Tuesday, August 29, 2006

BENE LAVE! Bathe well! : The Roman Bathhouse

Amy Olson
Honors in Rome - Summer 2006

In Ancient Rome, the work day began slightly before sunrise, meaning that it ended around midday. Roman men would retire from a hard day’s labor into one of the many public bathhouses around the city, for two or three hours of gambling and games, massage, physical exercise, and of course, bathing. The largest bathhouses were fully equipped with cafes, rooms for conducting business, various shops, impressive works of art, and even libraries, making them excellent settings for relaxation and entertainment. The baths provided a pleasant transition from toil to leisure every day (Dupont, 263).

Roman Bathhouses varied greatly in size and elaborateness. As early as the 5th century BC, bathing was used as a healing measure. A wide array of maladies was merited internal and external prescriptions of water. For example, a doctor would have recommended spa therapy for any of the following ailments: chest or back pains, pneumonia, respiratory problems, fatigue, arthritis, headache, gout, stomach disorders, skin diseases, and even constipation, urinary tract, and menstruation problems (Porter, 4). As the Roman Empire expanded, bathing only continued to become more popular. The first Roman bathhouses built for recreation reasons (as opposed to being intended for religious or medicinal purposes) appeared in the early on in the history of the empire, during approximately the 2nd Century BC. These bathhouses were small and modestly decorated, used no more than a few times a week (Nardo, 66).

By the 2nd century AD, public bathhouses (referred to as balnea) were becoming popular (Stambaugh, 202). At first, they were very similar to private bathhouses, in that they were owned by rich nobles who charged an entrance fee to any who wished to use the facilities. These earlier buildings usually had two separate sets of baths, one for women and one for men. Soon, however, this trend disappeared and instead, men and women were assigned different hours of the day for bathing (Meiggs, 406). Women had access to the facilities during the morning hours, while men had much longer and much more preferable hours, from early afternoon until closing. Building bathhouses became a public way for rulers to acknowledge that they cared about the health and happiness of the populous. More elaborate baths began to emerge all over Rome until eventually, Agrippa built the first thermae in 25 BC (Stambaugh, 203). Ten more of these huge edifices, too splendid to be referred to simply as balnea, were built in Rome before the collapse of the empire. Bathing became an extremely important daily ritual. Upon Nero’s death, the Roman writer Martial managed to sum up this sentiment very succinctly with the quote, “What was worst than Nero? What was better than Nero’s hot baths?” (Editors, 80).

It was not at all uncommon for the very rich to bathe with the very poor, since the entrance fee to public bathhouses was minimal enough that none were unable to afford it. Men paid approximately one half or one quarter of an as, which would be equivalent to a few cents today. Women paid twice as much, but this was still only a small amount. Children were admitted for free (Nardo, 66). Despite this commonality, there were strict rules against men and women bathing together. Several emperors made decrees forbidding mixed bathing, indicating that it was, indeed a problem. Prostitution was fairly common among both men and women, as could be imagined considering the festive air of the baths and the lack of proper dress. It would not be too inaccurate to say that women were almost another type of sport offered at the bathhouses: men of all ranks, especially the wealthier ones, would pursue the favors of specific women who frequented the baths during the men’s hours (Hermansen, 158).

Nudity had an interesting equalizing effect in the bathhouses. Bathing in the nude was a Greek phenomenon, not a Roman one, but Romans shed enough of their customary wear when they entered the bathhouses that there was little left to denote class distinction. Rich costumes were temporarily cast aside. As a result, the common people walked among the prosperous. The wealthy were aware of this effect, and it was part of the reason why they came to bathe in public in the first place. After all, it was not uncommon for rich members of society to have private baths in their homes (James, 38). However, the public bathhouses were luring for other reasons: they were entertaining, raucous places, equally enjoyable for all classes of society. This does not mean that it was impossible to distinguish the rich from the poor. Even if his face wasn’t very recognizable, there were telltale signs of a wealth bather; those who were well off could afford to bring their own slaves instead of hiring them, brought with them finer quality towels, and other riches such as perfumes, oils, and tools (Dupont, 263).

When a visitor entered a typical Roman bathhouse, he or she would find themselves standing in the apodyterium, or dressing room. The walls of the room were lines with cubbies or shelves, giving bathers a place to leave their unnecessary garments. A slave stayed behind to guard these personal items, because although theft was frowned upon, it was not uncommon. Usually, before bathing, visitors would participate in games or other forms of light exercise in the palaestra, an outside courtyard usually lined with decorative columns and small shops. From the palaestra, they could enter the tepidarium, a room designed for lukewarm bathing. The tepidarium was connected to the caldarium, which was placed centrally and contained the hottest baths in the facility. The frigidarium was constructed for the opposite purpose; it held the coldest baths, and provided a refreshing, chilly dip. Many baths also contained a laconicum, a dry, hot room equivalent to today’s saunas (Stambaugh, 203).

The baths were incredibly expensive to build and maintain. When baths were first built by the Romans, they were small enough to be supplied by wells. However, by the time that royally-sponsored thermae were being built, it was necessary for them to get water straight from the nearest aqueducts (Meiggs, 132). The largest baths required their own aqueducts in order to function properly. The result was that more water per head was channeled into ancient Rome than is used in modern-day New York City (Snedden, 28). This was expensive enough, but bathhouses of any kind, especially the illustrious thermae, also had to be staffed by a large number of slaves and servants, which was costly as well. Not only did the water in the baths need to be constantly replaced and heated, but the facilities had to be cleaned, the furnaces had to be kept burning, and accoutrements such as furniture and bathing tools had to be kept in good condition. Some slaves had more visible jobs, such as selling food and bath supplies or plucking hair for visitors (Stambaugh, 205). On top of these tasks, there were always several slaves available that could be hired to guard personal belongings while their owners bathed. Finally, a lot of man labor went into the acquisition and transport of wood to fuel the fires. The wood itself was a struggle to acquire in such large quantities, and its transport was costly (Meiggs, 270). All of these expenses were covered by large donations from local noblemen who wished to earn the favor of the populous (Chrisp, 32).

The heating system invented for bathhouses was in itself a novelty. Commonly referred to as a hypocaust, it consisted of a large, central furnace underneath a raised floor, which blasted hot air into pipes built into the walls and floors of the bathhouse (Corbishley, 17). The results were heated walls, and floors so hot that visitors had to wear shoes to avoid burns (James, 38). Water for the baths was heated either in the hypocaust or in separate boiler rooms, and then brought into the rooms of the bathhouse by hand. In the most technologically advanced baths, hot water was channeled directly from the boiler rooms into the baths using gravity. The caldarium was situated directly above or very nearby to the furnace, making the room the hottest in the building. The other rooms were situation farther away, and, logically, the frigidarium was usually the farthest away of all. Maintenance of the hypocaust was incredibly dangerous. The job of keeping the fires lit and the pipes clean belonged to a large group of slaves, many of them children. In the ruins of several hypocausts, archaeologists have found the skeletons of children who perished on the job, as well as the bones of several domestic animals, such as dogs that were undoubtedly searching for warmth and became trapped (Meiggs, 410).

The floor of a Roman bathhouse removed (in Bath, England), in order to allow the viewer to see the raised floor of the hypocaust.

The skeleton of a dog found in a Roman bathhouse located in modern-day Germany

The Romans made use of many tools in the bathhouse to aid in getting themselves clean, especially since they were completely unaware of the existence of soap. The richest men brought slaves with them, who carried jars of precious massage oils, perfumes, grooming sets, towels, and bathing garments. One of the most well known tools used in the baths was called a strigil. At any point during, before, or after the bath, a slave would rub oil into the skin of the bather, and then scrape it away using the strigil, which was a simple curved tool made out of metal. This removed dirt from the skin, taking the place of soap (Corbishley, 16). Among the other tools found in excavations of bathhouses have been instruments for cleaning underneath the fingernails, flasks for carrying oil, tweezers, earwax scoops, and shallow pans (called patera) for ladling water onto the body (James, 39).

A pair of ancient strigils, attached to an oil flask

Two examples of beautiful mosaics found in Ostia Antica. Among the other artifacts that have been found in Roman baths are remnants of the art that once covered the walls and floors. Parts of statues, along with beautifully complex and colorful mosaics, have been unearthed in many facilities. Some of the mosaics are decorative, while others have helped us to piece together what types of activities were conducted at the baths: they depict several scenes such as people gambling, engaging in sporting events, or having business meetings. In addition, stone game pieces have been found, which also attest to the popularity of gambling (Corbishley, 17).

Ostia Antica is a rather forgotten town located on the western Italian coast. Today it is completely in ruins, but it was once the main sea port for all of Rome and the surrounding areas. Its magnificence is generally overshadowed by the immense popularity of the ruins at Pompeii. For this reason, visiting Ostia is an extremely pleasant experience; the ruins are bursting with history, there are no large crowds of tourists, and there is plenty to see.

Ruins at Ostia Antica

In the 2nd century BC, Ostia became Rome’s most important port city due to several factors. Firstly, Rome was in need of a port because the Tiber River was too unreliable to facilitate easy shipping. Jagged rocks in the riverbed were capable of gutting ships, in addition to the fact that the current was unreliable in some places. Ostia was a prime sight for a port city because it was located on the sea, precisely at the mouth of the river. Valuables could be unloaded in Ostia, and then put onto barges and dragged up the river, or brought by land to Rome. Claudius was the first emperor to build an impressive harbor at Ostia, but the city did not truly begin to flourish until the emperor Trajan had the port rebuilt, during the 2nd Century AD. The city flourished in its new role as Rome’s link to the sea, and took on a decidedly busy, commerce-filled ambiance. Roman institutions such as forums, bathhouses, temples, and various types of housing began to spring up around the city, as traders and other businessmen began to settle into the area. At its peak, the population reached 60,000 people. However, over time the port silted up and went into disuse. The city became a more relaxed quarter, where the wealthy came to escape from the city and spend a few days on the beach. Eventually, though, even these people were chased out by an increase in malaria and by the oppressive summer heat. Today, Ostia Antica is still well preserved in some spots (Stambaugh, 268-274).

Ostia is home to approximately 14 baths, a large quantity, even though this is a humble number in comparison to the hundreds that existed in Rome. Likewise, the biggest baths in Ostia did not reach the same levels of extravagance as the thermae in Rome, but some Ostian baths, notably the Forum Baths and the Baths of Neptune, were still quite elaborate. The Forum Baths are a particularly excellent archaeological demonstration of a Roman bath. They were built in the age of Antoninus and have some unusual physical features, partially due to the international atmosphere of the town and the influences it had on the contruction of the baths (Meiggs, 411-414).

I was particularly interested in the curious shapes of the rooms in the Forum baths, because after doing my preliminary research, I was still puzzled by the function of many. Researching further, I discovered that archaeologists are in the same position. The use of several rooms in the baths are debatable. The following floor plan of the Forum Baths in Ostia will clarify my meaning:

The Frigidarium and Caldarium—rooms 1 and 5, respectively—underwent reconstruction during the 4th Century, resulting in the apses now found in their walls (Meiggs, 146).

Room number one is the Frigidarium, with a dressing room on either side (apodyterium). Moving westward, we see that the tepidaria are both labeled as number four and that the caldarium is marked as number five. These rooms were equipped with heated walls and floors, as was typical. To the eastern side of the caldarium, there were boiler rooms in which water was heated and then brought to the baths. The roughly triangular palaestra is located behind these rooms, and contains a small temple, labeled as number six. Lining the palaestra are a series of columns, which are deliberately constructed out of contrasting types of granite. This was an intentional choice of the architect; the foreign materials match the flavor of the town. Shops would have lined the edges of the palaestra. Finally, on the Cardo Maximus, we see a set of latrines, tagged as number seven. These rooms are all fairly typical, but rooms two and three have more disputable uses. Room number two has a very interesting octagonal shape, and was most likely used as a sunbathing room (called a heliocaminos), as is evidenced by its very large windows and lack of heated walls. Tans were considered a stylish possession at the time (Dupont, 264). The windows were almost certainly kept open. The elliptical room stamped as number 3 was probably a sudatorium, or in other words, a sweating room. It was the hottest room in the building, with heated floors, walls, and vaults, plus being optimally located to receive direct sunlight, from the windows in its southern wall. The room contains stone seating, which runs around the chamber’s entire perimeter, and would have allowed the bathers to sit while they perspired (Meiggs, 413-414).

Hypocaust pipes (made out of terra cotta) in the walls of the first tepidarium at the Forum Baths

The ruins of the Forum Baths are situated fairly high above sea level which means that they have been looted by everyone who passed through the city between now and the time Ostia was abandoned. Therefore, very few artifacts have been found in this specific set of baths. However, the Forum Baths were once beautifully decorated and very grandiose, by Ostian standards. Sculptures, paintings, and mosaics would have adorned the floors and walls, making the building a handsome place to retire after a difficult and monotonous day of work. It is also appropriate to remember that Ostia was a major port town—the architecture of and the décor in the baths would have been slightly unorthodox, because the work was done by members of the diverse populous that had traveled from abroad and settled in Ostia (Ibid, 415). Today, we still care about Ostia because it is such poignant evidence of how the Romans lived and spent their time on a daily basis. Like many other ancient sights in Rome, there is still more to be excavated at Ostia. Perhaps the city still holds secrets, which will continue to draw our attention for years upon years to come.

Caskey, Jill. “Steam and ‘Sanitas’ in the Domestic Realm: Baths and Bathing in Southern Italy in the Middle Ages.” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 58.2 (1999): 170-195.

Chrisp, Peter. Ancient Rome Revealed. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2003.

Corbishley, Mike. Everyday Life in Roman Times. New York: Franklin Watts, 1994.

---. The Roman World. New York: Warwick Press, 1986.

Dupont, Florence. Daily Life in Ancient Rome. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1992.

The Editors of Time-Life Books. What Life Was Like When Rome Ruled the World: The Roman Empire 100 BC ~ AD 200. Richmond: Time Life Books, 1997.

Ellis, Havelock. “Sexual Education and Nakedness.” The American Journal of Psychology 20.3 (1909): 297-319.

Fagan, Garrett G. “Pliny ‘Naturalis Historia’ 36.121 and the Number of Balnea in Early Augustan Rome.” Classical Philosophy 88.4 (1993): 333-335.

Hermansen, Gustav. Ostia: Aspects of Roman City Life. Alberta: The University of Alberta Press, 1981.

James, Simon. Ancient Rome. New York: Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books, 2000.

Meiggs, Russell. Roman Ostia. Oxford: The Oxford University Press, 1973.

Nardo, Don. Life in Ancient Rome. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc., 1997.

Porter, Roy, ed. The Medical History of Waters and Spas. London: Welcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1990.

Ring, James W. “Windows, Baths, and Solar Energy in the Roman Empire.” American Journal of Archaeology 100.4 (1996): 717-724.

Snedden, Robert. Technology in the Time of Ancient Rome. Austin: Steck-Vaughn Company, 1998.

Stambaugh, John E. The Ancient Roman City. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Ward, Bowen. “Women in Roman Baths.” The Harvard Theological Review 85.2 (1992): 125-147.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Rise And Fall Of The Colosseum

Geoffrey Morgan
Honors in Rome - Summer 2006

The Colosseum is perhaps the most famous monument in the world and is the most popular place in all of Rome because it remains as standing proof of the grandeur, cruelty and genius of the ancient Roman world. Amphitheaters were invented specifically to give spectators a better view of gladiatorial games. Wooden amphitheaters first appeared as early as the third century B.C. while the first stone amphitheater was built in Pompeii around 70 B.C. This was a fairly simple structure that had four entries, and could hold 12,000 people. Rome, the world’s largest city with a population of one million, 140 years later still did not have a large stone amphitheater to entertain its inhabitants and in 70 A.D. Emperor Vespasian thought it time to build one. He wanted to build an arena that was able to support Rome’s growing population and demand for entertainment. In order to do this his arena would need to be enormous. In terms of size and scale, this 2000 year old giant with its four levels and 80 entrances would be impressive if it were built today. With a capacity that some experts put as high as 80,000, the Colosseum is still one of the largest stadiums in the world, a structural wonder, built nearly 2000 years ahead of its time. The Colosseum has lasted so long and is beloved by so many that it has become the emblem of Rome and many believe the verse made by Venerable Bede in 700 A.D. when he stated:

Quandiu stabit coliseus, stabit et Roma (As long as the Colosseum stands, so shall Rome);
Quando cadit coliseus, cadet et Roma (When the Colosseum falls, so shall Rome);
Quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus (When Rome falls, so shall the world).

In A.D. 64 a terrible fire ripped through the heart of Rome for nine days before it was finally put out. When Emperor Nero began to rebuild the city, he saved a huge area in the center for a new palace, called the Golden House. The Golden House was hated by the people of Rome. At night, they would write rude comments about their emperor and his palace on the walls of the city. One such comment read, “The palace is spreading and swallowing Rome!” Nero was already unpopular with many Romans because he was known to have murdered his mother, his wife, and his stepbrother. Now, when people saw how well he had done due to the fire, many wondered if he had started the blaze himself.

