Immortal Leaves

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This column capital from the small archaeological museum at Tindari is a classic example of Greco-Roman Corinthian architectural design. What we learned from our guide Sebastiano was that the ornamental leaves accenting the column’s top are from the Acanthus mollis plant (also known in English as bear’s breeches). Acanthus mollis and its sister-plant Acanthus spinosus grow throughout the Mediterranean. Both the leaves and the flowers have been used over the centuries as models for ornamental details in Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic architecture. The Romans especially liked when its end curled, and they depicted it in that style often. The Acanthus plant is thought to be one of the oldest flora species in the Mediterranean region, and in some cultures, it represents enduring life and immortality. Considering that this column capital is more than 2000 years old, that just may be true!

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