I read some time ago that the idea of sleeping 8 hours straight is a relatively new invention due to the Industrial age and people working long shifts in factory. In a gentler age people lived differently. Per example in Antiquity you will note when reading an ancient text that it speaks of hours of the day meaning that the ancients lived their lives following the cycle of the Sun from Sun rise to Sun set. Once the Sun had set and the darkness of the night engulfed the sky, people went indoors and to bed. In many cases for very practical reasons since there was only candle light or oil lamps and also for safety sake since it was far too dark to go out in the streets and dangerous. In Rome you often read of people going out at first light to visit a friend or for business, morning meals were light affairs and during the day meals were taken at varying hours depending on the activities of the day. Dinner parties took place before sunset and everyone went home before dark unless one had a strong well armed escort to bring you home. It was not infrequent that guests spent the night at the home of their host if too drunk to walk or lacked an escort. Rome did not have a police force, it did have a Vigili which was and is to this day a Fire Watch Vigil known today as the Firemen or Fire department. But for your own protection you had to have either a body guard or a sharp knife concealed in your toga.
So to come back to the night sleep and how this activity was shaped, it would appear that many people had two sleep periods in the night. The first one would have been from sunset until somewhere around eleven pm and then a period of wakefulness reading by candle light or oil lamp, conversation with family members or friends staying over night. Then sleep again until dawn which happens depending on the Season as early at 3:30 am sunrise being later around 4:30 am.
I remember the first dawn I ever saw, it was in 1990 at the top of Mount Sinai where it is said God gave Moses the Ten Commandements. It does feel like the top of the world. The colours of Dawn at that altitude is a marvellous sight to behold, diaphanous colours of light ever changing as we wait for the first ray of the Sun to come from the East and hit a specific spot on the mountain top where legend or scripture says the stone tablets were inscribed by the finger of God.
When I wake up usually around 3:30 am I will read, I love that time of the day because the world is asleep, the streets are deserted and there is not a noise anywhere. A perfect time to think, reflect on many things and come to a decision. The other night I started thinking about Venice, I had been reading a book on the last year of the life of the Renaissance Painter Titian and his life in his great house in Venice or La Serenissima, as Venice is known in Italian.
What I was remembering was the Venice of 1998 when people still lived in the City and it had a real city feel. I was trying to remember if we had ever been by the house of Titian. Back in 1998 the Opera House La Fenice was still a ruin waiting to be rebuilt, what a sad sight it was. It was rebuilt and we attended a performance, a lady who was sharing our box told us that she had been to La Fenice some 40 year before and the re-built theatre was exactly like the old one.
In the quiet of the early morning I was able to remember all kinds of details of the strolls in Venice and one was going to visit the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (1330). Titian (1488-1576) painted one of his masterpieces which hangs above the main altar, the Virgin ascending into Heaven. There are 16 other masterpieces by Renaissance artists hanging in the Church.
We had gone to listen to a concert of music by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), I was sitting next to his tombstone in the Church. How many places can you go and listen to a composer’s music and be sitting by his grave.
In the same church you can also see the Mausoleum to Titian.
Born Tiziano Vecellio in what is now Pieve di Cadore, Italy, sometime in 1488, Titian is considered one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance. The oldest of four children born to Gregorio and Lucia Vecellio, Titian spent his early years in the town of Pieve di Cadore, near the Dolomite mountains.
In his teens, Titian became an apprentice to the Venetian artist Sebastiano Zuccato. He soon worked with such leading artists as Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione. Giorgione proved to be especially influential to the young painter. Titian was a leading artist of the Italian Renaissance who painted works for Pope Paul III, King Philip II of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
Venice is full of such places and treasures, all you have to do is look around and take your time, leave the day-trippers behind and go down those little alley ways.