Arch 343: Cities in History

Lecture 4: Rome : The World City

Dr. Richard Ingersoll, Rice University

"Romanae spatium est urbis et orbis idem" Ovid 1st cen.AD [The extent of the Roman city and the world are the same]

Even Plato, who pursues the ideal and hypothesizes an ideal static urban order run like a police state, recognized that the city in is the unique source of culture. In one of his dialogues (the Phaedrus) he says "Now the people in the city have something to teach me, but the fields and the trees won't teach me anything." Athens in particular was the teaching city, the place where dialogue could occur, and last time I described the emergence of public space. The attitude of the Greeks in their building is a bit like that of Luigi Snozzi, in the school's current exhibition: architecture has a rational order determined by the assembly of its component parts, and it is set off distinctly from the natural condition of its site. There is an intentional equilibrium between the open and irregular siting of a greek temple and the strict conventional order of the building. Space in this formula is just as important, and perhaps more important, than architecture. Space is important because it is open. Thus the Greek experiment in socialization, their assemblies, juries, and incessant competitions led to the creation of great buildings such as the Parthenon, but above all insured that buildings not overwhelm space.

We saw that the building types themselves were porous and penetrable: the peripteral temple, the colonnaded stoa. Actions about them are visible and the social demand for them is driven by the desire for accountability. During the intervening centuries, when Athens had lost her power but was still revered as a great cultural center, the great open space of the Agora was filled in and shaped by buildings donated by Rome and other admirers of the city. It is a case of horror vacui, the fear of emptiness--the space once filled with social relations, the space of communication, the space of accountability now was filled with buildings and monuments that make that sort of communication irrelevant.

The final building type we found in Athens, the Greek theater, converts the openness of the agora and the actions of seeing and listening into a finite form: a fanning hemicycle clinging to the slope of the Akropolis. In this case the architectural order has borrowed the natural topographic order and created a synthesis between land and culture. Nothing could be more different than the Roman way of building a theatre which almost always relied on the ambitious use of concrete vaults rising from a flat site. The Roman theater was concieved as a complete building, open only to the sky. The Roman theater would be one of many architectural pieces that made up a coherent urban pattern and language of conventional types that one would find in any Romanized city.

The Romans relied on a language of architectural forms to make their cities. Columns, such as those that lined the Cardo, the main north south street, of Hadrian's Jerusalem, deliniate regular edges for major streets and for public space. Vaults and arches allowed architecture to move and cover the loose ends of open space. The Romans assimilated the Greek building types and the Hellenistic arrangement of bounded space to create an urban experience that was completely architectural. Nature was no longer an equal partner and openness was no longer oblique and casual: Everything was architecture and thus subject to the laws of symmetry, and everything was the city, there were no loose ends.

Rome absorbed the building and spatial traditions of other cities such as Athens, Jerusalem, Pergamon, and Alexandria as it absorbed them politically into its empire during the last two centuries BC. But to everything it assimilated Rome added a superior sense of organization and production, obtained from its formidable military establishment. Cities will become the primary means for Rome to maintain colonial control over a vast empire that at its maximum stretched from Hadrian's wall in Scotland to the Iberian peninsula, to North Africa, and much of the ancient Middle East and contained 70 million inhabitants. The Roman city, with its theaters, baths, fora, temples, markets, fountains and other public buildings became an imprint of universal culture, an urban armature as William MacDonald calls it, that could be transferred to almost any context and quickly convert it to the laws and social practices of the Romans. The Pax Romana, which for about 4 centuries kept all the borders around the Mediterrean open to trade, was established through military conquest and maintained through city-building. If the Athenian architectural imagination excelled in finding ways of opening space and mediating the landscape, the Roman architectural imagination perfected the art of enclosing space and manipulating human action.

Rome itself was always the exception to the clarity of the planning and architectural principles that were practiced throughout the empire since it was too large, too disorderly, too inflexible, and perhaps too indolent to achieve the coherence it imposed elsewhere. Its founding legend, about the twins Romulus and Remus, specified a precise day and year of its origin: April 21, 753 BC. The twins were sons of an Italian princess whose virtue had been compromised by the rape of Jupiter and to hide her state from her father she exposed the boys on the riverbank. There they were raised by the seven-titted shewolf, one tit for each of the hills of Rome. The word shewolf, lupa, to this day means prostitute. Romulus and Remus decide to set up camps: one chooses the Palatine, the other the Aventine and they wait for the omen from the gods as to which camp will be chosen as the city. The omen favors Romulus on the Palatine, who then plows a furrow around the hill as the sacred border of the city, leaving only four gaps for entry into it, and commanding that anyone who crosses the pomerian line will suffer the death penalty, and of course his brother is the first to try. Fratricide again makes a good premise for founding cities, because the city is always the site of social struggles. The differences between Romulus and Remus will in fact continue for 600 years as a class struggle, really the example that most served Marx in his analysis of history in terms of class conflict, between the aristocratic tribes of the Patricians, located on the Palatine, and the non-aristocratic plebians, located on the Aventine.

