Mussolini and the Meta Sudans

It’s been a little while since I posted a picture of the Meta Sudans.  This was the conical fountain at the end of the Appian Way, just outside the Colosseum.

At Wikimedia Commons today I found an old photograph, from the Bundesarchiv Bild library (no 102-12292) of Mussolini, from a podium outside the Colosseum.  The Meta Sudans stands nearby, soon to be demolished at his orders.  Here is the picture on Wikimedia Commons, which has a date of September 1931:

1931: Mussolini (left on the podium) addresses the fascist youth movement outside the Colosseum and the Meta Sudans.
Mussolini (left on the podium) addresses Fascist supporters outside the Colosseum and the Meta Sudans.

But here is what seems to be the same picture at the Bundesarchiv site (complete with annoying and pointless “watermark”), with the date April 1926.  This states, contra to Wikimedia, that it was taken after Mussolini returned from Tripoli, and says nothing about “youth” at all.

I do wish that I could find a source that explained why Mussolini had the ancient fountain demolished.  For a movement that drew inspiration from Ancient Rome, doing so was a curious thing.  Probably some Italian source will hold the answer, but these are not nearly visible enough online.

Here’s another photograph of the Meta Sudans, this time by Richard Brenan, Dungarvan, Waterford on a holiday in Italy c.1910.  A copy is present on the Waterford County Museum site, although with a watermark.  (I must say that the greed of repositories for fees, when they are paid to make material available by the public, is rather shameful).

Meta Sudans ca. 1900.  Waterford co.
Meta Sudans ca. 1900. Waterford County Museum, EB246.

This one I got from Twitter.

 There are also some images available on coins, which are interesting.  Here is a sestertius of Titus, showing the Meta Sudans to the left of the Colosseum:

A sestertius of Titus (80-81) showing the Meta Sudans
A sestertius of Titus (80-81) showing the Meta Sudans

The same coin is depicted here:

Meta Sudans on a sestertius of Titus
Meta Sudans on a sestertius of Titus

There is also a medallion of Gordian III, ca. 240, via here, which depicts the Meta Sudans in antiquity:

Meta Sudans - medallion of Gordian
Meta Sudans – medallion of Gordian

And a photo of the item itself via here.

Medallion of Gordian III, ca. 240, depicting the Colosseum and Meta Sudans
Medallion of Gordian III, ca. 240, depicting the Colosseum and Meta Sudans

And a too-dark photograph of the medallion from the British Museum website (and kudos to them for putting it online):

Medallion of Gordian III, ca. 240, depicting Meta Sudans and Colosseum
Medallion of Gordian III, ca. 240, depicting Meta Sudans and Colosseum

The sestertius of Titus is common, and copies can be had on the market easily enough.  This means that we have some good photos, made freely accessible online.  On the other hand the medallion of Gordian is rare.  This means that our only access is rather rubbish.  Museums that hold copies don’t make good quality photos available.  One has to ask: isn’t this the reverse of what should happen?  If public owned museums hold things, they should be more accessible, not less?

Now something else.  Here is an excerpt of the Bufalini map of Rome (1551) indicating the position of the Meta Sudans:

meta_sudans_buffalini_1551

Let’s now have some more old photographs.

Here’s another old photograph of the Meta Sudans, from the other side, with the Palatine in the background and the Arch of Constantine to the left:

meta_sudans_palatine

Here’s another one, this time around 1922, from here:

Meta Sudans and Arch of Constantine, around 1922
Meta Sudans and Arch of Constantine, around 1922

The next one, from here (which also has a bunch of other photos of the Meta Sudans), is looking towards the arch of Titus, and taken around 1880:

Meta Sudans, ca. 1880
Meta Sudans, ca. 1880

And another from the same site:

Meta Sudans
Meta Sudans

And a third one, also from the same site.  Note how the Meta Sudans lines up with the road to the forum?

Postcard of the Meta Sudans
Postcard of the Meta Sudans

Let’s end with a 16th century drawing by Du Perac, showing much the same view looking towards the forum.

Meta Sudans.  Du Perac (16th c.)
Meta Sudans. Du Perac (16th c.)

It is remarkable that the monument looks basically the same as it does in the 19th century pictures.  Du Perac has depicted it as taller and thinner than it was – it can hardly have got fatter since his time! – but it looks as if it was no taller in his day.  The main damage to it, no doubt, occurred in the Dark Ages.

I do wonder if a complete set of documents exists in Italian archives somewhere.  Is it conceivable that the demolition was not documented?  Not really.

7 thoughts on “Mussolini and the Meta Sudans

  1. Curious, I was blocked from only a couple of pages but nice to see the missing ones now, thank you. Here’s another that may help or frustrate you. Interesting discussion on the Imperial purpose & Colonial reception of the Meta Sudans. I would prefer a hydrologist to do the math on the inverted siphon pressure relief conjecture- knowing the Roman engineers rebuilt inverted siphon aquaducts until they stopped blowing apart. https://books.google.it/books?id=jRNfu372CyQC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA34&focus=viewport&dq=Meta+Sudans&hl=it&output=html_text

  2. May I ask what is the structure to the right of the Colosseum, in the medallion of Gordian?

    Thanks for any information!

  3. I don’t know: some sort of portico?

    But do note the figure in the same medallion, standing behind the Meta Sudans. That, it seems, is the Colossus of Nero!

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