Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum / Wikimedia Commons
A Brick Tomb for Annia Regilla on the Via Appia
From the time of Julius Caesar, we have seen the rulers of Rome brag about building buildings that were bigger than any others in the world. You’ll remember Caesar referred to his Temple of Mars in that way, that he was building the largest Temple of Mars in the world. And we also saw the same for Domitian, with his palace on the Palatine Hill; for Trajan with his enormous forum; for Hadrian, building the greatest–largest dome that had been built up until that time and, as we discussed, still the largest diameter dome in the city of Rome today; and Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, just as a selection of examples. We are going to see today that if bigger was better, biggest is best, and in the case of the emperor Caracalla, an emperor who was a megalomaniac, in the tradition of Nero and Domitian, that he built the largest imperial bath structure to date. And we’re going to be looking at that bath structure today, and we’re going to see it as really a colossal and fascinating building, in all kinds of ways. But before I get to that–in fact, we’ll end with that bath structure today–before I get to that, I would like to look with you at architecture in Rome, in the second and third centuries A.D., and we’ll see that architecture is quite varied in terms of whether it’s private, it’s civic, it’s also funerary.
Isola Sacra tombs, Ostia / Wikimedia Commons
We looked at the city of Ostia, and we looked at the city of Ostia, the port of Rome, in its entirety; once again, its public buildings, its civic structures, its commercial enterprises. And we also went, at the very end of the lecture, out to Isola Sacra, where the tombs of those who lived in Ostia were located. And I show you a couple of those again above; these brick-faced tombs, these tombs that are made of concrete, at Isola Sacra, that were put up for the professionals, for the traders, the commercial merchants and so on that lived in the city of Ostia. They were made of brick-faced concrete construction. They had barrel vaults or groin vaults inside.
And you can see also that they were faced with brick that was exposed; the idea of brick being attractive in its own right, a fabulously beautiful facing, that they take advantage of in the second century A.D., and decide not to stucco it over, as you can see so well here. The doorways into those tombs, surrounded by travertine jambs and lintels, the inscription in the center, the small slit windows, and then a pediment at the top. We saw, when we looked at funerary architecture in the age of Augustus, for example, that is was very varied; very varied. Tombs in the shape of pyramids, in the shape of circular tombs. Tombs that made reference to bakeries, like the Tomb of the Baker Eurysaces. There is still a certain amount of variety in tomb architecture in the second century A.D., but they tend to hone in on one type in particular, and that type is the so-called house tomb type; which is exactly what we see here, a tomb that is rectangular in shape, for the most part, boxlike, and does resemble, very closely, a house; this close relationship that we’ve talked about so many times this semester between houses of the living and houses of the dead. So we looked at those last time.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Acropolis, Athens / Wikimedia Commons
Marble portrait of Herodes Atticus. c.161 CE, from Probalinthos, Attica, Greece. Now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. / Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons
And where I want to begin today is just to demonstrate to you that these same kinds of house tombs that we see in Ostia and Isola Sacra, in the second century A.D., we also see in Rome. And in some cases they are commissioned by individuals of comparable social status, to those in Ostia, but sometimes they are commissioned by the most elite. And I’d like to begin with an example of a similar tomb commissioned by the most elite. This is the so-called Tomb of Annia Regilla, in Rome. It was put up on the famous via Appia, or the Appian Way. It dates to around A.D. 161. In this case we know who the commissioner was, and I can show you what he looked like as well. You see him here, on the right-hand side of the screen. He was a man by the name of Herodes Atticus; I’ve put his name on the Monument List for you, Herodes Atticus. Herodes Atticus was actually a Greek. He was Athenian, from the Greek part of the Empire. He lived in Athens, for the most part, and he commissioned a very famous music hall, an odeon, which still survives. You can see it over here. It’s without its roof today, but it was originally one of these roofed music halls, an odeon. It is located on the slope of the Acropolis in Athens; the Acropolis that of course we know primarily for its great architectural feats of the fifth century B.C. in Greece.
Yanni Live at the Acropolis CD cover / Wikimedia Commons
This is the Roman building, put up by Herodes in the second century, and we see it on the slope of the Acropolis, very well preserved. In modern times its greatest fame is the fact that Yanni performed his “Live at the Acropolis” concert at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. And even if you don’t like Yanni, it’s actually quite an interesting concert to view–and one can view it in video and so on–because it does take such wonderful advantage of this extraordinary ancient structure, as Yanni presents his music. At any rate, at one point Herodes Atticus, who had a lot of connections, not only in Athens but around the Empire, at one point, through those connections, he gets himself appointed a senator in Rome, and in order to take up that position he needs to leave Athens behind and go spend some time in Rome, and he and his wife, Annia Regilla, set up house in Rome. Annia Regilla, unfortunately, dies in Rome, and he needs to bury her, and he decides to bury her in Rome, instead of in Athens, and he builds for her a tomb on the Appian Way, on the Via Appia, in around 161 A.D.; that’s the date that we believe she died.
Tomb of Annia Regilla in the Caffarella Park, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
This is the Tomb of Annia Regilla on Rome’s Via Appia. It looks exactly like a typical Roman temple. We see that it is on a high podium; it has a deep porch. So if I were to show you this, and not identify it and say to you: “What kind of a building is this?” I’m sure you would have said it was a temple; and you would’ve been right in the sense that it looks most like a temple. But it is a tomb in the form of a temple, as you can well see here. I want to point out one detail that will loom large as we look further at this structure.
Tomb of Annia Regilla left side / Wikimedia Commons
Tomb of Annia Regilla model of original / Museo della Civiltà Romana
You will see on the left side of the tomb that the architect has created, has kind of scalloped out the side on either side, creating niches, tall niches on the side, and placed columns into that space; which is a very unusual thing to do. It’s not true on the other side of the monument, only on this side of the structure. Why has the architect done that? I think it might have something to do with the siting, perhaps how you viewed it from the street. Maybe it was skewed in such a way that you would see not only the façade but also the side, and he wanted to emphasize the columns on that particular side of the structure. But it may also have just had to do with a quirk, with a particular interest that the architect or the patron had in doing something different than any other tomb, and I want to return to that point in a moment.
But most significant of all is that in terms of the building technique, the use of concrete faced with exposed brick, this is exactly what we saw in Ostia. And you can see that just as in Ostia, they have taken that brick as far as it can go, in terms of its aesthetic value, by respecting the texture of the brick, playing that texture off, playing color, different colored bricks, a reddish brick against a more yellowish colored brick, playing those off against one another, and then adding certain very highly decorative details like a meander pattern, that we’re going to see in a moment, and decoration around the windows of the tomb, done in stucco. The columns, however, are marble; the columns are marble, and in that sense again something somewhat different than what we saw at Ostia.
