S.P.Q.R. Study III: Feral River Brothers and Starlings in the Mud-Orange City

In my last post about Rome, I talked about fonts and water, but didn't go into the Tiber river much. Rome was founded by Remus and Romulus, two feral brothers that like Oedipus were ordered killed for fear they would grow up to kill the king at the time. The servant ordered to kill Remus and Romulus couldn't go through with it, so instead put them in a basket and set them afloat on the Tiber river. They were then rescued and raised by a wolf, and eventually Romulus slew Remus, and Rome was named after him, which ultimately has origins in the word river (from the ancient name of the Tiber, the Rumo).

Symbol of Rome: Remus and Romulus Suckling Jackal Titties

Remus and Romulus


the mighty, muddy Tiber

Muddy Tiber


remains of Ponte Rotto in foreground, bridge built in 146 B.C.

tiber bridge

Feral brothers? Rivers? Needless to say, I thought of brother Markus a lot in Rome, and it only seems natural that we will one day move the Calamari headquarters to the banks of the Tiber. And to top it off, Jess and I brought torrential rains with us from Africa, the likes of which Romans said they hadn't seen in a long time, and the rain made the river muddy as all hell. Brother Markus would have been in a heaven. I had actually just finished reading Bob, or Man on Boat, and while there is only a brief cameo with the brothers, it's definitely all about The River. And a man in a boat on it. Beautiful in it's simplicity. I left the book in the Rome airport for some lucky soul to find.


I'm not sure they fish in the Tiber, and there weren't that many boats on the river being that that there were some impassable waterfalls so you couldn't go too far. I became mesmerized by the debris in the impassable falls and shot this video. Since YouTube has recently taken to blocking videos that use copyrighted songs, and I used my own music.

The Orange City

I also started to read The Blue City by Sean Thomas Dougherty while I was in Rome and flying through Cairo (I left it behind on the Egypt Air plane). A while back, I published the title story from it in Sleepingfish. The picture I posted with it I took in Essaouira, Morocco, which I'd say definitely qualifies as a blue city. Despite the rains, though, Rome, I would say is most definitely an orange city. Maybe a muddy orange or a rusty orange, but definitely orange. There's a lot of different colored cities in Dougherty's Blue City, in fact, they are all layers, moods, to the same ancient-but-still-living city (which you can infer is somewhere in Eastern Europe). Though I don't think orange was mentioned, and neither was the Green City (in the Sun), which is the nick-name for Nairobi. Anyway, The Blue City was a good read, told poetically, with great attention to details that matter (not just oranges, but blood oranges) and flying between Rome and Cairo was a good place to read it.

Anyway, here's proof that Rome is the Orange City...


orange buildings


orange buildings


orange altar


even at night, it's orange

orange alley at night


speaking of orange, it was Halloween while we were there, not that they do anything about it

best costume


okay, so maybe it's more gold than orange on the inside

inside church


Jewish quarter

orange in Jewish quarter


orange graffiti


inscripted tiles in orange



orange meme


(more Roman fonts, graffiti and memes)


church in Trastevere

orange church


orange wall


another orange wall


Rome as seen through Vespa mirror

orange in Vespa mirror



Besides it's orangeness and the might muddy river Tiber, the other thing that struck me about Rome is the sheer mass of birds. Based on their flight patterns, I think they are starlings. Not the invasive starlings that annoy John Olson, or that Matthias Svalina obsesses over (incidentally, he is next up in the Sleepingfish N series), these starlings own the airspace of Rome. They rightfully belong. I leave you with a video I took of them gathering over the rooftops (again, to my own music to avoid copyright infringement).

Starlings Gathering and Fleeting over Rome



(c) 2008 Derek White