Nero had barely moved into his palace when he learned of widespread uprising against his rule. The generals commanding Rome’s greatest armies refused to obey Nero’s orders, saying that they would make better emperors themselves. The Roman legions in Spain proclaimed their commanding general, Galba, as emperor and soon afterwards the Senate in Rome accepted this decision and declared Nero an enemy of the people. Abandoned by everyone and fearing torture and execution, Nero killed himself.

Nero’s death was followed by 18 months of war as rival generals fought each other for power. The four generals vying for power were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian who during the year 69 A.D. had each proclaimed themselves emperor. Because five men had claimed the imperial office in little more than a year, 69 A.D. became known as “the year of many emperors.” After this power struggle Vespasian came out the victor and was then proclaimed the true emperor of Rome. The way was now clear for Vespasian’s establishment of the Flavian dynasty, whose chief contribution would be the Colosseum.

Vespasian did not want to become the fifth dead emperor, so for his own safety he needed to become popular with the people. Knowing of the Roman people’s hatred of Nero’s Golden Palace, he decided to pull down most of it and open the grounds as a public garden. One of the things Vespasian did not tear down was a 120 ft bronze statue of Nero portrayed as the sun god called the Colossus because it was just too impressive. It was actually this statue that gave the Colosseum its current name, because for several centuries it was known as the Flavian Amphitheater after the Flavian family who presided over its construction. On the site he also planned to build something for the people to increase his popularity. A huge amphitheater for public shows would let everyone know that he was not going to be a selfish ruler like Nero. An amphitheater, a place for the people, would be a wonderful contrast to Nero’s private palace. To make an even more powerful point Vespasian drained Nero’s man made lake and used the hole as a foundation for the great Colosseum. Sadly Vespasian never lived to see the end of the construction and in A.D. 80 his son Titus opened the Colosseum with 100 days of games for the people.

Although amphitheaters had been built before, no one had ever built one as big as the Colosseum. Emperor Vespasian wanted a building that could hold at least 50,000 spectators, a number that would rival many sporting arenas of today. The architects had many problems facing them when they began work on the designs. To accommodate so many people it would need to be tall rather than wide, so that everyone would be close enough to see the gladiators. The problem with a tall building is that the weight of the seats pushes outward, so the outer walls had to be strong to keep the building from collapsing.

To support the theater’s heavy stone superstructure and seating, the builders employed two of the three most important basic trademarks of Roman construction – the arch and the vault. A typical Roman arch began with two vertical supports, called piers. Curving inwards from the top of each pier was an arc of wedge-shaped stones, known as Voussoirs, which met the other arc at the central keystone at the top.
A Roman vault was a three-dimensional version of an arch – in effect, a curved ceiling. These elements had been used before in constructing grand theaters, such as in Augustus’s Theater of Marcellus. However, the main difference between the Colosseum and the grand theaters of old is that the Colosseum would carry these elements around the full perimeter of an ellipse, so that the theater’s hemisphere would be doubled to form a full sphere. In fact, the Latin word amphitheatrum translates literally as “double theater.” The idea of having a double theater was certainly not new, for all stone amphitheaters since the first, in Pompeii, had employed this design. What made the Colosseum unique was its tremendous size – specifically a seating capacity twice as large as any amphitheater yet built.

The measurements of the Colosseum are amazing especially considering the time in which it was built. Its oval ground area is 617 feet long by 513 feet wide, and enclosed an arena 282 feet by 177 feet. The surrounding walls rose to a grand height of 187 feet. The mighty exterior wall, which supports the complicated interior, is comprised of four stories. The first three floors have rows of arches decorated with three different types of columns: Tuscan Doric on the lowest, Ionic in the middle and Corinthian on the top. Each of the three stories had 80 arches going around the perimeter. Statues originally occupied the arches of the second and third stories. All 80 arches on the ground floor were numbered and served as entrances to the masses. However, only 76 were for the common people, the other four were reserved for the emperor, the vestal virgins, senators, and the upper class. Spectators entered the arch which corresponded to their ticket number, ascended the appropriate staircase and found their seat in the cavea by means of one of the numerous passages. Recent excavations at the southern end of the Colosseum have revealed an entrance constructed by Commodus (Emperor/Gladiator) who ruled from 180 – 192 A.D.

The uppermost level, the fourth, was the only one without arches in its outer façade. However, there hung large bronze shields, reminding people that this building was a place of combat. At the very top of the fourth storey there was the velarium, a great awning that would be rolled out over the crowd on hot days, to make sure the spectators would not be in discomfort or get terrible sunburns during the day’s events. Raising andlowering the great canopy was accomplished through an ingenious system of ropes, pulleys, and winches. The ropes, which ran over poles jutting from the top of the forth level to winches located outside of the building, formed a web-like lattice across the arena. The lattice held up the individual canvas straps that when rolled down into place one beside the other created the full velarium. The highly specialized work of operating the velarium was entrusted to sailors from Misenum, a naval port on the western Italian coast south of Rome.

In the center of the Colosseum sits the arena, whose name comes from the sand (arena) which covered the floor in order to prevent combatants from slipping and to absorb the blood spilt from men and beasts. The fine white sand that covered the arena floor was not native to Italy but was actually imported from the deserts of Egypt. Below the arena was a two-storey labyrinth of rooms, passageways and mechanisms vital for the changing of the scenery and other apparatus that could be hoisted to the arena floor using man-powered elevators. There were 32 elevators in all and if everything was going well they could be raised simultaneously so that it appeared as though “magically” the arena was filled with animals or new scenery. Many of the animals and gladiators that fought at the Colosseum would make their entrance through these passages onto the arena floor.

The arena was surrounded by a five meter high wall that protected the spectators from the animals and aided in the flooding of the amphitheater. At the top of this wall was the podium, a broad parapet on which was set the emperor’s couch, or pulvinar. The rest of the terrace was reserved for senators, pontiffs, Vestals, and foreign ambassadors. Above the podium was the vast cavea which was divided into three tiers (moeniana), with seats (now missing) for all the other spectators. The lowest tier was reserved for the middle class, the middle one for the poor, and the top one, which was standing room only, was for the very poor, slaves, and women. The custom of making women sit farthest away from the arena floor may have originated with Augustus’s edict, designed to shelter them from seeing (and presumably being disturbed by the sight of) the blood and brutality of the spectacles. The tiers were separated by landings (proecinctiones), reached by several staircases. Each tier was intersected at intervals by passages left between the seats, 160 in all.

As late as the early first century B.C. many leading Romans frowned on the idea of staging big public shows on a regular basis, blaming such entertainments for promoting public laziness. The Romans already observed many public holidays (at least fifty-seven by the mid-first century B.C.). Because most work was suspended on these days, large numbers of poor urban Romans were idle for significant periods of time. Many senators and other leaders harbored the paranoid fear that the so-called mob, hungry and having too little to occupy its time, might protest, riot, or even rebel. Especially dangerous was allowing large numbers of commoners to congregate in one place, which might lead to civil disturbances and the erosion of state authority; consequently the Senate long refused to approve the construction of large, permanent theaters and amphitheaters.

In 69 A.D. the new emperor Vespasian’s first task was to reconstruct the ceremonial center of Rome from the damage of the fire of 64 A.D. and to stamp his name on the city of Rome forever. To do this he challenged the Senate’s theory of having huge public shows for the people by building an amphitheater in the heart of Rome large enough for at least 50,000 spectators. By building the Colosseum Vespasian was able to prove to the people that he would be a better emperor than Nero because he was employing large numbers of the populace in its construction and he was giving lands that had previously belonged to Nero back to the public so that they could be entertained.

Once the Colosseum was finished and public games became increasingly popular, the Senator’s fears were proved groundless as thousands of Romans flocked to the amphitheater to see the shows without major incident. Roman leaders found, in fact, that public spectacles, controlled by aristocrats and/or the state, could potentially be potent tools for maintaining public order. To try and gain as much influence with the people the aristocrats made the games part of a two fold policy. First, give the people what they need, food to survive and second, give them what they want: blood and gore. Between gaming events in the Colosseum, bread would be given out to the masses in large quantities in order to appease them. Also, the emperor as part of the entertainment would stand up every now and then and throw colored balls into the crowd. People who caught these could exchange them for prizes such as baskets of food or gold coins. To fill the crowd’s lust for blood Senators, military generals, and emperors spent large sums subsidizing public festivals, shows and games. One expensive show in particular was a mock naval battle, where the Colosseum was flooded and huge warships filled with gladiators fought to the death. This policy of appeasing the masses through free food and entertainment eventually became known as “bread and circuses” in reference to a famous sarcastic remark by the satirist Juvenal when he said, “There’s only two things that controls the masses, bread and circuses.” With this one two combination, many political leaders were able to make the most out of their seat of influence.

