The mini-summit between Mr Hollande, Mrs Merkel and Mr Renzi has been taking place on the island of Ventotene off the Italian coast. It is, we have been reminded, a symbolic place. For it was in a prison here that during World War II a pair of Italians, Ernesto Rossi and Altiero Spinelli, wrote the "Ventotene Manifesto", laying out a plan for a federal Europe -- one of the inspirations of the EU. Apparently the trio of leaders are due to lay a wreath on Spinelli's grave, while they are there.
There are rather different associations of the place for any classicist. For Ventotene was ancient Pandateria/Pandataria, and a convenient place of confinement centuries before Mussolini, or the Bourbons, banged people up there. It was, in fact, where Roman emperors sent their inconvenient, treacherous, badly behaved or just plain unlucky women folk. They didn't need too many "facilities". The island is about two miles by half a mile in all, and a fairly inhospitably rocky. All the emperor needed to do was make sure that the "prisoner" didn't hitch a ride on a passing boat. At 30 miles from the coast of the mainland, swimming wasn't an option.
It was probably the first emperor Augustus who started the custom, when he banished his daughter Julia there in 2 BC, for the usual combination of adultery and treason.