Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Domus Alexandri Severi


Domus Alexandri Severi

architectural promenade

...the new ideas re: the architectural promenade that developed because of the Danteum. Essentially, the Danteum has the same sequential series of architectural "events" as the formula for the architectural promenade that I have extracted from Le Corbusier and Stirling. The Danteum, however, adds the element of a journey from the profane to the sacred, and this addition significantly opens up the interpretive field and the buildings that can now be included as exhibiting the architectural promenade formula.

With regard to the profane/scared aspect, the triumphal way within Piranesi's Campo Marzio exhibits the same sequence. The procession (promenade) begins at the Templum Jani, a tetrahedron, which is the forest, the pilotis that raise the box. From there the route jaggedly marches through the "theater district" (downtown)--this is hell, the profane, the lower level. Just as the "way" approaches the Banks of the Tiber for the first time, the procession becomes straight and passes repetitive / monotonous buildings. The way remains perfectly straight except for two 90 degree turns, and this course comprises the greatest length of the promenade. (The straight portion of the procession passes, in sequential order, the Hecatonstylon and the outer niched wall of the Horti prius Pompejani deim Marci Antonii; then the long portico of the Stadium opposite the Domus Alexandri Severi; and across the river between the Porticus Hadriani and the Sepulchrum Libertorum et Servorum of the Bustum Hadriani. These buildings well exemplify the notion of inside/outside, thus tying the triumphal way more closely to the architectural promenade formula.) In the course of this long march, the procession crosses over from the area (of the Campo Marzio) that primarily represents life (inside/outside -- osmosis connection?) into the area that is primarily of death (the Bustum Hadriani). This is the same transition as in the Danteum's Purgatory, and the middle inside/outside level of the Villa Savoye (etc.). Ultimately, the Triumphal way ends at the Templum Martis, easily the most sacred place/space of the Campo Marzio. This culmination to the triumphal procession is analogous to the Paradiso of the Danteum, and to the solarium of the Villa Savoye (etc.). Of course, this has major implications towards my previous analysis of the Triumphal Way.

Ara Martis

...significance of the Templum and Ara Martis that is situated next to the Circus Agonalis. ...this altar and temple to Mars are representative of the very original altar to Mars from which the entire campus Martius receives its name--indeed this altar is the very first "structure" of the campus.

...now knowing the program of the Alexander Severus complex. ...the porticus providing shade from the heat of the day. ...the temple and altar of Mars is surrounded by a very generous public amenity.

Mars (Martis)

The Ara Martis, situated within the Campus Martius proper, represents the original altar to Mars, and thus fittingly becomes the centerpiece and focal point of an elaborate circular architectural composition which includes a temple to Mars, a Porticus Praebentes umbraculum diei ab aesti (a porticus providing shade from the heat of the day), and the Domus Alexandri Severi (the imperial residence of Alexander Severus). Furthermore, a large circular pool around the altar of Mars not only sets it apart, but also adds distinction by making it "untouchable" as well. Judging by its surroundings and it pivotal position, Piranesi's delineation of the Ara Martis clearly indicates a very special place.

The Ara Martis is first surrounded by a circular pool, and then by a Templum Martis (bottom), a shady porticus (left, right), and the imperial residence of Alexander Severus (above).

Alexander Severus

Alexander Severus... ...two of the buildings within the Ichnographia--Domus Alexandri Severi and Porticus Alexandri Severi--have a close connection to Mars. The Domus Alexandri Severi is part of the compound enclosing the original altar of Mars, and the Porticus is the last building along the Equiria.

...it is interesting to note that Alexander Severus had considered dedicating a temple to Jesus, and that the military under his reign suffered significant losses. ...willing to propose that Piranesi uses (the buildings of) Alexander Severus as signifying the beginning of the end. If this is so, Piranesi is especially clever because he associates the beginning of the end directly with the Campo Marzio's true beginnings. Furthermore, Alexander Severus then signifies the beginning of the pagan-Christian inversion. ...there are even inversion motifs evident in the porticus around the altar of Mars and the porticus at the end of the Equiria.

buildings of Alexander Severus

"He erected in Rome very many great engineering-works. He respected the priviledges of the Jews and allowed the Christians to exist unmolested."

"He forbade the maintainence in Rome of baths used by both sexes -- which had, indeed, been forbidden previously but had been allowed by Elagabalus. He ordered that the taxes imposed on procurers, harlots, and calamites should not be deposited in the public treasury, but utilized them to meet the state's expenditures for the restoration of the theatre, the Circus, the Amphitheatre, and the Stadium. (note: the Theatre of Marcellus, the Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, struck by lightning under Macrinus, and the stadium build by Domitian in the Campus Martius -- the site of the modern Piazza Navona.)"

"He restored the public works of former emperors and built many new ones himself, among them the bath which was called by his own name (note: the Thermae Alexandrianae were a re-building and extension of the Thermae Neronianae in the Campus Martius immediately N.E. of the Pantheon; the name was still applied to this locality in the eleventh century. These Thermae are depicted on coins of 226) adjacent to what had been the Neronian and also the aqueduct which still has the name Alexandriana (note: It brought the water for his Thermae, conveying it from springs near Gabii about eleven miles E. of the city -- the source of the modern Acqua Felice constructed in 1585. It entered the city at the Porta Maggiore, about 3 km. outside which, near Vigna Certosa, its ruins are still visible, though all traces of it inside the walls have vanished). Next to this bath he planted a grove of trees on the site of some private dwellings which he purchased and then tore down."