After the games ended in 404 A.D., the Colosseum had a multitude of other functions. In 1144 it was turned into a fortress by a Roman family. From the 1200s to the 1400s, the Colosseum was used at various times to stage religious plays. In the 1400s there were bullfights in the arena. From the 1700s Catholics came to see the Colosseum as a holy place because of all the Christians who died there for their faith and a cross was set up in the center of the arena for the Catholics to go and pray there. By the 1800s, the Colosseum had become completely overgrown by strange and exotic plants and after extensive research the botanist Richard Deakin found 420 different species growing there. And now the Colosseum has become the tourist attraction that we see today.

It is now more than 1,500 years since the last gladiators fought and died inside the walls of the Colosseum. Since then, it has been shaken by seven earthquakes and even used as a quarry since it was a wonderful source of stone and other building materials. Bits of the Colosseum are now spread all over Rome, in palaces, churches, and walls. Yet the amphitheater still stands, reminding us of the power of the Emperor Vespasian who built it and the thousands of people and animals who died within its walls. As Thomas Cole once said on a visit to the Colosseum, “It was once a crater of human passions; there their terrible fires blazed forth with desolating power…. But now all is still [in the ruined arena]… In the mourning the warbling of birds makes the air melodious; in the hushed and holy twilight, the low chanting on monkish solemnities soothes the startled ear.”

Colosseum Bibliography
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Hopkins, Keith. Beard, Mary. The Colosseum. Great Britain: Profile Books Ltd, 2005.

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Nardo, Don. The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Ancient Rome. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 2002.

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Ouroussoff, Nicolai. “When a Stadium Makes a Statement.” The New York Times. 19 June 2005: Section 4; Column 1; Week in Review Desk; Ideas and Trends; Pg1.

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“The Colosseum.” the-colosseum.net. 2006. 18 July 2006.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Influences on Augustan Image

Steven Margitan
Honors in Rome - Summer 2006

On May 1, 2003, President Bush leapt from his fighter jet to the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and, in a prepared speech for the ship’s crew, claimed America finally won the war on terror (CNN.com). This event, experienced by millions through the dissemination of print and television media, presented the President as a strong, powerful and courageous leader. Politicians around the world strive to present a certain public image of themselves to gain popularity among their constituents and further a specific political agenda. While this tactic certainly is effective, it is far from original – more than 2000 years ago Augustus Caesar showed his diligence at conveying specific messages through images. Instead of campaign ads, photo ops, and fundraisers; Augustus used statues, buildings, and other art commissions to achieve his personal and political goals. By considering the history and political climate of the Roman Republic while examining the art of this epoch, the viewer is able to decipher the messages Augustus presented to his people. This paper will describe how historical events in the Republic allowed Augustus to take power; discuss the princeps’ establishment of the Roman Golden Age; outline three themes common to Augustan art projects; and argue imagery on the Ara Pacis Augustae illustrates these themes.

“The Youth Who Owed Everything to His Name” (Zanker, 33)
On September 23, 63 BC Gaius Octavius (later known as Augustus Caesar) was born into a degenerating Roman Empire. The civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey – the historical point that would mark the beginning of a dark era in Roman history – was still fourteen years away, but the devolution of the Republic began well before Caesar and Pompey went to battle. The gradual elimination of Roman culture and values that created a climate conducive to war began in second century BC.

The Hellenization that began with successful Roman military campaigns in Greece served as a leading factor in creating a climate conducive to civil war. Cultural taboos were breached as military generals, growing wealthier and stronger, commissioned nude statues in their likeness to celebrate successes. These pieces gave individual likeness to statues the Greeks saved for idealized personifications of their gods. As wealth and power became consolidated in the hands of a select few within the Republic, and as these images proliferated, “Roman values were becoming no more than a meaningless ideology (Zanker, 2).” This loss of morals and change in the distribution of power ultimately led to a revolutionary change in the political structure.

Although the impact of Hellenization began early, the full extent of the damage caused by this change was not seen until Julius Caesar, Pompey, and the Roman Republic erupted in civil war. 49 BC marks the beginning of a tumultuous period in the Empire’s history. The ensuing years were plagued by violence, war, political uncertainty, and civil unrest. Rome was violently transforming from a 500-year-old republic into a fledgling empire (www.encarta.msn,com). Julius Caesar had the popularity to obtain ultimate power, but due to his premature death, never received the title of emperor. Instead the public would remember Augustus’ father as a god and Rome would continue to flounder in perpetuating violence.

“May I Succeed In Attaining the Honors and Position of My Father to Which I am Entitled” (Zanker, 33)
Hesitant at first to accept the responsibility of avenging Julius Caesar’s (Augustus’ adopted father) death, Augustus eventually decided to enter Roman politics. Augustus allied himself with Marc Antony and Lepidus, to form the second triumvirate and challenge the senate for control of Roman territory (Eck, 15). This allegiance enjoyed numerous successes against Caesar’s killers but could not last. Eventually Augustus and Marc Antony engaged in a battle that would determine the future leadership of Rome. In 31 BC Octavian Caesar defeated Antony and Cleopatra, and was then awarded the title Augustus by the Roman Senate making him the first Roman Emperor at 32 years old (Eck, 128). With all his political rivals eliminated, Augustus ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity previously unseen in the Republic. As part of this new era, Augustus began an aggressive program to return morals and culture to the gilded city.

As part of his moral reformation, Augustus established a number of different religious sects. Membership to these sects was a very high honor and determined primarily by social class. Before Augustus became Emperor, Roman gods’ importance continuously eroded – rather than recognizing a deity, wealthy individuals commissioned self-aggrandizing works in which they were depicted as gods. During his fight for political power Augustus used this self-glorification unabashedly, yet once emperor, he stemmed the proliferation of these Hellenistic works and returned the focus to religious icons. Augustan art actively promotes the messages of the princeps’ moral revival and images often glorify the different religious sects.

Following Roman success in East Greece, art increasingly focused on the glories of the individual rather than the condition of the state – the individual had become more important than the general public. Once in power, Augustus reversed this trend. As the sole political personage within the empire, Augustus’ greatest personal achievements were improvements to the state. Augustus was regarded for establishing Rome’s Golden Age and unprecedented levels of peace and prosperity. Therefore art celebrating the state was, at the same time, celebrating Augustus. This made the shallow art commemorating a single individual, popular only a few years earlier, obsolete. Art was now commissioned to celebrate religious deities, long-lasting peace, unprecedented prosperity, and Augustus by association since he was synonymous with these many virtues.

Although Augustus and social improvement were identical, he still cared greatly about how his image was shown in public. Augustus was rather young when he became the first Roman Emperor but he presented himself as a major political force much earlier in his life – he was only nineteen years old when “on [his] own initiative and at [his] own expense, [he] raised an army with which [he] set free the state, which was oppressed by the domination of a faction (Augustus, Res Gestae)." Augustus took great pride in his early achievements and constantly strove to portray a youthful image of himself. Although it was not as explicit as in earlier Roman works, Augustus’ image in art was carefully manipulated to maximize the favor with which the general public viewed him. These three themes – cultural/moral revival, political achievements, and personal depiction – combine together to create regularly recurring themes to Augustan art. These themes can be clearly seen while looking at the imagery on the Ara Pacis.

“He Gazes Upon the Temple and Reads the Name Augustus. Then the Monument Seems to Him Even Greater” (Zanker, 113)
Construction began on the Ara Pacis Augustae in 13 BC to celebrate Augustus’ victories in Spain and Gaul, and the establishment of the Pax Augustae. The large altar, used as a site to perform sacrifices, was located on the Campus Martius near Augustus’ mausoleum, Agrippa’s baths, and a large sundial. The gnomon of this sundial was set so that on Augustus’ birthday the shadow would lay across the Ara Pacis telling Romans Augustus was responsible for the new peace they enjoyed. It is with this symbolism and nuance that the three themes outlined above are presented on the Ara Pacis.

