• Last week we talked about the early history of the city: the regal period, but also a bit of Rennaissance (turtle fountain, the Borghese Palazzo).
  • Today: brief overview on the transition from the Republic to the empire. In particular, an examination of how this transition affected the city fabric itself.

Civil war, Augustus, and rebuilding

  • Competition between generals comes to a head.
  • 100 BC to 31 BC: near constant state of civil war in the Roman state.
    • Some in the provinces, but much in the state itself.
  • 31 BC: the city is in really bad shape.
    • Buildings, sewers, roads, in need of repair.
    • The Tiber was full of debris
    • The flooding problem Rome had was only made worse by this state of the Tiber.
  • 31 BC: Octavian becomes the sole ruler of the Roman state.
    • Within 4 years: taken on the title of “Augustus” (“revered one”).
    • Augustus was the first Roman emperor.
    • Beginning of the imperial period
      • Goes to mid 5th century AD.
  • Many changes to the political system, but also changes to the city fabric.
    • Augustus notices that Rome has become almost uninhabitable.
    • Republic: patrons build flashy things rather than strictly practical things.
    • Augustus too builds flashy things, but also realized that the infrastructure needed an overhaul.
  • Two-pronged approach.
    • Urban renewal (rebuilding what is already there).
    • New construction.
  • Touches almost every part of the ancient city.
    • Republic: there was never any one individual to have enough money or power to look at the city holistically.
    • “Found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble.”
      • But brick on the inside.
    • At any rate, Rome transformed into a beautiful, effective cityscape.

Theater of Marcellus



  • When Julius Caesar became dictator, he decided he wanted to build a second permanent theater (after the theater of Pompey, his rival). He cleared space for it, but was assassinated before he got any further. Augustus eventually picked up work on it once he had taken control of the city.
  • The name Marcellus could lead you to believe that it was Marcellus who built the theater, but this is not the case.
  • The dates are a bit uncertain, but by 17 BC, the theater was hosting active theater productions.
  • It is likely the triumphal processions hereafter pass by this theater, just like the Circus Maximus.
  • Theater: 20,000 people
    • Modern “comfortable” seating: more like 15,000.
    • But different numbers depending on the culture of scholars! (Different cultures have different ideas about personal space).
    • This “cultural numbering differences among scholars” is actually an issue that comes up fairly often. For example, how many people would the Coliseum fit?


  • Made up of tufa and travertine
    • Tufa more porous, brownish-red
    • Travertine more white
  • But like the theater of Pompey, the stone really depends upon Roman concrete.
  • True arches
    • As opposed to post and lintel.
    • In post and lintel, more weight above = more danger of collapse.
      • Columns forced to be close together, limited span.
    • But arches are different. With more weight above, generally speaking, arches are actually more stable.
    • The Romans probably learned the concept of the arch from the Etruscans, but they really ran with the idea.
  • Barrel vaults with concrete extend behind arches.
  • Not possible to accomplish this design with a post and lintel construction. All Greek theaters were carved into hillsides, not freestanding.
  • Engaged columns by arches
    • Not load bearing
    • But the Romans were always competing with the Greeks.
    • Hellenization - the process of becoming more Greek.
  • Capitals: 3 different orders
    • Doric on first level.
    • Ionic on second level.
    • Corinthian on third level. We don’t know this directly (the level didn’t fully survive), but through fragments.
  • Seems to be based on the perception that Doric columns are thicker, Ionic columns are relatively more graceful, etc.
    • Thicker columns on bottom, lighter columns on top.
    • Purely visual, as again, the columns are not load bearing.

Later history

  • The 3rd level disappeared, but there is a building on top of the second layer.
  • Medieval: transformed into fortress.
    • When Italy became a unified nation, the theater of Marcellus was owned by the Orsini family (family crest: bear).
    • Gave up the palace; had to pay taxes.
  • “Liberated” from the detritus of medieval buildings by Mussolini and Munoz.
  • Ancient travertine exterior worn down, but there are also square holes cut into it.
    • For wooden beams. Shops, etc. built flush against the exterior up until Mussolini’s activities.
  • Liberated structure was not that beautiful.
    • Partially recreate external facade.
  • Large road by the theater of Marcellus
    • Via del Mare: Mussolini intended to connect Rome to its port, Ostia.
    • Not only work on monuments, but alse rework the area around them to accentuate them.
    • As a result, we see them us Mussolini intended for us to see them, not as would have been seen in antiquity.

Nearby: Sosius’ temple of Apollo

  • Originally constructed 5th century BC.
  • But the columns we see now: from c. 20 BC. Built by Sosius to show his loyalty to Augustus after he changed sides from Antony.
  • Prostyle, but much larger than the temple of Portunus.

