Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Area Martis


Vincenzo Fasolo, "The Campo Marzio of G. B. Piranesi".   2691a   c   d

the long axis - Area Martis
In approximately the center of the long axis is the Area Martis. My interpretation, thus far, is that the Area Martis is the sacred precinct of Mars. This Area Martis is further significant since the entire area of Rome depicted by Piranesi is indeed named after Mars. It would, therefore, not be a stretch to assume that the Area Martis is perhaps the most sacred place within the entire Ichnographia.
If the Area Martis is the most sacred/special place or complex within the Ichnographia, then it is also rather modest in both size and design. There are numerous other building complexes that are much larger and far more clever and complex in design. The sacred precinct of Mars, however, does exhibit some distinct and unique features. The precinct is comprised of two distinct parts: the Area Martis and the Templum Martis. The Templum Martis contains the actual temple to Mars and is surrounded by a niched wall in the shape of a hexagon. The Area Martis is an open area, a forecourt in front of the temple to Mars and is comprised of an open court, a grand stair up to the temple, two large monuments to Julius and Augustus Caesar, various statues and fountains, and all these elements are surrounded by a cellular wall in the shape of a decagon. The two polygons are joined at one of their respective sides, and in addition to both parts being surrounded by walls, they are also almost entirely surrounded by a moat. Simply put, the sacred precinct of Mars is made up of two very distinct shapes joined together and surrounded by a moat on ten out of fourteen sides. Although the precinct is relatively small, it is highly articulated and well protected.

Area Martis
What makes the sacred precinct of Mars distinct is also what makes it unique throughout the entire Ichnographia. The hexagon shape of the Templum Martis is almost a singular occurance except for the Naumachia Neronis just next to the Templum Martis. This Naumachia is, however, like a negative mirror image of the Templum Martis, and in that way enhances rather than detracts from the Templum's hexagon shape. The decagonal shape of the Area Martis, on the other hand, is completely unique throughout the Ichnographia. There is no other complex or group of buildings within the entire of Piranesi's creation that is in, or exhibits, or uses the shape of a decagon.
There is also no other complex within the plan that is surrounded by a moat. Moats have long held the connotation of security and protection, and generally one protects what is valuable. My contention is that Piranesi used the typology of a moat and articulated shapes to convey the idea that the Mars precinct is special and perhaps the most special place within the Ichnographia.
There are some other design elements that reinforce the idea that the Mars precinct is special. The precinct's placement along the only thoroughfare axis within the entire plan is significant. And the precinct is also very close to the mid-point of the axis. The Templum Martis is also the destination point [sic] of the triumphal processional route.

Area Martis
The fact that the triumphal processional route ends [sic] at the Templum Martis is Piranesi himself telling us that this complex is the most significant / symbolic / sacred place within the entire plan.
This sacred precinct generates a lot of energy and force, and the long thoroughfare axis is the greatest manifestation of the force the precinct projected. The design of the Mars complex also projects strong sexual connotations. The plan of the Templum Martis is self-evidently evocative of a penis and testicles--a fitting metaphor for the male god of war. Conversely, the layout of the Area Martis has as open center flanked by a pair of identical monuments--perhaps a reference to the female sex and reproductive organs, the vagina and the overies. Together, the Templem Martis and the Area Martis represent, or, put another way, the plan formations visually anthropomorphize in plan form, the essence of sexual intercourse and the mechanics of human conception. The conception of the Campo Marzio, archeologically, historically and relative to Piranesi's publication, and specifically in the Ichnographia, is the sacred precinct of Mars.

hierarchy of plans
The west bank of the Tiber is largely a cemetery with some very ritualistic stadiums and formal gardens. It is not what you would call the inhabited part of town. It is interesting to speculate here whether Piranesi is making some kind of planning/urban design commentary to the effect that there are some parts of the city that are more or less only for show.
...a series of plans that isolate the buildings according to type. I have already done this out of context, but I have not done this in context. ...the area around the Area Martis is like a giant, ornamental, showpiece cemetery.

Triumphal Way - new ideas
...[the Triumphal Way] starts [sic] at the Templum Jani, and this is significant because of Janus' connection with Rome and war. Furthermore, the notion of Janus as beginning/ending is also significant, and the "way" beginning (and conversely ending) at Janus is complimented be the way ending (and conversely beginning) at the Area Martis.

