Introduction to Roman Topography

Richardson, L. jr


  1. Ancient Evidence for the Study of Roman Topography
  2. Scope of Richardson' New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome
  3. Archaeological & Epigraphical Sources; The Regionary Catalogues
  4. Christian and Medieval Documents
  5. The Renaissance Humanists
  6. Artists' Views
  7. The Science of Topography in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Ancient Evidence for the Study of Roman Topography

The tools of the topographer of ancient Rome are very varied, everything that can be brought to bear on any historical or archaeological problem, beginning with the ancient literary sources and descending to the unearthing and analysis of any sort of physical remains. The literary sources must be evaluated, however; too often there is a tendency to take any mention of a monument at face value and out of context, and the reliability of the source is too seldom questioned, even by seasoned scholars. Inscriptions, including the stamps of ownership on lead pipes and brick-stamps, are another source of information. But the stamps on lead pipes need not always indicate ownership, and bricks are not always used within a short time of their manufacture. They may even be reused. The mutilated fragments of Forma Urbis Romae known as the Marble Plan of Rome are a marvelous help, every square inch worth study, but the plan is not meticulously drawn, and there are distortions in the surveying. Moreover, of the 712 known and catalogued fragments, many of them composed of several pieces, fewer than 50 have been positively identified and located. New joins are made from time to time, and new locations suggested or discovered. Coins showing monuments have been accorded more attention and given more weight than they deserve. As soon as a temple or other monument was decreed, it might appear on a coin and be shown in a form that had nothing to do with the ultimate reality. This is especially true of coins issued at mints other than that of Rome. Unless one knows the date of both coin and monument, a coin is almost wholly untrustworthy evidence. Even the representation of an existing building on a coin is often arbitrary, and we do not know the Roman conventions for such representations as interiors. Worse than coins are lead tesserae. However, old photographs, as well as old prints, must never be neglected. Often in the course of time the appearance of features may have changed, especially in a place as much frequented as the Forum Romanum. Sometimes this is for cosmetic reasons or convenience, sometimes because of damage, sometimes arbitrary or a mistake. In the past it was common practice to repair damaged and unstable monuments with ancient material that did not belong to these but was found nearby, a practice that is also found in antiquity. The work of the topographer is a path through a maze, beset with pitfalls and full of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant.

There are numerous descriptions of the physical city of Rome surviving from antiquity, none of which is without value, but all of which require interpretation. None is in any sense a topographical survey. The descriptions range from Horace's poetical account of a walk through the center of the city while he is pestered by an insufferable leech and Vergil's description of Aeneas's divinely inspired, dreamlike visit to the Arcadian king Evander to attempts in Livy and Tacitus to convey the magnitude of disastrous fires, the confusion of battle, or the grandeur of ceremonies. A few merit special mention: Pliny's attempt (HN 3.66-67) to describe the enormous size of Rome as a metropolis by measuring the distances from the Milliarium Aureum in the Forum Romanum to the thirty-seven gates of Rome and then the length of all the streets from the same point to the limits of concentrated building and habitation; Frontinus's careful account of the water supply (De Aquis) with the time of construction of each new aqueduct, its volume, and the regions of the city that it served; and Strabo's attempt (5.3.7-8 [234-35]) to define Rome's magnificence as a singular combination of natural advantages, admirable organization of public works, and superb architecture. These do not convey useful information, such as can be quarried piecemeal from the works of Varro, Vitruvius, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, but they are early attempts to treat the city as an entity, to see it as a physical organism. The antiquarians must be cited repeatedly for their interest in old and odd place-names, curious customs, and religious lore; the enormous learning of the Augustan scholar Verrius Flaccus, transmitted in abbreviated and mutilated form in the dictionary of Festus, the collection and discussion of random information of interest by Valerius Maximus and Aulus Gellius, and the erudite inventions of Macrobius and Tertullian are all important and often illuminating of what in greater writers is taken for granted. In the study of the topography of the ancient city no ancient author writing anything at all about the city can be ignored, but each individually must be carefully weighed. A scholiast will often include an explanation that he thinks is plausible, rather than something based on genuine knowledge; the scholia on Juvenal are notoriously unreliable. Or there will be information that he understands imperfectly, as is sometimes the case with Servius. But until the onset of the Middle Ages in the sixth century every scrap of writing about the city is to prized and scrutinized, from Plautus's digression on the frequenters of the Forum Romanum to Procopius's spirited account of Belisarius's defense of Rome against the Goths. There are often nuggets of value in very unsuspected places, in Seneca's Apocolocyntosis and Johannes Lydus's De Mensibus.

