Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals 036752063X, 9780367520632

First published in 2017, Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals explores the impact of political history on the built envir

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Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals
 036752063X, 9780367520632

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Original Title Page
Original Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Chapter 1: Introduction
Part 1: Imperial Capital
Chapter 2: The Roman Republic: A Prelude to Empire
Chapter 3: The Rome of the Caesars
Part 2: Papal Capital
Chapter 4: Medieval Rome
Chapter 5: Renaissance Rome
Chapter 6: Baroque Rome: The Age of Extravagance
Chapter 7: Neoclassical Rome
Part 3: National Capital: The Early Years
Chapter 8: The Risorgimento and its Aftermath
Chapter 9: The Demise of Liberal Italy and the Ascendancy of Fascism

Citation preview

Routledge Revivals


First published in 2017, Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals explores the impact of political history on the built environment of the Eternal City. The book divides Rome’s history into three main periods: the rulership of the early kings from the 8th to the 6th centuries BC; the period of Etruscan culture and architecture up to the end of the Roman Empire in 5th century AD; and, the 6th century to 1870, when Rome stood as the ecclesiastical capital of the Catholic Church and the temporal state of the Papal States. The final section of the book examines the Risorgimento, the unification of Italy, and the development of the fascist state; a time when Rome became the capital of Italy and endeavoured to establish a new empire. Exploring political instability and change, Balchin demonstrates the strong connection between politics and the physical shaping of the city through an examination of the successive styles of architecture, from Classical to Moder­ nist.


The Shaping of Three Capitals

By Paul N. Balchin

First published in 2017 by Troubador Publishing Ltd. This edition first published in 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © Copyright 2017 Paul N. Balchin All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Publisher’s Note The publisher has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of this reprint but points out that some imperfections in the original copies may be apparent. Disclaimer The publisher has made every effort to trace copyright holders and welcomes correspondence from those they have been unable to contact.

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ROME The Shaping of Three Capitals

Paul N Balchin

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CONTENTS List of Figures Preface 1: Introduction

PART 1: IMPERIAL CAPITAL 2: The Roman Republic: A Prelude to Empire 3: The Rome ofthe Caesars







PART 2: PAPAL CAPITAL 4: Medieval Rome 5: Renaissance Rome 6: Baroque Rome: The Age of Extravagance 7: Neoclassical Rome






PART 3: NATIONAL CAPITAL: THE EARLYYEARS 8: The Risorgimento and its Mtermath 9: The Demise of Liberal Italy and the Ascendancy of Fascism




Timeline Index




LIST OF FIGURES The Hills of Rome The Forum Romanum The Classical Orders Roman Empire Imperial Fora The Palatine Imperial Capital Rome from its beginnings to the Caesars The Papal States of the 12th Century Medieval Rome The Campidoglio, Rome Villa Giulia Street Development in Rome in the Sixteenth Century Renaissance Rome The Piazza Navona, Rome The Piazza San Pietro, Rome The Piazza del Popolo, Rome Baroque Rome National Capital Monarchial Rome before the Fascist State Foro Italico, ex Foro Mussolini Citta Universitaria EUR Via della Conciliazione



























The architectural heritage of a country may be described as history preserved in stone, and arguably expresses the political, economic and sometimes ecclesiastical attributes of bygone ages better than any other form of art. This is even truer of many capital cities where the levers of power were customarily located. In Europe, much of the architecture ofcentral Paris is a reminder ofthe power and influence of the Ancien Regime and the later reign of Napoleon III, while evidence of the Medieval city is sparse. The built environment of much of Central London similarly dates from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, with only a sprinkling of buildings - however interesting architecturally - representing an earlier age. And when one considers Washington DC, the magnificent city core and its constituent buildings date very largely from the late eighteenth century, and anything older is virtually non-existent. But in Rome, the city's architecture dates back to the seventh century BC, and over the centuries the 'Eternal City' has performed the role ofcapital four times: first under the Caesars and their republican predecessors, second under the popes, third during the period from 1870 to 1945 when it became the centre ofmonarchical and Fascist power, and finally since the second war when it again became the capital of a republic. Thus throughout its long history, the physical development ofRome was dependent upon the will of its rulers, the availability of economic resources, and the overarching impact of its citizens' attitude to the sacred and the profane. Overall, it can be suggested that a significant IX



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

proportion of buildings and public open spaces were developed to generate awe, respect and subservience among the city's population at large, an explanation by no means confined to Rome. In examining the history of the Eternal City or any other major city, it might be illuminating to consider Deyan Sudjic's observation that 'architecture is [and has been] used by political leaders to seduce, impress and intimidate'.! Whether, for example, one looks at the impact ofJulius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus; Popes Julius II and Innocent X; or Agostino Depretis and Benito Mussolini, political leaders [have used] architecture for political purposes. 'It [was] a relationship that occurred in almost every kind of regime and [appealed] to egotists of every description'.2 There have, of course, been a very large number of books written on the architectural history ofRome, and on the political, economic and papal history ofthe relevant centuries, but very few books deal concisely with the impact of politics, economics and ecclesiastical history on the development of the city over the full extent of its history. This book is intended to fill a perceived gap in the literature. Using selected examples, it deals essentially with the political and architectural history of Rome in the two-and-a-half millennia following the demise of its last Etruscan king. Part 1 ofthe book - entitled Imperial Capital- focuses on the Roman Republic and the Rome of the Caesars, including the impact of early Christianity. Part 2 explores the long history of Rome as the Papal Capital from the Medieval era, through the Renaissance and Baroque years, and into the period of Neoclassicism; and Part 3 examines the first seventy years of Rome as the National Capital from the Risorgimento to the demise of Mussolini in 1945. Since the period post-1945 is relatively short and still ongoing into the indefinite future, an examination of the architectural history of Rome as the capital of a modern republican state has been eschewed by the author.

1 D. Sudjic, The Edifice Complex: How the Ri(h and Powerful Shape the World, London, Allen Lane, 2005, p2. 2 Ibid., p8.





Rome, on an ancient salt route traversing the fertile plain of Latium, is located in the very heart of Italy. Initially it was mainly situated on the left bank of the Tiber, about 22 kilometres from the Tyrrhenian Sea. The city commanded the first convenient crossing of the Tiber north of its swampy estuary where the Isola Tiberina bifurcated the river into two fordable reaches. The river in its entirety brought produce from the inland regions, and seaborne commerce from abroad, and although the coast was near enough for convenience it was not so near as to bring danger from maritime intruders. It is customary to believe that Rome was built on seven hills, but there are in fact nine areas ofhigh ground surrounding the city. On the left bank, the Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline and Caelian are outcrops of higher land, separated by the courses of ancient streams, whereas the Capitoline, Palatine and Aventine stand alone closer to the river. West of the Tiber, there is the long ridge of the Janiculum and the relatively low Vatican Hill to the north-west of it. All, to a greater or lesser extent, enabled farmers and shepherds





Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals The Hills oj Rome

to escape from the frequent flooding of the Tiber and from enemy attack by settling in the Palatine, Esquiline and Quirinal Hills. Though archaeological finds below the Capitoline and on the Palatine show that the first Iron Age settlements on these sites were established as early as the tenth century BC, as they spread they coalesced in the eighth century BC to form a single larger community, with the Capitoline as its political and religious centre. Largely under the rule ofthe Etruscans, who emigrated from Etruria (modern Tuscany) , this community became a city between the seventh and the sixth centuries BCI, when its population had possibly reached around forty thousand, larger than any other city in the region. While geomorphology influenced the location of Ancient Rome, its geology enabled the settlement to be transformed from one ofwooden huts a B. Hintzen-Bohlen with J. Sorges, Rome and the Ultican City, Cologne, K6nemann, 2000, pplO--11




into a city ofstone within two or three centuries. Underneath Rome, there was a vast resource oftufa, a sedimentary rock produced by the cementing of volcanic material fallen after eruptions. Grey, yellowish, greenish or brown, it was strong but easily carved and ideal for building quickly and on a large scale. Not only were a large number ofquarries dug under Rome during its early centuries ofdevelopment and beyond, but to facilitate extraction and the deployment of slave labour an extensive underground network spread from quarry to quarry underneath the built-up city. Travertine, a limestone rock, was - by present-day standards - a more conventional building material. Though much was transported to Rome from Tuscany, an important nearby source was exploited at Tibur (modern-day Tivoli) . It was used extensively throughout Ancient Rome, particularly during the later years of the city's development. Another near-by resource was pozzolana, a volcanic ash which, when mixed with lime, produced a strong and durable concrete. Both sun­ dried and kiln-made brick was amply available throughout the Roman region. It was not until the first century Be that marble was used in the construction process (see chapter 3)



Like a number of ancient cities whose origins are unknown, myths have grown up around the founding of Rome and were probably widely believed for many years after they first emerged. The ultimate and most widely accepted version of events was provided by Livy (64/59 Be-AD 17) in his history of Rome. In it he posited that Aeneas fled with his father Anchises and his son Ascanius from the burning city ofTroy around 1180 Be to the coastal town ofLavinium (modern Practica di Mare), 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of the future Rome, and subsequently married the king's daughter. One of their descendants was Numitor, King ofAlba Longa, whose daughter Rhea Silvia was supposedly impregnated by Mars the god ofwar, and bore him the twins Romulus and Remus. Her uncle Amulius, who claimed the throne for himself, set the twins adrift in a basket on the Tiber after their birth, but Providence saved them. A she-wolf


I Rome:

The Shaping of Three Capitals

was alleged to have suckled the brothers until they were rescued by the herdsman Faustulus. As young men they avenged their deposed grandfather and, fulfilling the prophecy of an oracle, founded a city on the Palatine Hill - the city of Rome - which according to legend took place on 21st April 753 BC. 2 But who would be the king? It was believed that this was settled by an omen in the form of a flight of birds of prey. Six of them appeared to Remus but twelve to Romulus, thus marking him - by a majority vote from the gods above, as it were - as the indisputable ruler of the new city.3 The brothers soon quarrelled. Remus - perhaps out of jealousy - had ignored the sacred boundary or pomerium drawn around the city by his brother, and sacrilegiously crossed it, and in his wrath Romulus killed him for his lack of respect.4 Thus, rooted in fratricide, the embryonic city had one founder and not two, but as yet few or no inhabitants. Romulus attempted to solve this problem by creating an asylum or place of refuge on what became the Capitol, and encouraged the trash of primitive Latium - runaway slaves, exiles, murderers; criminals of all sorts - to settle in his new city. 5 A settlement gradually emerged, but it soon became evident that Romans needed women to give them children. On the pretext ofinviting the neighbouring Sabine tribe to a horse race, Romulus encouraged his menfolk to abduct the Sabine women present, with the Sabine elders in response declaring war on Rome and taking the city. Ironically, the war was brought to a happy conclusion by the Sabine women flinging themselves between the combatants - their new Roman husbands on one side, and their fathers and brothers on the other. In resolution of the conflict, the Sabines settled on the Quirinal Hill, the two tribes were united, and from then on they ruled together. 6 Succeeding Romulus, the Roman kings, however, came from very different backgrounds. Whilst Numa was a Sabine and Tullius was of Roman stock, Ancus and both the Tarquinius kings came from Etruria. Their social origins also varied - for example Tarquinius Priscus was 2 3 4 5 6


R. Hughes, Rome, London, Phoenix, 2011, p17.

B. Hintzen-Bohlen with]. Sorges, op. cit., ppl0-11.

R. Hughes, op. cit. p18.

B. Hintzen-Bohlen with]. Sorges, op. cit., pp10-11.



'the son of a slave or refugee from the Greek city of Corinth, and Servius Tullius was [also] the son of a slave or at least a prisoner of war. .. The overall message is [therefore] unmistakable: even at the very pinnacle ofthe Roman political order, 'Romans' could come from elsewhere; and those born low, even ex-slaves, could rise to the top'.7 The downside was that three of the kings 'were murdered; a divine lightning bolt struck another as punishment for a religious error; and Tarquinius Superbus was expelled. Only two died in their beds'8.

The Roman Forum: probably established in the late 5th century Be, and the political,

trading and religious centre ifRomeJor a millennium.

Regardless of their varied backgrounds, the Roman kings had one attribute in common; they were all elected monarchs: Romulus (753-716 BC) was the city's founder; Numa Pompilius, 716-673 BC established a plethora of temples and religious sites; Tullus Hostilius (673-640 BC) annexed the Etruscan city of Veii and conquered the Albans; Ancus Marcius (640-616 BC) extended Rome into the Aventine and Janiculum Hills on the Tiber's west bank and founded m~or


M. Beard, SPQR: A History ifAncient Rome, London, Profile Books, 2015, plOD





Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

Rome's seaport at Ostia; and Tarquinius Priscus (616-579 BC) allegedly developed the Forum Romanum, established the Roman Games and ordered the construction of the Cloaca Maxima, one of the world's earliest sewage systems that drained local marshland and discharged effluent into the Tiber marginally downstream from the Isola Tiberina. Subsequently Servius Tullius (579-534 BC) defeated the Sabines and incorporated the Esquiline, Quirinal and Viminal Hills within the boundary of Rome; and Tarquinius Superbus (534-510 BC) made peace between the Etruscans and Latins, and, influenced by Greek architecture, built the most important religious temple in Rome, the Temple ofJupiter, Optimus Maximus a 61 x 61 metre (200 feet x 200 feet) structure erected on the Capitoline Hill, Nearby, the Temple of Saturn was built on the eastern slope of the Capitoline Hill in 497 BC, and it too was reconstructed in later centuries.

