III. Kal. 27th (February 27th)
And now two nights of the month are left, and Mars urges on the swift steeds yoked to his chariot. The day has kept the appropriate name of Equirria ("horse-races"), derived from the races which the god himself beholds in his own plain. Thou marching God (Gradivus), in thine own right thou comest. Thy season demands a place in my song, and the month marked by the name is at hand.
Ovid, Festi, James George Frazer, trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), p.119.
Pr. Id. 14th (March 14th)
When he who bears the purple day on his swift car shall six times have lifted up his disc and as often sunk it low, thou shall a second time behold horse races (Equirria) on that grassy plain whose side is hugged by Tiber's winding waters. But if perchance the wave has overflowed and floods the lain, the dusty Caelian hill shall receive the horses.
Ovid, Festi James George Frazer, trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), p.159.
The Ecurria 'Horse-race,' from the equorum cursus 'running of horses'; for on that day they currunt 'run' races in the sports on the Campus Martius.
Varro, On the Latin Language, Roland G. Kent, trans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), p.187.
Vincenzo Fasolo, "The Campo Marzio of G. B. Piranesi".
new insights - key to the language of plans
This note concerns my new insight into Piranesi's Campo Marzio. Eessentially I think I hit upon a substantial key concerning the language of the plans within the Campo Marzio. In retrospect, I think it was an understanding of Piranesi's plan language that I was interested in finding out from the very beginning--at least since I learned CAD.
The key to the language of plan forms starts with the long 'spiritual' axis of Mars and the tiny temple/shrine to the union of Mars and Rhea Silvia. I will not here go into the whole story of the long axis except to say that the Mars/Rhea Silvia shrine at the very end of the axis is the very basis of all the Piranesi plan forms. The plan of the shrine itself depicts, in simple planimetric form, the union of the male sex organ with the female sex organ. The plan is plain and simple, and where it not for its small size, would also be perceived as vulgar and blunt. Yet there is an essential beauty in its fertile simplicity--the notion of elementary plan forms is enhanced a thousand fold by the symbolism of outside vs. inside--gives it the power to spawn every other plan formation delineated.
The power and significance of the small shrine plan comes to the fore after an analysis of the second significant axis of the Campo Marzio--the Equiria. This axis represents the war/military aspect of Mars, and when compared with the long axis running through the altar to Mars, the Equiria, the race course, can be clearly considered the mundane axis (as opposed to the spiritual or sacred axis). The military character of the axis is quickly reinforced by the military offices and the military parade grounds that lie to the northern end of the Equiria. The fact that the Equiria is a horse race course also reinforces the mundane/military character of the axis, and this mundane aspect is most clearly manifest with the dirt road reality of the axis itself. (There may be the opportunity to call out a sacred vs. profane contrast between the two axes.)
Seeing how the first axis ends in sex, I was curious to see if the Equiria axis also ends in sex. While there is no building plan that explicitly depicts the co-joining of sexual organs, the north end of the axis has a pair of simple buildings--Vivaria Fulvii and Cochlearum Hirpini--made up of very few contiguous elements. I think this type of plan is the next step in the hierarchy after the sex temple. It is almost as if the sex temple starts something that quickly multiplies and mutates in the process. These two plans next to each other demonstrate the high order of symbolism in the first.
From the second order of plan, the next step up in the hierarchy is best exemplified by the sw Gymnasium on the Tiber and the Villa Publicus where the contiguous elements are still few yet numerously repeated, however there is a substantial addition of articulation in the individual contiguous pieces, especially in the carving out of space in the form of niches and thus heightening the issues of outside/inside, solid/void, figure/ground. This third type of plan formation is much more strongly related to the sex temple, yet the lesson of the second type of plan, the gemmation of a few parts, is a vital step in the evolutionary development of the plans. I wonder if I could here call it an embryonic development of the plan configuration. I also wonder if the second order of plan formation is to be considered profane vs. the sacred union of sex?
Campo Marzio index
Beginning the analysis of the Campo Marzio with Mars leads directly to the triumphal way and the long axis, hence the promenade architecturale and the axes of life and death. Then discuss the equirria and the military axis.
Redrawing History - archeological accuracy
...the Via Flamina and its odd placement in the Campo Marzio. Fasolo refers to the placement of the Via Flaminia as arbitrary. This then also brings into question the positioning of the Equiria, (which Fasolo wrongly identified as a waterway) and how the Via Flaminia today is actually the route inscribed by the Equiria of the Campo Marzio, and how the present day Corso, whose name refers to the ancient race course (I still have to verify this) is not depicted within Piranesi's Campo Marzio but the "arbitrary" Via Flaminia seems to take its place as the "main street" of the redrawing.
...note the locations in the Campo Marzio where Piranesi actually did excavation--this information is available in Lanciani's Forma Urbis Romae.
There is also the connection between the big scoop on the bank of the Tiber (depicted on the Nolli plan) and the Natatio (beach) at the same location in the Campo Marzio.
...a comparison between the Minerva Medica and the Horti Luciliani. Piranesi may be, at times, loose with what he puts where and what the buildings look like, but he is consistent in terms of finding his inspiration in actual Roman buildings.
the Ichnographia as "theme park"
...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.
Another of the Ichnographia's three major axes is the race course of the Equiria, the annual horse races held in honor of Mars. Piranesi delineates the course as a relatively straight path running the length of the Ichnographia's northern sector, beginning in the south at the Petronia Amnis (which is, however, incorrectly placed within the plan) and ultimately reaching the outskirts of Rome at the plan's edge. With the exception of a few private gardens on a hill overlooking the Equiria, all the structures along the course relate directly to the Equiria or to the military in general. Three long porticos, the Porticus a S.P.Q.R. Amoenitati Dicata, the Porticus Vipsania, and the Porticus Alexandri Severi, line the course, and no doubt are meant to accommodate the spectators of Rome's premier "fest". The buildings and areas related to the military include, the Officinae Balistarium (manufactory of ballista), Officinae Scorpiorum (manufactory of scorpions), the Naumachia Domitiani (a large amphitheater designed for the show of mock naval battles), three Circulus (large circular areas for military drills and exercises, and finally the Officinae Armorum and the Officinae machinarum militarium (manufactories of military arms and machines). Not only do these buildings pay respect to Mars as the god of war, but, as a cohesive group, they essentially constitute Rome's "Department of Defense".
The Equiria (the broad gold line running from the lower left corner to the upper right corner) spans the Ichnographia's northern region, and the course itself runs in an almost true north-south direction.
...the Equiria is chronologically the first axis of the Campo Marzio.
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.