The ancient sources bearing on topographical features of most of Rome have been gathered together in Fontes ad Topographiam Veteris Urbis Romae Pertinentes by Giuseppe Lugli in collaboration with a number of his associates and students, published from 1952-1969. Here, under convenient headings and with a wealth of cross references, one can find the material of every sort pertinent to any feature or monument from the general site and geography to the least dedication or image depicted on a lead tessera. No sort of evidence is neglected, and the inclusion of brick-stamps and coins, even when their pertinence is in some doubt, enhances the usefulness of this work. The abundant subheadings make reference easy, and brief footnotes provide dates and identify obscure allusions. But a few areas were not completed, and there is no discussion of these sources, or their value, when it is questionable, and inscriptions are only minimally described. The texts of authors are taken from the Teubner editions without apparatus, and the work is published on very poor paper with few illustrations. Consequently, it serves more as an index to the sources than a replacement for them, but as such it is tremendously valuable. Unfortunately, it was also a small edition, and it is difficult to find a copy today.

Scope of Richardson' New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome

The present book is a new dictionary in the sense that every entry has been written entirely afresh and effort has been made to take into account the results of the latest excavations and research. But significant work on the topography of the ancient city goes as far back as the Renaissance and such antiquarians and architects as Bartolomo Marliano and Pirro Ligorio, and systematic study of the subject has been pursued since the eighteenth century. We have inherited a vast body of knowledge built up by some of the best minds in the Western world, and I have seen my task as one more of sorting and selection than of adding. I have added where the evidence showed existing interpretations inadequate or implausible, but I have tried to refrain from speculation.

The geographical limits of this dictionary are provided by the fourteen regiones of the Augustan reorganization of Rome, as far as they can be determined. They are defined principally by the buildings listed for each in the regionary catalogues of the fourth century, and their outer perimeter follows approximately the line of the walls of Aurelian, except in the Transtiberim. On the left bank of the Tiber, these walls also closely follow the octroi (customs) boundary of the time of Commodus, which was marked by cippi and so provides a convenient definition of the city limits at the height of the empire. But on the right bank the area included within the walls was simply a wedge running to the top of the Janiculan hill to prevent any enemy from seizing that vantage point from which to bombard the city and to protect the heads of the most important Tiber bridges. Here the list of buildings given by the regionary catalogues for Regio XIV indicates an area stretching from the sanctuary of Hercules Cubans, a half-kilometer outside the Porta Portuensis on the south, to the Gaianum and Naumachia Vaticana beyond the Mausoleum Hadriani on the north, and westward to the ridge of the Janiculan hill and slope of the Vatican, including the Circus Gaii et Neronis. This is a vast area and imprecisely bounded, but although parts of it were populous, it was not rich in public buildings, so hard decisions on what to include and what to exclude do not present themselves.

Within the boundaries thus set all significant sites, monuments, and buildings from the earliest occupation of Rome to the onset of the Middle Ages in the sixth century have been included, with the exception of most Christian churches and tombs. The study of early Christian Rome is a separate discipline best left to quite different specialists, and, although I have frequently drawn on their work, I am not competent to judge it, especially in matters of liturgical importance. While this is not a dictionary exclusively of pagan Rome, it cannot cover everything, and Christian monuments have been omitted, except as they have bearing on the physical shape of pagan ones.

Archaeological & Epigraphical Sources; The Regionary Catalogues

The most important of our sources of information, apart from the literary sources, are the physical remains of buildings revealed in excavations. Few ancient monuments survived above ground through the centuries of neglect from the onset of the Middle Ages to the reawakening of interest in antiquity and its preservation in the Renaissance. And those that did were generally rebuilt in other architectural forms, becoming parts of towers, castles, churches, and palazzi. The rediscovery of the surviving remains in the foundations and walls of later buildings continues today, and almost no year passes without important fresh information coming to light. Apart from additions to our knowledge of architecture and city planning, excavations also yield a harvest of epigraphical material, especially inscribed pipes and brick-stamps.

Along with these one must rank other, more important inscriptions, the fragments of calendars, the various fasti of Rome, and the fragments of plans inscribed on marble. Inscriptions often untowardly preserve topographical information of great value. Among these pride of place must be give to the so-called Capitoline Base (CIL 6.975=ILS 6073) now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, an inscription of the time of Hadrian in which were listed the magistri of the vici of Rome headed with the name of each vicus and divided among the Augustan regiones. Unfortunately, only somewhat less than one-half the whole list survives, the magistri of Regiones I, X, XII, XIII, and XIV, but the information to be gleaned from the names of the vici is very important. Next to this we should perhaps set the decree of Tarracius Bassus, praefectus urbi toward the end of the fourth century, against miscreants who had cheated and usurped public benefits to their own profit. These were identified by name, together with those whom they had wronged, identified by the name of their vicus. The decree is known only in fragments, but there were multiple copies, and there are more than a dozen important fragments, which give many vicus names not exampled elsewhere (CIL 6.1766, 31893-901; ILS 6072).

The fasti are numerous, amounting to more than forty, and come from a great variety of sites, for the most part near Rome, but they are all fragmentary and of various date. The most important are the Fasti Praenestini, believed to have been compiled by Verrius Flaccus in A.D. 6-9 and displayed in the forum of Praeneste, and the Fasti Antiates Maiores, painted on plaster, of 84-55 B.C. The fasti have all been collected and handsomely published by Atilio Degrassi in Fasti Anni Numani et Iuliani (Inscriptiones Italiae, vol. 13.2) (Rome 1963), a work of the highest scholarship that includes extensive commentarii diurni, which bring together the literary and epigraphical sources pertaining to religious observances for each day and include modern bibliography. This supersedes Theodor Mommsen's work in CIL 1.2 and is a mine of information.