Rome is not particularly well-located to become a great city. It didn't have a port and the Tiber river was not easily navigable. The river was particularly cruel to Rome and regularly flooded, promising major floods at least six times each century until the embankments were established in the 1880s. The surrounding territory was not ideal for agriculture as much of it was swamp land. Rome was centrally located, however, in terms of the power that was emerging on the Italian peninsula, and like Athens became the catalyst for a league of citystates in the 3rd century BC. This culminated with Rome victories in the Punic Wars against Carthage, and her inarrestible rise to hegemony in the Mediterrenean. So in some ways the rise to greatness was generated by external circumstances.

The myth of the city's synoikismos, its coming together, is retained in the story of the Rape of the Sabine Women: the wives of the nearby Sabine tribe were abducted at a county fair and when their husbands came to retrieve them claimed that they preferred the good- loving Romans. This is the sort of story that serves as an analogue for what will occur during the long period of the Pax Romana, when local cities will gladly yield to Roman civilization because of the protection from local civil strife and the cultural benefits it promised.

Already we've seen that Rome in her founding myths was a sexy place, and I don't know how to objectively report this but there is something in the air in Rome that is compellingly erotic. One of the gods of the city, Angerina, is always depicted with a gag in her mouth so that she won't reveal the secret name of the city--the secret name turned out to be Roma spelt backwards, or Amor. Rome may have gained its empire through brilliant military planning, but she kept it through the promise of Amor (or at least that's my hypothesis).

Between the hills, where the wealthy will continue to live as the city grows, were flat marshy spaces used for political and commercial negociations. Etruscan kings ruled the city in the 6th century and brought their religion and architecture. They were deposed in 510 (about the same time that Kleistenes in Athens has reformed that city's democratic constitution) and are replaced by an republic controlled by an oligarchy of rich land owners. Although by the next century Rome will have sent envoys to Athens to study her institutions, the government never converts to democracy. This is not to say that accountability was not important--the concept of Republican virtue will have a strong hold on the conscience of most Romans, but Rome will never see the sort of complete participation of her citizens with all of its checks on personal power that we saw in Pericles' Athens. Instead there was a ruling class that selected the Senate a class that will never grow to more than 20,000 when the city's population reaches a million, and a lower class that elects its representatives, or tribunes, from a popular assembly to negotiate with the senate. The Circus Maximus occupies the hollow between the Aventine and the Palatine, and here the chariot races and other competitions were a means of ritually resolving the conflict between the two political classes.

Between the hills of the Palatine, the Capitoline, which like the Akropolis in Athens is reserved for the city's primary temples, and the Quirinal was a stretch of flat land once used for grave sites that in the 6th century became the preferred meeting place for political decisions. The republican forum was from its inception a quite different kind of space than the Agora in Athens, its meaning does not refer to the social act of gathering that could occur here but to the fact that it is outdoor space--it was more crowded with buildings and the meeting spaces of the Comizium, and the Rostra, and its edges were more highly articulated. Off to the west was a small square building where the Senate met, which was about the same size as the Bouleterion and at the foot of the Capitoline were a series of temples, where the spoils of war were stored. A black rock in the midst of the forum was considered to be the navel of the world. The land of the Republican Forum was drained by a great covered sewer known as the Cloaca Maxima, the mouth of which can still be seen on the edge of the Tiber.

The Republican forum was the prime space for civic ritual. At the southern edge was a sort of convent dedicated to Vesta, the goddess of the home. Here six women would reside and maintain the sacred hearth fire, symbol of the Roman family. The Vestal Virgins were sworn to strict chastity and no one was allowed to look at them directly or cross their paths.

