Some early engravings of the Septizonium

I have blogged before about the Septizonium, a monumental facade constructed by Septimus Severus at the foot of the Palatine where it faced the end of the Appian Way.  It seems to have had no function other than to impress the visitor.  The last remains of it were demolished to provide materials for new St. Peters.

Here are three early 17th c. engravings of the monument, prior to demolition, which I found today on Flickr; by Du Perac, Sadeler, and Schenk.


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.


Lanciani’s Forma Urbis Romae

For some years I have been aware that a detailed modern map of ancient Rome existed, with the modern street layout superimposed on it.  Bits of it cropped up in this publication or that, but never referenced.  Quite by accident this evening I found out what it was — Rudolpho Lanciani’s Forma Urbis Romae, a collection of plates published between 1893-1901.

Parts of it are online here, although I must confess that I’d really like to see PDF’s of the whole plates.  If you burrow into that site, you do get to some decent JPG’s.


Du Perac’s 1575 picture of the ruins of the Septizodium

I’ve posted before about the Septizodium (or Septizonium), an immense facade which ran across the front of the Palatine hill in Rome, in order to form a gateway for visitors coming up the Appian Way.  It’s all gone now, but parts of it still existed in Renaissance Rome, before being demolished for use as building materials.

Du Perac, in his collection of drawings of Rome in 1575, includes a picture of the remains of the Septizodium as he saw it.  Click on the image for a larger picture.

Septizonium, 1575 (Du Perac)

What makes his image useful is that he gives a panorama — we can see how the monument stood and looked, relative to the road outside the Palatine.  The Circus Maximus is to the left, while the road running right today leads up to the Colloseum.

I think all of us have walked down this road, from the Colloseum on our way to the Circus Maximus and the Baths of Caracalla, so the Septizodium would have been on our right.  I believe the modern pavement has a marking on it to show where it stood.

The image is from  I would hope that one day Du Perac’s book will appear online in a rather better quality image.

UPDATE: I had not realised that Du Perac also includes a view of the remains of the Septizodium from the side/rear, in a view of the Circus Maximus.  But he does!  Here  it is — the Septizodium is on the right of the Palatine.

Circus Maximus, Palatine and Septizodium (Du Perac, 1575)

More on Aurelian’s temple of the sun

A commenter added some very useful links to my last post on this.  The following is another drawing (from here) of the ruins of the temple of Sol Invictus, as they were before 1704, in a drawing by Jan Goeree.  The top bit is uninteresting, but the portrait at the bottom is another matter.

The same commenter pointed out that Bill Thayer has an article online with much useful content about this edifice.  The article adds that it might, indeed, not be Aurelian’s temple at all, but rather a temple of Serapis.  Here is what it says about the ruins (over-paragraphed by me):

In the gardens of the Palazzo Colonna considerable remains of a great temple were standing in the sixteenth century, consisting principally of part of the cella wall of peperino and the north (right) corner of the façade and pediment. This was known as the Torre Mesa, Torre di Mecenate, and Frontispizio di Nerone; LR, fig. 166 from Du Pérac,º Vestigi, pl. 31 (1575).

Part of these ruins were removed at the end of the fifteenth century, and more between 1549 and 1555, but the final destruction of the Torre itself was not effected until about 1630 (LS III.203‑205, and earlier references there given).

Numerous drawings and plans of these ruins are extant, made by the architects and artists of the period, from Sangallo [2] (Barb. 63v., 65, 65v., 68v.) in the fifteenth century to Giovannoli (Ill. 47) and Donati in the early seventeenth century (for list see HJ 422, n79; LS loc. cit.; DuP 141);[3] the plans, however, by their differences in detail show that they have been arbitrarily filled in.

The building stood on the edge of the hill, on the west side of the present Via della Consulta, and extended due east and west, with a great flight of steps leading from the platform at the rear of the cella to the plain some 20 metres below.

