After the course ended Carlo took Tonet to a special place in Lausanne itself.
It’s a small, idyllic, and obsessively orderly Swiss city by Lake Geneva, near the Swiss Alps.
The city, named “Lousonna” by the ancient Romans two thousand years ago, has been a center of human activity and trade since the Bronze Age. The ancient Romans, keen for new markets and people to subjugate, established the settlement as a commercial nexus specializing in maritime trade.
Maritime? In the Alps?
Flatboats crisscrossed Lake Geneva, with olive oil, fish, fruits, and luxury goods from as far away as Spain. The Rhone river valley was a key commercial route, duly taxed by the enterprising Romans. Wine was consumed copiously by the local Celts and the Romans alike, shipped here in large clay jars called amphorae.
Carlo and Tonet walked past the International Olympic Committee car park to a meadow with big, broken rocks.
Carlo took Tonet through the 2,000-year old ruins to a place with water, stood on the ruin of a stone wall and spread his arms.
“This is where you work, Dad.”
The port! Supply chain management!
A stone ramp sloped into Lake Geneve. Stevedores pulled on ropes to beach Tonet’s flatboat on the ramp.
The boat had Tonet’s cargo – fat Spanish olives, Mediterranean fish, Rhone wine. No cold chain 2,000 years ago, else he could have cornered the market on pistaccio ice cream.
The dock was just behind the secular basilica on the edge of the marketplace. Here, flatboats loaded with goods were hauled up a ramp by work gangs, and unloaded. Goods were placed into the warehouse by the shore.
Carlo sat on a window sill of the warehouse to watch the wenches sway by.
Tonet added up his accounts quickly. With his pockets fat with profits, he wanted to see the rest of this fun town!
Especially The Strip, which Carlo seemed to call, er, the Forum.
The Forum was the center of activity in any Roman community. Even now, the term survives, and refers to any arena of public discourse, physical or electronic. Lousonna’s Forum was a plaza between the local temple and the marketplace. It was almost certainly the liveliest part of town.
Carlo tookTonet to the nearby trio of temples to Neptune and Hercules, to give thanks for the arrival of their goods.
Tonet had enough thanks in his pockets and wanted to share some of his thanks with the Celt maidens outside.
The Forum was a bedlam! Gallic merchants from Helvetia, local Celt hookers, truant troops from Vespasian’s 12th Legion, which garrisoned the town.
Carlo and Tonet threaded their way past steaming pots of lye and frozen cow dung.
The ancient Romans, ever pragmatic, knew that empire building was a dirty task. This was why they enjoyed their baths so much. Every town had thermae, or public baths. Heated by furnaces and supplied by surprisingly modern pipes, the baths were a center of society. There, a person could eat, drink, read, relax, and engage in political discussion, a habit picked up from the ancient Greeks.
A Roman emperor, when asked why he bathed once a day, reportedly replied, “because I do not have the time to bathe twice a day.”
Carlo and Tonet reached the thermae. The aqueduct brought glacial water from the Alps. Chattering slaves tended the hypocaust, and Tonet threw a coin to their overseer, to work up more steam.
Carlo showed Tonet a stone pipe, where water still bubbled up. Tonet leaned back and relaxed. Anxiety melted away. He could get used to this.
Maybe even travel to Rome itself, to enjoy the bigger Forums there.
An airplane flew overhead and broke the spell.
They had to go to dinner. They left the Roman ruins of Lausanne — the baths, centurions, Celts and stones — where they had been for 2,000 years.
It was the most pleasant tour Tonet had in Lausanne. And it was free.
We know that the ancient Greeks diluted their wine – archaeologists have even found the ancient mixing jugs to prove it! The ancients believed that drinking undiluted wine resulted in blindness, insanity, and a variety of other horrors.
The ancient Romans, however, drank their wine straight up. Some attribute the fall of the empire to this.
Tonet took his wine straight. After his brief flirtation with Greek drinking habits, Carlo did the same, and they drank a toast to Switzerland, the Romans, and hot baths. Ad multos annos!
Posted from Rome, Italy, July 7, 2008 A.D.