As emperor, Augustus led a moral revival in Rome. One of the ways he achieved this was by founding a variety of religious sects citizens would desire to be part of and taking an active role in religion himself. The importance of religion during this era is reinforced the Ara Pacis in a number of different ways. The monument’s original function was as a place for religious sacrifices and many of the friezes on the altar reinforce this idea. The processional friezes on the northern and southern sides of the enclosure wall depict Rome’s leading dignitaries walking towards the front of the altar to participate in a sacrifice. One can appreciate the importance of this ceremony by who is in the procession. All of Rome’s important figures are present including Augustus (1); Livia (2), his wife; Agrippa (3), long-time friend and confidant; Gaius (4), son of Agrippa and Augustus’ first chosen successor; and Tiberius (5), Augustus’ ultimate successor. The attendance of such a high profile crowd was meant to convince the plebs of religion’s gravity.

A number of other images on the altar also highlight religion’s new importance. Following Augustus in the procession are a number of Flamines (identified by their distinctive apex). The man that is to kill the sacrificial cow (6) holds the only visible blade supporting the idea that times are peaceful (if there was danger Augustus’ lictors would also be displaying the blades of their fasces).

Another portion of the Ara Pacis filled with religious overtones is the Aeneas Sacrificing to the Penates frieze on the southern portion of the western enclosing wall. He is shown performing a sacrifice much like the one about to take place in the processional frieze. According to legend, Aeneas performed this sacrifice after he fled a burning Troy and arrived safely in Latium (Simon, 23). This gives Augustus’ drive to establish religious practices historical validity – especially since Aeneas was revered as a founder of the city. An interesting detail in this frame is how many of the religious symbols used to identify prominent Augustan religious orders are present including the patera (offering plate originally held in Aeneas’ right hand), libation jug (held by an assistant) and lituus (curved staff held by Aeneas destroyed son). Ancient Roman viewers identified different religious orders by their symbols and therefore gave more credence to religion since the various symbols were present in this frame. These aspects of the monument worked to convince the viewer of the importance of paying tribute to an entity higher than himself. This change in public attitude led to a decline of the previously witnessed selfishness and a greater respect for the state.

While the Aeneas frieze highlights religion’s importance, there are still more messages embedded in the image. The Julian bloodline was famed for having descended from Venus, mother of Aeneas. Due to this connection, Augustus often used depictions of both Aeneas and Venus to convince the public of his ability to lead. Coins created by Augustus while still battling for political power have images of both gods. This association was used to convince Romans he had a divine right and ability to rule. Behind Aeneas in the frieze stands his son Julus-Ascanius (the namesake of the bloodline) (Simon, 23). Most of Julus has been lost but it is clear he is holding a crooked wooden staff not unlike the stick held by Fastulus in the left frieze and the Augur’s lituus. Based on the fragment in his hand, it is believed Augustus was also depicted holding a lituus on the southern processional frieze (Bianchi, 11). This commonality between Augustus and Julus presents a very subtle but interesting message to the viewer and gives the modern day scholar a hint as to how the princeps wanted himself portrayed. Julus is the son of a god. By including similarities between the two, Augustus is presenting himself as the son of a god as well. This was a message he routinely presented through art. Statues of Julius Caesar during Augustus’ rule present him as an older, dignified man, while images of the princeps, even when created near the end of his life, emphasize his youth. Augustus claimed to be the son of a god in order to establish a sense of uniqueness about him – much in the same way he used images of Aeneas and Venus – but he shied away from claiming to be a god himself in order to maintain reverence for his moral revival.

Aeneas’ image was used both to instigate a moral revival in Rome and reinforce a particular perception of Augustus, but it was also used to celebrate the princeps’ political achievements. The sacrifice performed by Aeneas is to thank family gods (penates) for the peace he found in Latium, but this symbol of peace can be construed to celebrate the Roman peace achieved by Augustus as much as anything done by Aeneas. It is in this manner that all images on the Ara Pacis commemorate Augustus’ political achievements.

Directly opposite of this frieze is the most famous and controversial image on the altar - the “Tellus” relief. Scholars have argued to great extent whether the monumental woman in the middle is Tellus, or a number of other deities including Ceres, Pax, and Venus. However the actual identity is irrelevant. Regardless of who the figure may be, the viewer is left with the same message – the flourishing vegetation, abundance of fruit, and serenity of the figures calm the viewer and remind him of the achievements of Augustus. The Aeneas and Tellus friezes combine to celebrate the peace now enjoyed by Romans but this recognition of the peace achieved is also witnessed on other parts of the monument.

The two other metaphorical friezes on the monument, Roma and Discovery of Romulus and Remus, also interact to speak to the viewer. Very little remains of the Roma relief but it is believed the goddess was pictured seated on a pile of enemy armor. Roma, often ready to spring to the defense of her city, looks relaxed and comfortable on her makeshift seat. Thanks to Augustus there is no need to worry about the safety of the empire. On the other side of the monument, Mars – the God of War – ensures the safe delivery of his twin sons to Fastulus. This frieze depicts the mythical founding of the city on Palatine Hill. In one sense the image reminds Romans of the extraordinary history of their city, but if read in another way, Augustus is presented as a founder of Rome. Augustus actively sought similarities between Romulus and himself – it was not by coincidence that he chose to reside on the same hill as the original foundation of the city. All these similarities acted to legitimize his power and portray him as one of Rome’s great founders.

“I Found Rome a City of Bricks and Left it a City of Marble.” (Augustus, The Quotations Page)
Aeneas shows the importance of religion, Romulus builds the foundation for Augustus’ villa, and Roma relaxes in security. As shown on the Ara Pacis, Augustus used art to send a variety of messages to the viewer – even the smallest of details support the three major themes of Augustan art. Augustus initiated the Roman Empire by ushering in a Golden Era of peace and prosperity to the violence-weary plebs. His moral revival program caused a reversal in how Romans saw their city. He strove to keep a young face and took careful attention to how he was viewed by the public. By doing so, he became one of the most loved and emulated Roman politicians of yesterday or today.

This work instilled a sense of confidence in the Roman public that the leaders were able and talented. I believe this is also why Benito Mussolini made this a highlight of his Roman theme park during the rise of Italian Fascism. Almost two thousand years after it was originally built, the Ara Pacis was reconstructed to use as political propaganda once again. Although the message derived was different, the final goal of pleasing the public was the same. It is too early to tell, but with the recent reopening of the altar, is the Italian government sending a new message to the plebs of Rome and those visiting for a week? There may be no aircraft carriers or fighter jets, but is the unveiling of the Ara Pacis in its new home Italy’s subtle way of saying “Mission Accomplished?”

Augustus, Caesar. Res Gestae (Deeds Accomplished), number 1. 14. Translation by Thomas
Bushnell. “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus.” http://classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html

Augustus, Caesar. The Quotations Page. “Quotations by Author – Caesar Augustus.” Quote by Caesar Augustus. http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Caesar_Augustus/

Bianchi, Emanuela. Ara Pacis Augustae. Fratelli Palombi Editori, Rome, 1994.

Castroita, David. The Ara Pacis Augustae: and the Imagery of Abundance in Later Greek and Early Roman Imperial Art. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1995.

CNN. Mission Accomplished. 10/28/2003. www.cnn.com/2003/allpolitics/10/28/mission.accomplished/

Conlin, Diane Atnally. The Artists of the Ara Pacis: The Process of Hellenization in Roman Relief Sculpture. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1997.

Eck, Werner. Augustus. Blackwell Publishing, Malden MA, 2003.

Galinsky, Karl. Augustan Culture: An Interpretive Introduction. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1996.

Simon, Erika. Ara Pacis Augustae. New York Graphic Society LTD., Greenwich CT, 1969.

Zanker, Paul. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1988.

The Roman Forum

Ashish Gupta
Honors in Rome - Summer 2006

As far and wide as the mighty Roman Empire stretched, both the symbolic and functional center of Rome was the Forum. For centuries, political assemblies, rallies and speeches, lawsuits and meetings, state funerals, and public feasts took place here, and great temples and monuments were built to pay homage to Gods and to commemorate emperors. Over its history, the space took on many forms; it was damaged and rebuilt, improved upon, and in the later years, neglected and ravaged. The history of the Roman Forum is intimately tied to that of the Roman Empire as a whole, and its conditions throughout history mirrored the state of Rome and its people. In the end, it is possible to examine the history of the Forum’s existence and its downfall as a means to better understand our own society and its future.

