Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Triumphal Way

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Triumphal Way


life, death, and the triumphal way [inversion]
1998.01.11

I spoke with Sue Dixon yesterday and told her of my latest "discoveries" regarding the life and death axes of the Ichnographia, the arch of Theodosius et al and the further symbolism of the Porticus Neronianae as an inverted basilica-cross. She too became excited by my discoveries and then also brought further insight, especially in reference to the issue of the papacy and its research during the eighteenth century into the early Christian Church. She spoke of Bianchini and his nephew (a contemporary of Piranesi's) and their dual volumes of pagan (Roman) and Christian art, and she also mentioned how the papacy of the eighteenth century had lost (more or less by force and financial restraints) much of its political power and thus took on a very pious role--exhibiting not its worldly power but its almost mystical or spiritual power.

What I was saying about the apparent Pagan-Christian conversion-inversion narrative of the Ichnographia fit with what research Sue is continually doing regarding the contemporary and early eighteenth century influences on Piranesi and the whole issue of proto-archeology - history of the eighteenth century.

After speaking with Sue, I began thinking of the significance of the arch to the victory over Judea that is situated to the western end of the Bustum Hadriani. I now see it related to the pagan-Christian conversion-inversion of Rome, but in terms of Roman history it is a somewhat marginal issue-event. Yet, in terms of Christianity, the Roman victory over Judea, and hence the fall of Jerusalem, is a significant, albeit still sorrowful, event because of this event's relationship, and indeed verification of certain-particular passages of New Testament Scripture, i.e., Jesus' answering the Apostles question of when Jerusalem would end (which I think is in Mark or the Acts of the Apostles). Seeing how a seemingly minor event in Roman (Imperial) history can at the same time be a critical event for the foundation of Christianity made me think about how the Roman Judaic victory unwittingly gave manifest confirmation that Christianity had from that point forward absorbed Judaism.

Although it comes from the margin or edge, the significance of the victory of Judea arch sheds a major light upon the narrative Piranesi tells--Piranesi's "story" is about Christianity's similar absorption and concomitant destruction of paganism. This notion of Christianity absorbing both Judaism and paganism has major theological implications, especially with regard to a heretofore perhaps ignored importance-significance of Rome and the Roman Empire within the Canon and doctrine of the Christian (Catholic) faith.



...the real axis of St. Peter's Basilica and Square. This axis is fundamental to Piranesi' axis of life--and the most significant point alone the existing axis is the burial place of St. Peter, which, although not noted in the Ichnographia, is nonetheless an ancient Roman artifact.

...the story of the Triumphal Way. ...follow the triumphal path on the plan, and explain the entire route in Roman-pagan-triumphal ritual terms. ...bring up the essential concept of reenactment, the reenactment that Piranesi here designed, especially the well planned sequence of stadia and theaters along the way. Piranesi made use of what was actually once there.

When the route reaches the wall at the Temple of Janus, attention turns to Triumphal Arch-Gate, which is closed during the years of inactivity. Does the Triumphal Way then bounce off the wall and go back the way it came? Does the Temple of Janus allow us to go in either direction? (Other clues of inversion abound: obelisk in the Horti Salustiani, Porticus Phillippi, the Arches along the Via Lata, the Via Flaminia, the Circus Flaminia, the obelisks at Augustus's Tomb. The recurring inversion theme points to a greater meaning/symbolism.) The Temple (arch) of Janus represents the Arch of Janus built by Constantine (who might himself be called the Janus figure of Christianity) and this is the initiation of the way of Christianity's triumph: the profane to the sacred; the forest, hell, purgatory, heaven; the path of salvation through Christ and the Church.)

...the way from the profane to the sacred ends at the Area-Templum Martis as symbolic of the union of the most sacred site ancient Rome (or at least its point of origin) with the most sacred site of Christian Rome (St. Peter's place of burial) and also the point of origin of Christian Rome.

The garden of Nero is the ultimate field of inversion: Horti Neroniani to Vatican City, the garden of antichrist to the Church as the Body of Christ, the foremost seat of the Church of Christ, and finally St. Peter's inverted crucifixion begins the conversion of Rome.

I will conclude the inversion from pagan to Christian story-line by returning to the axis of death and the Arch of Theodosius et al at its tip, and thus when compared with the intercourse building we have depicted the beginning and the end of pagan Rome. To this I will add the Jewish Victory monument and end with the notion that Piranesi has here used architectural plans and urban design to tell the "history" of ancient Rome, however, one has in a sense read both the "positive" and the "negative" image-plan -- a story where the first half is the reciprocal of the second half (and vice versa). (I am oddly reminded here of the double theaters story from Circle and Oval in St. Peter's Square.)

Porticus Philippi
1998.02.15

I finally researched the battle of Philippi; it was the site of a decisive battle in the Roman Civil War after the assasination of Julius Ceasar. [The Porticus Philippi in Rome, however, has nothing to do with the battle of Philippi.] That Piranesi intentionally [mis]places this portico along the Triumphal Way is therefore appropriate. Augustus Ceasar, the first emperor, is the one who benefitted most from the victory at Philippi.