Of the fragments of plans on marble, the most important are those of the Forma Urbis Romae known as the Marble Plan, a map of the city drawn between A.D. 203 and 211 in the time of Septimius Severus. It was inscribed on heavy rectangular plates of marble at the scale of 1:240, and these were hung on a wall in the Templum Pacis. The wall still survives today behind the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano, and the pattern of clamps and backing can be discerned. The execution is careless and inaccurate in detail, with occasional serious errors in the surveying, but the plan is still invaluable. It showed the whole of the center of the city of Rome, many of the buildings and landmarks inscribed with their names, but it is oriented with the southeast at the top and excluded important southeastern reaches of the city, including the areas of the Baths of Caracalla and the Porta Maggiore. The bronze clamps that held it to the wall gave way in time, and the plates fell and broke at the foot of the wall. The fragments were then in large part dispersed. Their recovery began in 1562 on the initiative of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, and the subsequent history of these, the discovery of more fragments, and their reassembly and publication by various scholars is a fascinating story in itself. They are now housed in the Palazzo Braschi in Rome. The most recent publications are those by a commission of four scholars, G. Carettoni, A.M. Colini, L. Cozza, and G. Gatti, La pianta marmorea di Roma antica, 2 vols. (Rome 1960), and E. Rodriguez Almeida, Forma urbis marmorea: Aggiornamento generale, 2 vols. (Rome 1981). The first of these is a meticulous study of the monument from a great many perspectives, together with fine plates of all the fragments at large scale. The second publishes many advances made since 1960 in the joining and placing of fragments, but large numbers of fragments still remain unassigned. Moreover, it has been suspected that some fragments may belong to another, earlier version of the plan, probably Flavian in date, which raises the question whether a master plan of the city may not have been executed for Agrippa, acting as Augustus's agent, at the time of his overhauling of the water and sewer systems of Rome beginning in 33 B.C. If so, then all subsequent plans were probably based on that. In 1983, in an excavation in Via Anicia in the Transtiberim, there came to light part of a thin plate of marble showing the bank of the river and the Temple of Castor and Pollux on Circus Flaminius. This is incised at the same scale as the Marble Plan, 1:240, but much more delicately and precisely. Walls are drawn with double lines, rather than the single line of the Marble Plan, and a range of refinements including identifications introduced. This fragment overlaps with one of the Marble Plan, and its place is certain, but it seems to have been made earlier by perhaps a century and for a different purpose. More fragments will probably come to light, and the study of the plan continues to produce new information.

From late antiquity come the two lists known as the regionary catalogues, the Curiosum and Notitia, lists of buildings and landmarks arranged according to the Augustan regiones of the city, followed by counts of buildings of various types. These are incomplete, and their purpose has been much debated. After careful study, A. Nordh concluded that the Curiosum was compiled in or about the time of Diocletian from public lists and/or a map of the general character of the Marble Plan and intended to be a list of the regiones of the city with the neighborhoods therein contained identified by prominent buildings or landmarks. This was then augmented by interpolations and the addition of incidental information, such as the heights of the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. At the end of the list for each regio were added certain statistics for types of buildings, amenities, and officials, some of which continue to be enigmatic today. Finally, there were appended two lists, one a compilation of significant features for the city as a whole (obelisks, bridges, hills, and so on), and the other statistical tables of buildings for the whole city. The omission of a great many famous buildings from these is puzzling; it is thought that perhaps it is to be laid to their not having given their name to any neighborhood. The Notitia was then compiled before the reign of Constantine, using an early version of the Curiosum as basis. The Notitia has certain more correct readings than any of the surviving manuscripts of the Curiosum and omits a few of the interpolations, but contains other interpolations. The two appendices that follow these lists and are to all intents and purposes the same-the first of features most of which are omitted from the regionary lists, the other a compilation of the numbers of various sorts of buildings, many of which appear earlier in their regiones- must have been added somewhat later, the latter first, but probably neither later than the fourth century.

To the fourth century also belong the works of the Chronographer of 354 and Saint Jerome (Hieronymus). The former provides a list of the accomplishments of the kings of the early city and a list of the emperors with the remarkable events that occurred under each, beginning with Julius Caesar and extending to Licinius. Because the compiler was especially interested in building activity and such natural disasters as fires, he includes much incidental information of value but few details. The work is included in Mommsen's Chronica Minora 1 (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, vol. 9, Berlin 1892) 141-48. The chronology of Saint Jerome--a translation into Latin of the chronology of Eusebius for the history of the world with additions extending it to A.D. 379--gives in parallel columns Eastern and Western calendars and adds events of significance in Roman history. These include much about literary figures, as well as political events, and preserve a wealth of information, not always accurate. Jerome's sources included Suetonius but are not otherwise precisely known. Because notices of significant building and catastrophes are also included, the chronicle is frequently of value for the topographer. Its latest edition is the second edition by Rudolph Helm (Eusebius, Werke, vol. 7, Berlin 1984).