The Forum was also the site of the first triumphal arches were located and where the military triumph would culimnate on its way to the final sacrifice on the Capitoline.The ceremonies were important to the city in acquiring what was believed to be the spiritual power to prevail. The triumph was an elaborate ritual to designed to absorb the mana or good qualities of the defeated enemy. The triumphator, who was paraded through the city, made a final sacrifice on the altar of Zeus in which he achieved a moment of divinity. The route started outside the city where the army was required to stay for at least three days to purify itself after the fighting. On the day of the triumph there was a boisterous procession that placed the captives and the booty in the front and the triumphator in the middle, followed by his men, who during the parade were allowed to make fun of him as if it were carnival. They passed through the monumental district of the Campus Martius, through the theater of Marcellus and the nearby stadium filled with crowds. At this point a city gate in the 4th century walls was unbricked for the occasion and they entered the forum litorium, the vegetable market and passed on through the meat market or forum boarium where the four arches of the Quadrifrons of Janus was passed, until they reached the largest of Rome's theaters, the circus maximus,which allegedly held 200,000 spectators. Exiting through the triumphal arches of the theater they turned left, skirting the Palatine Hill, went by the Colosseum and met the via Sacra that traversed the Republican Forum. The path by the time of Ceasars was lined with triumphal arches. Triumphs became a regular occurance, especially during the first century of the empire. They helped instill the cult of the state.

Rome's success at creating and maintaining its empire was not merely a matter of military prowess, although this was quite important and soldier werre handsomely rewarded, often with land and pensions. What gave Rome its political advantage was a new cosmopolitan attitude to the citystate. Some degree of citizenship was allowed all of those who came under Roman dominion. Thus most non-Romans living in far away places like Gaul or Syria could have dual citizenship. The citystate, however, was not adequate to contain all of the interests of the empire--it did not have dual forms of representation.

The constant wave of victories in the 2nd century BC led to new builidng programs sponsored by important wealthy patrons. To the edges of the Forum were added great rectangular halls, known as Basilicas. On the Capitoline, the first public building to employ concrete vaults, the Tabularium was built in 78 BC into the hill and still stands. Concrete, which used a mixture of Pozolana found near naples, was previously only thought suitable for abbatoirs and storage sheds an the like. The great emporium found at the base of the Aventine is a good example of concrete warehouses. A hill rose to 350 feet made of the cast off amphora and known as Monte Testaccio (the amphora hill).

The wealth that was pouring into Rome altered the nature of the city and led to corruption of its moral fabric. Money was invested in the city's infrastructure, giving it the best roads and the best water supply the world had ever seen. The acqueducts, the first of which was begun in 312 BC, represent a new pragmatism in the order of the city. The acqueduct follows its own path, often quite contradictory to the direction and scale of the fabric it hovers over. The aqueduct leading to the Palatine is particularly indifferent to what is going on below. Not until the post world war II freeways will we see this sort of pragmatic layering imposed upon the city.

Roman society was less rigidly structured than Athenian. This is partially because of the openness to citizenship that the city fostered but also to the liberality of treatment of slaves, who if they did not become members of a family were regularly freed after a few years of service. The abundance of freed slaves and newcomers attracted to the economy of the first true metropolis led to an expanding class of indigents who could not find employment--it is thought that unemployment ran from 30-40% in the 1st century BC. The price of bread was given state subvention in 123 BC and by 85 BC a welfare program of free grain distribution, the so-called Anona was instituted. By the time of Augustus 300,000 people lived off the dole. The poet Juvenal in the year 130 AD comments that Rome's ruling strategy in the imperial age had become that of "Panem et Circenses"--Bread and circuses. In order to keep the immense mob under control, the city had to keep them entertained with games, theater, and public baths. Consider that there were 159 holidays in ancient Rome and for 93 of these games were in order (roughly one out of every three days).

Most of Rome's fabric was crammed with densely inhabited tenement houses that often were as high as ten stories. These buildings were structurally unsafe and hygenically dangerous. Felini in the first scens of Satyricon depicts such a building which comes crumbling down in an earthquake. The wealthy lived in one storey couryard houses, the domus, of which some fine examples are preserved at Pompei. Pompei, which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD gives us a good idea of what Roman spaces were like. It is a cleaned up and perfected Rome--a retirement city for the wealthy without the problems of the rabble in the metropolis. The streets of Pompei were paved and lined with elevated sidewalks so that the streets could be flushed with water to be cleaned. The central forum had a curia, a city temple, markets, basilica for legal affairs, and administration offices. Note how the buildings have been stitched together into a coherent collection by the placement of columns around the open space.