Temple q{Jupiter Optimus Maximus 509 Be (hypothetical model). (Hiro-O)

From the earliest days of the monarchy, the day-to-day administration ofRome was undertaken by a weak, oligarchical Senate, one of whose responsibilities was to nominate the next king on the



death of the previous incumbent, who would then only succeed to office if he were elected by the people of Rome as represented by the Curate Assembly. It was only when Tarquinius Superbus was expelled from Rome after his son was accused oforganising the rape ofLucretia, wife of Collatin us, a descendant ofTarquinius Priscus, that the ancient monarchy ofRome came to an end. Thereafter Rome became, in turn, an Imperial, Papal and National capital, its development over two or more millennia being the subject of this book.

Temple ofSaturn 497 BC (reconstructed 42 BC and 283 AD)



I 9




Mter Ancient Rome's last king, Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown in 510 Be, a republic was established in which a Senate ofthree hundred members was elected annually from the patrician (aristocratic) class in general, and from the heads ofgreat families in particular. These in turn elected a series of magistrates, the most important of which were two consuls (or heads of state), who normally held office for one year and were expected to agree on policy. Alternatively, if a consul were absent from Rome his position would be filled by an elected praetor, who would be responsible for the administration ofjustice throughout the remainder of the consul's term. By 494 Be, democratic accountability was widened. Each for a period ofone year, five tribunes were henceforth elected to represent the plebeians, and their number was increased to ten in 457 Be. During their term in government, tribunes had the power to veto the appointment of senators, and more importantly the republic's two consuls (or praetors), who wielded overall authority not dissimilar to that of the previous kings of Rome. There were also tribunes, with varying powers, who annually represented military and consular interests. From around 500 Be, and at times of emergency, the Senate had



I Rome:

The Shaping of Three Capitals

the authority to appoint a dictator, who for six months had absolute authority to deal with the crisis. The fiscal management of Rome was in the hands of quaestors, senior bureaucrats who assisted the consuls. Though initially appointed, from 447 BC they were elected, and their number increased from only two to around forty at the end of the republic. Other important elected positions in the government of the republic included a censor who - during his two-year term - would 'carry out population counts and determine the social position of citizens in order to remove unworthy ones from office'; 1 and an aedile who - during his two years in office - would be responsible for the maintenance of public buildings and the organisation of festivals. It was broadly under this form of republican government that Rome became the first superpower of Europe if not the world, and made a major contribution to the development of architecture and the urban environment. However, during the early years ofthe republic, when the population of Rome has been estimated to have ranged from 35,000 to as many as 150,000, the immediate hinterland of the city only gradually expanded over the Septimontium - the Capitol, Palatine, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal and Quirinal - with the patricians on the Palatine or the Quirinal heights and the plebeians in the narrow valley of the Subura, between the Viminal and the Esquiline, and on the outlying Aventine.2 At the same time, the expansion of Rome was constrained by a plethora of Latin settlements that contested the city's attempt to dominate its adjacent areas. Mter a Roman victory at the Battle of Regillus in 499 BC, the conquered settlements of the Latin League allied with Rome in 493 to form a military and commercial union in which Rome was a major partner. Agreement was soon reached over the sharing of the spoils of war and the sequestration of territory, and in consequence the league was emboldened to wage war against the Sabines, Acqui and Volsci who, from their Apennine settlements, were attempting to occupy richer pastureland on the coastal lowlands. Although the territorial wars of the 490s intensified a brooding unrest among the plebeians over the concentration of power and 1 V. Linmer. A Traveller's History ifItaly, G loucestershire, Wmdrush Press, 1988, p25. 2 P. Hall, Cities in Civilisation, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998, p622

The Roman Republic: A Prelude





wealth by the patricians, from this period an intense class war ensued and continued throughout most of the republican years. The Senate was clearly aware of impending political disruption, and therefore in 451-450 BC produced the Twelve Tables in an attempt to formalise legislative procedure and the introduction of new laws. Although the tables did nothing to alter the distribution ofwealth, it could be argued that while the patricians and plebeians were able to hold the reins of power via the Senate and magistrates, a semblance of democracy prevailed throughout the republican years.

Servian Wall 378 Be

The conquest of the many areas of the Italian Peninsula not under Roman control still remained very much on the agenda. In 406 BC a Roman army began a long siege of the Etruscan stronghold of Veii, capturing it in 396 BC, doubling the territory under Roman rule and enabling the city to take the remaining Etruscan city states of Caere, Tarquinia and Volsinii. Throughout the third century, Rome gradually dominated the whole of the Italian Peninsula but, despite the strength of its army, a successful attack directly on Rome could not be ruled out completely. As an outcome of Rome being sacked by the Gauls in 390



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

BC, and to defend itself from external attack in the future (particularly from the north), the republic constructed a massive city wall oflarge tufa blocks in 378 Be. The wall, still extant, encircles what was once the built-up area of Rome east ofthe Tiber. It is 11 kilometres (7 miles) in length, 10 metres (33 feet) in height, and 3.6 metres (12 feet) in thickness. It is customarily and anachronistically called the Servian Wall after the sixth King ofRome, Servius Tullius (r. 578-535 BC), but there is only scant archaeological evidence to suggest that its origins date back that far.

Temple FeroniaJourth or third century Be

What is certain, however, was that the wall severely constrained the outward growth of Rome despite its world renown, while the existing built-up area became a rabbit warren, largely devoid of magnificent buildings or any form oftown planning for centuries to come. A notable exception is the Temple ofFeronia, dedicated to the ancient goddess of fertility. Dating from the fourth or third century BC, it is situated in modern Largo di Torre Argentina (a square within the ancient Campus Martius). Originally with twenty steps leading up to a large podium (17 x 31 metres), its cella (chamber) was bordered by five tufa columns on

The Roman Republic: A Prelude to Empire

I 15

either side of the building and four across its front, the whole temple being essentially Greek in style. Another exception is the Temple of Concord, completed in 367 BC to commemorate the reconciliation of the patricians and plebeians after the Aventine Succession. Greek in style, the building was twice as wide as its depth due to the limitations of its site on the eastern edge of the Capitoline Hill.