A century later, toward the middle of the fifth century, Polemius Silvius constructed an annotated calendar, essentially Christian and astronomical, and added to it lists of landmarks Quae sint Romae. Apparently writing somewhere in the south of France, he relied on the work of the Chronographer of 354, or something very similar, the Curiosum, and other sources of the same sort. He adds to our knowledge names for monuments in use under the later empire but little else, and his list is studded with problems of every sort.

Collections of these sources, together with an assortment of others of smaller value have been gathered together and published from time to time, as well as studies of the individual documents. The most important and accessible of such publications are those of C.L. Urlichs, Codex Urbis Romae Topographicus (Würzburg 1871); H. Jordan, Topographie der Stadt Rom im Alterthum, 2 vols. (Berlin 1871); Theodor Mommsen, Chronica Minora 1 (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, vol. 9, Berlin 1892); and R. Valentini and G. Zucchetti, Codice topografico della città di Roma, vol. 1(Rome 1940). Urlich's collection is comprehensive but difficult to find, and much valuable work on the nature and quality of the texts has been done subsequently, especially by Mommsen. Jordan includes admirable discussions of certain texts that especially interested him, although the notion that the basis of the regionary catalogues was a list of the buildings that bounded each of the fourteen regiones of the Augustan city, a notion prevalent everywhere in the nineteenth century, is no longer accepted. Today we depend on Valentini and Zucchetti for these; their first volume collects the most important sources from antiquity down through the sixth century, ending with Johannes Lydus and pseudo-Zaccharias. Each text is discussed in a preface and provided with an apparatus criticus and extensive annotation that takes full account of modern scholarship. The selection of literary and epigraphical material from the classical period is necessarily limited and somewhat arbitrary, but this is meant to be simply introductory. The body of the work begins with the regionary catalogues, and for these and successive documents this is now our best authority. It is referred to repeatedly here, cited as VZ.

Christian and Medieval Documents

After Constantine and the acceptance of Christianity into respectability in Rome, one begins to get Christian topographical documents, lists of the churches and cemeteries with their respective graves. These begin in a small way with the Chronographer of 354. At first they are of small value to the topographer, because the dead were still buried beyond the pomerium, and it was there that churches dedicated to them were built. Through the Middle Ages of the sixth to ninth centuries Rome and interest in its antiquities continued to dwindle and decay. But about the time of Charlemagne we begin to feel the winds of change. An extraordinary portmanteau manuscript known as the Codex Einsiedelnsis (Einsiedeln no. 326) contains, among other things, a precious topographical document in five distinct parts, each written in a different hand: (1) The Einsiedeln sylloge, a collection of inscriptions, both pagan and Christian, copied from monuments, for the most part in Rome, toward the end of the eighth century; (2) the Einsiedeln itinerary, an itinerary for pilgrims arranged in eleven crossings of the city of Rome in various directions from gate to gate, with lists of the sights to be seen on either hand, as well as in the immediate path. This was composed before the creation of the Leonine city in 848-852 and after the foundation of the monastery of S. Silvestro in 752-767, so it may be placed close to the time of Charlemagne; (3) a description of the walls of Rome, offered as an appendix to the itinerary, which amounts to a statistical inventory of features such as towers and windows for the stretches of the Aurelian Walls from gate to gate at a time when they were in serious disrepair, so presumably between the time of Belisarius and the eighth century, when their repair was undertaken by four popes, Sisinnius, Gregory II, Gregory III, and Hadrian I; the most likely date for it would be early in the eighth century; (4) an appendix of the liturgical rites of Holy Week in Rome written sometime between 687 and the first years of the ninth century; and (5) an anthology of Latin poems including epitaphs of A.D. 799 and 840, originally a separate volume. It is clear that the first four parts of this miscellany were put together in Rome over a relatively short time, close to the reign of Charlemagne, most probably by a well-educated and devout cleric.

The Liber Pontificalis, the official account of the res gestae of the early popes in biographical form, is of varying value. The first collected edition of these lives seems to have been made under Pope Boniface II (530-532). The earliest lives are very spare and schematic. A little at a time they become richer and more informative; toward the end of the fifth century they begin to show the character of contemporary compositions. In the sixth century they focus more sharply on the politics and administration of the church. The sequel, or second edition, extending the history in similar form until the death of Pope Martin V (1431), is very uneven, Through the ninth century the lives are the work of anonymous court functionaries, compiled during the lifetime of the popes from official records and archives, and some of these (Hadrian I, Paschal I, Gregory VI) are important. In the tenth century and majority of the eleventh they are dry catalogues with occasional mention of historical events. Then, beginning with Pope Gregory VII (1073-1086), extended biographies are the work of various contemporaries, but are brought into a semblance of uniformity by the editing of twelfth-century scholars, and in such form continue until the early fifteenth century. The topographical information contained in the Liber is incidental, sometimes casual, but it provides much that is valuable about the transformation of the ancient pagan city into a Christian one. In modern times the Liber has been edited by L. Duchesne in masterly fashion (vol. 1, Paris 1886; vol. 2, Paris 1892) and by Mommsen (only vol. 1, until the death of Constantine in 715, Berlin 1898). A small section, from Pope Paschal II (1099-1118) to Pope Honorius II (1124-1130), the work of the Roman Pandolfo (ca. 1137), has been edited by J.M. March on the basis of a manuscript in Tortosa (Barcelona 1925). The significant passages for topographical studies have been excerpted by Valentini and Zucchetti, using all three important modern editions. In this dictionary citations are usually made following Duchesne (cited as LPD), as well as Valentini and Zucchetti (VZ). The significant early Christian lists, Einsiedeln material, and Liber Pontificalis, are collected by Valentini and Zucchetti in their second volume (Rome 1942).

