At the American University in Rome
I am blogging this from Rome airport (that's how much I care for you!) -- on my way back to a Cambridge Women's Classics do this very evening, which I very much hope I will make (plane currently 45 minutes late, so maybe this was a very stupid plan). I have been in Rome for no scholarly purpose but to collect an Honorary Degree at the American University (currently presided over by UK archaeologist Richard Hodges) at their Commencement ceremony.
Before anyone talks about sensible use of time, let me say that I did manage to include in this trip one whole day of unbothered, uninterrupted work (such as rarely happens in Cambridge) -- not to mention a 90 minute kip in the afternoon (which, to be honest, I felt I deserved).
And the ceremony and setting for the whole thing were just out of this world -- I don't honestly think I know a better view anywhere than the view of Rome from the Gianicolo (though I am sure commenters will suggest!). And that is where the AUR is.
The party last night was in the grounds of the Villa Aurelia a Rome location rivalled only in gorgeousness, in my experience, by Villa Lante, not far away (the trees as we left, near midnight, looked as you see in the picture at the top of this post).
And that's where the ceremony itself was this morning.
As always on these occasions, the students getting their degrees are just splendid (thank you all -- brilliant! And thank you President Hodges, being togged up in West Ham colours above). And the fellow honorands are fascinating. Today in fact the honorary degrees -- ie those you dont have to work for -- went to just two of us: me and the infinitely more famous Aurelio de Laurentiis (below right at dinner) -- a major Italian film producer and more, and the owner of Napoli football club. Hence the attendance of an Italian government minister or two, and a host of the Italian press (not interested in me I can promise).
I have to say that from Aurelio's speech, I got the impression that the Italian film and football industries were pretty blokeish. So I didnt stint on the soft feminism in my own (more that half the graduands were women).
But even more than Aurelio the real star of the show was the ghost of James Walston, a brilliant commenter on Italian politics and a long time charismatic teacher at AUR who died less than two weeks ago. I'd never met Walston, but kind of felt I had. For he was the grandson of Charles Waldstein/Walston of Cambridge and elsewhere, who really got the study of Classical art and archaeology off the ground in my university in the late nineteenth century (and there is Graham Greene connection in between). I have done a bit of work on Waldstein, and one of my graduate students is delving even more deeply.
So there was a strange sense of "home". Thank you all.