Situated between hills favorable for defense, Rome was strategically founded. About eighteen miles from the Tiber River, the settlement was far enough from the sea to avoid water-based attacks from pirates, which were prevalent in the period of Rome’s founding (753 BC), and close enough to use nearby rivers that fed the Tiber for transportation and trade. Thus, despite its eventual central role in the functions of the Empire, the area that held the Forum began as a marshy wetland, as described in Ovid’s Fasti:

'Where now the Forum lies, were pools of water and marshland, Streams for the Tiber's flood swelled high the banks of the brook…’
(Ovid's Fasti VI, 401 ff.)

Temple of Vesta of 179 AD

Recent archaeological findings have uncovered tombs under the area of the Forum, leading experts to believe that up to the 6th Century BC, there was a necropolis, or burial site, resting here. However, it is generally thought the area was used little. In 616 BC, the Tarquin King, Pricius, in an effort to improve the city and acquire honor and power for himself, built a massive covered sewer, the Cloaca Maxima, which drained the waters from this area and emptied into the Tiber River. This “Great Drain” was massive, said to be large enough to sail a boat through, and was made of stone built with the Etruscan-style arches that became so widely used in bridges and aqueducts throughout the history of Rome. The land, now a dry, open plain, was ripe for development.

With the founding of the Republic in the 5th Century BC, the Forum began to serve its role as the functional center of the city’s economic, religious, and political life, a role that would remain consistent until the 2nd Century BC.
The Forum was, in its founding, a vast marketplace. It is thought, in fact, that the word forum derives from the root ferre, or to carry, as vendors were forced to do with their goods to bring them to the market. Aristocratic houses and long wooden booths, in which dealers sold food and other goods, surrounded the space. During festivals and games, the upper class would watch from wooden seats or stand on the roofs of these booths while the lower class watched from the marketplace.

The Forum represented a religious center for the city as well. Festivals and holidays were numerous, coinciding with significant religious dates, and included parades, games, and prayers in the Forum area. Prayers asking for favors from the Gods were accompanied by vows and offerings, such as milk, honey, wine, and animals. In commemoration of Mars, the God of War, the New Year began with war festivals in March. Festivals were also dedicated to the sowing of the seed and the new harvest. While this was the main square in which people actively practiced their religion, it was also the symbolic center of the Pagan Roman tradition. The area in which the Cloaca Maxima entered the Forum contained a small sanctuary to Cloacina, the goddess of fertility. The Temple of Jupiter, which when created in the 6th Century BC was to be the largest in the Italo-Etruscan world, The Temple of Saturn (497 BC), The Temple of Castor (484 BC), The Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins (early 3rd Century BC), the Regia, home of the chief priest, and the Temple of Divus Romulus (4th Century BC), all stood in the Forum to celebrate and honor the various gods. A black stone that rested just outside the Curia, believed to be the ‘navel of the world’, contained early Latin writing that is thought by experts today to have carried regulations for a religious rite of some sort. The Forum was overrun by sacred spaces; as a result, it was itself revered by the Roman people as a sacred space. Over time, the Forum accrued more monuments and temples and continued to serve as a hub for the Roman religion until the rise of Christianity.

In addition to its economic and religious importance, the Forum also served as a political center. It was in this area that political assemblies formed, lawsuits were heard, and speeches were given. In the 3rd Century BC, a large circular arena was built, surrounded by Grecian-influenced steps to provide citizens a formal area to sit and listen to speeches.

This area was referred to as the Comitum, or meeting place, and would be the future sites of the Curia, 
the Roman Senate House, and the Rostra, the speaker’s platform.

The last 2 Centuries BC saw major changes in Rome as a whole, as well as in the Forum. While the functionality of the Forum remained, the area came to serve more and more as a symbolic home of national pride. Military victories occurred to extend the Empire to far-reaching locales, and translated into massive monuments to commemorate victories, honor kings, and display the wealth of Rome. New temples were constructed to honor gods thought important to protecting the Roman people in times of war. It was common for triumphant generals to be paraded around the Forum streets with their armies and captured booty, a practice thought by the Roman people to allow the Empire to ‘absorb’ the good qualities of captured civilizations. Furthermore, wealthy patrons built massive, multi-purpose halls called Basilicas, which served as showpieces for any and all to come see the splendor and prestige of Rome.

It was Julius Caesar (48-44 BC), with his ambitions for greatness, who set off a flurry of changes to the Forum that would indeed change it forever. While overcrowding was a major problem in Rome at this time, Caesar aimed to expand the city to provide more room for its inhabitants. His plan was called De Urbe Augend, and included far-reaching measures like re-routing the Tiber River to provide more usable land. His plans included expanding and increasing the grandiosity of the Forum as well. He destroyed and rebuilt the Curia in another location, making room for a large colonnaded plaza that would eventually hold the Temple of Divius Julius, built by Augustus in devotion to the

Basilica Julia

deified Julius Caesar. In addition, he renovated the Rostra and constructed the Basilica Julia, which would serve as a grand hall for courts, commerce, and leisure. Caesar would never see his prized works, as he was murdered before their completion. Thus, his successor, Augustus (31 BC-14 AD), carried out the final renovations. Besides finishing the projects that Caesar had started, Augustus also remodeled several buildings in the Forum by adding massive amounts marble. In fact, it was said of Augustus that he, “found the Forum of brick, and left it of marble.” Thus, by the end of Augustus’ reign, the centuries-old space that had served the Roman people so well was born again. The Roman Forum was at its peak in pomposity and importance, and over the next centuries, remained relatively consistent.

The decline of the Roman Forum, in both its functional importance to the daily lives of the people and its symbolic role in representing the might of the Empire, came gradually. In 283 AD, a great fire decimated Rome, including the Forum, forcing Emperor Diocletian to rebuild. In 394 AD, non-Christian groups were banned in Rome, leading to the abandonment of many pagan temples. In the 4th Century, the center of the Empire moved away from Rome. As a result, the city’s population dwindled, and there were limited resources to maintain the upkeep necessary to prevent the Forum from becoming ruins. In 410 AD, Ostrogoth raiders ransacked the Forum, destroying many buildings. Some buildings, like the Curia, were spared when they were converted into churches. Many however, were not, and much of the Forum was left to shepherds. In fact, the area became known as Campo Vaccino, or the cattle field. Over time, monuments and temples were plundered for materials to be used in Papal buildings. In 608 AD, almost 1,200 years since the construction of the Cloaca Maxima, the last addition was made to the Forum; the Column of Phocas. As time progressed, the Forum’s historical legacy was as forgotten as its physical structures; it was said that in Renaissance Times, people had little knowledge of what several of the Forum’s buildings even were, let alone what they once represented. It was not until renewed interest in the 1930s, and ensuing excavations, that the

Temple of Vesta

Forum’s legacy has been more fully unearthed. However, the space today, serving as one of the most historically significant sites in all of Rome, bears little resemblance to the magnificent city center it once was.

In some ways, American society resembles ancient Rome; we are the political giant, economic engine, and social trendsetter for much of the world. However, inherent differences between our society and Rome make it hard to imagine a construct like the Forum, where the major economic, political, and religious institutions of a society, as well as the symbols of national pride, all collided in one centralized space. It would be as if Wall Street held the Lincoln Memorial and the Houses of Congress, and was furthermore inundated by magnificent temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues. While public spaces today can and do serve the dual roles of being functional and symbolic, their purpose is much more narrowly focused than that of the Forum. The American political center, for example, is a sprawling complex, the National Mall, that holds the White House, the Houses of Congress, and various monuments. This space successfully serves as the functional hub of politics in the U.S., as well as a symbolic home of national pride. There are not, however, any churches on the Mall. It is also not home to any major corporations or centers of commerce. Those are in other locations, and to American society, would seem to undermine the integrity of the political system if present on the Mall. Thought in this way, the Forum as an idea, the ‘center’ of a civilization, is wholly alien to the way in which we view society.

First, the idea that religion and politics should regulate separate spheres is expressed in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion…” By excluding the possibility of a “national religion”, the Constitution eliminates the possibility that there be an institutionalized link between church and state. Thus, it seems only natural that they occupy different physical spaces as well. Furthermore, while the links between party politics and religion are becoming much stronger, especially in recent elections, it seems wholly unlikely that any segment of American society would accept the concept of a deified George Bush the way Romans did of Julius Caesar.

Roman Forum of 179 AD

Second, with the rapid invasion of technology into every facet of our lives, the
existence of a physical space wherein all of our important business is conducted seems cumbersome and unnecessary. Today it is possible for someone rant on a political blog, buy groceries online, and listen to a podcast of a sermon all at the same time. The speed and quality of such services make it inevitable that in the future, the various functions that the Forum served in Roman society will for our society become more accessible to us from home and with increased personalization. As a result, the future holds more dissipation, not concentration, of the political, economic, and religious centers.