Portico of Octavia


This monument

  • Octavia was the sister to Augustus, and the mother of Marcellus.
  • The portico was built around two already existing temples to Jupiter and Juno from Republican times. These temples were in the center of the portico.
  • The temple to Jupiter, built c. 146 BC, was the first all-marble temple in Rome
  • Housed an enormous art collection.
    • Bronze statues showing Alexander the Great and his generals on horseback.
    • These statues were made by Lysippas: a famous late classical/hellenistic artist.
    • Also a statue of a noblewoman, Cornelia. This was the first public statue dedicated to a woman in Rome: c. 100 BC. Prior to this, the statues were only of men.
  • Rebuilt in between c. 200–203 AD by Septimius Severus.
  • Severan reworking: the pediment is not beautiful. The material was stolen and recarved. Signs of cracks within Rome even at this relatively early point in time.
  • Brick added in medieval period to keep it standing.
    • The medieval fishmarket of Rome was here.
    • Nearby is the door to the church of St. Angelo.
  • On brick: stucco and frecos
    • Mandola: a full-body halo around a figure.

How it fits into Augustus’ carefully crafted approach

  • Note that the structures do not bear Augustus’ name.
    • Marcellus
    • Sosius
    • Octavia
  • Anti-monarchial Romans: Augustus careful to make sure he does not appear to be an autocrat.
  • But makes Augustus’ family look good.
  • Inherent conflict: doesn’t want to look like king, but wants his family to run the Roman state dynastically.
  • “Facade of Republic”
  • By not sticking his own name on everything, Augustus gets:
    • Family fame
    • Avoiding looking like a monarch
    • Dynastic idea with respect to his family.



  • Means “across the tiber”
  • Latin: trans tiberim
  • During the middle of the Republic, the Romans begin to build on this other side of the Tiber.
  • Aristocratic villas along the river.
  • But also a working class quarter of Rome.
    • Ceramics, bronze, etc.
  • Also ethnic communities: Jews, Syrians, Egyptians, etc.
  • Becomes de facto or de jure separated from Rome.
  • Mixed treatment in the literature: aristocratic villas positive, the working class/non-Roman quarter not so much.


  • 6th century AD: western provinces fragmented
  • Rome lost most of its power and much of its glory.
  • But the Catholic Church was still based in Rome.
    • Political importance disappeared, but the Church was still centered at St. Peter’s.
  • End of the 6th century AD: the population was only 50,000 (down from a million in the imperial period).
  • City contracts physically… Towards the Vatican, not the traditional center of the city in antiquity.
    • Quirinal, area of main Roman forum: essentially abandoned.
    • From late antiquity forward, Rome shrinks towards the area around here, rather than the more ancient position of the city.
  • Disabitato: land goes back to the wild.
    • Physical, abandoned space, but also the process of the contraction of the population and the physical space.
  • Lasts in Rome for ~800 years, until the Renaissance, essentially.
  • The people living apart from the ancient monuments appeared to ignore them for the most part.

Trastevere and the pomerium of the city

  • Disabitato
    • Worst in the 6th century.
    • Very slowly, Rome begins to re-expand.
  • 1st century inscription commemorating Vespasian and Titus
    • They expanded the pomerium: the sacred boundary of the Roman city.
    • Defines the city-space from the non-city-space.
  • Until this expansion, 70ish AD, Trastevere wasn’t formally part of the city.

St. Cecilia Church



  • Beginning in the 800s: desire to make new churches to accommodate the re-growing population.
  • Translation of the relics
    • Bones, jewelry, hair, teeth, fingernails, etc. of saints, especially martyrs.
  • Tomb of Cecilia, a woman martyred in c. 220 AD.
    • Initially, Cecilia was locked in the back of her home with the heat increased, but she did not die.
    • Then they attempted to behead her, but they were not successful.
    • Eventually she is killed.
  • Undecayed body discovered in the 9th century. Some special people (like Cecilia) are considered to be incorruptible: their bodies supposedly don’t decay.
  • New church made for her, supposedly on top of the house from above.
  • Churches were focal points for neighborhoods to grow around.
    • The translation of relics was thus a mechanism for the repopulation and re-expansion of Rome.
  • 1500s (the beginning of the Renaissance in Rome): restoration of the Church
    • The body of St. Cecilia supposedly found still uncorrupted. Considered another miracle.
  • Stefano Moderno
    • So affected by the sight of the uncorrupted body of Cecilia that he was led to make a sculpture of her.


  • Central facade: Renaissance.
  • But elements of the church date back to even earlier periods (the initial 9th century construction).
  • Bell-tower (campanile): 12th century AD
    • Distinctly of a style called Romanesque. Arches, bricks, columns.
  • Columns: spoliated.
  • Interior: some elements from 9th century, but also some later elements.
  • The mosaic behind the apse is original to the 9th century.
    • Halos signify sanctity.
    • Square halo: the person surrounded by the halo is a living religious person who is expected to be canonized.
  • Roman ruins under this church.

Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere



  • One of the first churches to be dedicated to St. Mary.
  • Both Santa Maria Majore and this claim to be the fist church dedicated to Mary.
  • 300s: house used by Christians
  • 400s: church
  • The present church is from around 1140.


  • The mosaics are striking.
  • The mosaics are attributed to a mosaic artist named Cavallini
  • Facade: Mary on throne, girls carrying lamps, 8 lit, 2 not.
    • What it means is a mystery.
  • Bell-tower: 1200s. Compare to the one already mentioned at the Church of St. Cecilia.
  • Front bit and fountain: more recent = 1700s. By a different rather prolific artist named Fontana.
  • 38 BC: Spring of mineral oil miraculously appeared (either where the church is, or where the fountain is).
    • Some early Christians claim that this was a premonition of Christ.
  • There was already a fountain here by the time of Augustus.

The Janiculum hill

The Janiculum hill, like Trastevere, was not initially within the bounds of the city.

Piazza Di S. Pietro in Montorio

                       Figure 1: A view from a place near Piazza Di S. Pietro in Montorio

Figure 1: A view from a place near Piazza Di S. Pietro in Montorio

  • According to tradition, this is where St. Peter was martyred.
    • Supposedly crucified upside-down, as Peter did not think he was worthy to die the same way as Christ.
  • A church has been here since 9th century AD. But not really good/certain dates.

Il Tempietto

  • “The little temple”
  • In Piazza Di S. Pietro in Montorio
  • Il Tempietto is a martyrium: a monument that marks the spot of a martyrdom.
    • Here is the monument to St. Peter’s martyrdom.
    • Even thought it is not particularly likely that this is where Peter was martyred. We don’t have any documentary evidence to go on, just tradition.
  • Circular structure
  • Designed by the famous Renaissance architect Donato Bramante.
  • Famously the first Renaissance building built in the city of Rome.
  • Renaissance starts in Florence, slow to come to Rome.
  • But once it comes, the Renaissance style flourishes immediately.
    • Not surprising: Renaissance is the rebirth of the classical style, and Rome is full of Classical monuments. Artists thus had good inspiration at their fingertips.
  • Cf. the round temple by the Tiber
  • Tholos
  • Peristyle: first Renaissance peristyle, to our knowledge.
  • Lots of other classical features incorporated.
  • Main divergence between Bramante’s Il Tempietto vs. the ancient temple: proportions.
    • Bramante’s temple is narrow and tall, but the ancient building, as was typical, is wider and stockier.
  • Patrons of this piece were Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catholic monarchs of trying to ingratiate themselves with the Vatican. Perhaps paid for with the gold and silver of the new world!

Aqua Paula

  • Named after Paul V, a pope.
  • The uncle of Scipione Borghese.
  • The fountain facade is a celebration of the restoration of the aqueduct of Trajan, which had been cut in the 6th century.
  • Note the Borghese family crest on the shield, and the papal assembly on top.
  • Marble: all spolia from ancient Roman sites under Catholic control.
  • All ancient aqueducts did not end in elaborate fountains.
    • But it made Renaissance folks happy to think this or pretend that it was so. Cf. this fountain facade, the Trevi fountain, etc.

Girabaldi Park

                       Figure 2: A view from Girabaldi Park

Figure 2: A view from Girabaldi Park

History: modern Italian unification

  • Unification begins c. 1849. Known as “Risorgimento.”
  • Long process
  • Italy was previously a collection of states
  • Papacy does not want to give up its power.
  • Guisippe Girabaldi: the leader of the reunification movement
  • The park is on the site of a major occurrence in 1849.
    • Girabaldi and his people move in on the Janiculum hill. They hoped that their presence would cause the pope to flee and abandon the city to them.
    • But a massive French force came to the aid of the pope. Girabaldi makes the wise decision of not forcing a battle.
    • Girabaldi abandoned Rome at this point, and proceeded to unify the rest of Italy over the next 20 years.
  • 1870: return to Rome.
    • September 20, cf. Venti Settembre.
    • Girabaldi and his troops take the city. Due to politics, the French force abandons the Vatican.
    • Eventually a treaty of sorts is struck with the Vatican. An uncomfortable situation.

The park itself

  • Park was set up to honor Girabaldi and his lieutenants.
    • Girabaldi park, also known as the park on the Janiculum.
  • Girabaldi: the guy on the horse. Also statues of his men.
  • Every day at 12:00, a canon (blank) is fired to commemorate the lives lost in the unification of Italy.
  • High ground over St. Peter’s: you can see why Girabaldi wanted this position.