One of the more extraordinary productions of the twelfth-century revival of interest in antiquity is the Mirabilia, originally composed, as Duchesne demonstrated, by Benedetto Canonico, cantor of the basilica of S. Pietro, between 1140 and 1143. It is a guidebook for pilgrims, beginning with statistics about the fortifications of Rome, and contains lists of the principal monuments: gates, triumphal arches, hills, baths, palaces, theaters, places associated with the martyrdom of saints, and so on. The emphasis is almost equally divided between sites of religious importance and conspicuous ruins and landmarks. Into this are woven bits of history and tradition, legends, and lore of every sort. The author has let his imagination run riot at times; he is extremely ignorant about mainstream Roman history and loves the fabulous and the wonderful. But he knows the city of his own day very well and draws heavily upon that knowledge. His work is known in several versions, having been subsequently more or less elaborated to suit different audiences and successive generations. An example of this is the Graphia Aureae Urbis of the thirteenth century, which uses it as its central part, preceding it with foundation legends and following it with an account of the imperial administration (dignitates). The Miribilia was enormously successful and exists in a multitude of manuscripts all over Europe. A version in the vernacular known as Le miracole di Roma rearranges and abbreviates it. After the invention of printing it went through numerous editions. For the study of the topography of ancient Rome it is almost worthless, but it is a curiosity of high antiquarian interest.

A work along the same lines is the De Mirabilibus Urbis Romae by Magister Gregorius, a churchman, very likely English, of the second half of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century. An educated man, he wrote evidently following a pilgrimage to Rome at the instigation of, and for the edification of , his colleagues (consodales). He is especially impressed by statuary, but responds to the aesthetic quality of buildings as well. Unfortunately, his work is brief and unsystematic; it informs us of what there was to be seen at the time that continued to be awe-inspiring, but it does not add much to our knowledge of topography, because Gregorius's knowledge of the names and purposes of the ancient buildings was very imperfect, and at times his imagination runs wild.

Another work of Benedetto Canonico is the so-called Ordo Romanus Benedicti, a descriptive list of the ceremonies of the church year, especially the processions in which the pope took part, the routes these followed being give in detail that is often informative about topography, together with lists of those participating and their dress and order. This, as far as the rituals are concerned, is based on an Ordo Romanus Antiquus of the middle of the tenth century, but the wealth of learning, especially antiquarian lore, that Benedetto has lavished on his revisions makes it very valuable. This Ordo was then revised, after the return of the popes to Rome from an exile of six years, by Cencio Savelli, called Cencio Camerario, in 1188. Although he abbreviates Benedetto's Ordo, omitting much of topographical interest, he includes a list of 305 churches whose clerics had the right to a presbyterium for incense during the Easter parade from the Vatican to the Lateran. Other lists of churches, dependent in part on this but including additions, are the catalogues of Paris (Bibliothèque de l'Arsénal, no. 526) and Turin (Biblioteca Nazionale di Torino, Lat. A, 381).

The topographical sources for the period of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, including much material that is pertinent only to Christian and medieval Rome, such as Petrus Mallius's detailed description of the Vatican basilica and its contents and adjacencies, are collected by Valentini and Zucchetti in their third volume (Rome 1946). Here there is only incidentally information important for this dictionary.

The Renaissance Humanists

Beginning in the fourteenth century, with the surge of humanistic interest of the early Renaissance, men such as Petrarch had an intense awareness of the former greatness of Rome, which needed expression in evocation of the physical city. By and large these were men of letters, devoted to reading Livy and Vergil, who made no attempt to fetter their imaginations with topographical exactness. They were in Rome and conjured up the ancient landscape easily. What they did not know, they made up, explaining things as logically as they could, mingling Christian elements with pagan ones. These were men such as Giovanni Cavalieri, Fazio degli Uberti, and Niccolà Signorili. Their work is seldom of real help to the modern topographer, and their mistakes are often ludicrous, but their enthusiasm for antiquity led them to copy numerous inscriptions, and sometimes their inclusion of information about the state and location of remains with relation to the landmarks of their own day is useful. Among these one must single out especially the so-called Anonymous Magliabechianus, a name given by L, Mercklin, his first modern editor, to the author of the Tractatus de Rebus Antiquis et Situ Urbis Romae of about 1411. His work begins with a history of the world from its beginning and is a rag bag of material drawn untidily from many sources and with many errors. He was not a learned man. In the topographical part, he is heavily dependent on the Mirabilia and Graphia, but he does include a modern designation for each ancient landmark, and this adds up to a fair coverage of the city in the early Renaissance, one of our best documents for the period.