You see that the tomb today is indeed well preserved. Concrete construction, faced with brick, the brick left exposed, respected and enjoyed, in its own right. What I’ve already described: the playing off of one color of brick against another; this meander pattern done in stucco; the stucco decoration, very elaborate decoration, as we’re going to see, around the windows; tall podium, we see that here as well. An extraordinary structure.
And what’s interesting I think to note, at least culturally and in terms of social status, is the fact that although this structure was put up for one of the most wealthy men in–or the wife of one of the most wealthy men in Rome at this particular time, the general aesthetic is very similar to what we saw for professional people in the city of Ostia: that is, a concrete tomb, in the form of a house, or a temple in this case, that has as its facing brick, and a respect for that brick in its own right.
Horrea Epagathiana and Tomb of Annia Regilla facades / Wikimedia Commons
Horrea Epagathiana capital detal / Wikimedia Commons
Here are a couple of details. I show you once again a detail of the warehouse or the Horrea Epagathiana at Ostia that we looked at, and also a detail of the Tomb of Annia Regilla in Rome. And I think you can see here what I mean. Again, the different coloration of brick, the yellowish brick, the reddish brick, played off one against the other; the use of stucco decoration, in this case for the volutes of the composite capitals. In this case–and in fact you’ll remember I pointed out what was interesting about these capitals at the warehouse was that they were–that the brick was used to make up the main body of the capital. And this is not one of them, but I also showed you one where you could see the way in which that brick formed the actual acanthus leaves of the capital, and then the volutes added in stucco. We see the same thing at the Tomb of Annia Regilla. We see those–and here I think you can see it well — the brick used to create the lower part of the acanthus leaves, and then stucco added for the curving part, and for some of the additional decoration, the flower and so on up above. And so we see–and here again very elaborate decoration around the windows, which we also saw at the warehouse in Ostia.
Columns in “scooped spaces” of the Tomb of Annia Regilla / Wikimedia Commons
Here you see what I was talking about before, the way the architect has scooped out two areas on the left side of the tomb, and placed the columns inside of those, which is a unique–I don’t know of any other example of this in Roman architecture, and it underscores, once again, that when it came to tomb architecture, that the patron could pretty much do whatever he wanted, as long as the architect could build it. It could be quite idiosyncratic as a form of architecture. And we see not only has he scooped out these niches in which to place the columns, but if you look at those columns very carefully, and at the bases of those columns, you will see that they are not round. They are multi-sided, and the bases are also multi-sided. So doing something very unique in the context of this particular tomb of Annia Regilla.
Tomb of Annia Regilla niche and brickwork decor / Wikimedia Commons
So two main points. One, that there is clearly an aesthetic that is used for tomb architecture, concrete faced with brick that is used in the uppermost levels of Roman society, and then further down in Roman society, not only in Rome but also in Ostia. But at the same time individuality, eccentricity is valued in tomb architecture, allowed in tomb architecture in a way that perhaps it isn’t in other forms of Roman architecture, and we see it taken to its limit in this particular building. Just a few more details. We see a niche from the Tomb of Annia Regilla. We also see here both the meander pattern and this very elaborate decoration around the windows; a frame around the windows and then a projecting element up above, with these great spiral volutes on either side; very similar to the same sort of thing that was happening at Ostia.
Horrea Epagathiana niche and brickwork decor / Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen Wikimedia Commons
I remind you of the niche in the courtyard of the Horrea Epagathiana, the warehouses at Ostia, where you see the same sort of thing: these pilasters added in stucco, the brickwork creating triangles and lozenges, as you can see here. Same idea over here, in the Tomb of Annia Regilla. And if you look very closely at the pediment that is located above the niche, from the tomb in Rome, you see the projecting entablatures; you see where the capitals would have been. There would also have been probably columns added here, on either side of the niche, making it look much more similar to here. But look closely at the pediment. You will see that there is projecting entablature above each column, but then in the center the triangular pediment is cut back, and that playing around with the traditional vocabulary of architecture is something that I’ve noted is going to be a part of what we call the baroque trend in Roman architecture. I’m going to devote an entire lecture to the baroque trend in Roman architecture, around the Empire, not just in Rome, but mostly in the provinces. And we’ll see that same sort of thing, which creates a kind of in-and-out lively movement to the façade that is part of that approach.
One of the caryatids found near the Tomb of Annia Regilla, now in the Villa Albani, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
“Porch of Maidens” caryatids at the Erectheion in Athens / Wikimedia Commons
The Tomb of Annia Regilla had female figures with capitals on the top of their head, or what look maybe more like vases on the top of their head, but looking very much like caryatids, like the caryatids from the Erectheion in Athens, fifth century B.C., from the Forum of Augustus and from Hadrian’s Villa around the Serapeum. They are not duplicates of those in Athens, like the other two are, but they do seem to make reference to them. They’re a bit more casual. When I look at this pair, they always look to me like they’re kind of standing at a cocktail party together and conversing with one another, using the usual gestures that Italians are so famous for. We see them doing that sort of thing here. But they do seem to have that same pedigree, going back to the whole idea of the caryatids.
And I only mention it to you, they were found right near this tomb, and so it has been speculated, although it is by no means certain, that they might have belonged to the tomb. They might have been located in front of the tomb, or have been part of some kind of forecourt or fore space to that tomb. It’s pure conjecture, but it would be interesting if it were the case. Because remember Herodes Atticus comes from Athens. We see that the tomb is a thoroughly Roman tomb of the second century A.D. But it would be interesting to think that he might have added some touches that might have made some reference for him, and also especially for his wife whose tomb it was, to the Athens of his birth.
Second-Century Tomb Interiors in Rome
With regard to tomb interiors in the second century A.D. in Rome, there are two major types, and I want to treat both of those today. One of them is a type that we’ve seen before, and that is where you stucco over the interior of the tomb; you stucco it over, and then you add additional stucco, in relief, to form the decoration, and then you paint it. That’s one type. And the second type, which might also use that for the vault; but for the walls, the second type is to use instead architectural members–columns, pediments and the like–to enliven the wall and to create a much more sculptural effect. Both of these types are used in Rome, in the second century A.D. in tomb architecture. And I want to show you examples of both of them today.