Finally, it seems that public spaces in today’s world cannot and will not suffer the type of decline that the Forum suffered. The Forum declined for two reasons. First, as Christianity grew, its symbolic importance as a sacred Pagan ground diminished. Second, as economic conditions of the times evolved, the Forum lost its functional importance as a market. On the first count, American society, and really all societies in general, are susceptible. Ideals that are prominent enough in a society to motivate the construction of a monument or temple many times do not endure the test of time. When the Romans built their temples, their religious devotion was absolute; however, as their fervor was dissipated and eventually eliminated throughout the course of history, it was these very temples that were targeted as symbols of the past, deemed unimportant or dangerous, and destroyed. Who knows if in hundreds of years, the passion with which American society celebrates the ideals of Abraham Lincoln will disappear, and the Lincoln Memorial will bear the brunt of the ideological shift? On the second count, however, the movement of corporations and other private enterprises into public spaces makes it seem like we might avoid the fate of the Forum. As it became harder and harder for vendors to make a living selling their goods in the Forum, its functionality declined. However, businesses today have the power to invest and reinvest in public spaces to attract and re-attract consumers. For example, Time’s Square, one central point of American commerce, fell into disrepair in the 1980s. As profits tumbled, businesses teamed with the government to clean up the area, and by the 1990s, the Square was once again a vibrant part of American society. It is the influence of those with massive amounts of money, namely corporations, motivated by the prospect of turning large profits, that will work to make public spaces more and more relevant to the lives of consumers, the way ancient Romans could never do with the Forum.

In the end, the historical significance of the Roman Forum cannot be matched. It was the center of the most glorious civilization the world has ever known. As America slowly accumulates more power and wealth, the story of the Forum’s rise and fall provides lessons on our own society, and serves as an important reminder of what once was.

Anderson, James C. The Historical Topography of the Imperial Fora. Brussels: Latomus, 1984.

Bignamin, Ilaria. Archives and Excavations: Essays on the History of Excavations in Rome. London: British School at Rome, 2004.

Claridge, Amanda. Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Lanciani, Rodolfo Amedeo. The Roman Forum: Photographic Description of its Monuments. Rome: Frank and Co. [Leipzig, Printed by G. Kreysing], 1910

Nahamad, Ezra. The Roman Forum. New York: Harper and Row, 1982.

Seindal, Rene. “Forum Romanum.” Photographic Account of Rome Online. 2003.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Trajan Essay

Julie Tea
Honors in Rome - Summer 2006

I. Introduction
The Column of Trajan continues to stand today as one of Rome’s most well-preserved historical documentation of military history. It stands today next to the Fori Imperiali, adorned by a statue of St. Peter. The four buildings of Trajan’s forum that had once surrounded the Column are now only weather ruins; pillaged for building materials for the Arch of Constantine in the 4th century and churches later on. Who is Trajan and why did he decide to build this large complex for the people of Rome? What message was he trying to send to the Roman people and visitors? These questions will be answered as we discover the true meaning of commemoration as exemplified by Trajan’s Column.

Marcus Cocceius Nerva served as Emperor of Rome from A.D. 96 to A.D. 98. He named Marcus Ulpius Trajanus as his successor in the summer of A.D. 97 to win the support of the Roman army who celebrated Trajan’s previous military victories. Trajan was a Spanish-born Senator and General and is the first-recorded non-Italian to head the state of Rome.
Both northern Thracians and Germans inhabited Dacia, a prosperous neighboring country to the north of Rome. The Dacians were seen as a threat to the Roman Empire. Ambitious, Trajan launched two vengeful campaigns against the Dacians in A.D. 101. He selected two different pontoon-bridge crossings, one across the Tibiscus River and the other across the Danube crossing. Apollodorus of Damascus was chosen to design a permanent bridge crossing, which has been described as a “marvel of engineering.” The Roman army then, led by Trajan, separated into two groups and took two different routes to Sarmizegestusa, the Dacian capital. They then attacked Sarmizegestusa from two separate angles and were able to penetrate past the hillforts protecting the capital. Decebalus then surrendered to Trajan, ending the first of the Dacian wars in A.D. 102. The second of the Dacians wars began anew in A.D. 105 when the Dacians re-assembled an army to attack the Roman “bridgehead.” This second war quickly ended in A.D. 106 when Trajan used tactics similar to the first war to surround Sarmizegestusa. Trajan’s actual account of the Dacian Wars has never been recovered. However, to commemorate Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars, the Trajan forum, market, and column were built. These were commissioned by Trajan and designed by Apollodorus of Damascus. They were finally completed in A.D. 113 and must have been a magnificent sight to behold. Trajan funded the construction of the Trajan forum, market and column with the spoils of war and purposefully created a grandeur, artistic achievement. The forum became a center for Roman daily activity. The column is covered with iconographic scenes, depicting the Roman victory in the Dacian war. These served as forms of military propaganda and justified Trajan’s campaign against their neighbors along the Danubian river. They also served to commemorate Trajan’s militaristic achievements. However, archaeologists now speculate that Trajan’s column was not only a commemorative monument, but possibly a funerary monument. There are several lines of evidence that suggests that Trajan may have intended to use the Column as his final burial site from the outset.

II. Description
Currently, only the Markets of Trajan and the 140 foot-tall Trajan column are still intact. 140 feet is equal to the height of the mound that was removed to build the Trajan forum. An inscription on the pedestal of the Trajan columns reads, “ad declarandum quantae altitudinis/mons et locus tant(is ope) ribus sit egestus,” which translates to “in order to show how lofty had been the mountain- and the site for such mighty works was nothing less- which had been cleared away.” Although the rest of the forum lay in ruins, 3-D modeling has been used to assess what the forum and column would have looked like in Trajan’s era (Fig 1). To the south of the column would have stood the Basilica Ulpia, to the north the Temple of Divine Trajan, and to the east and west Greek and Latin libraries. This was not an innovative concept by any means; by Trajan’s era, Rome already had several forums. However, the Trajan Market soon became one Rome’s most famous shopping malls and the forum was soon filled with the bustle of daily Roman activity. Interestingly, in Trajan’s era, entrance to the forum was only viable through a single passageway under a triumphal arch. Through the arch lay a large central plaza paved with slabs of neutral white marble. In the middle of the piazza, there stood a 12-meter tall equestrian statue of Trajan made of bronze. Beyond the statue was the grandest of the forum’s buildings, the Basilica Ulpia, a law court named after Trajan’s family. This two-story building boasted of both Corinthian and Ionic columns. Giallo antico, a golden and purple-veined Tunisian marble, lined the steps to the Basilica Ulpia and the other Trajan structures. Beyond the Basilica Ulpa is the Trajan Column, a 140-foot tall structure covered in spiraling friezes. The column is made up of 17 marble drums, all placed atop one another. The iconographs run continuously counterclock-wise on the column, there is only one break that symbolizes the time lapse between the first and second Dacian war. The reliefs depict Trajan’s account of the Dacian wars. The first half of the column illustrates the small battles, while the second half of the column depicts the burning of the Dacian capital and the suicide of King Decebalus and his loyal followers (Figure 4). The scenes etched into the Column read like a script and run continuously in chronological order. The base of the column is a cube made up of square slabs of marble 17 feet in length. One side of the base has a door that leads into an opening; this used to hold the urn of Trajan and his wife Potina until it was stolen in the Middle Ages (Figure 6).
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Figure 1: Here is a photo of the layout of Trajan's Forum. Notice the size of the courtyard in which Trajan's Forum stood. The piazza upon entrance into Trajan's Forum measured 80 meters by 120 meters, this is large enough to hold the entire Forum of Augustus. The piazza was covered in beautiful slabs of a neutral white marble, imagine the richness and opulence of this grandeur public space.

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Figure 2. An alternative view of Trajan's Forum.

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Figure 3. A drawing of the Trajan's Column. Standing over 140 feet tall, Trajan's Column is one of the most well-preserved historical documentation of military history. The scultural friezes wrapping around the Column are etched in incredible detail.

Figure 4. 3-D modeling has allowed us to envision what the Forum of Trajan must have looked like to ancient Romans. An aerial view would have shown us Trajan's 12-foot bronze equestrian statue centered in the opulent piazza.

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Figure 5. This figure shows us an enlargement of the base of Trajan's Column which held a chamber. The chamber features a double door opening adorned by an inscription and friezes of eagles, victories, and weaponry.