There is also a strong Christian connection to the city of Philippi as the first Church founded by St. Paul on European soil. I see this as a major event on the Triumphal Way in reverse. There is also the quotation (Philippians 3:20) "But our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly await a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. ..." Later scholars apply this quotation to St. Augustine's The City of God. Perhaps the Ichnographia is "the city of God" in negative/spiritual form.




continual mistakes and reversals
1998.02.15

After seeing how the figure captions are inverted with regard to the Ichnographia and the Nolli Plan in the Peter Eisenman section of Autonomy and Ideology, it reminded me of the other mistaken inversions that I have found in other texts on the Ichnographia. For example, the east/west and other mistakes (Equirria and Antoninus Pius) of Fasolo, the mis-characterization in the Ichnographia-Jerusalem essay, the mention of inversion in the Allen essay, and my own mistake about the direction of the Triumphal Way. I find these mistakes to be uncanny, as if the Ichnographia had the power to confuse anyone who studied it (and here I can quote Kreiger).

"Rome's Campus Martius suggests an impossible tension among competing parts, perhaps even anarchy. The engraving itself seems to pulsate and change patterns as one studies it."

The strange thing is that Piranesi seems to make the same kind of (archeological) mistakes.




Mistakes and Inversions
1998.02.19

...address Piranesi's own mistakes and inversions, particularly the inversion of the Circus Flaminius (which I now know to be also exchanged in location with the theater of Balba, which further shows Piranesi's intentional "mistakes" to make a specific point). [Perhaps,] Piranesi makes the mistakes, first to call attention to specific points, and second to highlight the notion of inversion. Piranesi is indeed being theatrical, which is only natural because of the whole notion of reenactment. ...discuss the Ichnographia's Triumphal Way and how Piranesi redesigns (reenacts) the Way making it more ideal to its purpose (marching through the theater district). The Way (within Ichnographia at least) ends at the Temple of Janus--a perfect example of inversion. Then following the Triumphal Way in reverse manifests the Christian theme of salvation and redemption, ending at the inverted "basilica"--the upside-down "inverted" crucifixion of St. Peter. ...the Ichnographia not only represents the history of ancient pagan city of Rome, but also the Christian city of Rome. This evokes Augustine's The City of God and also Bloomer's notion of the Ichnographia transcending time.

...the Scenographia as the stage upon which Piranesi reenacts--this is the first scene and the "play" is about to begin. In the course of the "play" the most egregious "mistake/inversion" is the misplacement and disorientation of the Circus Flaminius and its actual exchange with the Theater of Balba. This "mistake" manifests a composition of inverted theaters--essentially a double inverted theater. This configuration becomes one of the Il Campo Marzio's final scenes and thus represents the double inverted "theater" of Rome's own history--the narrative of pagan Rome and the narrative of Christian Rome, and in the Ichnographia the one story is indeed a reflection of the other.

the Ichnographia as "theme park"
1998.04.23

...the notion of the Ichnographia being used (perhaps for the first time) as a "guide map." Using the Ichnographia as a guide would seem ridiculous to most because the large plan has always been dismissed as a pure fantasy. It can act as a guide, however, especially if one is aware of the textual background of the plan, meaning the historical texts which describe ancient Rome.

...looking at the Ichnographia as an ancient Roman theme park--a virtual place where one can vicariously experience the ancient city as well as learn about the history of the city.

The themes Piranesi uses are numerous:
a. the Imperial genealogy of both the Bustum Augusti and the Bustum Hadriani.
b. the forward and backward "ride" of the Triumphal Way.
c. the military themes along the Equiria.
d. the numerous garden designs
. e. the nemus Caesarum.

The whole typological catalogue is nothing but one variation on a theme after another.




Trajan in Heaven
1998.06.28

...Dante places Trajan in Heaven, and as such he is the only pagan Roman Emperor in (Dante's) Heaven. ...question as to the significance of the arch of Trajan being at the beginning of the Triumphal Way within the Ichnographia. ...theory that the Ichnographia's Triumphal Way in reverse represents the path to salvation... ...Christian way as subtext.




Romulus
1998.07.17

As the son of Mars, and as founder and first king of Rome, Romulus is synonymous with beginnings. Without Mars, however, Romulus is nothing, so it is through the concomitance of Mars and Romulus that the origin of Rome takes place in Piranesi's Campo Marzio.

The presence of Romulus within the Ichnographia occurs both directly and indirectly. There is the Templum Romuli, and there is the Templum novum Quirini. The Templum Romuli is within the Campus Martius proper, while the Templum novum Quirini is situated further east between the Horti Salustiani and the base of the Quirinal Hill. Both temples, interestingly enough, "preside" over large stadium complexes, and it is worth further noting that the Templum Romuli is on the same axis as one of the Ichnographia's two Templum Martis.

The third and most indirect reference to Romulus is the Lineae indicantes viam triumphalem--the line indicating the Triumphal Way--which begins in the Area Martis in front of the Ichnographia's other Templum Martis that is on the west bank of the Tiber within the Vatican valley. Each Roman Triumph, of which there were hundreds throughout ancient Rome's history, is a reenactment of the original triumphal march of Romulus. The Lineae. . .triumphalem of the Ichnographia therefore literally marks a lineage back to Rome's inception, and thus locates a point of beginning for the Ichnographia Campus Martius as well.



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