The first, type 1, with stucco, painted stucco, we see in the so-called Tomb of the Valerii; the Tomb of the Valerii which dates to around A.D. 159, and is located on the Via Latina in Rome. We haven’t looked at the Via Latina before, but it is one of Rome’s main streets, that had along it cemeteries, and there are a fair number of concrete tombs, faced with brick, that are preserved, very well preserved on the Via Latina today. And what makes them particularly special is the interiors are almost pristine. It’s quite extraordinary to go into these and see how well they have stood the test of time.
Detail of acanthus leaves relief on Ara Pacis Augustae frieze, Rome / Harvard University, Creative Commons
The Tomb of the Valerii, you see the lunette and the vault of the interior of that tomb right here. And as you look at the acanthus leaves growing up in the lunette, all done in stucco relief, and the barrel vault with its individual compartments, round and square compartments, with floating figures inside, you should certainly be reminded of things we’ve already seen before. When one looks at the acanthus leaves, one can’t help but think back to the delicate leaves of the Ara Pacis, the delicate acanthus leaves of the Ara Pacis Augustae, which you see above.
Domus Aurea Third Style vault painting / Wikimedia Commons
Tomb of the Valerii stuccoed vault, Rome / Photo by Marten Kuilman, Flickr, Creative Commons
What’s this over here? The Domus Aurea; it’s one of the vaults of the Domus Aurea. Third style; done, we believe, by Fabullus himself. And you’ll recall, very delicate, very light floral motifs; compartments, in this case rectangular, with floating sea creatures in the center. We see exactly the same sort of thing here, although done in stucco instead of paint. But this was painted originally in antiquity, and we see these floating, these Nereids on the back of sea creatures inside, floating inside these. And we think the message here, of course, is of the soul of the deceased being carried to the Iles of the Blessed, by these sea creatures. So very much stucco decoration, second century A.D., but very dependent on Third Style Roman wall painting and third style stucco decoration of earlier dates.
Tomb of the Pancratii stuccoed vault / Wikimedia Commons
The Tomb of the Pancratii, in Rome, which dates to 169, also on the Via Latina, has similarly well-preserved stucco decoration, also painted; and I’ll show you a color view in a moment, for you to get a sense of that coloration. But here you get an idea of the scheme of the wall: very, very elaborate; stuccoed over; stuccoed, much of the stucco is done in relief. You can see it here. If the stucco decoration of the Tomb of the Valerii made reference to the Third Style, I think the inspiration here was Fourth Style Roman wall painting and stucco decoration. Because although you continue to see floating mythological figures in these rectangular or triangular compartments, if you look very closely, especially in this zone here, you will also see these architectural cages, done in stucco, very similar to the architectural cages that we saw at the top of Fourth Style Roman wall design. So this taking its cue from Fourth Style Roman wall painting. And I have mentioned to you a couple of times already this term that, in fact, most post-Pompeian painting, and stucco decoration, post-79 A.D., does seem to be inspired by the third style, but even more so by the fourth style of Roman wall painting, and we see that very well here, with this stucco decorating the lunettes and also the vaulting.
Tomb of the Pancratii stuccoed vault / Wikimedia Commons
Here’s a view in color of the interior of the Tomb of the Pancratii, where you can see the same sort of scheme that I’ve already described, but with the color. And you can also see that we are dealing here with a groin-vaulted interior. And, what’s interesting, is that sometimes the walls have small niches for urns and the so-called arcosolia–I’ve mentioned those to you before–that were used for the placement of bodies, once inhumation became as popular, indeed even more popular, than cremation. But we also sometimes see the sarcophagi themselves, the freestanding coffins located in these tombs, as we see here. And it’s interesting to keep in mind that all of the money and time that was expended on this interior decoration–keep in mind that very few people entered into these tombs. When you looked at a tomb, you saw primarily its exterior. Some family members, on special occasions, might go inside, but it was relatively rare. So all of this, all of this done, in fact, to give the deceased a pleasant home in perpetuity, and to help them on their journey to the Isles of the Blessed.
Tomb of the Pancratii heraldic leopards at top of arch / Wikimedia Commons
Scholars who have worked on this particular monument, in particular, have noted that they think it has to do with one of these secret mystery religions, in this case the Orphic religion that was practiced in secret initially and then eventually came up above ground. Two more details of the Pancratii ceilings, in stucco. These, I think, give you a particularly good sense of the way in which they were built up almost as reliefs, in some parts of these scenes. We see heraldic leopards on either side at the top of the arch. The shell in the niche also done in stucco and raised in a very sculptural way, and then the whole painted in a variety of attractive maroons and blues and greens (colors not well seen here).
The Tomb of the Caetennii in the Vatican Cemetery
St. Peter’s Cathedral interior dome, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
The most interesting tomb, from my point of view actually, is a tomb that is located, a Roman tomb of the second century that is located beneath the Vatican today. And I show you a view again of the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, designed by Michelangelo himself. Another view over here showing also Michelangelo’s dome, but showing below it the so-called Baldacchino that was put up by the famous seventeenth-century Italian architect, Borromini, Francesco Borromini [correction: Gian Lorenzo Bernini], the Cathedral of St. Peter’s. And any of you who’ve been there will agree with me on this, it’s one of the great wonders of the world; there’s no question it is. If you want to talk about bigger is better, or biggest is best, this is a truly colossal building, as any of you who have been there know.
But it does give me occasion to mention, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times already this term, that one of the really great things to do when you visit Rome is to climb things, is to climb. If you’re so lucky to climb the Column of Trajan, or the Pantheon, up to the dome–those you have to get special permission to do. But what you don’t need special permission to do, and is one of the great climbs in Rome, is to go up St. Peter’s. And you can go up St. Peter’s either on the outside of the building, to various levels from which you can see some of the greatest views of Rome, including back over central Rome, ancient Rome, all the buildings that we’ve been talking about. You can see the dome of the Pantheon from the top of St. Peter’s. You can see the Victor Emmanuel Monument, tall and proud, from the dome of St. Peter’s. But you can also climb up to the dome, from the inside, which is another extraordinary experience. You can go almost–not quite but almost–to the apex of Michelangelo’s dome, walk around a corridor there, and look down on Bernini’s Baldacchino. So for those of you who are going to Rome anytime soon, or in the future, it’s a not to be missed experience to climb the Cathedral of St. Peter’s, on the outside, and also on the inside.