Figure 6. A modern day view of the Forum of Trajan. Although Trajan's Column
 and the Market of Trajan remain intact, the rest of the Forum lay in ruins. The only reminders of the Basilica Ulpia 
are the column in the foreground of the picture. The Forum lay about 15 feet below street level 
and are a daily reminder to Romans about the contrast of new and old and their ever evolving identity in the world today. 

III. Function
The intended function of Trajan’s column is still debated today. After Trajan’s death on August 8th of A.D. 117, his body was cremated and his ashes returned to Rome in a golden urn where it was placed in the chamber of Trajan’s Column. Although ancient Roman’s accepted the column as an honorary monument commemorating Trajan’s victory over the Dacians, analysis of the spiraling friezes and the structural design of the base suggests that Trajan’s column itself may be a burial chamber of historic proportions. The column may have been built as Trajan’s sepulcher and as an imperial funerary monument.

Several lines of evidence support this claim. The first is that a chamber was built into the Column’s base. This chamber would have presented several engineering complications considering the sheer size of the Column. Furthermore, Marcus Aurelius’s Column is a commemorative column that does not include a chamber. Secondly, there is a structural similarity between the design of the Column’s base and a funerary altar commonly seen in Trajan’s era. This altar features a double door opening, an inscription, and representation of eagles, victories and weaponry. These symbols suggest the original purpose of the Column, to glorify Trajan’s victory over their Danubian neighbors and his victory over death in apotheosis. Futhermore, columns had previously been used as a type of funerary monument. One such example is the column Numerius Erennius Celso assembled for his wife, Esquilla Polla. This particular funerary column is located near Porta di Nola. As a result, historians have suggested that Trajan superimposed these two different funerary monuments and intentionally designed the Column for use as his final resting place.

Upon inspection, the iconographs located throughout the forum suggest Trajan’s intentions from the outset. Griffins located on the spiraling frieze of the Column and the forum entrance symbolized military power. However, Griffins were also associated with the two gods Apollo and Dionysos, the two gods who ruled over the dead and controlled apotheosis.

Romans were pessimistic about the existence of an afterlife so they believed that the best way to commemorate a person after death was by rituals and maintenance of the tomb. It has been suggested that the spiraling frieze on the Column was purposefully designed to force the onlooker to interact with the Column by encircling it in a counterclockwise fashion. Coincidentally, this is similar to an ancient Roman ritual used to commemorate the dead, known as “active memory perpetuation.” This rite had previously been used by Augustus’s mausoleum. Both the Mausoleum of Augustus and Trajan’s Column force onlookers to circumambulate the tomb. The Romans associated the circle with magical properties and they believe that circumambulating the tomb concentrated power at the middle of the circle. This defined the area of the tomb, protecting it and it had a cathartic effect. If this was the case, then Trajan had perfected the forum to a tee. The market would attract shoppers daily, while the Basilica Ulpia would create the need for court visitors so Trajan’s remains would be actively commemorated daily.

Also, inside the Column is a helical staircase that continuously winds up the length of the Column. Inside, there are 43 small windows and little light but at the top of the Column, onlookers are greeted by the magnificent sight of the forum. The juxtaposition of darkness inside the staircase and the brightness at the end was possibly meant to disorient viewers. Once outside again, onlookers are forced to acknowledge Trajan’s greatness as they stare in awe at the forum.

IV. Patrons Goals/Concerns
Trajan wanted there to be no question as to his contribution to Rome’s success. It was under his reign that Rome climaxed; its borders extended from the Lower Rhine to the Black Sea. He wanted to be remembered as a great benefactor of Rome and built the forum as a commemorative monument. Trajan justified to the Romans the need for the Dacian War through political propaganda. He built a grandeur public space to illustrate the profitability of the Dacian War. Trajan may have designated the Column from the outset as his final resting place. It is debatable whether the Column is a primary funerary monument but the iconographs on the frieze support this argument. The depiction of priestesses sacrificing bulls hints at Trajan’s victory over death, therefore symbolizing his divinity. Also, the portico around the Column has two griffins; this is depicted many times and it represents “divine vengeance.” Sphinxes are etched inside of the colonnade to protect the dweller from evil and are usually connected with a hero’s burial. Trajan’s use of sphinxes in the Column emulates Augustus, whose favorite symbol was also the sphinx.

Trajan would not have been able to public declare the Column as his funerary monument because the ancient Romans would have considered this too presumptive. The Column is located within the pomerium, or the sacred boundary of the city of Rome and Julius Caesar’s assassination may have been connected to his declaration of a funerary monument inside the pomerium. Therefore, the spiraling frieze causes the onlooker to take an active role in commemorating Trajan by circumambulating the Column counterclockwise. The circumambulation directs power to the center of the circle and protects the tomb. Trajan felt that, by having a funerary monument in such a public space, he would continue to be commemorated for his contribution to Rome long after his death. You never truly die if you continue to live on in other’s memories so having this beautiful column made him immortal in a way. His name and life became immortalized, no longer a man, but a deified hero.

V. Conclusion
Trajan’s Column is still studied today by visitors from all over the world. Visitors come to gawk at the sheer size of the column and the iconographic representation etched into the Column in spiraling friezes reveal Trajan’s account of the Dacian Wars. Although we do not know to what extent Trajan’s account influenced the portrayal of these etches, this Column reveals to modern Romans and visitors alike the lifestyle of ancient Roman warriors. On the Columns, the Dacians are depicted as submissive, their heads are held low as they admit defeat to the Romans and as they watch their beautiful capital, Sarmizegestusa burn to the ground and their beloved King commit suicide. The Dacians were well-known for their prosperous economy, which included the mining of precious stones. Trajan used this to his advantage and brought beautiful supplies of purple, white and gold-veined marble as well as gold to erect a forum, market, and Column in his honor. The forum would become filled with activity daily, as the market was comparable to a modern-day shopping mall where ancient Romans would purchase household materials, spices, and rich clothing. Even the steps of the Forum were paved with the most beautiful of marble and it has never been rivaled in size. By offering the Forum as a public space to all Romans, Trajan showed his concern for all Roman citizens. Visitors still continue to circumabulate the Column today. The pictures tell us the story of Trajan and his Roman warriors and their militaristic victory. One author described the Column as history in pictures. There is no historical writing documenting Trajan’s Dacian War. From studying the etches in detail, we can presume what kind of armor the Romans wore and even daily activity in preparation for battle. The sculptured frieze contain incredible detail and are placed to suggest abstract ideas. This type of “commemorative language” was commonly used by Romans in ancient times. Trajan’s Column was later emulated by Hadrian, who built a Mausoleum with a square base and two circular drums. Through the vestibule, into a square atrium, visitors move in a counterclockwise rotation throughout the tomb.

Today, visitors continue to awe at the engineering marvel of Trajan’s tomb. Recent papers have proposed possible mechanisms by which ancients Romans could have superimposed 17 blocks of Luna marble, but it was no easy task. Each block weighed between 25 to 77 tons. This monument continues to influence modern Romans to commemorate Trajan’s victory. Now sitting 15 feet below street level, the contrast of old and new sheds light into Rome’s evolving identity.

VI. Surprises/Interesting Facts
An interesting fact that I learned was that fornix in Italian actually refers to an arch-like structure. However, the term “fornication,” which means sexual intercourse between partners who are not married to each other” is derived from fornix. The term is first recorded in the dictionary in Middle English in 1303. This is because unmarried couples in Rome often went beneath arches for sexual activity.

Rome is now a smog-filled city, struggling to deal with the pollution that has resulted from its high population density. The chemical pollution increases the deterioration of lime and marble, of which Trajan’s column is composed. However, investigation has shown that lichens also contribute to the decomposition of these two stones. Ironically however, lichens no longer grow on Trajan’s column because of Rome’s pollution.

VII. Bibliography
Davies, Penelope J. E. "The Politics of Perpetuation: Trajan's Column and the Art of Commemoration" American Journal of Archaeology. 1997,41-65.

Packer, James. “Trajan's Glorious Forum.” Archaeology Jan./Feb. 1998:32-41.

Meneghini, Roberto. "The Imperial Forums and Trajan Market." Rome: F.lli Palombi, c1993.

Coarelli, Filippo. "The Column of Trajan." Rome : Colombo : German Archaelogical Institutde, c2000.

Lancaster, Lynne C. "Building Trajan's Column" American Journal of Archaeology 1999,419-39.

Rossi, Lino. “Trajan’s Column and the Dacian Wars.” New York: Cornell Univerity Press, 1971.

Richmond, Sir Ian. “Trajan’s Army on Trajan’s Column.” London: The British School at Rome, 1982.