343-259 Be War in the peninsula persisted and, despite the dissolution of the Latin League in 343 BC, Rome was in military conflict with the powerful southern Apennine tribe, the Samnites, from 343 to 321 BC and again from 316 to 304 Be. Premature victory, early in the first war, brought with it the imposition of colonial rule in the Samnite towns and cities, with limited rights of citizenship, self-government and a guarantee of religious toleration: the basis ofRoman imperial rule over the next seven hundred years. In Rome, as if to commemorate its army's trouncing of the Samnites, the Circus Maximus (originally laid out in the sixth century BC) was redeveloped in 329 BC to improve its facilities for equestrian events and spectators, but celebration was short-lived. In 328 BC, the Samnites resumed war against the republic as an angry gesture in response to the Roman colonisation of Fregenae (modern Fregene), on the Lazio coast. The conflict, with brief intervals, lasted thirty-seven years, and brought Rome into contact with Greek cities of the south, which together with Neapolis (modern Naples), sought Roman protection against the Samnites. In 321 BC a Roman army was defeated by the Samnites in the mountainous terrain above Benevento, south-east of Neapolis, but in 316 - having reinforced her troops - Rome resumed the conflict, only to be defeated again by the Samnites at Latium. Eventually, gaining the initiative, the Roman army advanced into the Samnite homelands in the central Apennines and - facilitated by the provision of new roads ­ formed colonies in Umbria and the Abruzzi, and established Rome's first settlement on the Adriatic coast at Hadria. Insecurity in central and southern Italy, and the allure of


I Rome:

The Shaping of Three Capitals

employment, attracted a large influx of population into Rome and stimulated an increase in the supply of housing, most of which was of poor quality. There was a corresponding need to improve the supply ofdrinking water. Therefore, beginning in 312 BC, engineers built the Aqua Appia to carry water - mainly underground - from the Alban Hills 10.3 kilometres (6.4 miles) south of the capital to a fountain near the Forum Boarium, close to the centre of Rome. Thenceforth, there were a further ten aqueducts built in the years to AD 226, further facilitating the flow of water from the south, from the spurs of the Apennines around Tivoli to the east, or from Lake Bracciano to the north. The water thus provided was piped directly to larger residences or bath complexes, or distributed at public fountains. 3 There was also the development of facilities to feed the population and act as catalysts of commercial growth: witness the expanded dockyard facilities on the Tiber to handle the import of wheat, and the development of a new cattle market, the Forum Boarium, both on relatively undeveloped land outside of the Servian Wall. In 312 BC, the magistrate Appius Claudius Caecus began to build the Appian Way (from Rome to Capua), which together with the Aqua Appia, were very great achievements towards sustaining the economy of a seemingly chaotic city. At last, in 304 BC, victory over the Samnites was achieved and gave Rome full control of the rich agricultural land of the coastal region around Neapolis, a guaranteed further source of wheat and other agricultural produce. With most ofthe central and northern Italian Peninsula now under Roman control, Rome turned its attention to Greece and its territorial possessions in southern Italy. To ward off aggressive overtures from external enemies across the Mediterranean, a number ofcities ofMagna Graecia, such as the cultural centres of Cotrone (modern Crotone) and Rhegium (Reggio Calabria), sought Roman military protection, but for fear of being dominated by Rome Tarentum (Taranto) looked to Pyrrhus, king of the Greek state of Epirus, for help. In 280 BC Pyrrhus landed a massive army in Italy, but it only defeated the Romans at a very great cost to itself in men and resources, giving rise to the term 'Pyrrhic victory' . Subsequently peace talks failed, Pyrrhus was 3

J. Boardman, Rome: A Cultural and Literary Companion, Oxford, Signal Books, 2006, p12.

The Roman Republic: A Prelude to Empire



unable to secure allies in southern Italy, and with his depleted army he returned home. But by now, Rome dominated the whole ofthe Italian Peninsula, and - to safeguard its security - sought to extend its power and influence wider afield, particularly in North Africa, from where the Carthaginians were attempting to establish hegemony over much of the Mediterranean. But Rome still suffered from a water shortage, and before she could engage in further military adventures in the Mediterranean needed to protect the sustainability of her domestic population. Using the spoils ofwar, and beginning in 272 BC, the censor Manius Curius Dentantus therefore built a second aqueduct, later known as the Anio Vetus, 39.6 kilometres (24.6 miles) long, and underground from the Anio River to the Esquiline in Rome. 4 After the aqueduct had been completed (it was built in only three years), matters came to a crux when mercenaries attempting to protect Roman interests in Sicily were besieged by Carthaginian forces in 264 Be. Rome sent an army to the island and embarked on a full-scale war with the invaders, but was seriously disadvantaged by not having a navy, in sharp contrast with Carthage, which had a large and well-equipped fleet.



By 260 BC, Rome began to rectifY its maritime weakness, and in less than a year built a well-equipped navy of one hundred warships, which under the command of Gaius Duilius defeated the Carthaginians off Mylae (present-day Milazzo). The first Punic War between Rome and Carthage was well underway and intensified when Marcus Atilius Regulus led an attack on Carthage in 257 BC, and although it was initially successful it was eventually repulsed by the Carthaginians under the command of Xanthippus, a Spartan mercenary general, while Regulus paid for his defeat by being incarcerated in Carthage. Several years passed before Rome could avenge its humiliating defeat. However, in 241 BC, the Romans destroyed 4

P. Hall, op. cit., p635 .



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capirals

the Carthaginian fleet off the Aegadian (Egadi) Islands, near the west coast of Sicily, forcing the Carthaginians to surrender Sicily and pay an enormous indemnity to Rome, which severely weakened its hold over the western Mediterranean. In celebration, in the same year and located in close proximity to the Temple ofFeronia, the Temple ofJuturna was built in the Campus Martius by the victorious Roman general, Gaius Lutatius Catulus. The temple was built on a large podium (156 x 28 metres) with its cella surrounded by nine free-standing tufa columns down the sides and six across. Like the Feronia Temple, its architecture is essentially Greek.

Temple ojJuturna 241 Be

For a few years, there was a respite in Romano-Carthaginian warfare, during which time the built environment ofRome was further developed. In 221 BC, Gaius Flaminius Nepos, a politician and consul, built the Circus Flaminius on the southern side ofthe Campus Martius close to the bend in the Tiber, but it was not meant to emulate the Circus Maximus of 329 Be. It was not built for chariot racing, but was an entertainment venue where a range of other equestrian events were held, and where markets were held and assemblies took place.

The Roman Republic: A Prelude





While not at war with the Carthaginians, Rome also extended its control over Cisalpine Gaul (territory occupied by the Celts since the fourth century). Cities such as Mediolanum (Milan) were seized by the Romans and fertile land was redistributed among the colonists. But soon peaceful relations with Carthage came to an end, heralding the Second Punic War 218-201 Be. Despite the Carthaginian leader, Hannibal, defeating the Romans at the battles ofTrasimene and Cannae, and later at Metauris (on the Italian peninsula), Roman forces under Publius Cornelius Scipio Mrican took the war to Spain and Mrica and secured a resounding victory over Hannibal's army and imposed harsh conditions on the Carthaginians.

Cloaca Maxima reconstructed 184 BC

Rome now turned its attention to south-east Europe. In 196 Be, it invaded Macedonia in northern Greece and defeated King Philip and his army at Cynoscephalae in the central province of Thessaly, and so gained control of all of Greece and its cities. During the peace that followed, Rome embarked on a m;yor programme ofpublic works, this time updating her sewage system. Its main sewer, the Cloaca Maxima ­ running as an open drain through the Forum Romanum to the Tiber ­



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

dated back to 578 BC during the reign ofthe Etruscan King Tarquinius Priscus. Mter four hundred years of use, it was covered with an eleven­ foot-diameter semicircular stone vault in 184 BC and was subsequently used for storm water and sewage from public and private latrines. 5 Around the same time, sewers were also being built on the Aventine and elsewhere, and by the first century AD the system reached its full capacity.