I bring you to St. Peter’s because one can also go down underneath St. Peter’s. And that’s another very interesting experience, to go down in the depths, beneath St. Peter’s and get a really great sense of the centuries of civilization that have been piled one on top of another, from ancient Rome, or from the time of Romulus, indeed all the way up to today. And in order to see the Tomb of the Caetennii, which is the tomb that I want to turn to now, you do have to go down underneath St. Peter’s. You have to–this is something you can’t just walk it. You can climb St. Peter’s any day of the week, but if you want to go underneath St. Peter’s, you have to make special arrangements. You have to get special tickets to do that. And now one can do that online; you can plan that online and you can get tickets to go to the so-called Vatican cemeteries underneath. And they don’t have them–they have a small number of hours, on a variety of days. So it is something one needs to plan for well in advance. But you can do it.
Tomb of Pope Boniface VIII, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, Vatican Cemetery / Wikimedia Commons
You go to the left of the Baldacchino, you go down, and you go down century upon century. You see primarily the tombs of the popes, the crypts with the tombs of the popes. And I show you Pope Boniface here, just to give you an idea of what some of these look like, lying in eternity here on the top of his sarcophagus, or a sculptured portrait of him on the top of his sarcophagus. But if you go all the way down, all the way down–and most tourists don’t do this–but if you go all the way to the bottom, what you end up with is one of Rome’s great tomb streets. And this tomb street was out in the light of day, of course, in antiquity, like all the other tomb streets, but because of the passage of time, because other buildings that were built on top, primarily the Cathedral of St. Peter’s, and just the rising ground level over time, it now is subterranean. But when you–it’s amazing. You go down, you walk along it, it is like you are–it’s a dark street, but nonetheless–I wouldn’t want to record in that street. But you go down under. It’s a dark street but it is–you feel like you are walking along a major tomb street in Rome; and indeed you are. And I show you a plan of it here, so that you can see. It is very much like walking along the tomb street in Isola Sacra. You see at your left and right these concrete, brick-faced tombs, that look very much like the Tomb of Annia Regilla, or the ones that we saw in Isola Sacra: typical house tombs of the second century A.D.
One of the tombs that is located down there has long been thought by scholars, and believers, to be the Tomb of St. Peter. No one has been able to prove this incontrovertibly, but there is some interesting evidence, both pro and con. And it has been thought–and you know Peter’s famous statement, Upon this rock I shall build this church, namely the Church of St. Peter’s. We believe that when Constantine, the last pagan emperor–and we’re going to talk about him in the last lecture this semester–when Constantine built the first basilica, Christian basilica on this site, the basilica that we refer to as Old St. Peter’s, that obviously predated New St. Peter’s, we think he may have built it on that very rock and on that very tomb of St. Peter. And that’s what this restored view shows you here.
Christus helios, the mosaic of Sol in Mausoleum M, Vatican Cemetery, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
Plan of Vatican Necropolis beneath the Church of San Sebastiano, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
If you walk along though and look at these tombs, for the most part they look like typical Roman tombs from the second century: brick-faced concrete construction, with interesting decoration inside. And I show you just the most famous mosaic that is located down there, which you see is a figure in a chariot. We think it’s a representation of the Sun God Sol or Helios, in the chariot, because you can see the rayed crown. But some believe it is a representation of Christ as Helios. And I show it to you only because it is the single most famous mosaic down there, and one of the most famous mosaics in Rome, but also because it heralds what we’re going to begin to see happening, and that is this transition from paganism to Christianity in Rome–Constantine being the last pagan, first Christian emperor–and this interesting way in which pagan imagery elides into Christian imagery, both in terms of figural decoration, but also in terms of architecture.
Vatican Cemetery tombs / Wikimedia Commons
I can show you another set of tombs beneath a–that are very well lighted and can be photographed better–beneath a columbarium, an underground–a catacomb actually, an underground burial area that was used by the early Christians in Rome. It’s called the Church of San Sebastiano, and these tombs are underneath that. But I show them to you here, just to give you a sense of what that tombs looked like underneath the Vatican, with the concrete brick-faced tombs, looking very similar to those we saw at Isola Sacra.
Vatican tombs arcosolia / Wikimedia Commons
I can show you some views of the interiors of some of the Vatican tombs, because those have lights in them; they’re better lighted. You can see them here. We see this interesting combination, that we also saw at Isola Sacra, of the smaller niches that are used for urns, and the larger arcosolia that are used for the placement of bodies. And then you can see, in this view on the right, the way in which they have closed off those arcosolia by placing marble plaques on them that either have inscriptions or sometimes figural scenes, and then again here a freestanding sarcophagi on these interiors as well.
Tomb of the Caetennii axonometric view / Ward-Perkins text
This is an axonometric view of the Tomb of the Caetennii. It dates to 160 A.D., in the Vatican Cemetery in Rome. And I think you can see here both the brick-faced concrete construction, the way in which the windows have similar stucco decoration to what we saw on the Tomb of Annia Regilla, on the Via Appia in Rome. But most interesting for us is the way in which the interior is treated, because this is my type 2. Here we will see some stucco, but you will see here that the walls are enlivened in a different way. They are enlivened through architectonic means, through the use of columns, through the use of niches, through the use of pediments, triangular pediments, but also broken triangular pediments. Here you see a pediment that has been split apart, a triangular pediment split apart to show what is inside.
This is the same scheme that we saw in Second Style Roman wall painting, way back when; this whole idea of taking the traditional vocabulary of architecture and dealing with it in a very different way than had been done before — breaking the rules so to speak. We see that happening here. But the main thing is that we’re looking at this designer using architectural members to create the visual interest of the walls of the structure. You can also see in this axonometric view this combination of small niches for cinerary urns, and then these larger arcosolia for the bodies. So cremation and inhumation still going on hand in hand, during the second century A.D.
Tomb of the Caetennii interior / Wikimedia Commons
This is a spectacular view of the interior of the Tomb of the Caetennii, and here you can really see what I mean. Yes, there is some stucco. If you look at the vaults you will see that those–this is again a groin vault that has been stuccoed over, and it had the same kind of compartments and painted decoration, relief decoration, that we saw in the Tomb of the Pancratii. But you can see that most of the effects have been done through architectural means. If you look carefully you will see that there is a black-and-white mosaic on the floor; not so different from what we see in Ostia. There are niches on the walls, these niches used for cinerary urns; arcosolia down here for the bodies. And there are stuccoed decoration and the use of the shells that you can see here.
