my favourite time of year! 

I simply can’t understand people who claim that winter is better – yes hot chocolate is very nice, as are winter fires, but that’s a small compensation for the cold and general stodginess that takes hold of most of that part of the year (and how often do you get a winter fire anyway?). That’s not to say I would wish there to be no winter – it only makes the summers better – and I certainly enjoy living somewhere where the changes in season are so evident all around you.  (more…)