Temple oj Hercules Victor 180 Be

In complete contrast, the Temple of Hercules Victor was erected in the Piazza Bocca della Verita, c. 180 Be. As the earliest surviving marble building in Rome, its entablature (possibly with a dome) has been destroyed, though the peristyle of twenty Corinthian columns and the walls ofthe cylindrical cella remain, but its aesthetic quality is tarnished by its replacement tiled roof, which is reminiscent of a straw hat. At around the same time, and dedicated to the protector of sailors Lares Permarini, the praetor and later censor Lucius Aemilius commissioned a monumental temple in the Campus Martius to celebrate his victory over the Greek fleet ofAntiochus the Great in 190 BC, and completed in 179, its portico alone being supported by ten tufa 5

Ibid, p646.

i\ Prelude to Empire



columns. Like the other temples in modern Largo di Torre Argentina, it was stylistically Greek. Peace did not last long, and in 171 BC war broke out again in Macedonia, with Lucius Aemilius Paulus defeating Philip's son, Perseus, enabling Paulus' army to bring an enormous amount ofwar booty and thousands of hostages back to Rome, and Rome to divide Greece into two Roman provinces: Achaea in central Greece, and Macedonia. By 150 BC, Rome had extended its possessions northwards into the Balkans and annexed Illyria (present-day Croatia and Slovenia). Though Rome was now dominant in both the western and eastern Mediterranean, having an estimated population of around 350,000 in 160 BC, Greek culture became increasingly embedded in the physical environment of the Eternal City. Greek deities were frequently honoured when Roman armies returned from their successful campaigns abroad. Not only were victorious generals accorded triumphal processions into the city, and in return often funded the construction of a temple, but whenever the opportunity arose they brought back to Rome an array of Greek statues - often of Greek gods - to grace the public places of the city. Throughout much of the second century BC in particular, there was clearly a move to Hellenise the city of Rome, most notably through architecture, sculpture, literature and a changed lifestyle. But Rome's fascination with all things Greek was probably overshadowed by events in North Mrica in the second half of the century. In 149 BC a reinvigorated Carthage attacked its neighbour, and Roman ally, Numidia, heralded the Third Punic War and brought forth retribution from Rome on a devastating scale. Not only did Carthage fall to Scipio Aemilianus (adopted grandson ofPubIius Scipio), but the city was totally destroyed, and its ruins were ploughed up and covered with a layer of salt to prevent its rehabilitation. At long last, North Mrica became a province of Rome in 146 BC, but at what price? The three Punic Wars, lasting on and offfor 116years, brought about the collapse of the economy and culture of southern Italy. Its Greek civilisation was irretrievably destroyed, and its cities such as Locrus (Locri) and Taras (Taranto) took many generations to recover, if at all. Its peasant economy disintegrated and was superseded by latifundia (large estates) that replaced arable farming with livestock grazing. Most of the modern regions ofApulia, Basilicata and Calabria



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

are still relatively poor, oppressed and lawless compared to the rest of Italy; some would say as a direct legacy of the Punic Wars. But the conquest ofCarthage brought an enormous benefit as well as these costs. It gave Rome 'access to the agricultural output of not only the North African territories, but also that of the lands Carthage had controlled in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain'.6 To boost grain output, around '6,000 Roman citizens were settled on generous allotments of farmland [latifundia] in north Africa' ,7 eventually exporting at least 200,000 tons of grain to Rome each year, mainly via the port of Ostia, located on a bend of the Tiber at a short distance from its mouth. Though the port grew rapidly, with docks and warehouses being constructed along the extensive state-owned riverside, the fast-flowing Tiber was a relatively narrow river no more than 100 metres wide, and insufficiently wide to enable larger ships to navigate safely. But smaller ships could be accommodated, with their cargoes unloaded on to oxen-pulled barges for a 48 kilometre (30 mile) three-day river journey to Rome.


145-44 BC

After the destruction of Carthage, and using the booty of war, a new aqueduct was commissioned by the praetor Quintus Marcius Rex in 144 Be. s Called the Aqua Marcia, the aqueduct was 56.8 kilometres (35.3 miles) long, of which 88 per cent was underground, mainly for strategic reasons. It brought water to the Viminal and then to the Caelian, Aventine, Palatine and Capitoline, and despite its length it was completed by 140 Be. At about the same time, the Cloaca Maxima was re-covered with vaults made of tufa (a hard local stone), to the benefit of environmental health. But despite the employment of public works to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants of Rome, a significant proportion of the Roman army that had been engaged in the Third Punic War were 6 7 8

J. Reader, Cities, London, Vintage, 2004, p61.


P. Hall, op. cit., p635.

A Prelude to Empire



particularly aggrieved on their return from combat to find that their landholdings had been sequestrated during their absence by members ofthe patrician class, and that their dependants were rendered homeless and without an adequate means of subsistence. Thus, when Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune in 133 Be, he proposed a new law - Lex Sempronia Agraria - that would have restricted the size of landed estates and redistributed the surplus to poorer citizens. He went on to decree that since King Attalus III ofPergamon in Asia Minor had died heirless, and left his wealth to the Roman state, it should be divided among new farmers to help them buy stock and equipment. Because of its overwhelming patrician majority, the Senate opposed these measures, and when Gracchus was elected for a second term, a senatorial faction conspired with its henchmen to murder him and his supporters, an event which widened the divide between the privileged patricians and the plebeians, while doing nothing to tackle government corruption and the regressive expenditure of public funds. An important outcome ofGracchus' failure to bring about land reform was that the population of Rome escalated rapidly since Italian farmers - driven from their ancestral farmlands by the advent of massive, slave-operated latifundia - migrated to Rome in great numbers, necessitating the construction of a considerable number of high-density plebeian insulae (apartment blocks). But housingwas not the only need ofthe rapidly growing population of Rome. Water was equally or more important. Therefore, a further aqueduct was constructed in 125 Be, the Aqua Tepula, which supplied water from the Alban Hills, 'topping up' the supply of water to twice that of the pre-aqueduct age. 9 But although housing and aqueducts were deemed essential to provide shelter and supply water for a rapidly growing population, an adequate supply of food was of at least equal importance. By the end of the second century Be, it seemed possible that the city's population of around three-quarters of a million would become unsustainable if affordable food in sufficient quantity was not available. Until this time, grain and other foodstuffs were supplied to the people of Rome by private enterprise initially from the city's rural hinterland, but with a continuing increase in population there 9