But if you look very carefully at the combination of sort of maroon and cherry red walls, you will see the remains of the architectural members that served to enliven this space. Look up here; you will see that there was a triangular pediment over the central niche. You can see parts of the broken triangular pediments on either side. You can see the remains of capitals, and beneath those would have been the projecting columns that we saw in the axonometric view in Ward-Perkins. So this again the second type, where the walls are enlivened with architectural members, and those architectural members, when intact, would have created a scheme in which you had progression, recession, progression, recession, all along the wall — this in and out scheme that we’re going to see becomes the hallmark of what I’m going to term here this semester the baroque element in Roman antiquity, in Roman architecture.
The Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder in the Roman Forum
Marble bust of Antoninus Pius, Second Century A.D. / Glyptothek, Munich
All of these buildings were being put up during the reign of Hadrian’s successor. Hadrian had died in 138 A.D., and he was succeeded by a man by the name of Antoninus Pius. He reigned for a quite long time. He reigned between 138 and 161 A.D. It was a period of extraordinary peace. He, like Hadrian, was a peace loving man, and he was able to maintain that peace exceedingly well, and Rome really thrived under his emperorship. He’s also interesting because he seems to have had more of a love relationship with his wife than any other Roman emperor that I can think of, a relationship that was so strong that when his wife died–he became emperor–here’s his wife, Faustina the Elder. He became emperor in 138, but she died already in 141, and as I mentioned he stayed emperor until 161; so he was emperor for twenty more years after her death. He never forgot her. He stayed completely enamored of her. He never remarried. We don’t even have any rumors that he had any concubines or anything like that. He seems to have stayed completely true to her.
Column base relief of apotheosis of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, pedestal of the Column of Antoninus Pius, Rome / Photo by Youngstown State University, Creative Commons
And what’s interesting is that when the two of them died, their successors, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, put up a monument to them. This base, which served as the base for a porphyry column, that was located on top, represents a scene in which we see Antoninus Pius and his wife, Faustina the Elder, being carried to heaven on the back of a male personification. We see Roma, in the bottom right, and she is saluting them; she is bearing witness to what is a representation of their joint divinization. The two of them, Faustina the Elder, divinized at her death in 141; Antoninus Pius divinized at his death in 161. And yet we see them being carried to heaven as if their divinizations happened exactly at the same time. This is obviously a fiction. It is a conflation of time. It is a fiction of which the Romans were particularly adept in their sculptural representations. But I show it to you here because it has some bearing on a temple that I now want to talk about.
Marble bust of Faustina the Elder / Capitoline Museums
This is the so-called Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder. It is a temple that Antoninus Pius put up in honor of his wife in 141, to her as a diva, after she was divinized. But at his own death, twenty years later, in 161, his successors–again, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus–rededicated it to the two of them, to the divine Antoninus Pius and to the divine Faustina. It is quite well preserved today, and it is important for two main reasons. It is important because it is our best surviving temple that was put up to an emperor and an empress. It wasn’t the only one, but it’s the best surviving example of that. And it is another example of the way in which antiquities are reused over time, in other contexts and at later times, and how that reuse sometimes helps to preserve them.
Obverse image of a coin of Faustina the Elder / Wikimedia Commons
This coin illustrates the temple that Antoninus Pius built along the Sacra Via on the northeastern side of the Roman Forum for the ongoing worship of Diva Faustina / VRoma, Creative Commons
Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder, later restored as a christian church, the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Miranda / Wikimedia Commons
Above is a coin representing Faustina the Elder on the obverse of the coin, her portrait, and it refers to her as “Diva Faustina.” So it is a coin that Antoninus Pius struck after her death and after her divinization. And we see on the back the temple that Antoninus Pius originally made, in her honor. We see a depiction of that original temple on the coin, and with a legend that says aeternitas, for eternity, because now she is a diva for eternity. Above is the temple and the Baroque building that was built into it, in the seventeenth century A.D., when it was turned into the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda.
We see a typical Roman temple – the deep porch; the freestanding columns in the porch; the very tall podium; the single staircase; the façade emphasis–we see all of that here. A very conventional Roman temple, with sculpture in the pediment and decoration on the eaves of the temple as well. When the Basilica of San Lorenzo was added, part of it was preserved–maybe more of it was preserved, we’re not absolutely sure–but at least part of it was preserved. The walls, the sidewalls, and also the columns and the front of the–well the sidewalls primarily, and the columns, and the lintel over here that has the inscription that dedicates the temple to Antoninus Pius and Faustina.
The ground level has risen, so that at the time that they decide to turn the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina into San Lorenzo in Miranda, there’s no podium anymore. The podium is completely underground, as are part of the columns; we see only the part of the–so they put the door at the bottom, what is the bottom at that particular time. Its location is in the Roman Forum, with the backdrop of the Imperial Fora behind it: the Forum of Augustus, the Forum of Trajan. In the Roman Forum. So prime real estate for this temple, when Antoninus Pius decides to build it to his wife.
Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina the Elder / Wikimedia Commons
Temple of Faustina and Antonius Pios, Rome, Italy with close up view of inscription. / Wikimedia Commons
We see here the original podium, the original staircase, the original columns: grey granite columns, white marble capitals. We see the original lintel with the inscription still preserved: To Divine Antoninus Pius, to Divine Faustina. We see the original tufa walls of the side. We see, growing up behind it, the seventeenth-century Baroque church, with its buttresses and with its broken arcuated pediment. And if you look very carefully, you will see this was ground level, in the seventeenth century.
And two more views that I took that show you the same here, the seventeenth-century door. So you have to think of all of this underground in the seventeenth century, and then only in more modern times was the temple excavated, temple and church excavated down to their original level. Here’s another view showing you again the seventeenth-century doorway, the earlier doorway, the staircase. A little baby down here, which I was happy to have for scale. It gives you a sense once again of how–and that makes it even more dramatic, because–I don’t know if it’s a he or a she; she, she, sitting there, that she–it makes it even more dramatic to demonstrate to you again, since this is a lecture on bigger is better, that this Temple to Antoninus and Faustina was also very, very–also is very, very large in scale.