The domus was a continuation of the Mediterrenean courtyard house, arranged in a linear manner. The street facade was either blank or taken up by shops. One passed through a tunnel-like space and emerged in an atrium, lit by the aperture of an impluvium roof, with a small fountain to catch the rain water. Around the atrium were the more public aspects of the Roman family, such as triclinium room for dining, and the master's office was located on the axis from the door. Beyond this office space was a second court, usually more open, sometimes like a garden, and here were found the more private spaces for sleeping. As the many portraits of married couples reveal, Roman society was much more open to women. In fact women had equal rights with men in marriage, could own property, and could divorce their husbands. They could not participate politically or militarily, but economically they had signicant influence.

The problems of Rome, which was dense and clogged, full of fire hazards and filthy were only accentuated by comparison with the orderly cities of the empire such as Pompei or Ostia, Rome's port city 20 miles away at the mouth of the Tiber. Ostia had clear circulation and a leggible collection of public buildings that was served by a series of orderly tenement buildings, 4 to 5 stories high with colonnades at street level.

During the period of the republic, the major public buildings of the city were sponsored by wealthy consuls as a gesture of civic duty. Each new part of the city was added piece meal. This process could only aggravate the confusion of the pinwheel arrangement of streets. The Social Wars between the classes were concluded in favor of the aristocracy during the first century BC and this opened the way to the emergence of a single ruler, the first of whom was Julius Caesar. Julius, a brilliant General and strategist consolidated the powers of consul and tribune through his many military victories and triumphs. As the leading citizen he began to project a solution to Rome's obvious problems by planning for the expansion of the city and replanning the central district of the Republican Forum which was overcrowded. It was called De Urbe augenda, composed in 45 BC, shortly before his assasination. His most audacious idea was to reroute the Tiber, which was constantly flooding, and make the lands on the Trastever side of the river part of the city. His enemies believed that this was a move to speculate on land since Julius owned most of the land on that side, but they were proven wrong since the land was left to the Roman people in his will. The one part of the plan that was brought to fruition was the addition to the forum which required the demolition and rebuilding of the Curia senate house to open the way for a large colonnaded plaza with a temple on axis. Perhaps it is not so ironic that the new Senate building was the site of Julius's assassination, since it was tangible evidence that he had usurped the sacred bond of the political community. The temple to Venus was finished after his death. This new orderly enclosed space was the beginning of a series of imperial fora that will be added like pieces of a patchwork during the next two centuries.

When Octavian was finally legitimated as Augustus the first emperor in 27 BC, his real title was "princeps" which meant first citizen, he tried to give the appearance that the republic still existed. The only difference was that he had organized parallel administration posts that could be filled by the trusted military elite of his personal troops, the Praetorian Guard. The new city prefects had much greater power to administrate than earlier civic officials and under Augustus the city underwent restructuring and rebuilding. It is said that he found the city in brick and left in marble. The city pomerian boundary was expanded (although the course of the river was not touched) and redivided into 14 regions, each of which was to have a separate administrator. There were now magistrates for the streets and others for the waterworks, and a fire brigade. Fires were so common in the densely built parts of the city that Augustus himself inhis greatest monumental work, the forum of Augustus, will surround the entire rear part of the complex with a four storey fire wall made of gigantic tufa blocks, still standing today. Augustus used the land inherited by his wife on the Palatine to intiate the royal residence on that site which will develop during the next century as a complex Domus Flavia with its own stadium, baths, basilica hall and residences.

Augustus left behind a huge marble altar, the Ara Pacis (altar of peace) in the undeveloped lands of the Campus Martius on which was attached the Res Gesta describing his achievements in restoring and clarifying the city. It was a monument that was meant to evoke a grave dignity and serve as an example for his successors. It is no surprize that under Augustus the arts flourished and the greatest poets of the age, Virgil and Horace found patronage. This is also the moment that Vitruvius composes his treatise on architecture, which is an appeal to clients and architects to understand the architect as a cultivated person who understands literature and history and works within a discipline, which like rhetoric, has clear rules. Vitruvius is an example of a culture that still aspires to the reserve of republican values. He is shocked by the use of illusionistic painting, for instance, finding it immoral in its lie about space.

