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Emilio Ferracci: Enchanted By Egypt—Egyptian Cultural Influences in the Roman Countryside

Friday, November 16, 2018 

6:30 p.m.—Pre-lecture reception ($5.00 per person)

7:00 p.m.—Lecture (free)

By the time Rome conquered Egypt in 31 B.C., the land along the Nile had been fascinating Latin peoples for several centuries, generating considerable trade as far back as Alexander the Great and the beginnings of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.  

     Much of this commerce—along with shipments from Greece and the Cyclades—passed through a Latin city south of Rome called Praeneste (now known as Palestrina) and its nearby seaport of Antium (now Anzio).  

     Growing rich on trade, Praeneste became a town of wonderful temples honoring the gods of its many foreign merchants, including the Egyptians.  

     The greatest of the sanctuaries at Praeneste was dedicated to Fortuna-Primigenia, the first-born goddess of luck and fate. In her honor was built an immense hillside temple furnished with splendid art and sculpture, which rivaled the temples at Pergamum and Lyndos of Rhodes.

     But there was yet another remarkable temple at Praeneste. Dedicated to the evocatively named composite goddess Isis-Fortuna, it was equipped with a stunning polychrome mosaic floor depicting the Nile in flood surging from mysterious sources and emptying finally into the Mediterranean at Alexandria. We will analyze this pavement. 

     Fascination with Egypt was particularly acute among Rome’s elite, most especially the emperors, who transported great quantities of art and sculpture from Egypt over the course of four centuries—notably obelisks seen in Rome to this day. Imperial admiration for Egyptian art reached a peak in the design and decoration of Hadrian’s Villa, near Tivoli, whose architecture we will explore in situ, and much of whose sculpture now resides in the Vatican.

     Egyptian ideas about death and burial resonated with foundational Roman ideas. Rather than focus on the well known pyramid of Caius Sextius in Rome, we will examine the recently discovered double tomb at Grottaferrata belonging to the wealthy matron Aebutia Quarta and her son Carvilius Gemellus, whose bodies were interred in an Egyptian manner.

Dr. Emilio Ferracci is a classical archeologist and epigraphist whose graduate dissertation at the University of Rome was a technical analysis of ancient tablet inscriptions found at Rocca di Papa, Italy. He has directed archeological digs throughout the regions of Latium and Southern Etruria for the Italian government and for the Cultural Heritage Departments of Rome and Latium. He has excavated more than 700 tombs in addition to many other sites, and has written, edited and curated numerous monographs, books and exhibitions. He has also served as a consultant to local planning departments, developers and architects on the geomorphology and topography of ancient Rome and Italy, reconstructing ancient landscapes and cityscapes for them.  

     In 2002 Ferracci was invited to establish the archaeology, wine, and food tourism program at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata. That has expanded to advising museums and municipalities throughout Latium on how best to present their archaeology, cultural history, and food and wine products. He is a licensed guide to the City of Rome and to Vatican City and the Papal Villas, a member of the Italian National Association of Sommeliers, and a frequent guest on radio and television shows where he talks about ancient history, archaeology, wine, food, cooking, and tourism. 

     It should be noted that Ferracci’s mother is restaurateur Anna Dente. Rated one of Italy’s top five chefs, she specializes in traditional and historic recipes of Rome and Latium, so her son's lifelong exposure in this area has been broad and deep.


505 East Braddock Rd., Alexandria, VA 22314

(across the street from the Braddock Road station on Metro’s blue and yellow lines)

Venue sponsored by Maria and Richard Calderon in association with

 Hands Along the Nile Development Services Inc. (HANDS)


During the pre-lecture reception, there will be a raffle for Egyptian-themed items such as books, journals, jewelry, and DVDs. ARCE-DC members receive a free raffle ticket for each one they buy.


Meet-the-Speaker and Networking Dinner—

After the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We will meet at Lena's Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, just a few blocks away. Each attendee pays for his or her own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's meal.  Please RSVP to Carol Boyer at