With Poggio Bracciolini's De Fortunae Varietate begun in 1431 and published in 1448, things change. He chooses, as an eloquent example of the fickleness of Fortune, the vicissitudes of the ancient city of Rome and provides a detailed description of the ruins of antiquity with precise identification of each and some indication of its glory and history. He is familiar with a great range of texts, including Frontinus's De Aquis and Dionysius of Halicarnassus's Antiquitates Romanae, and can speak with more authority than his predecessors. He has collected and studied inscriptions and knows the remains well by autopsy, having even measured the walls and counted the towers. Unfortunately, his description is abbreviated and unsystematic, but he gives a vivid picture of what remains and the state in which it appears. Within the same period appeared the truly revolutionary work of Biondo Flavio, Roma Instaurata, undertaken in 1444 and brought to completion in 1446. This was a systematic topography of Rome based on an extensive array of sources. The regionary catalogues and Frontinus are used properly for the first time, and postclassical sources such as the Liber Pontificalis, Symmachus, and Cassiodorus are not slighted, nor are the ancient churches and monasteries. His is the first attempt at a scientific topography, and he was a man of keen intelligence and lively imagination. While he was capable of egregious errors, they are the errors of a reasoning man. He is in many ways the founder of modern topography, and on his work depends much that followed in the succeeding century and a half. His book was repeatedly copied, and after the invention of printing it went through a dozen editions by the middle of the sixteenth century.

The fragmentary remnants of a still more learned work are the Excerpta, supposedly taken down from the lectures of Pomponio Leto, while he was showing a foreigner about the ruins of Rome. They date from late in the fifteenth century, when Leto was teaching at the Sapienza. The tour begins with the Colosseum and proceeds to the Forum Romanum and imperial fora, thence to the Campus Martius, as far as S. Maria del Popolo, and then clockwise through the hills from the Pincian to the Aventine, and finally to the Palatine and Capitoline. The work is full of current information and observation; errors are few, and speculation is almost completely lacking. It is regrettable that we do not have more from this brilliant scholar.

There follows on these the brief work of Bernardo Rucellai of the end of the fifteenth century or beginning of the sixteenth, entitled simply De Urbe Roma. Rucellai was a Florentine, an enthusiastic student of epigraphy and numismatics who enjoyed the friendship and advice of Donato Acciaioli, Lorenzo de' Medici, and Leon Battista Alberti and profited from their instruction, especially that of Alberti in construction. Rucellai knows the latest discoveries and has a wide knowledge of not only the sources but also the scholarship of his time, but his work is brief, and his contribution is chiefly in epigraphy. Finally, there is the Opusculum de Mirabilibus Novae et Veteris Urbis Romae of Francesco Albertini, begun in 1506 and finished in 1509. This contributes little or nothing to our knowledge of topography, being the work of a cleric of little scholarly proficiency; he freely confesses that in his compilation he is heavily dependent on others, such as Pomponio Leto. But in his account of modern Rome he is very complete, beginning with the churches, which he classifies by importance, proceeding to the palaces of the popes and cardinals, then to hospitals, libraries, and other buildings of public usefulness and interest, and concluding with the works of Julius II. The works from Petrarch's in the middle of the fourteenth century to Albertini's in the early sixteenth, for the most part excerpted to emphasize the contribution to the study of topography, are assembled by Valentini and Zucchetti in their fourth and final volume (Rome 1953).

Artists' Views

The history of the study of topography as a branch of knowledge, beginning with the humanists of the early Renaissance, is too complicated and too crowded with important figures, often in violent disagreement, to be discussed here. While the disputes and feuds add much to the interest and liveliness of the field, they contribute nothing in the way of source material. The basic texts were by this time almost all generally available, and quarrels over their emendation and interpretation, although colorful and engrossing, did little to advance knowledge. Topographers such as the rivals Pirro Ligorio and Bartolomeo Marliano are worth studying for their intrinsic interest, but they do not appear as more than footnotes in modern treatises on the subject. New physical remains themselves, and these to a very large extent lay buried. The record of those that still stood above ground was made by a succession of artists, some of them very gifted, such as Baldassare Peruzzi (1461-1536), Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane (1489-1546), Marten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), and Giovanni Antonio Dosio (ca. 1533-1609), and they have left a rich legacy of drawings and notebooks that enriches museum collections and provides basic information about the appearance of the ruins. Often the exactness of their drawings is astonishing, but they do not cover the surviving monuments systematically, and, because the artists' interest was especially pictorial, they did not choose their views to be informative. Those who worked in architecture, such as Peruzzi and Dosio, do sometimes make exquisite drawings with plans and measured details of capitals and cornices, but these are for the most part only of familiar buildings, the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Arch of Constantine. Dosio's sketchbook, now in Berlin, was published in facsimile by Christian Hülsen in 1933; other drawings of his in the Uffizi were edited by F. Borsi and others and published as G.A. Dosio, Roma antica (Rome 1976). Heemskerck's sketchbooks are superb and a wonderful record of the glories of Rome in his day, including sculpture as well as architecture, modern and ancient, but they include very little in the way of plans and measurements They have been published in facsimile by Hülsen and Hermann Egger (vol, 1, Berlin 1913; vol. 2, Berlin 1916; reprinted in Soest, Holland, 1975). Doubtless, there are still treasures of this sort yet to be discovered in private collections, but they are not apt to add much to our knowledge. Those who have contributed significantly to the study of ancient topography are Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), Étienne Du Pérac (ca. 1525-1604), and Alò Giovannoli (ca. 1550-1618).