This flight was curiously built, being divided into double narrow rows of steps on each side with a central space. The temple area was surrounded with a wall containing niches but not with the usual porticus. The cella was built of peperino lined with marble, and was surrounded by marble columns in front and on the sides. The shafts of these columns were 17.66, the capitals 2.47, and the entablature 4.83 metres in height.

The corner of the pediment now lying in the Colonna gardens is the largest architectural fragment in Rome, its dimensions being 3.70 by 2.80 by 3.90 metres, and its weight 100 tons.

[2] His plan is the only one that is trustworthy.
[3] Add Meded. Nederl. Hist. Inst. VII.1927, 89‑92.

Interesting to learn that a 100-ton corner of the pediment still exists.  Does anyone have a photograph?

The article above includes a great number of abbreviations, which makes it rather hard to look any of the items up.  What I’d like to see is some of the pictures and plans.

Du Perac is Etienne du Perac, Vestigi Dell’Antichita Di Roma, Rome, 1575, that much I can find.  It seems to be online at Gallica here, although the quality is very poor indeed.  But even from this I can see that Du Perac’s book must be stunning, if one could get a decent copy.  Here’s his picture:

(Du Perac also includes an image of the Septizonium!)

I found that Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography, vol. 2, p.830, also has an article on the Aurelian monument:

By those who assume it to have been on the Quirinal it is identified with the remains of a very large building, on the declivity of the hill, in the Colonna gardens, on which spot a large Mithraic stone was discovered with the inscription “Soli Invicto.” (Vignoli, de Columna Antoniniana, p 174). This position may be very well reconciled with all the accounts respecting the temple. Becker that it is mentioned in the Notitia in the 7th Region (Via Lata). But this Region adjoined the western side of the Quirinal and the temple of the Sun may have been recorded in it just as buildings on the declivity of the Aventine are enumerated in the 11th Region or Circus Maximus. In the Catalogus Imperatorum Vienn. (ii p 246 Ronc.) it is said of Aurelian, “Templum Solis Castra in Campo Agrippae dedicavit” and it will appear in the next section that the Campus Agrippae must have been situated under this part of the Quirinal. …

Vignoli is online here, and the item proves to be a tauroctony, 4 “palmos” high and 8 broad, found in the Colonna temple.

Does this really have anything to do with the temple?

But I’d still like to see a collection of all the images and floor plans of this monument!


Getting hold of books

I pulled down from my shelves yesterday a cheap reprint of Lanciani’s The destruction of ancient Rome, and made it my bedside reading.  It’s full of interesting statements, about how the monuments disappeared into the lime kilns.  Unfortunately it is rather under-referenced.  The latter is very frustrating. 

The book also refers to the destruction of the Septizonium.  Interestingly it tells us that a medieval guide to Rome, the Einsiedeln itinerary, contains transcriptions of inscriptions visible when it was made.  This includes an inscription on the septizonium which is long since vanished.  I was unable to find the itinerary online, tho.

Lanciani refers readers to his Ruins and excavations, and last night I decided I would just buy a copy of this.  The cheap reprints based on PDF’s usually make this possible, although in this case it seemed very difficult to get one at what I consider a reasonable price.  I did notice a copy of the first edition, with fold-out maps, offered for $200!  This raised the issue of how good the reproductions of the plates would be.  Those in my copy of The destruction were pretty grainy, which rendered them largely useless.  Indeed we might ask whether Google books is really preserving illustrations at all.

UPDATE: I was able to find Lanciani’s Italian publication of the itinerary here.  Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to contain the inscriptions.


More on the Septizodium

The fragmentary map of ancient Rome does show a portion of the Septizodium, an expensive facade designed to impress people arriving at the foot of the Palatine hill up the Appian Way.  Here is the fragment.

The photo has East at the top.  To the right is one end of the Circus Maximus.  The Palatine hill is at the bottom.  The Septizodium is the two semi-circles, with pillars in front of them, to the left of the Circus Maximus.

What I do not quite understand, tho, is why people say that this records the form of the name “Septizodium” rather than “Septizonium”.  Surely the crucial letter is lost?