Schinkel / Campo Marzio connection
Yesterday, noticed a similarity between the plans of the monuments to Julius Caesar and Augustus in the Area Martis and one of the monuments to Friedrich the Great by Schinkel. Moreover, there is also a similarity between the round rooms within the Xystus Agrippinae and the lower level of the rotunda of the Altes Museum. These similarities raise a curious as to whether Schinkel was inspired or influenced by the Piranesi plan diagrams. (Schinkel did spend time in Rome, and there is also the link to Piranesi via Durand.)
In any case, it is an interesting coincidence, and whether or not Schinkel actually noticed the plans in the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio may not be all that important because, regardless of the actual historical truth, the connection is seen now and perhaps even a comment on the fluidity of architectural history.

The Longest Axis / The Axis of Life

symbolism of the Porticus Neronianae
...found the Porticus Neronianae to carry a significance in that it is an inverted basilica with respect to the basilica of St. Peter's, which it nearly mirrors. Its position directly behind the Area Martis (and thus also directly behind the beginning-ending of the Triumphal Way) as additionally symbolic of Nero's reputation as Antichrist.
From Encyclopedia Britannica 16-231d (Peter Astbury Brunt):
"The great fire at Rome illustrates how low his [Nero's] reputation had sunk in 64. He did what he could to relieve the homeless and initiated rebuilding on a much better plan. Yet it was believed, without warrant, that he had fired the city himself in order to indulge his aesthetic tastes in its reconstruction. Nero tried to shift the charge onto the Christians, who were commonly thought to practice all kinds of wickedness. Hitherto the government had not clearly distinguished Christians from Jews; almost by accident, Nero initiated the later policy of intermittent and half-hearted persecution and earned himself the reputation of Antichrist in the Christian tradition."

program of the Area Martis
Piranesi seems to have designed the Area Martis with the writings of Josephus in mind (as cited in Plattus "Passage into the City"). Piranesi calls the immediate zone around the adjacent Templum Martis "apparatorium triumphatorium"--place of preparation for the triumphal procession, and the many tabernae surrounding the Area Martis seem to be there to accomodate the triumphator and his troops the night before the day of procession. See Plattus p.104-5.
The first arch the procession goes through (and actually the only arch the way goes through within the Ichnographia) is the arch of Trajan. Although there is nothing spectacular in terms of triumph per se that is associated with Trajan. ...the "planned" lineage (literally) going from Trajan to Hadrian to Antoninus Pius along the longest axis (of life) -- from arch to tomb to arch--which corresponds with the historical lineage of imperial sucession. ...all the emperors from Nerva to Antoninus Pius are clearly "marked throughout the Horti Domitiae--there is a statue of Nerva beside the Templ. Plotinae.


Campo Marzio - new discoveries
...St. Peter's Basilica and Square match exactly the outline of the Porticus Neronianae and the Temple and Area of Mars complex. The piazza of St. Peter's matches the dimensions of the Area Martis, the Temple of Mars fits within the forecourt of St. Peter's, and the nave and transept crossing of the Neronian Porticus falls right in line with the crossing of St. Peter's. ...so exact, and unquestionably deliberate on Piranesi's part. ...firmly locks the analysis of the life and death axes.
The other discovery deals with the horti Luciliani and the horti Lucullani.
Piranesi places the fictitious horti Luciliani where the horti Lucullani ought to be, and places the horti Lucullani at a location further north.
It is the horti Lucullani that Messalena murdered for.
Lucilius is the father of Roman satire. Is there anything satirical in Piranesi's plan of the garden? Perhaps the answer has something to do with a shrine to Minerva being in the center of one of the building complexes--literally "wisdom" (but also "weaving") in the center of a garden of satire. The theater and salons, now make more sense.
satire 1 a : an ancient Roman commentary in verse on some prevailing vise of folly b : a usually topical literay composition holding up human or individual vices, folly, abuses, or shortcomings to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other method sometimes with an intent to bring about c : LAMPOON 2 a : a branch of literature ridiculing vice or folly
censure 1 : a judgement involving condem-nation a : spiritual chastizement by an ecclesiastical agency
wit implies intellectual brilliance and quickness in perception combined with a gift for expressing ideas in an entertaining, often laughter provoking, pointed way, usually connoting the unexpected or apt turn of phrase or idea and often suggesting a certain brittle unfeelingness
satire can apply to any criticism or censure relying on exposure, often by irony and often subtle, of the ridiclous or absurd qualities of something
The notion of Piranesi being satirical himself throughout the Ichnographia is an intriguing idea.
...the various other gardens and buildings that Piranesi places on the same plateau as the horti Lucullani. Some of them, like the horti Narcissi, relate directly to the Messalena story since it is the freedman Narcissus that ultimately kills Messalena. There is also the horti Anteri--Anteros means "an avenger of slighted love," which describes both Messalena and her husband the emperor Claudius, although for different reasons.
...Tafuri could have said so much more about the horti Luciliani.

connection between Rossi and Piranesi
...the St. Peter's - Area Martis overlay is the same as the Modena Cemetery - Bustum Hadriani connection.