The New Severan Dynasty and the Parthian Arch in the Roman Forum
Left: Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius / Glyptothek, Munich
Right: Marble bust of Lucius Verus / St. Petersborough Museum
When Antoninus Pius died, in 161, he was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus; Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous of the Roman emperors, the great stoic philosopher, and you see him above. You see Lucius Verus above. The two of them were co-emperors between 161 and 169. Lucius Verus died in battle in 169. Marcus Aurelius continued on alone, until the year 180 A.D. So he too had a very long reign. Marcus spent most of his reign, however, on the front. During the period that he was emperor, the barbarians were literally at the gates. There was concern that they were going to, in fact, overrun the city completely, overrun the Empire completely, and he had to spend most of his reign on the frontiers, and he did, beating back those barbarians. For that reason, there was very little architectural construction. Even though he had a very long reign, there was very little architectural construction during the time of Marcus Aurelius, because of the time that he had to spend in war.
Bust of Commodus as Hercules, hence the lion skin, the club and the golden apples of the Hesperides. Part of a statuary group representing Commodus’ apotheosis. / Capitoline Museums
He was succeeded by his son, Commodus, above. Commodus in the line, also in the megalomaniacal line of Nero and Domitian: a man who saw himself as a god on earth, who saw himself as the Greek hero Hercules. He called himself Hercules Romanus. And we see him in his most famous and most fabulous–this is about one of the best portraits preserved from ancient Rome. It’s in the Capitoline Museums today, and you see him masquerading here as Hercules, with the lion’s skin around his head, holding the club, holding the apples of the Hesperides, demonstrating that he has completed that last labor, just as Hercules had done, and is going to become a god in the manner of Hercules.
He used to parade around in Rome openly in this way, and actually struck coins showing himself as Hercules Romanus, just to give you a sense of how extreme it was. And he was always challenging people to hand-to-hand combat. And, in fact, he eventually got his comeuppance because although he himself also reigned for quite awhile, between 180 and 192–so he lasted for twelve years–but nonetheless even his closest advisors eventually turned against him and plotted behind his back and arranged for one of the most famous gladiators of the day, Narcissus, interestingly called Narcissus, to take up Commodus’ offer to fight anybody who wanted to fight him in the Colosseum.
Column of Marcus Aurelius, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
And, of course, he thought that being emperor protected him, and that he, like Nero, who fixed the Olympic Games in his favor, that Commodus would also never lose in a contest like this, because he was by definition emperor. But his advisors turned against him, let Narcissus loose, and Commodus was slain by Narcissus in the Colosseum. But he did–I do want to just mention, and only in passing–Commodus did put up a column to his father, Marcus Aurelius, that is based very closely on the Column of Trajan in Rome. I’m not going to go into it with you today, because the architectural complex in which it was originally found no longer survives. But I just wanted you to be aware that the Column of Trajan was succeeded by the Column of Marcus Aurelius.
I now want to turn to a new dynasty that came to the fore after the end of the so-called Antonine emperors. When Commodus died, there were no more Antonines to succeed him, and Rome once again fell into a civil war, and there were rivals warring with one another for supreme power. And the man who came to the fore was a man by the name of Pertinax. But he had other rivals, and one of them was the man who eventually really came out on top, and his name was Lucius Septimius Severus. Lucius Septimius Severus was within that year, between 192 and 193, able to get rid of not only Pertinax but other rivals, and become supreme ruler of Rome.
And because he, like Vespasian before him, had two sons to succeed him, Caracalla and Geta, he was able to set up a new dynasty, the so-called Severan, what we call the Severan Dynasty in Rome. The Severan dynasty in Rome, extremely important, because Septimius Severus commissioned some important structures, both public structures and private; he was an interesting emperor because he combined an interest in the two. And then his son, Caracalla, who epitomizes, as I began today, the whole bigger is better, or biggest is best philosophy, in life and in architecture.
Septimius Severus painted tondo / Antikensammlung, Berlin
I want to show you first, just to introduce you to these two patrons, this wonderful painted tondo that is preserved from Rome. It was found–excuse me, not in Rome but in Egypt, and is now in a museum in Berlin. But it is important because it is our only surviving painting of an emperor, and not only an emperor but an emperor and his whole family, his wife and his children; the only surviving painting of an emperor today. But there were obviously many of these in antiquity. It’s a fascinating painting. We see Septimius Severus with his grey hair and beard, and his wonderful jeweled crown. We see his wife, Julia Domna, who–and by the way, I neglected to mention, but one of the interesting things about Septimius Severus’ biography is the fact that he was born not in Rome, and not in Spain, as Trajan and Hadrian had been, but rather in North Africa, in a place called Leptis Magna, born in North Africa.
He hooked up with a woman from Syria, whose name was Julia Domna. She was the daughter of an important priest in Syria called Bassianus. She was famous in Rome for her wigs; she used to wear wigs, and you can see her wearing one of her wigs in this wonderful painted portrait. She also clearly liked jewelry, because you can see her with these fabulous triple pearl earrings and a wonderful pearl necklace here also, looking very vibrant in this portrait. And then the two of them with their sons; their elder son, Caracalla over her, and their younger son, or what remains of him, Geta, on the left.
Geta and Caracalla succeeded their father together, as co-rulers. But Caracalla, very jealous of his brother, who was much more popular with the Roman populace than Caracalla himself was. And Caracalla eventually had his brother murdered, and after his brother was murdered, he convinced–that is, Caracalla–convinced the Roman Senate to issue a damnatio memoriae, or a damnation of the memory of Geta, and an attempt was made to eradicate Geta from history by eradicating him from art. And you can see that he was snuffed out; his face was removed on this. But then it was left to stand, to show the power that Caracalla had to destroy his brother, as you can see here. This gives you a glimpse into the mind and psyche of Caracalla.
I want to show you first though two buildings; before we look at the Baths of Caracalla, I do want to show you two buildings of Septimius Severus: a public building first, the so-called Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum, and then an extension to the Palatine Palace. The Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum dates to A.D. 203, and it commemorates the Parthian victory of Septimius Severus. Septimius Severus, I already mentioned to you, came to power in a civil war. So like Augustus, and like Vespasian before him, he needed to gain legitimacy by having an important foreign victory, and he does this by looking East, as Augustus had done before him, looking to Parthia, and does war with Parthia, and in fact has an important victory, and celebrates that important victory in this triumphal arch that is put up in his honor in 203 A.D., in once again the choicest spot of real estate in Rome, the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum).
Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
Arch of Titus, Rome / Wikimedia Commons
This was clearly very carefully orchestrated by Septimius Severus and his advisors to build his Parthian Arch in dialogue with the Parthian Arch of Augustus. With regard to its form, it also made reference to the Augustan arch. I show you here the Arch of Septimius Severus as it looks today. It is our first example that we’ve seen this semester of a Roman arch with a triple arcuated opening: a large arcuated opening in the center, flanked by two smaller, lower arcuated entrances. We have not seen that before — first surviving example in Rome. We remember, if we think back to the arches we have explored, from the time of Augustus on, you’ll remember that they are single-bayed arches. Augustus’ Actian arch, the Arch of Titus, and even the second-century Arch of Trajan at Benevento.