P. Hall, op. cit., p634.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

was the fear of famine as merchants found it necessary to import from afar, mainly North Mrica and Spain. To quell the possibility of inflation arising from escalating demand and costlier supply, laws were introduced in the Senate in 123 BC by the tribunate ofGaius Gracchus that 'established the basic right of every Roman citizen to a monthly ration of grain at a fIxed rate that undercut prevailing market prices' . 10 Though politically controversial, this form of food subsidisation lasted for sixty years despite having to be funded by the proceeds of taxation. By 119 BC, Rome had recovered suffIciently from the last of the Punic Wars to resource the expansion ofits interests in the Balkans. This time, it set its sights on Dalmatia with the aim of making it a Roman possession, adjacent to its existing province of Illy ria. Mter a short war, the Dalmatians were defeated by the army ofLucius Caecilius Metellus Dalmaticus in 117 BC, only two years after his being elected a consul. On his return to Rome - as ifto celebrate his victory - he reconstructed and enlarged the Temple of Castor and Pollux, an edifIce dating back to 495 BC, and during the short peace consul Marcus Aemilius Scaurus built a new Pons Milvius that replaced the original bridge of207 BC, which was duly demolished.

Temple if Castor and Pollux 117 BC 10

J. Reader, op. cit., p57.

A Prelude


Empire I 25

Ponto Milvio 109 BC, replaced the bridge if 207 BC (the gatehouse datesfrom 1805)

But Roman military confidence was soon dissipated when, around 114 BC, Roman armies suffered a series of defeats on the frontiers of Thrace (northern Greece), Gaul and North Mrica. To counter the republic's apparent military weakness, Gaius Marius, on being elected consul in 107 BC, not only regained control of North Mrica by vanquishing the Numidian rebel Jugurtha, but took an authorised opportunity to overhaul the army, forming legions of 4,500 men, with each divided into ten cohorts, which in turn were divided into even smaller units led by centurions. With an army thus organised, Marius led a successful campaign against the Cimbri and Teutons, Celtic and Germanic tribes who had just invaded Gaul before crossing into Italy. But after the decisive Battle ofVercellae in 101 BC, Quintus Lutatius Catulus attempted to share the glory of victory by commissioning a temple devoted to Fortuna Huiusce Diei (the Fortunes of This Day), the fourth such edifice in the Campus Martius after the Temples of Feronia, J uturna and Lares Permarini of previous centuries. But unlike these earlier buildings, which were rectangular, Catulus' temple was circular and supported by eighteen tufa columns.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

Temple to Fortuna Huiusce Diei 101 Be

With invasion from the north no longer imminent, conditions in Rome were ripe for the construction of meritorious buildings, even small edifices. Thus, beginning in 100 BC, the Temple of Portunus or Temple ofFortuna Virilis was built in the Piazza Bocca next to the earlier Temple of Hercules Victor. The main body of the temple is Greek in style, particularly its portico with its four free-standing Ionic columns, and its cella, but its plinth is Roman, and the building is representative of the many small temples that must have existed in the period of the republic. 11 However, peace did not last for long. In 91 BC, tension developed within Italy itself among the socii ltalici (Italian allies) . Culminating in what was called the Social War, serious discontent had arisen over civil rights, the status of subjects and the large contributions that were expected to be made towards the cost of military operations. But despite the bitterness ofthe conflict, it was brought to an end in 89 BC when the Romans conceded defeat and offered full citizenship and civil rights to all their opponents who laid down their arms. 11 C. Woodward, Rome, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1995, p21.

A Prelude





Temple qf Portunus Virills 100 Be

But no sooner had the Social War been brought to an end than another war started - this time inAsia Minor. In 84 BC Lucius Cornelius Sulla was put in command of an army whose mission was to put down a rebellion led by Mithridates VI in the client kingdom of Pontus in Asia Minor. But while Sulla prepared to embark an invasion force from Campania, his appointment was opposed by his old adversary in Rome, Gaius Marius, six times consul, prompting Sulla to march on Rome and face Marius head-on. Marius fled to Africa, but when Sulla and his army eventually left for Asia Minor, Marius returned to Rome and massacred his former enemies, but died shortly after being made consul for the seventh time. By the end of 84 BC, Sulla defeated Mithridates, returned to Rome, eliminated remaining Marian opposition, and gained the support of two wealthy and ambitious young patricians, Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey). Within two years, Sulla's influence in the Senate had substantially increased and enabled



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

him to become dictator. With new power, he sold offbuilding lots on the common land of the Campus Martius, or granted them to influential Romans, to set in motion the development of much-needed insulae and patrician villages. In 78BC Sulla presided over the construction of the massive Tabularium, possibly to accommodate Rome's public records. Located on the southern edge of the Capitoline Hill, it looked down on the Forum Romanum and defined its western extent. He also initiated the lengthy reconstruction of the Temple ofJupiter (not completed until 69 BC), and subsequently embarked on a reign of terror marked by widespread executions. By 81 BC he had undertaken a m~or reform of the republic's political and judicial systems, making it less egalitarian and more repressive, but thereafter retired, and died shortly after, in 78 Be. Through bolstering the powers of the Senate and - in consequence - the army, Sulla had created a recipe for social discord and laid the foundations of a prolonged power struggle that would eventually destroy the republic. Obviously, the most disadvantaged group under Roman rule were slaves, often but not exclusively drawn from the armies of Rome's enemies. Probably the most famous of all enslaved captives was

Tabularium 78 Be (the upper three storeysform the rear of the Palazzo Senatorio, 1534-38)

A Prelude to Empire



Spartacus - a Thracian - who, as a former gladiator, assembled an army of escaped slaves on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius in 73 BC to wage war on Roman troops attacking from the north. Eventually, the rebellion was crushed by Marcus Crassus, commander of one of the largest Roman armies ever assembled, and, whilst Spartacus was killed in battle, the captured slaves were crucified along the Appian Way. To prevent even more widespread discontent, Crassus, now a consul, joined Pompey in dismantling Sulla's constitution in 70 BC since they believed it enabled the Senate to misuse its power and to turn a blind eye to corruption. Corruption was rife, and possibly to deflect attention from his questionable activities as Governor of Sicily, Gaius Verres (a Roman magistrate) restored the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum in 70 BC, but Marcus Tullius Cicero, author and orator, successfully exposed Verres as the most corrupt of public officials, indicting him of embezzlement and the robbery of works of art, charges which led to his exile in Massilia (modern Marseilles). But Cicero was not only interested in exposing corruption. In addition to his other interests, he was also concerned with safeguarding the Senate and particularly Pompey's conspirators. Since Pompey had undertaken a series of successful campaigns in Asia Minor and Syria between 69 and 61 BC, and enhanced his reputation as a general, it was feared by some that he might have the ambition of becoming a dictator following his return to Rome. This fear was voiced particularly by Lucius Sergius Catilina, a disgraced ex-colonial governor who failed to get elected as a populist consul and who, in 62 BC, attempted to organise a conspiracy in his bid for power. His opponents in the Senate - all patricians - thus elected Cicero consul to expose Catalina's planned coup d'etat, but to no avail since Catalina died in battle at Pistoia in Tuscany, while his co-conspirators were executed without trial. The year 62 BC, however, was not solely a year of conspiracy. It was also a year in which Lucius Fabricius, the superintendent of roads, commissioned the construction of the Pons Fabricius, the oldest extant bridge in Rome. Built initially of tufa (and subsequently coated with travertine and brick), the two-arched bridge is 62 metres (203 feet) in length and 5.5 metres (18 feet) in width and connects the Campus Martius on the east bank of the Tiber to the Isola Tiberina, which also from 62 BC has been connected to the Pons Cestius and the west bank.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