The Septizodium on the marble map of Rome
The Septizodium on the marble map of Rome

An atheist guide to ancient Rome

While hunting around for material on the Septizodium, I came across a genuine curiosity, here.  The title is “Walking tours of ancient Rome: a secular guidebook to the Eternal City” by a certain Gary M. Devore.  The blurb reads:

This guidebook is designed for tourists and scholars who are interested in exploring first-hand the grandeur and magnificence that was ancient Rome through a Humanist, secular, and freethinking lens. Twelve walking tours are designed around districts of the city. Two appendices also describe day trips that are possible from the city center: the ruins of Rome’s port city of Ostia and the remains of the emperor Hadrian’s splendid villa at Tivoli. (emphasis mine)

I have sometimes thought that atheism is merely a final extreme protestantism.  I’m thinking of the kind of protestantism is that used to demonstrate in hatred of the Pope, whose denials are far more central than anything positive that it affirms.  Atheism is just this kind of protestantism taken one step further still; and echoes the hatred of ‘papists’ by using the same slogans against all Christians.

The section on the Septizonium was actually quite vivid and well written.  I wouldn’t mind doing a walking tour of ancient Rome following this author; except that I might end up laughing.  Such extreme solemnity, such eager care not to speak well of the church, can only be absurd.

There is quite an irony in subtitling an atheist guide as a “guidebook to the eternal city”.  I wish it were cheaper.  I might buy a copy.


Images of the Septizonium from the renaissance

When I was scanning the Chronography of 354, one part of the book was The fourteen regions of Rome.  This listed all sorts of monuments, and I was reminded today of a mysterious monument named the Septizonium.  It appears on the fragments of the ancient marble map of Rome that I was talking about earlier. 

Renaissance image of the ruins of the Septizodium
Renaissance image of the ruins of the Septizodium

The septizodium stood on a corner of the Palatine hill in Rome, adjacent to the Circus Maximus and overlooking the Via Appia.  It was erected by Septimius Severus, according to the Augustan History.  It was just a facade, rather like the buildings on a classsical stage.  The idea was to put an impressive frontage onto the imperial palace on that side.  It had no architectural purpose other than appearance.

At the renaissance some quite impressive remains still stood.  Pope Sextus V knocked them down for stone, as the humanists of that period tended to do.

The notes on the university website mentioned that images of it existed in renaissance prints; and I wondered if there were any online.  And there are!  Here’s one that I found online via Google images, although I was quite unable to locate the source webpage that it was embedded in.  Thank you, tho, whoever scanned it.

Another excellent image is here, image url here, which gives a real sense of what the ruin must have looked like, complete with its ceilings.

I wish… I wish we could see these buildings today, even as they stood in 1500.

UPDATE: Bill Thayer has a scanned article on the building here.  The Historia Augusta chapter on Severus tells us about the building of it.

UPDATE 2: According to Michael Grant, the remains were demolished by Domenico Fontana in 1588/9.  Archaeology confirms that it consisted of three recesses, with a wing on either end.  Somewhere along it were seven niches, each containing the statue of a planetary deity (which is probably the origin of the name).  A fountain was also involved.  Raffaello Fabretti’s 17th century De aquis refers to “the Septizodium, the remains of which used to be visible in the memory of our fathers between the Caelian and the Palatine”.  Some references to pictures of the monument are here.

I’ve also found references online to “demolition records” extant today which specify what sort of materials it was made of.  These were compiled by Fontana. 

Here is a reconstruction of the plan and appearance of the building.

Reconstruction of the plan and elevation of the Septizodium in Rome
Reconstruction of the plan and elevation of the Septizodium in Rome

UPDATE: Christopher Ecclestone has drawn my attention to a splendid article on the whole subject, with images and bibliography, exists by Susann L. Lusnia, Urban planning and sculptural display in Severan Rome: reconstructing the Septizodium and its role in dynastic politics. American Journal of Archaeology 108 (2004) p.517-544.  This contains all this and more and is highly recommended.