Parthian Arch of Augustus on coin / Wikimedia Commons
But, as I’ve already said today, if we look back to the coin–the arch no longer exists–but we look back to a coin depiction of the Parthian Arch of Augustus, it had three openings: a central arcuated opening and then two rectangular openings, trabeated openings, with pediments on either side, flanking it. So this is not–the Parthian arch of Augustus is not a triple arcuated arch, but it is a three opening arch. And I think there is no question that those three openings are being alluded to in the Severan arch, and being transformed into something that was new, which was the idea of the triple-arcuated bay.
Or maybe it wasn’t so new, because there’s an arch–the arch that you see down here–in the south of France, at Orange — and we’ll look at this arch when we make our journey to the south of France; in an upcoming lecture we will look at this arch. And it’s a triple-bayed arch, just like the Arch of Septimius Severus. It’s covered with sculpture, just like the Arch of Septimius Severus. So for a while there were scholars who dated this to the time of Septimius Severus, although put up in the provinces. But recent scholarship, more recent scholarship, has demonstrated–scholars have looked at the piles of arms and armor on here, and identified it as piles of arms and armor that had to do with battles that took place in the south of France, or what is now the south of France, in the age of Augustus. There’s also an inscription referring to a specific historical figure who lived during the time, the late period of Augustus, and into the time of Tiberius.
Arch of Tiberius, Orange / Wikimedia Commons
So it seems very likely that this is not a Severan arch but a Tiberian arch. And I show it to you here only because while we usually–and this may be helpful to some of you who are doing paper topics or city plans in the provinces–we usually think of ideas flowing from the center to the periphery. But here we seem to have an idea that comes to the fore first in the periphery, and then ends up ultimately in the center; although, of course, there are lots of missing pieces to the ancient puzzle. There are lots of monuments that have not come down to us. So it is not inconceivable that a triple-bayed arch was built in Rome earlier, but we just have no evidence for it.
War episode reliefs on the Arch of Septimius Severus / Wikimedia Commons
Pedestal relief of Parthian prisoners on the Arch of Septimius Severus / Wikimedia Commons
Above are more views of the Arch of Septimius Severus. It’s mainly a work of sculpture. But just to show you the three bays. Victories in the spandles; river gods down here; inscription at the top. You’ll have to imagine the great bronze quadriga of the emperor at the apex. Decorated bases down here. But most interesting are the panels that we see, four panels that we see, two on either side of the arch. And I show you a detail, a very good detail, of one of them here; although it’s weathered, you can see it quite well. You can see that this panel, instead of having full-length figures standing on a single ground line, as we saw, for example, in the frieze of the Ara Pacis, we see figures on a number of tiers here, small figures on a number of tiers. It should remind you of the scenes on the Column of Trajan, those spiral, the spiral frieze, with the individual figures telling the story of war, and in this case the Parthian War of Septimius Severus.
And so what I think happened here–my theory, and there are others who’ve said the same–is that what happened here is that the designer of this got the idea to take excerpts, in a sense, from the Columns of Trajan, or the Column of Marcus Aurelius, and put them in panel format, on this monument. I don’t know whether–you can think to yourselves whether you think this is successful or not. I think it probably was not deemed to be particularly successful, because it is the only arch design of its type. No one picked up afterwards and imitated this particular idea. The bases down below representing Romans, bringing back Parthian prisoners.
Biggest Is Best: The Baths of Caracalla in Rome
Drawing of the Imperial Palace (Septizodium) by Marten van Heemskerck / Wikimedia Commons
I want to speak very briefly also about Septimius Severus’ extension of the Imperial Palace on the Palatine Hill. He extended it to the south. He lived there, just like every emperor since Domitian. He extended it on the southern side–that’s the side nearest the forum–and he added a façade to it, a very elaborate façade that does not survive. It doesn’t survive because we know it was torn down in 1588 to 1589 by one of the popes, because the pope wanted to use it in his own papal building; wanted to use the building materials in his own papal building. But fortunately the artist, Marten van Heemskerck, the Renaissance artist. He drew some of it while it was being dismantled.
The reason it’s referred to as the Septizodium is because it was thought to commemorate the seven planets, which is not surprising in the orbits of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, because we know that Julia Domna was an avid follower of astrological signs, used to predict what was going to happen in her husband’s reign, through those signs, and this is likely a nod to her particular astrological interests.
I want to end with this extraordinary imperial bath structure that was designed at the behest of the emperor Caracalla. When Septimius Severus died in 211, he was succeeded by Caracalla and by Geta. I’ve already told you what Caracalla did to get rid of Geta, and Caracalla became sole emperor in 212 A.D., and remained emperor until his death in 217 A.D. And one of his major commissions was this imperial bath structure. He wanted to ape his father, because we know that Septimius Severus had also built a major public bath in Rome, the Thermae Septimianae. They do not survive. We have very little knowledge of them, so there isn’t anything that I can show you or tell you about them. But we know he built it. So like father like son. He wanted to outdo his father–this is like Bush One, Bush Two–wanted to outdo his father, and to build an even larger bathing establishment. And he does it here, in Rome, a bathing establishment called the Baths of Caracalla, or the Thermae Antoninianae.
Baths of Caracalla aerial view / Wikimedia Commons
Baths of Caracalla: dates to 212 to 216 A.D. Any of you who have seen it will agree with me this is one–if we had, if Trajan’s Forum was the mother of all forums, this is certainly the mother of all imperial bath structures. This is quite something. Fortunately, much of it survives, mainly the concrete shell, a concrete shell of itself. But we can see the outlines in the above aerial view, which shows you not only the bathing block, but also part of the precinct that surrounded it. Because we from the plan of the Baths of Caracalla, this is a detail of just the bathing block, and if we compare the general plan with the plan of the Baths of Trajan in Rome, we will see that the Baths of Trajan, which were very large in their own day, have been exceeded here in terms of size, but are very much in the same general format. By that I mean a large bathing block here, inside a larger precinct. That precinct has around it a host of rooms that were used as lecture halls and seminar rooms and Greek and Latin libraries. So a great locus of intellectual, as well as wellness, in the city of Rome, in the third century A.D.