"Alexander also began the Basilica Alexandrina (note: Otherwise unknown, but probably connected with his Thermae.), situated between the Campus Martius and the Saepta of Agrippa (note: See note to Hadr., xix. 10.), one hundred feet broad and one thousand long and so constructed that its weight rested wholly on columns; its completion, however, was prevented by his death. The shrines of Isis and Serapis (note: This double sanctuary was in the Campus Martius between the Pantheon and the Saepta, E. of the modern church of S. Maria sopra Minerva. Originally founded in 43 B.C. (Dio, xivii. 15), it was burned under Titus (Dio, lxvi. 24) but rebuilt under Domitian (Eutropius, vii. 23).) he supplied with a suitable equipment, providing them with statues, Delian slaves, and all the apparatus used in mystic rites. Toward his mother Mamaea he showed singular devotion, even to the extent of constructing in the Palace at Rome certain apartments named after her which the ignorant mob of today calls "ad Mammam" (note: Apparently a popular corruption of Mamaea's name.) and also near Baiac a palace and a pool, still listed officially under the name of Mamaea."

"In the Forum of Nerva (which they call the Forum Transitorium) he set up colossal statues of the deified emperors, some on foot and nude, others on horseback, with all their titles and with columns of bronze containing lists of their exploits, doing this after the example of Augustus, who erected in his forum marble statues of the most illustrious men, together with the record of their achievements."

"He built a public store-house in each region of the city, and to this anyone who had no store-house of his own might take his property. He built a bath, too, in every region which happened to have none, and even today many of these are still called Alexander's. And he also constructed magnificent dwellings and presented them to his friends, especially the upright."

"He also wished to build a temple to Christ and give him a place among the gods -- a measure, which, they say, was also considered by Hadrian. For Hadrian ordered a temple without an image to be built in every city, and because these temples, built by him with this intention, so they say, are dedicated to no particular deity, they are called today merely Hadrian's temples. Alexander, however, was prevented from carrying out his purpose, because those who examined the sacred victims ascertained that if he did, all men would become Christians and the other temples would of necessity be abandoned."

"He used often to explain what he had heard from someone, either a Jew or a Christian, and always remembered, and he also had it announced by a herald whenever he was disciplining anyone, "What you do not wish that a man should do to you, do not do to him." And so highly did he value this sentiment that he had it written up in the Palace and in public buildings."
David Magie (translator), The Scriptores Historiae Augustae (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), vol. II, pp. 219, 223, 225, 229, 233-35, 255, 267, 283.

...the Porticus Alexexandri Severi is in a totally incorrect position at the end of the Equiria, however, Piranesi may be making a suggestive link between Alexander Severus and the military. The small aedicule Isidis on the Equiria across from the Porticus may also be a reference to Alexander's devotion to his mother--Isis is the premiere mother goddess.

...the baths, aqueduct and his grove all comply correctly within the Ichnographia.

...the Domus (Palace of) Alexandri Severi is mentioned in the Historiae text, but is not described, and my theory is that Piranesi placed Alexander's (house) Palace along the Triumphal Way (in the reverse mode) because he favored Christianity and the Golden Rule. The Domus Alexandri Severi is also exactly like the description of Elagabalus' Palace near the Porta Maggiore. Could Piranesi be weaving some complicated message which refers to both the reigns of Elagabalus and Alexander (which did follow each other, and they were cousins), where Alexander successfully undid the corruption of Elagabalus and began to turn Rome toward a more Christian and morally sound city and empire?

...not yet sure, but I think Alexander Severus' name is attached to more buildings within the Ichnographia second only to Nero.

new palace of Elagabalus

from: Amanda Claridge, Rome: An Oxford Archeological Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). p. 21:
Bassianus, came to Rome in 219 and, holding the family priesthood of the sun-god Elalgabalus, declared that he and the god were one and the same, building himself a temple on the Palatine and laying out a new palace, later called the 'Sessorian', with its own circus and amphitheater, on older imperial property in the south-east sector of the city (S. Croce in Gerusalemme).

This description fits perfectly Piranesi's design of the Domus Alexandri Severi. Piranesi's reason for doing this is unclear however... ...can only speculate there is some kind of inversion message involved.

Alexander Severus

a Roman emperor, A.D. 222-235.

Alexander Severus is one of four Roman emperors from the third century associated with buildings and specific sites delineated within the Ichnographia Campus Martius. Caracalla, Geta, and Gordian III are the other third century emperors named in the Ichnographia, however the number of building attributions apropos Alexander Severus substantially outnumber those of these emperors, and, Alexander Severus is indeed second only to the emperor Nero in the number of structures and places within the Ichnographia that bear his name. It is historically true that ample building activity in the Campus Martius occurred during Alexander Severus' reign, and, with one notable exception, Piranesi positions the Alexander Servian constructions with acceptable correctness within his large plan -- the placement of the Thermae Alexandri Severi, Nemus Alexandri Severi, and the Aqua Alexandrina (the Baths, Grove, and Aqueduct of Alexander Severus respectively) in the area west of the Thermae Agrippa and nearby the Thermae Neronianae coincides with corresponding verifiable archeological locations. Piranesi's positioning of the Porticus Alexandri Severi, on the other hand, at the end of the Equiria, far to the north of the Campus Martius, deviates grossly from its traditional location near the Saepta Julia.

The only questionable building that Piranesi attributes to Alexander Severus within the Ichnographia, which may or may not have actually been within the Campus Martius, is the



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