Quite by accident, via the Daily Mail, I find this 1846 photograph online, taken by the Rev. Calvert Richard Jones (click for a larger size):
The circular area to the right is the basin for the Meta Sudans, the now vanished fountain outside the Colosseum. The man in the top hat, and the woman in the dress of a vanished age, are sitting against … what?
I can’t quite tell from the angle of the shot.
Is that pile of masonry the equally vanished platform for the colossal statue of Nero, from which the Colosseum takes its name? It was demolished by Mussolini, to make way for the Via di Foro Imperiali.
Or is it just some general ruins in the area?
The next photograph, sadly vandalised with a watermark, shows that magnificent road leading up to the Vatican … under construction! Indeed it shows the man responsible. Yes, Mussolini again!
In fact the source site has a cluster of photographs, all from the 8th October 1937, showing Mussolini and his colleagues walking along the new road. This photograph from 1911 (via here) shows what was there before:
Mussolini demolished various areas of the city in order to create modern Rome. I’ve given various photographs of the areas in the past; but today I learn that there is a zoomable map of Rome here, before his work began. This has interesting things to show us.
First, a map of the area before St Peter’s basilica. Today this is a wide street, the Via della Conciliazione. But prior to Mussolini, the street did not exist!
We learn from H.V. Morton that there was a little restaurant directly facing the Piazza di S. Pietro, where he ate breakfast. Today that is gone.
We also know that Mussolini demolished a stretch of buildings from his office in the Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, to build the Via del Foro Imperiali. But some of the remains of the imperial forums must have been pretty substantial. Where were they located, before the buildings were bulldozed? Again the map shows them, embedded in the city:
The main losses from this activity were around the Colosseum. We lost the ancient Roman fountain, the Meta Sudans, and also the base of the Colossal statue of Nero, after which the Colosseum was named. But they both appear in this map:
The Via del Colosseo still exists, although its lower end is chopped off and diverted upon the hill. But the creation of the Via del foro imperiali changed the geography completely. The wide road around the Colosseum is not here.
Quite by accident these evening I discovered a photograph of the Meta Sudans which is different to the rest. It shows what look like troops marching past a half-demolished Meta Sudans. Presumably these are some of Mussolini’s black-shirts.
Here it is (from somewhere on this site – I got it via Google Images):
Here is another shot again showing the Arch of Constantine, from here:
Was the Meta Sudans demolished, simply and solely because it was so positioned as to block the blackshirts from parading up the road and through the Arch of Constantine, to the Colosseum, then left along the Via del Foro Imperiali to his office?