Palladio, whose feeling for architectural volumes and vistas was probably the finest the world has ever produced, spent most of 1546 and 1547 in concentrated study of the remains of ancient architecture in Rome and its vicinity. Although he drew everything accessible with great care, he was especially drawn to the great imperial baths and the problems in vaulting and lighting that these presented, and he made studies of not only the plans of these but also all the elevations and sections that he could devise, a very complete set for almost every example. For the Baths of Caracalla, he included a number of capitals and moldings. The ground plans are almost always complete and suggest that he must have done a certain amount of discreet excavating ; only occasionally does he let a plan trail off. Some of the time he must be filling in parts by conjecture, and throughout his grand bath complexes are rigidly symmetrical, but their symmetry has been borne out to be correct by modern investigations. He is our best authority for most of these now, because much has since been destroyed or built into other buildings. And in the mid-sixteenth century the ruins were still being intensively mined, not for artistic treasures and marbles, but simply for building material. At one time he projected "books" of drawings of ancient monuments, large collections divided among the various types of buildings: arches, baths, temples, and so on, but this came to nothing. However, he did publish a small collection, L'antichità di Roma, in Rome in 1554, the fruit of his stay in 1546 and 1547.

In contrast, Étienne Du Pérac was a professional antiquarian, as well as a painter and architect, a Frenchman, as his name indicates, who came to Rome in the late 1550s and remained for more than twenty years, producing engravings, especially views of the remains of antique buildings in their modern setting. In this he was following in the tradition of Pirro Ligorio and Dosio, and his first great work was a panoramic bird's-eye view of the city imitating Ligorio's great panorama of 1561 showing the known ancient buildings restored to their former splendor and the lacunae filled out with suitable inventions. This, Du Pérac's monumental (1.04 m x 1.56 m) Urbis Romae Sciographia, was issued in eight sheets in April 1574. To produce it he has shamelessly mined Ligorio's work but changing enough to avoid the charge of outright plagiarism. He has reoriented a number of buildings, usually for the better, and clarified the courses of the main streets from the gates through the city, but it is perfectly clear where he has gone for inspiration and how he has worked. In the following year, 1575, he published his Vestigi dell'antichità di Roma, a collection of thirty-nine views of the best-known ancient monuments, bird's-eye views, somewhat simplified, with modern buildings treated so as not to distract from the ancient ones. These were provided with lengthy captions explaining them. Here, too, Du Pérac was not above using the work of his predecessors, notably Dosio's, when it was to his advantage, but much was his own and he was a good draughtsman and a careful observer. He can often be called on for details that are preserved nowhere else. This work was a great success and went through no fewer than eight editions, the last in 1773, proof in itself of its importance.

Alò Giovannoli is different, a careful observer but an inept draughtsman, willing to draw the most unprepossessing remains of reticulate-faced walls and concrete vaulting, but incapable of conveying accurately the spatial relation of masses and the correct proportion of elements. Often one cannot tell what is ancient from what is modern in his work. But he was an indefatigable workman, and in 1616, shortly before his death, he published in Rome a small collection of views, Vedute degli antichi vestigi di Roma. This was followed posthumously in 1619 by Roma antica, a collection of 126 plates in three volumes, assembled by his friends. The fact that so many of the views are of otherwise neglected bits of antiquity and all are accompanied by extended explanatory captions makes them valuable. But their interpretation is often extremely problematical.

