More (very small) images of the Septizonium

Another website caught my eye yesterday, while I was surfing around looking for old maps and depictions of Rome.  This one consisted of a lot of images of the Palatine hill in Rome.  I am, in truth, not that sure what I am looking at; is this, perhaps, material from a book?

The images themselves are very interesting, but, O! so tiny.  Why?

Some of these show the now vanished remains of the Septizodium, which is rightly seen as part of the Palatine constructions.  All that remained by this time was one end of the massive facade on three levels that Septimus Severus had built across the end of the Palatine.

The first of these shows it on the left of the image:

Hieronymus Cock, Praecipua aliquot Romanae, Blatt K (Riggs 12), 1550: Septizonium, Aqua Claudia, and other ruins

Moving to the left, we see the Septizonium again, with the arcade behind it.  The latter still stands, of course. The valley to the left is the Circus Maximus.

Hieronymus Cock, Praecipua aliquot Romanae, Blatt L (Riggs 13), 1550: Septizonium, Arcade, thermae of Maxentius

The viewer now turns right and looks up the road to the Colloseum.  The Septizonium is thus seen end-on.

Hieronymus Cock, Praecipua aliquot Romanae, Blatt P (Riggs 17), 1551: Septizonium and Colosseum

But something is wrong about the perspective here — I don’t believe that the Colosseum was that close, nor in quite that position.

The next item is a map, which shows something at the place where the Septizonium stood.  The Palatine hill is next to the Circus Maximus: but if you look at the road that runs from the upper section of the Circus up along the top of the Palatine, you see something just at the point where the road kinks left.

If only we had a high-resolution image!

The next item is an aerial view by Du Perac, which shows the Septizonium in just that position.  In this case we’re looking south, and I have ventured to circle the item.

Étienne Duperac Nova urbis Romae descriptio, 1577, Detail: Palatin

Once you get to know the shape of that stubby tower-like fragment, and start to look for it, it pops out at you in all sorts of images.

The next item is far more useful.

Anonymous Italian artist, early 16th century: the Septizonium from the North

Again, I wish it were bigger.  And I wish we had some more details, but a plan is very useful.

A rare rear view of the Septizonium now:

Maarten van Heemskerck, Heemskerck Album II, fol. 14 r, 1532–1537: substructures of the Circus Maximus, Septizonium, therma of Maxentius

Again a larger image would be useful.  It looks very ramshackle from this angle, doesn’t it?  Maybe this is why it was demolished; that it was already collapsing?

Next a clearer image:

Anonymus Mantovanus A, Heemskerck Album II, fol. 87 v–85 r, 1539–1560: Septizonium, Domus Severiana, Arcade, Maxentius thermae

I have not even exhausted all the images of the Septizonium on that page, yet already I think we know the monument better.  There are also notes at the foot of the page, indicating precisely where each image comes from (and well done, there!)

I’m entirely a novice at this business of finding images.  What I wish, tho, is that there was some way to get much better quality images online.

2 Responses to “More (very small) images of the Septizonium”


  1. Matthew

    Hi Roger,
    You are right that the Colosseum is too close in the third picture. It was about 1500 feet from the point of view of the artist who drew it, and would have appeared considerably smaller. I don’t thing the placement is far off, though. The point of view is from about the edge of the circus, looking NNE. There’s a piece of the Aqueduct of Claudius that would have spoiled this nice composition, though (some is still there – you can see it jutting like a tooth in many personal photos looking at the Arch of Constantine from the popular viewpoint of the Colosseum entrance).

    There’s an archaeologist from Tulane in New Orleans who published a pretty thorough review of the various guesses that have been made at Septizodium plans over the years. If you’re keen on the article, I can send you the pdf.

    On image searches: do you have access to any university library systems? Most purchase institutional access to artstor.org.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you — you’ve thought it through better than I.

    I can use these systems if I travel to a university library, but not otherwise. Yes, I’d love a copy of the PDF.