The successors to Augustus, which you can read about in the wonderfully lurid account given by Suetonius, instead of pursuing this modicum of republican virtue were famously decadent, allowing the absolute power of the empire to corrupt them absolutely. This culminates in the figures of Caligula and Nero, the first who goes to the extreme of having his favorite horse made a senator, and thus exposing the powerlessness of that revered institution, and the latter turning the city into his private theater. Nero was a performer and had an architectural vision for the city that should not be underestimated. Whether he was responsible for setting the fire in 64 AD that destroyed over a third of the city's buildings cannot be proven, but he certainly had a plan ready to deal with what was left. Part of the plan was to decree that the streets were to be widened and free-standing porticoes were to front each building. The buildings were not allowed to have party walls. Not much appears to have been built according to the decree but for his own purposes the emperor and his Greek trained architects assembled ahuge estate to attach two other hills, the Esquiline and the Celian to the imperial residence on the Palatine. The focus of this new estate was a huge statue set on a 100 foot column that terminated the via sacra. The statue was a portrait of Nero, depicted as the sun god. behind the statue was an artificial lake representing the Mediterenean and miniature replicas of the different cities under Roman dominion. Overlooking the lake from the Esquiline hill was his Golden House, built with complex shapes and vaulting that was not common.

The excesses of the Julio-Claudian dynasty were brought to an end by the military who installed a new dynasty, the Flavians. Under Vespasian, Titus, and Domition, the military role of the emperor was made more evident and the people of the city were given back spaces that had been appropriated by the emporers. The Colosseum, which takes its name from the huge statue, the face of which was changed after Nero's demise, was a gift to the people to win back their favor. The arch of Titus, depicting his victory in Jerusalem was another sign that the emporer was working for the people to keep the city rich in spoils. The emporers confined their private building activity to the palace complex on the Palatine Hill.

It is to the credit of the emperors that they realized the inconsistancy in talent of succeeding generations, and by the end of the first century had invented a procedure by which they adopted a successor from the ranks of their trusted generals. This is how Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius came to power. Trajan was to begin a new campaign of expansionism to the north and east. In the city he began an ambitious policy of public works which employed thousands. His architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, brought the sophistication of eastern splendor to the capitol. Continuing the policy of blotting out the work of Nero he placed a huge bathing compound on the Golden House. Public baths were immense structures that used concrete vaulted architecture and sophisticate hypocaust heating under the floors. They characterize the Roman civitas as much as the open theater was the sign of the Greek polis. Today with the rise of health clubs we might understand the attraction that they had for the Roman populace, for these were places not only to luxuriate in steamy baths but a place to work on the body. The fact that they were divided bilaterally reveals that women had a space as large as men, and had an equal right of access. That the baths of Caracalla were suitable for McKim Mead and White's model for Penn Station in New York says something about the scale of these buildings which were cities in themselves.

Down in the forum district Trajan made the definitive move that will connect the campus matius district with that of the forum. In order to create his forum, Trajan had a sectoin of the quirinal hill and the saddle of hill connecting to the Capitoline removed. The embankments that worked as retaining walls for the eastern edge of his forum were made of extraordinary annular vaults, and segmented vaults and were a multi-story shopping compound--the precursor to the mall. The markets of Trajan are loose and fluid, a road runs through the upper level. The facade is decorated with great variety: alternating rounded and segmented tympanums (something that will become very important to Renaissance architects) were used effortlessly. Inside are magnificent halls lit by clearstories. Among the offices that were located here was the Curia Anonae, the dole. With Trajan's forum and market, the central part of Rome starts to take on a more orderly pattern.

The one place in the city where there was already a farily orderly arrangement of buildings was the Campus Martius. In antiquity the campus was the military mustering field, and this entire area of marshy land belonged to the city. The term campus that we use for university derives from the assembly of different public buildings that were pieced together in this district. The land was drained and channeld into a great pool, called the stagnum and channeled further into a canal called the Euripus. Among the first of the great buildings was the first permanent theater in the city, sponsored by Pompey, the rival to Julius Caesar. Augustus had built his Ara Pacis here and the great Sundial, the Orlogium, as well as the round tumulus for his burial were nearby. Nero had built some public baths here and Domitian supplied buildings for the annual games, the great stadium that is still remembered in the form of Piazza Navona and next to it a theater for poetry contest, known as the Odeon.

This collection of big public buildings in the Campus Martius, mostly for the entertainment of the citizens, reaches a high point of order during the reign of Hadrian, the successor of Trajan. Hadrian may have been an architect himself, it is not clear, but as a client he was quite clear about what he wanted. He had a superb sense of military organization and continued Trajan's expansionist campaigns pushing the boundaries of the state to the farthest edges, marked by the great wall built under Hadrian on the Scottish border and the resettlement of the Middle East. The scale of his building campaigns required a similar militaristic organization, which was noted by his biographers.