Baths of Caracalla (left) and Baths of Trajan (right) plans / Wikimedia Commons
We see that in the Baths of Caracalla, just as–if we look at the bathing block–just as in the Baths of Trajan, we see that all the main bathing rooms, which were used both for men and women, but probably at different times of day, are aligned with one another. We see the great frigidarium here, with a triple groin vault over that, buttressed by rooms with barrel vaults on either side. We see a conventional, vertically oriented tepidarium; essentially a rectangle here, leading into the caldarium. So all of these on axis: frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium. Caldarium, a roundish structure, with alcoves and–but very large in scale.
In fact, you’ll be interested to hear that the span of the dome of the caldarium of the Baths of Caracalla was almost as large as the span of the dome of the Pantheon in Rome; just to give you a sense of the extraordinary bigger is better scale in this particular bath. Over here a natatio, located where it usually isn’t, but here on axis with the other rooms: an interesting natatio with a scalloped side, screened by columns. And then otherwise all the rooms symmetrically disposed around it. The two palaestrae, one on either side — matching rooms symmetrically disposed around the central building block. So the same imperial bath structure type, that we saw developed under Titus and Trajan, but taken to much larger scale here.
Baths of Caracalla model/ruins overlay / Wikimedia Commons
This model (switching to ruins and back for an overlay) shows you the hall. Wee see the walls, which were very plain on three sides, toward the natatio, toward the vaulting of the frigidarium. And then the dome, as you can see there, of the caldarium. Interesting is the front side of the–or the side where you can see the caldarium projecting over here, which you can see is opened up much more than the other sides, with a series of columns, screened columns, and then columns screening and opening up the caldarium as well, on the southern side of the monument.
Baths of Caracalla remains / Wikimedia Commons
It’s mainly piles of concrete faced with brick. But you can see some of the soaring vaults still there. The ruins show it as much smaller than it would’ve been, because so much of the ceilings and the vaults are missing today. But you can get a sense by looking at this family of four, standing next to it, the colossal scale of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Here’s another view, with some tourists as well, to also give you a sense. Again, this is very incomplete today, but it still gives you some idea of the colossal magnitude of this particular bath structure.
Baths of Caracalla, portion of decorative frienze / Wikimedia Commons
Baths of Caracalla restored frigidarium illustration / Wikimedia Commons
As one walks through it, there’s actually very little ornamental decoration still preserved, but there was plenty in antiquity. You can see here and there some fragments of a frieze. This is a restored view of what the frigidarium would have looked like, the most important room in the bath, which would have been triple-groin vaulted, as you can see here, which would have had grey granite columns with white marble capitals, and would have had an incredible sculptural display. And Caracalla, like Domitian before him–remember Domitian’s Aula Regia and those colossal statues of Dionysus and Apollo, with whom Domitian wanted to associate himself–Caracalla, of the same ilk, who also wanted to ally himself with great heroes of the past, great gods of the past, and he follows the lead of Commodus, in whose model he kind of–he looked back again to Nero, Domitian, to Commodus–and he likened himself to Hercules.
Baths of Caracalla capital with Hercules / Wikimedia Commons
Baths of Caracalla Farnese Hercules statue / Capitoline Museums
And we have sculpture, that is preserved from the frigidarium that represents Hercules; Hercules, the weary, the famous weary Hercules type. This is now in Naples, in the Archaeological Museum, this statue, but it comes from the frigidarium of the Baths of Caracalla–we’re absolutely sure of that–and it depicts the weary Hercules. It is a Roman copy. The artist, we know his name. I’ve put his name on the Monument List for you, Glykon of Athens. So an Athenian sculptor, working in the time of Caracalla, makes this copy. But he makes it of a very famous lost Greek original by the Greek sculptor Lysippus, whose name is also on your Monument List, a work of art that he originally made in the 330s B.C. So Glycon of Athens copies Lysippus, also of Greece, this statue at the behest again of Caracalla. And the fact that this was a theme or a leitmotif that ran through all the decoration of the frigidarium is underscored by the fact that a composite capital that survives, also from the frigidarium, shows a figure of that same weary Hercules interspersed with the acanthus leaves of that capital. So again a very carefully orchestrated program to try to underscore the relationships between Caracalla and Hercules.
Baths of Caracalla geometric and floral mosaics / Wikimedia Commons
Mosaics, geometric mosaics, not unlike those in Ostia, found, and still exist, in the Baths of Caracalla today — black and white with a little addition of color. Here another section that shows you the interest in geometry, as well as floral motifs. This detail, that you can also see on the site still today, showing the sea scenes that were not–were the kind of scenes one would expect in a bath, very similar to those at Ostia but done in a somewhat more–a better way. And then the pièce de résistance, I think, of the mosaics of the Baths of Caracalla, and well preserved today, was a mosaic that you can see is curved, to be placed into a room of this shape that depict on the floor all the famous athletes and gladiators of the day, either in full-length images or in portrait images. And I don’t doubt that these would have been recognizable stars, superstars, flexing their muscles for the public, and hoping to be recognized by everyone who came to this bath. And you can just imagine men and women standing above, looking and trying to pick out who is depicted here.
Baths of Caracalla mosaics of athletes and gladiators / Wikimedia Commons
We can still see what survives mosaics with the athletes and gladiators of the day. And I show them to you here as well. And if you look at these, you can see that they not only are shown–some are already victors, some are taking part in their sport. But once again, just as in the Alexander Mosaic, we see the use of a lot of different colored tesserae. We see cast shadows. This is very well done: wonderful facial configurations done by what must have been the leading mosaicist of the day, for the Baths of Caracalla.
Baths of Caracalls mosaic portrait of athlete and marble portrait bust of Caracalla / Wikimedia Commons
And just in closing today, I thought I would show you one of those heads, blown up to poster size, as you can see here, but also put it next to an actual portrait of Caracalla. This is not a course in sculpture, but I wanted to show this to you, especially since it’s a portrait that you can see. It’s in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — a very powerful portrait of a very intense Roman emperor, as you can see on the left. But I think there is some relationship between the way in which the sculptors have depicted Caracalla, with his very cubic and abstract face, his short military hairstyle, and the depictions of the athletes and the gladiators. So I think he was not only trying to draw a relationship between himself and Hercules Romanus, but also between himself and some of the greatest athletes and gladiators of the day, to underscore his strength as a leader. It was all for naught ultimately, but nonetheless he achieved it, and I think it also speaks to him as a man with that bigger is better philosophy.