Pons Fabricius 62 Be

The same year also witnessed the subsidisation of grain prices being extended to a wider range ofrecipients, and four years later when Clodius became tribune, the subsidy was greatly increased per recipient, enabling the whole of the monthly grain ration to be acquired free at the point of consumption. Though the state would take complete control ofthe supply ofgrain to eligible residents, private merchants, at a non-subsidised price, would continue to supply Rome's non-eligible inhabitants and its substantial slave population. Inevitably, free grain attracted a large number of migrants into the city, particularly the rural poor, especially if they 'held or could invent the qualifications needed to claim Roman citizenship',12 while 'Cicero claimed that the abolition ofthe charge for the grain distribution in 58 BC cost Rome more than one-fifth of all its revenues'.u In the middle of the first century BC, a remarkable writer and orator - Gaius Julius Caesar - came to prominence. From an old but not particularly prosperous family, Caesar at an early age seemed to have no wish to pursue a civic life under the repressive regime of Sulla, and 12 J. Reader, op. cit., p57.

13 Ibid., p57; and G. E. Rickman, The Corn Supply ifAnciellt Rome, Oxford, Oxford

University Press, 1980, p24-25.

A Prelude to Empire

I 31

instead joined the Roman army and served in Asia and Cilicia. But on Sulla's death in 78 BC he returned to Rome and was elected a military tribune and subsequently pursued his political ambitions as Governor of south-east Spain. Following a continuing career in the army and in politics, he was in a position in 58 BC to compete with Pompey's triumphal campaigns in the east, by leading a Roman army to annex the whole of Transalpine Gaul (France). Mter becoming Governor of Gaul, he briefly returned to Italy in 56 BC to form a pact of mutual political cooperation with Crassus and Pompey, the three protagonists becoming known as the Triumvirate, or in the words of Mary Beard, 'the Gang of Three'. 14 Respectful of these powerful figures, the Senate renewed their consulships and military commands, but in 55 BC Crassus was killed in battle against the Carrhae (in modern Iraq), while Pompey and Caesar became rivals for power in Rome. Mter resuming his campaign against the Gauls, Caesar led invasion forces to Britain in 55 and 54 BC, the first Roman contact with the island, but after only a few skirmishes with little advance inland, he returned to Gaul to consolidate the role of its tribal kingdoms as client states ofRome , and to arrange for the payment ofan annual tribute. By now, the conquest had changed Rome from a Mediterranean power to a pan-European one 15 and throughout the continent a vast network of territories had become Romanised. But since Caesar was actively involved in military operations and the governorship of Gaul, he was in no position to commission buildings or undertake planning projects in Rome. In effect, he abandoned the city 'with its million or so inhabitants [that] was still built largely of brick or local stone [mainly tufa], a warren ofwinding streets and dark alleys. A visitor from Athens or Alexandria in Egypt [which both had many fine buildings] would have found the place unimpressive, not to say squalid'.16 In contrast, Pompey, during his consulship, had resided in Rome throughout most of the late '50s and, in an attempt to enhance his prestige, embarked on the construction of what became known as the Theatre of Pompey, a stunning complex built in the Campus 14 M. Beard, SPQR: A History qfAncient Rome, London, Profile Books, 2015, p218.

15 R. Hughes, Rome, London, Phoenix, 2011, p61.

16 M. Beard, op. cit., p33.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

Martius and completed in 55 Be. The enormous building was the first permanent theatre in Rome, and sported lavish porticoes, shops, multi­ service buildings, and a curia for meetings of the Senate. With his term as Governor of Gaul terminated by the Senate in 50 BC, and after receiving orders to disband his army, Caesar was hesitant to return to Rome, particularly because of his distrust of Pompey, who had accused him of misconduct and treason. However, determined to come to terms with Pompey, Caesar set offwith a single legion to Italy in 49 BC (most of his army had been disbanded in 50 BC). He paused at the River Rubicon (on the border of Cisalpine Gaul and present-day Romagna), where he decided to wage an all-out war against Pompey, and disturbed by its possible outcome, Pompey fled to northern Greece, leaving Caesar notionally in monopolistic control ofRome and the rest of the peninsula. But over the following four years (49-45 BC), Caesar put down rebellions in Spain, decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in Greece, and - after Pompey had been assassinated on the Egyptian shore at Pelusium - overthrew his opponents in Egypt, North Mrica and Asia Minor. He returned to Rome in 45 BC, with his lover, the newly instated queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII, and was now master of all the Roman world. Aware that the old institutions of the republic were outworn, he sought to build a new and stronger order in which supreme power would be exercised by one man. He consequently conferred upon himself the dictatorial title of ,Imp erator' and assumed the powers ofall the leading offices as well as introducing many far-reaching and much­ needed reforms. Only five years earlier, and not to be outdone by Pompey, Caesar, on his return from Gaul, attempted to make up for lost time in the development of Rome. From the proceeds of sacking Gallic cities and shrines, and the sale of slaves, Caesar built a forum of his own, the Forum Julium (or Forum of Caesar). Completed in 46 BC and situated close to the northern edge of the Forum Romanum, it was an enormously expensive venture said to have cost 100,000,000 sesterces, in part because the site on which it was constructed was purchased from private owners at a time of fierce commercial competition, and partly because, in the new colonnaded forum - which was partly used for commercial and social transactions - Caesar commissioned

A Prelude



I 33

a magnificent marble temple dedicated to Venus Genetrix, mythical ancestress of the Julian lineY In 46 BC Caesar commissioned the construction of the Basilica Julia, a substantial building constructed on the south side of the Forum Romanum, financed by the spoils of the Gallic wars, and designed to house the civil law courts and shops, and provide space for banking and government offices. It was completed after Caesar's death by Augustus, who named the building after his adoptive father, but the building slowly became a ruin over the centuries. Another building commissioned by Julius Caesar but completed by Augustus is the Theatre of Marcellus. Situated adjacent to the earlier Temple of Apollo Medicus Sosianus it was begun in 44 BC and completed in 11 BC, its three semicircular tiers of seats accommodated eleven thousand spectators. With its external walls decorated with Doric and Ionic orders, the building is still in existence, though it was converted into a fortified mansion in the Middle Ages.