Hadrian spent over half of his years as emporer travelling and had an inordinate respect for Greek culture. He was depicted wearing this cuirasse, which showed Athena being supported by the she-wolf of Rome. And by the scale of his private building campaign at Tivoli, 20 miles south of Rome, it might appear that he was disenchanted by the chaos and corruption of the capital. But such a theory is disproven by the amount of building he carried out in Rome and the way he moved in the city, constantly appearing in the Republican Forum. At his villa he indulged a compulsion for building that led to a set of monumental pieces: the huge Poikile with its immense cutain wall, the canopus, a long pool terminating in a Serapeum and probably a metaphor for Egypt. Statues everywhere of the ephebic Antinoos, the boy Hadrian was inamoured of and who according to legend sacrificed his life for the emporer in Egypt. (Hadrian will found a city in Egypt called Antinopolis to commemorate the boy). Great courtyard buildings connected underground by cryptoporticus, immense bath structures, heated by hypocaust floors, two library buildings and an enigmatic residence, the so-called maritime theater, a circular island surround by a moat. The building on the island is a most complex design, anticipating Borromini in its intersecting arcs. Was the villa an alternative vision of the city? It certainly had most of the elements that make up the armature of a Roman city, but like Rome itself it has a labiiynthine quality that has occurred by putting pieces together piecemeal. It is full of strange gaps that the more thoroughly planned Roman cities would not permit. It is loose and sprawling on the landscape, with secret places that only the initiated can find.

In the city Hadrian pursued a campaign of restoring important republican structures and adding new buildings to enhance those areas. One of the largest temples, and the most Greek looking from the outside was his Temple to Venus and Roma. There had been not cult building for Roma, who was worshipped throughout the empire as a goddess. Venus's connection to the erotic subtext of the city previously mentioned was clear to everyone. In effect this double temple, which on the interior is divided into half, unlike any temple in the world, is an architectural compliment to the pun of Roma/Amor.

Hadrian's greatest architectural contribution was in the Campus Martius, begun early in his career: it was the rebuilding of a temple sponsored by Agrippa that had been struck by lightning and burned. The new building, known as the Pantheon, which may have been the function of the old building, at first glance appears to be a typical rectangular temple. Hadrian had the frontispiece rebuilt to ressemble the original and affixed Agrippa's name to the entablature confusing for posterity the source of patronage. The Pantheon was served by a great temenos space of orderly colonnades, which masked the bulging sides of the rear of the building. Upon entry into the Pantheon, one's expectations are immediately subverted because you suddenly find yourself in a luminous semi-spherical space of immense grandeur that is completely incongruous to the orthogonal order of the frontispiece. A thirty foot diameter occulus at the top of the dome lets in a shaft of light (as well as the rain), that during the day projects a spot of light that travels around the space marking the passage of time.

Adjacent to the Pantheon, Hadrian repaired the Saepta Julia, and the baths of Agrippa, added temples dedicated to his predecessors and nearby on the via Lata produced some appartment buildings with colonnaded streets of the sort that had been projected in the reforms of Nero after the fire. Across the Tiber in the area reserved for burial grounds he raised an immense mausoleum, now called Castel Sant'Angelo with its axial bridge. This axis with its monumental backdrop will constitute a powerful legacy to the vocabulary of urban design for later periods.

Hadrian in his immense projects for the city continued the program established by Emporer Augustus of clarifying and beautifying the city. He excelled in bringing the Roman way back to its source, in using architecture as a rhetorical instrument for guiding the city toward the responsabilities of civilization. The Pantheon was supposedly the building where hadrian preferred to hold court. As a setting he moved the reality of his function as emporer one step beyond to a metaphysical realm. The architecture of the Pantheon gives order to the city like other large scale projects, but it also creates an atmosphere once you are inside that automatically makes you ponder the nature of the world. It is a totality that is comprehensible as a figure, a semi-spherical dome, embossed with perspectival coffers and held up by 25 foot thick walls, and yet it is not visually graspable. It communicates the sense of the entire world governed by the sun. A human being can only admit to their punyness in such a setting and to their lack of control in the world; even the emporer in this setting would feel the same. And in this respect it is a colossal metaphor of how Rome had supplied a structure to the rest of the world based on military protection, administration and architecture and allowed the urbis and the orbis to become a single entity.

William MacDonald, The Architeccture of the Roman Empire, vols. I & II.
Mary T. Boatwright, Hadrian and the City of Rome, Princeton, 1987.
Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars,
N. D. Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City, (1873)

Richard Ingersoll
Last Updated: 9.22.95
Maintained by: Tim Gordon