We’ve been looking at old pictures of Old St Peter’s in Rome, and thinking about the Circus of Nero nearby, and other structures from ancient Rome.
Last week Brent Nongbri very kindly sent me an extract from one of those tourist books, which the Italians do so well, about the pagan tombs under the Vatican, which contains some interesting diagrams. In it, my eye was drawn to some splendid old pictures, which the author had reproduced from Carlo Fontana, Il Tempio Vaticano e la sua origine, Roma, 1694.
The book is mainly about New St Peter’s. It has details of how the Vatican obelisk was moved (with pictures!). But it also contains plans and reconstructions of the older basilica, and the area around it. I thought that these would be known to few, and deserved to be better known.
Here are some of them. Click on the image to get the full-size picture. (They’re all small) I apologise for the cut-off to the right; the blog software doesn’t handle this very well.
Today I came across this picture here, clearly of a model, of the “Circus of Caligula / Circus of Nero” on the Vatican. Whether the two circuses were indeed the same I do not know. But the model-maker was clearly aware of the construction of a large circular building on the spina of the circus in the Severan period, which tooks terribly out of place in the model. The ground level was artificially increased by something like 15 feet, and apparently the circular church of St Andrew had a basement level.
Anyway I thought that I would share the image with you. I wonder where it comes from?
And a 1911 map of Rome by Platner from here, showing the supposed location of the circus:Note that I have now found an account of the modern excavations, by F.Magi, from which the “modern” plan of the circus derives, here.
John H. Humphrey, Roman Circuses: Arenas for Chariot Racing, University of California Press, 1986, p.545 f.; on p.683 n.29 the article is given as F. Magi, “Il circo Vaticano in base alla piu recenti scoperte, il suo obelisco e i suoi ‘carceres’, Rendiconti della Pontificia Academia Romana di Archeologia 45, 1972-3 , 37-73. This also gives the “Castagnoli” reference: F. Castagnoli, “Il circo di Nerone in Vaticano”, RendPontAcc 32 (1960), 97-121. The Humphrey book can be read with difficulty at the UC Press website here.↩