quondam piranesi

Stephen Lauf

Inside the Density of G. B. Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii

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pagan - christian - triumphal way 5.4

It is within ancient Rome's "theater district" that the Triumphal Way takes many twists and turns. Furthermore, this portion of the Campus Martius is the oldest, as it contains buildings and places dating back to the Roman Republic and earliest years of the Empire. The Prata Flaminia, the Temple of Hercules and the Muses, and the Minutia Vetus are among the Campus Martius' oldest structures, whereas the Porticus Octaviae, and the Theatrum Marcellus both recall the "building boom" that occurred during the reign of Caesar Augustus. For the most part, Piranesi is relatively faithful to the correct archaeological layout of this area, however, when he deviates from historical reality, he does so intentionally. For example, Piranesi transposes the positions of the Porticus Philippi and the Circus Flaminia, thereby placing the Porticus Philippi along the Triumphal Way. This porticus was built by and is named for L. Marcius Philippus, the stepfather of Augustus, but the name Philippi also alludes to the city of Philippi, the location of a decisive battle in the civil war after the death of Julius Caesar where Augustus was victorious and thus pledged his dedication to henceforth erect the great temple of Mars within the Roman Forum.

the red line indicates the path of the triumphal way
1. Porticus Philippi
2. Prata Flaminia
3. Aedes Herculis Musarum
4. Minutia Vetus
5. Porticus Octaviae
6. Theatrum Marcelli
7. Templum Jani
8. Porta Triumphalis
9. Circus Flaminius

Piranesi's Ichnographia Campi Martii rendition of the Triumphal Way finally weaves around the Templum Jani, the Temple of Janus, just before it reaches the Porta Triumphalis, the Triumphal Gate within the Servian Wall. The Triumphal Gate is the Triumphal Way's most critical juncture because it is here that the Triumph enters the actual City of Rome. The ancient Servian Wall coincided with the pomerium, the city of Rome's sacred boundary, a demarcation inside which the activities of war and burials did not normally occur. It is precisely for this reason that the Campus Martius, the fields dedicated to Mars and the exercise of Roman soldiers, lies outside the actual city. It is also worth noting that while Piranesi labels the position of the Porta Triumphalis, there is however no corresponding opening delineated within the wall. To this day, no archaeological evidence of the Triumphal Gate has yet been found, and the ancient literary evidence of the gate is ambiguous in that it suggests two possibilities, either each Triumph initialized the erection of a new gate, or, if the gate was a permanent structure, it was open during a Triumph only.

the red line indicates the path of the triumphal way
1. Templum Jani
2. Porta Triumphalis

It would thus seem that Piranesi's route of the Triumphal Way through the Campus Martius carries a fair amount of correctness, and indeed culminates at a fitting conclusion. What is still unexplained, however, is the presence of the Templum Jani next to the Triumphal gate.

pagan - christian - triumphal way 5.5 »»




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