Encyclopedia Ichnographica

The City of God Against the Pagans


The City of God Against the Pagans


g. The remote possibility of a connection between the Ichnographia and St. Augustine’s City of God.

The City of God

Through reading Lidia Storoni Mazzolani, The Idea of the City in Roman Thought - From Walled City to Spiritual Commonwealth, I am finding out about The City of God and its place in history.

I don't necessarily see a direct connection between The City of God and the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio, but it may develop as I learn about and read The City of God. If anything, right now I am now more aware of the history of the beginning of the fifth century--the time coinciding with the complete picture of the Ichnographia. Could the Ichnographia represent a picture of Ancient Rome taken to a next (spiritual?) level as is suggested possible by The City of God? Is the Ichnographia a picture of a perfected Rome, a Rome that transcended the realm of mortal conflict and material decay, and become a new refreshed and restored Rome in the hearts and minds of the righteous and just? I actually think I may have something here because I can say that, if nothing else, St. Augustine offers a clear alternative to the notion of city, and while this alternative vision may not be a total or complete inspiration for Piranesi, it may, nonetheless, have provided a view of the "city" as something beyond the purely physical or governmental (political?).

This leads me to think of the Ichnographia's eradication of the Aurelian Wall as its most idealized act. It is like the "negative" act that allows the "positive" act of Piranesi's most fantastical plans and "reconstructions". This is the first time that I see the erasure of the walls as equal in "idealization" as the plans--I now want to make clear that both acts (the erasure and the new planning, esp. in the region of the wall) have to be viewed in conjunction with one another, and, furthermore, both represent Piranesi at his most "ideal" or "fantastic".

Porticus Philippi

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.

The City of God - inverse ichnographia

...The City of God, a connection between it and the Ichnographia. Sue Dixon mentioned a specific quotation where there is even a grammatical inversion used to describe the two natures of the city (the earthly vs. the spiritual). ...hopefully demonstrate how the Ichnographia represents both "urban" paradigms; the Ichnographia is a plan of earthly Rome and it is also an opposite/inverse plan of spiritual Rome. Piranesi was trying to deliver both messages, meaning he was aware of the two "urban" paradigms and thus used the "planning" of the Campo Marzio to express both.

...the time-frame of the Arch of Theodosius (the end of the Roman Campo Marzio), the Visigoth siege on Rome, and the subsequent writing of The City of God--these events occurred within a 40 year time-span. Piranesi was trying to depict, delineate, reconstruct, reenact the inversion from Imperial Rome to the spiritual Rome of the Church. Along with this line of thought there is also the not-so-smooth conversion of Rome from a pagan state to a Christian state.

Mistakes and Inversions

...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 Key Plan"

"The Key Plan"... ...about the tiny unnamed intercourse building at the end of the axis of life.

...unlocking secrets, gaining access to knowledge.

...the plan as depicting conception, and therefore the intentional starting point for meaning (and hence interpretation as well).

...the symbolism regarding the conception of Romulus and Remus--Mars and the royal Vestal Virgin as the parents.

...the tiny plan as the generator of all the subsequent plans; the beginning of the "embryonic development" of all the other plan formations.

...the signifying effect of inside vs. outside and of solid vs. void.

...the irony that Bloomer's key plan is just across the river and the unfortunate non-starter nature of her interpretation and underworld scenario.

...the connection to the The City of God regarding the fratricide of Romulus towards Remus and its parallel to Cain and Abel.




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