The Science of Topography in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Systematic study of the topography of ancient Rome combining the results of excavation, both scientific and casual, with interpretation of the literary sources and the information to be gleaned from coins, inscriptions, and the Marble Plan begins in the late nineteenth century. Much had been accomplished before then, but Luigi Canina's maps of the ancient city published in 1849 and 1850 show admirably how little was known, how poorly the evidence of the Marble Plan was interpreted, and how extravagantly imagination ranged in the reconstruction of Roman grandeur. The movement toward a more rational approach was led by H. Jordan, C. Hülsen, R. Lanciani, and G. Boni. Jordan deserves special credit; his Topographie der Stadt Rom im Alterthum (vol. 1, parts 1 and 2, and vol. 2, Berlin 1871-85) was exemplary for method, historical perspective, and comprehensiveness, but it did not get beyond a collection of special studies. It was then taken up and completed by Hülsen (vol. 1, part 3, Berlin 1906) in a splendid survey of the city, area by area, whose composition shows the knowledge of a great scholar who devoted his life to this study. Hülsen was secretary of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in Rome from 1887 to 1909. Unfortunately, his knowledge of other disciplines was greater than his knowledge of architecture, and he is often a victim of the notions of the architects he employed, who were trained in the Beaux Arts tradition. Still, his advances in the study of topography were very great, and his works must still be consulted and studied. They are cited with great frequency in this dictionary. His counterpart and rival was Rodolfo Lanciani (1847?- 1923), who was trained as an engineer but by the age of twenty was working as archaeologist for Prince Torlonia at Portus. In 1872 Lanciani became secretary of the Commissione Archeologica Comunale. His commentary on Frontinus, Topografia di Roma antica, i commentarii di Frontino intorno le acque e gli acquedotti, silloge epigrafica acquaria, originally published in the Memorie della reale Accademia dei Lincei, ser. 3.4, Classe di Scienze Morali (1881), was the first great work of a brilliant career that embraced topographical studies of every sort and size. In 1882 he was appointed to the chair of Roman topography at the University of Rome. He was a superb topographer and a gifted and prolific writer, although his career as a writer was curtailed by illness after 1912. Everything he wrote can be read with profit, but two works stand out in importance above the rest, his Forma Urbis Romae, a magnificent map of the city at a scale of 1:1000 and in great detail, with the known remains of the ancient city overlaid on the network of modern streets and buildings. The first sheet of this map was issued in 1893, and the forty-sixth and final one in 1901. It is a marvelous example of cartography, as well as an encyclopedia of topographical information, and is still an essential tool for anyone working on the ancient city. It has recently been reissued. In conjunction with this Lanciani wrote his Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichità, a collection of all the information available about the excavations and discoveries in the city between A.D. 1000 and the death of Pope Clement VIII in 1605, issued in four volumes (Rome 1902-12). It was from this archive that much of the Forma Urbis was compiled, and it is regrettable that the collection stops in 1605, but the Herculean effort that would be required to continue it has so far been lacking. The final member of this great quartet, Giacomo Boni (1853-1925), was director of the excavations of the Forum Romanum and Palatine from 1890 to 1922 and carried out the deep explorations that brought to light the stratigraphy of the Comitium, the Sepulcretum with its early graves, the Lacus Iuturnae, and the archaic cisterns, or silos, of the Palatine, as well as the buildings buried under Domitian's Domus Augustiana. He was passionately interested in the early history of Rome and the historicity of the kings, and also in the full archaeological record of occupation and construction in the heart of the city. He was a meticulous excavator and admirably precise in recording in detail exactly what was found, and we are deeply in his debt. But he believed fervently in a Romulus we no longer accept as valid, and this colored his interpretation of his discoveries; much of his work consequently has been repeated and reinterpreted.

The following generation of scholars, many of them pupils of Lanciani, pursued by and large more specialized studies in their major publications. Thomas Ashby and Esther Van Deman exhaustively analyzed the courses and history of the aqueducts; Ian Richmond worked on a definitive publication of the Aurelian Walls and Gösta Säflund on the so-called Servian Walls; Giuseppe Lugli, who inherited Lanciani's chair at the University of Rome, took the history of Roman construction as his special province; and Herbert Bloch shaped the study of brickstamps into a fine tool. But Ashby also completed Samuel Ball Platner's A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Oxford 1929) after Platner's death, which immediately became a standard reference work; Antonio Maria Colini's learned papers covered several large areas of the city, notably a long study of the remains on the Caelian ; and Lugli produced a succession of works covering the general topography of Rome and bringing the coverage abreast of later developments. These begin with I monumenti antichi di Roma e suburbio (vol. 1, La zona archeologica, Rome 1930) and extend to his posthumous Itinerario di Roma antica (Rome 1975). Of particular interest is the map of ancient Rome in four sheets that he produced in collaboration with Italo Gismondi (Novara 1949). Despite the drawbacks of its relatively small scale (1:4000), which makes much of the representation schematic or simplified, it continues to be useful.

Lugli's successor at the University of Rome was his pupil Ferdinando Castagnoli, who devoted his early researches especially to ancient surveying and centuriation of land and town planning. Another pupil, Lucos Cozza, has made the fortifications a special field. And today there are a host of scholars of many nationalities who represent a wide range of training and a variety of points of view at work on the problems of Roman topography, some excavating, others reexcavating and restudying Boni's trenches, still others working largely at their desks. It is not possible to mention even a small number of selected names; they must be left to the bibliography for the individual entries in this dictionary. However, no one since Lugli has attempted a general survey of the state of our knowledge today. Castagnoli's surveys, Topographia e urbanistica di Roma (Bologna 1958) and Topographia di Roma antica (Enciclopedia classica, sez. 3. 10, Turin 1957; 2d rev. ed., Turin 1980), are too concerned with the general outlines of the discipline, major complexes, and historical development of the city to give detailed attention to the individual monuments. At his death in 1988 he left an incomplete manuscript of a revision of Platner and Ashby's dictionary on which he had worked occasionally for many years. It is as a replacement for that dictionary that the present work is offered.

© The Johns Hopkins University Press