1918 aerial photograph of the Colosseum, Meta Sudans and base of the Colossus

The tireless Italian site Roma Ieri Oggi has found yet more vintage photographs of the eternal city.  They are all worth looking at!  This batch are all from the air, and were taken in 1918.  Apparently they are part of an album which an admiral named Thaon di Revel left to the Museo del Risorgimento Italiano.

One of these in particular caught my eye.  It shows the area around the Colosseum.  The Meta Sudans is just visible beyond the Arch of Constantine, while above it is the rectangular platform on which the Colossus status once stood.  No sign as yet of the Via del foro imperiali, which dominates this area of Rome!

I could look at these photographs for ever…

An 1850 view of the Meta Sudans and the Arch of Constantine

Another splendid find from Roma Ieri Oggi!  This shows the Meta Sudans, with the Arch of Constantine and the ruins of the Palatine … in 1850!  Unusually this was taken from high-up in the Colosseum.  Marvellous!

The Meta Sudans in 1849 in Pierre Monami

A twitter post alerted me to the existence of an oil-painting from 1849 by Pierre Monami, depicting the Roman forum with the Arch of Constantine, the Meta Sudans, the Temple of Venus and Rome, and the Via Sacra leading to the Arch of Titus.  The painting was sold recently at Bonhams, who have a viewer on it here.

Zooming in we get this:

P. Monami, The Meta Sudans, 1849 (excerpt)

The most notable feature is that the Meta Sudans looks pretty much exactly as it does in 1930. The demolition of the top section took place earlier, it seems.

A close up of the Meta Sudans from 1910

The invaluable Roma Ieri Oggi site continues to upload photographs of old Rome, including photographs of vanished sites like the ancient fountain, the Meta Sudans.  A new one appeared a couple of days ago here.  It’s a close-up of the Meta Sudans, although I had to disable my anti-virus software (Kaspersky) in order to view it.  It seems that the site owner is very keen to monetise his site, and I suppose we cannot blame him for that.

Here’s the image anyway:

Meta Sudans, ca. 1910. Via Roma Ieri Oggi.

I wondered if we adjusted the light levels, whether we might get a little more; but sadly darkness is darkness.  Worth a try tho:

Wonderful to see these old photographs, tho. More! Note to non-Italian readers: remember that you can always view the Roma Ieri Oggi site using the Chrome browser, with built-in translation as you click. Google’s translator works really very well for Italian to English. So don’t be shy about visiting Roma Ieri Oggi.

More on the sestertius of Titus showing the Meta Sudans

A correspondent kindly drew my attention to the following piece in the Daily Express.

Rare Roman coin featuring early depiction of the Colosseum sells for £372,000

AN INCREDIBLE rare Roman coin featuring one of the earliest depictions of the Colosseum has sold for £372,000 – nearly five times its estimate.

The bronze Sestertius coin that dates back to AD81 is believed to be only one of 10 that exist today.

Seven are in museums around the world while the other three are in private hands.

This one, appearing in public for the first time in almost 80 years, was acquired by a wealthy British connoisseur of Roman bronze coins in 1939.

It had remained in the late collector’s family ever since but was today sold to a European private collector through London coin dealers Dix Noonan Webb.

A packed auction room watched on in amazement as the relic far exceeded its £80,000 estimate.

One side of the coin features an image of the famous Colosseum in Rome, which had only just been built.

It’s very interesting to learn that his coin is so rare.  In case they vanish from the web, I’d like to place here copies of the marvellous large photographs of the coin.  Note the depiction of the fountain, the Meta Sudans, to the left of the Colosseum, and some kind of long-vanished portico to the right.

A couple more images of the Meta Sudans from Twitter

Roma Ieri Oggi has posted yet another old photograph, from 1898, of the Colosseum, with the Meta Sudans:

(Gargiolli, 1898) Colosseo, Meta Sudans e Arco di Costantino

The angle on the Meta Sudans is a little unusual, and indicates that the top was not level.

This caused a second photo to be posted, this one from 1865:

1865 photograph of the Meta Sudans

Note how much the land level has been lowered between 1865 and 1898!

An aerial shot of the base of the Colossus in 1918

Roma Ieri Oggi has posted a set of aerial photographs of Rome, made in 1918.  They are here.  And they are quite marvellous, and high resolution.

Of special interest to us is one that looks at the Colosseum area:

Note the area where today runs the Via del foro imperiali – mainly farmland on the Velian hill.  But also note the base of the Colossus of Nero!

Here’s a zoom:

And I’ve highlighted also what we can see of the tip of the Meta Sudans.


I have no idea where the site owner gets his stuff.  But it’s stuff that we all want to see!

More paintings of the Meta Sudans

The vanished Roman fountain next to the Colosseum, demolished by Mussolini, but not before being photographed, is a long-term interest of mine.  In its later years, the monument was only half its former height.  But if we look at older paintings of the scene, we can see how it was during the 18th century.

A correspondent, Ezio, has sent in a useful list of links from which I have extracted the following images.  Click on the image to see it properly.

Let’s start with a 1694 painting by Jacob de Heusch, on Wikimedia Commons.


This shows the Meta Sudans, with the vegetation on the top which is characteristic of the monument before it was reshaped in the 19th century.  In the background is the Arch of Titus, as it was before Valadier extracted it from later buildings, and the entrance to the forum.

In Heusch’s painting, the fountain is still in use!  But I fear that this is artistic licence, just as his depiction of the Colosseum is.  So we don’t learn much from this except that the interior on this side was already gouged out, presumably by treasure hunters.

Next we have Caspar van Wittel’s paintings from 1707-1711, one of which I have shown before in a low-resolution form.  These are here, here, and here.  Let’s show the Meta Sudans from the first of these, against the background of the Arch of Constantine (so on the other side):


I have auto-leveled the colours, so that we can see it clearly.  This has no vegetation, but shows a tall, slender monument which has been gouged on the side facing the Arch of Titus also.

The third picture is from the same angle as the Heusch painting:


Sadly the online image is still low resolution; but this shows the vegetation at the top, the bulge part way up, the gouged out interior, and the Arch of Titus in the background.

Finally let’s see the painting by Panini (1747), which I have shown before, but this time at a decent resolution.


Again I have auto-leveled this.  It shows that the vegetation starts at the top and trails over towards the Arch of Constantine.  The bulge around the middle – which appears on ancient coin depictions – is present clearly.

Thank you Ezio for these!

It is really worth tracking down these old paintings.  They show a Rome that no longer exists, and there is historical data to be gleaned from them.

Two postcards of the Colosseum and the Arch of Titus (and the Meta Sudans)

I found two 19th century postcards, taken from the Palatine, looking towards the Colosseum, at this site, which also includes many other interesting images.

Note how the Basilica of Maxentius is enclosed in some now demolished building!


And this: