Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Mausoleum Augusti


Mausoleum Augusti

The Mausoleum Augusti. During the first century B.C. it had become customary to grant the privilege of burial in the campus Martius to persons of distinction, by special decree of the senate. With this precedent in view, Augustus erected in 27 B.C., in the most northerly part of the campus, a mausoleum for the imperial family, the remains of which still exist. This Mausoleum, called also the tumulus Caesarum, or tumults Juliorum consisted of three parts, a square foundation entirely below the present ground level, a circular drum, and above this a tumulus or cone-shaped mound, planted with evergreens and surmounted by a colossal bronze statue of Augustus. The circular portion was composed of concentric ring-walls of concrete, faced with opus reticulatum and covered with stucco or white marble. The entrance was on the south, and the passageway led directly to a central chamber, which was the tomb of Augustus himself. Between the outer and the second wall was a row of twelve clambers, designed for other members of the imperial family. On the outer wall of the mausoleum, on each side of the entrance, were fastened the two bronze tablets on which were inscribed the Res Gestae, and in front was a portico flanked by two obelisks. One of these obelisks was dug up in 1527, and in 1587 it was set up in the piazza dell' Esquilino. The other was found in 1781 and erected in the piazza del Quirinale. The latter is 14.40 meters in height, the former somewhat less.

In this mausoleum were placed the ashes of Augustus, his nephew Marcellus, Lucius and Gaius Caesar, Germanicus, Livia, Tiberius, Claudius, and some other members of the family. The remains of Vespasian, Titus, and his daughter Julia, which were placed here first, were afterward removed to the temple of the gens Flavia on the Quirinal.

In 410 Alaric plundered the mausoleum, and in the middle ages it was used as a fortress by the Colonna. In the sixteenth century the Soderini converted it into a sort of terraced garden. The outer wall of the drum now forms part of a circus, and the rest of the structure has been almost entirely transformed or built over. (Platner)

Vincenzo Fasolo, "The Campo Marzio of G. B. Piranesi".

life, death, and the triumphal way [inversion]

I spoke with Sue Dixon yesterday and told her of my latest "discoveries" regarding the life and death axes of the Ichnographia, the arch of Theodosius et al and the further symbolism of the Porticus Neronianae as an inverted basilica-cross. She too became excited by my discoveries and then also brought further insight, especially in reference to the issue of the papacy and its research during the eighteenth century into the early Christian Church. She spoke of Bianchini and his nephew (a contemporary of Piranesi's) and their dual volumes of pagan (Roman) and Christian art, and she also mentioned how the papacy of the eighteenth century had lost (more or less by force and financial restraints) much of its political power and thus took on a very pious role--exhibiting not its worldly power but its almost mystical or spiritual power.

What I was saying about the apparent Pagan-Christian conversion-inversion narrative of the Ichnographia fit with what research Sue is continually doing regarding the contemporary and early eighteenth century influences on Piranesi and the whole issue of proto-archeology - history of the eighteenth century.

After speaking with Sue, I began thinking of the significance of the arch to the victory over Judea that is situated to the western end of the Bustum Hadriani. I now see it related to the pagan-Christian conversion-inversion of Rome, but in terms of Roman history it is a somewhat marginal issue-event. Yet, in terms of Christianity, the Roman victory over Judea, and hence the fall of Jerusalem, is a significant, albeit still sorrowful, event because of this event's relationship, and indeed verification of certain-particular passages of New Testament Scripture, i.e., Jesus' answering the Apostles question of when Jerusalem would end (which I think is in Mark or the Acts of the Apostles). Seeing how a seemingly minor event in Roman (Imperial) history can at the same time be a critical event for the foundation of Christianity made me think about how the Roman Judaic victory unwittingly gave manifest confirmation that Christianity had from that point forward absorbed Judaism.

Although it comes from the margin or edge, the significance of the victory of Judea arch sheds a major light upon the narrative Piranesi tells--Piranesi's "story" is about Christianity's similar absorption and concomitant destruction of paganism. This notion of Christianity absorbing both Judaism and paganism has major theological implications, especially with regard to a heretofore perhaps ignored importance-significance of Rome and the Roman Empire within the Canon and doctrine of the Christian (Catholic) faith.

...the real axis of St. Peter's Basilica and Square. This axis is fundamental to Piranesi' axis of life--and the most significant point alone the existing axis is the burial place of St. Peter, which, although not noted in the Ichnographia, is nonetheless an ancient Roman artifact.

...the story of the Triumphal Way. ...follow the triumphal path on the plan, and explain the entire route in Roman-pagan-triumphal ritual terms. ...bring up the essential concept of reenactment, the reenactment that Piranesi here designed, especially the well planned sequence of stadia and theaters along the way. Piranesi made use of what was actually once there.

When the route reaches the wall at the Temple of Janus, attention turns to Triumphal Arch-Gate, which is closed during the years of inactivity. Does the Triumphal Way then bounce off the wall and go back the way it came? Does the Temple of Janus allow us to go in either direction? (Other clues of inversion abound: obelisk in the Horti Salustiani, Porticus Phillippi, the Arches along the Via Lata, the Via Flaminia, the Circus Flaminia, the obelisks at Augustus's Tomb. The recurring inversion theme points to a greater meaning/symbolism.) The Temple (arch) of Janus represents the Arch of Janus built by Constantine (who might himself be called the Janus figure of Christianity) and this is the initiation of the way of Christianity's triumph: the profane to the sacred; the forest, hell, purgatory, heaven; the path of salvation through Christ and the Church.)

...the way from the profane to the sacred ends at the Area-Templum Martis as symbolic of the union of the most sacred site ancient Rome (or at least its point of origin) with the most sacred site of Christian Rome (St. Peter's place of burial) and also the point of origin of Christian Rome.

The garden of Nero is the ultimate field of inversion: Horti Neroniani to Vatican City, the garden of antichrist to the Church as the Body of Christ, the foremost seat of the Church of Christ, and finally St. Peter's inverted crucifixion begins the conversion of Rome.

I will conclude the inversion from pagan to Christian story-line by returning to the axis of death and the Arch of Theodosius et al at its tip, and thus when compared with the intercourse building we have depicted the beginning and the end of pagan Rome. To this I will add the Jewish Victory monument and end with the notion that Piranesi has here used architectural plans and urban design to tell the "history" of ancient Rome, however, one has in a sense read both the "positive" and the "negative" image-plan -- a story where the first half is the reciprocal of the second half (and vice versa). (I am oddly reminded here of the double theaters story from Circle and Oval in St. Peter's Square.)

Augustus - India connection

In Suetonius' Life of Caesar Augustus, there is mention of envoys from India coming to Rome to pay homage to Augustus Caesar. ...the Great Stupa in India (with gateway dating from the 1st century BC). ...the Indian structure is very much like the tomb of Augustus in Rome. ...a real connection between the tomb of Augustus and the Great Stupa is their almost unbelievable similarity in size and style.




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