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.

Mars (Martis)
The second temple of Mars, positioned on the west side of the Tiber at the foot of the Vatican Hill, sits within a hexagonal area labeled Apparatorium Triumphatorum -- the place of preparation for the triumphal march. In front of the temple and place of preparation is the decagonal Area Martis, which an euripus (canal/moat) encloses on two sides, and it is here that Piranesi indicates the beginning of the Triumphal Way. Besides the obvious ceremonial importance of the Area Martis, this place is also distinct within the Ichnographia: its ten-sided perimeter is the only such shape throughout the entire large plan. Significant also is the plan of the Templum Martis, whose ichnography resembles male genitalia. The deliberate connection between Mars and overt masculinity is unquestionable. Moreover, the Templum Martis, the Area Martis, and the beginning of the Triumphal Way together establish a principal axis, one of the three major axes present within the Ichnographia. This axis extends from the top of the Vatican Hill straight down to the bank of the Tiber across from the tomb of Augustus, and is not only great in length, but also rich in symbolism. Represented here is the mighty thrust of Mars, the dominance of Romulus, and hence the source of Rome and its unparalleled pride.

The Templum Martis (top) is surrounded by a hexagonal place reserved for the preparation of the triumphal march. The Area Martis (below) is a large space in front of the Templum Martis and the place where the Triumphal Way begins (indicated in red).

The long axis running through the Templum and Area Martis (center) extends from the Nympheum Neronis atop the Vatican Hill (upper left) down to another Nymphaeum on the west bank of the Tiber (lower right).

eros et thanatos   2683e

Pagan - Christian - Triumphal Way   3123h   i   j   k

2003.09.04 18:08
in the thick of reenactment season
I purposefully walked from the front door of the Philadelphia Museum of Art down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the far side of Logan Circle and then back to the Art Museum. I did this to get a real sense of the scale of the virtual axis of life within Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius.
In reality I was walking across the forecourt of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, then down the steps that Rocky made famous running up, then across Eakins Oval, where the largest painting in the world once was, then down a tree covered allee along the south side of the Parkway stretching for three long blocks, then around Logan Circle, and then back in the direction I came although this time along the north side of the Parkway.
In virtuality I was walking through the Nympheum Neronis high on the Vatican Hill, through the Porticus Neronianae, through the Templum Martis (Temple of Mars), through the Area Martis where the Triumphal Way begins its "march" (this is around where the Rodin Museum is on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and, as luck would have it, where the route of many of today's Philadelphia parades begin), then I walked around Hadrian's tomb, and then I walked back.
The whole walk took about 40 minutes, and if I had gone all the way to the LOVE sculpture at JFK Plaza across from City Hall, the walk back and forth would have taken just about an hour. ... I made mental note of most of the memorials on and along this stretch of the Parkway--Washington Memorial, Civil War Memorial, WWI Memorial, a plaque in the cement on axis at Logan Circle states that the trees along the Parkway were planted on honor of the soldiers of WWI, and a Shakespeare Memorial in front of the Free Library.

2005.08.05 14:36
Will Your Work Be Remembered?
Since memory is really a mental reenactment, perhaps the better question is, "Will your work will be reenacted?"
Be careful though, because reenactment without giving credit to the source is plagiarism.
A bit of my work was 'remembered' by David R. Marshall in "Piranesi, Juvarra, and the Triumphal Bridge Tradition" (in The Art Bulletin, June 2003) when in footnote 155 Marshall states, "...but the Area Martis through to the Nympheum Neronis, including the Templum Martis is a hieroglyph of St. Peter's, to which it corresponds topographically." Marshall does not name the 1998.05.10 source of this information, however. Furthermore, Marshall's note is misinformation in that the Porticus Neroniani and not the Nympheum Neronis forms part of the 'hieroglyph'.



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