Theatre ojMarcellu5 44 Be

One of the few other contributions that Caesar made to the buildings of Rome was the Curia Julia, the Senate house of Ancient Rome. Sometimes called the Curia Senatus, the edifice was initially 17 R. Hughes, op. cit., p61.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

Temple ifApollo Medicus Sosianus. Rebuilt in the late first century Be

built by Sulla in 80 BC, but was rebuilt by Caesar in 44 BC after a fire. Since then it was rebuilt on numerous occasions during the Imperium (27 BC-476 AD), and it changed its use to a church in 630 AD (see below). It is one of the few Roman structures to remain to this day mostly intact. Notwithstanding Caesar's enormous territorial successes and his substantial contribution to the physical structure ofRome, he generated much opposition among many of the senators due to his tendency to exercise one-man rule. He was consequently assassinated by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Julius Brutus among others close to a meeting of the Senate at the Theatre of Pompey on the 14th March, the 'Ides of March', 44 Be. On Caesar's death, the Roman Republic came to an end. It had served Rome and Italy well. It had brought about 'the first unification ofthe country, the creation ofa vast and mighty empire, massive social, economic and political development, and [established] Rome as the centre ofthe world' .18 By Caesar's time the empire encompassed North 18 V Lintner, op. cit., p40.

A Prelude



I 35

CuriaJulia. Renovation

began 44BC

Mrica, Spain, Gaul, Central Europe, Greece and much of Asia Minor and some of the Levant. Rome itself, with a population of around one million, 'had grown into an impressive cosmopolitan city, with a rich and sophisticated cultural, economic, social and political life, as well as magnificent and advanced architectural features' .19 All this provided the bedrock for the development of an even more magnificent city during the Imperial age that was to follow.

19 V Lintner, op. cit., p40.

36 I Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

KEY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Tabularium Temple ofVespatlan Temple of Concord Tample of Satum Arch of Septimus Severus Curia Basilica Aemilia Basilica Julia Column ofPhocas Temple of Castor and Pollux Temple ofVesta

12 House of the Vestals 13 Temple ofAntoninus & Faustina' 14 Temple of Romulus 15 Basilica Maximus 16 Arch of Titus 17 Temple ofVenus and Roma

A. Prelude





I 37



Following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, the Roman Republic was plunged into chaos, anarchy and civil war that lasted until another dictator emerged who could complete the work that Caesar had begun. Eventually a new leader was found in the person of the dead dictator's adopted great-nephew Octavian, eventually called Augustus by a grateful Senate in recognition of his contribution to the development of Rome as a mighty political power. Octavian was born in 63 BC, but in 38 BC he became officially known as Imperator Caesar Divi Filius, and in 27 BC, following his defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he overthrew the old republic and officially became Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, but from then until his death in 14 AD, he was known as Augustus, translated as 'the illustrious one'. Between 44 and 27 BC, there was an intense power struggle between Octavian and Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), whom Octavian defeated at the Battle ofMutina (modern-day Modena) in 43 Be. Later in the same year, Octavian, Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus - also a rival for the leadership of Rome - considered it expedient to form a junta known as the Second Triumvirate with special powers lasting five years and broadly based on those of the First Triumvirate several years earlier. There was even greater rivalry between the Second Triumvirate and 38

The Rome of the Caesars



Caesar's assassins, Marcus Julius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, culminating in two battles at Philippi in Macedonia in 42 BC in which their forces were resoundingly defeated, leading to the suicide of both Brutus and Cassius. To commemorate their victory, the Triumvirate commissioned the construction ofthe Temple ofMars Ultor ('Mars the Avenger'), but because of the prior importance of continuing political and military events the temple was not consecrated until the end ofthe century.

Temple ifMars Ultar 42 Be

After Philippi, the three-man alliance divided the Roman world among themselves. Mark Antony kept the eastern provinces and especially Egypt for himself and allocated Gaul and the provinces of Hispania and Italy to Octavian, and left Marcus Aemilius Lepidus with the province ofAfrica. Mark Antony, however, neglected most of his provinces and spent much of his time residing and luxuriating in Egypt at the court of Cleopatra VII (with whom he had three children). Octavian took the opportunity to make himself sole master, and induced the Senate to wage war on Egypt and eliminate Mark Antony. In 31 BC, at the Battle



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

of Actium on the west coast of Greece, the 'Son of the Divine' won a resounding victory over Mark Antony's forces, and defeated him again at Alexandria where he (Mark Antony) committed suicide, with Cleopatra meeting her death soon after in the same city, probably as a result ofa venomous bite from an asp (an Egyptian cobra), or a human­ administered poison. With the incorporation of Egypt into the Roman Empire in 30 BC, Rome began to import grain on a massive scale from the rich grain fields of the Nile Delta via Alexandria to the port of Ostia on the Tyrrhenian coast. Within a few decades, Rome was importing over 100,000 tons per annum from this source, while the capacity of ships increased substantially up to one thousand tons, though the average was nearer four hundred. Even so, vessels arriving from Alexandria were often too large to be accommodated at Ostia, and could either anchor in the Tiber estuary and unload their cargoes on to barges for trans-shipment to Rome, or more likely sail to Puteoli in the Bay of Naples further to the south, where excellent harbour facilities awaited them. 20 But because Rome was now more than 250 kilometres (155 miles) away from Puteoli, transport costs increased substantially since, because of the impracticality of road transport, grain needed to be carried up the coast to Ostia in smaller vessels prior to being unloaded on to barges for the final three-day stretch of its transit to the capital. Total transport costs, however, might to an extent have been stabilised by the economies of scale in using larger vessels on the Alexandra­ Puteoli route. However, as well as providing a ready supply of food to offset the chances of civil strife, the political elite attempted to pander to the citizens of Rome by promulgating a more congenial lifestyle. Romans already had their amphitheatres and theatres, and soon they were to have further public buildings that aimed at satisfying some of their physical and reverential needs. In 29 BC, Agrippa - a close friend and son-in-law ofAugustus - built the first public baths in Rome situated in a built-up area that was very soon to become the site ofthe Pantheon, a temple begun in 27 BC that was also commissioned by Agrippa during his third consulate. 20

J. Reader, Cities, London, Vintage, 2004, p65.

The Rome of the Caesars






BC- 14


By 27 BC, Octavian was the undisputed master of all the far-flung domains ofRome , and for the first time for two hundred years Rome and her territorial possessions began to enjoy a prolonged period of peace. Eschewing an unbridled return to republican government, Augustus devised new methods for administering Rome's vast possessions in Europe and around the Mediterranean. But the young ruler recognised that it would not have been possible to completely ignore the vestiges of republican rule, and therefore (in what became known as the First Constitutional Settlement) set out to establish a working compromise between the old republic and his vision of one-man rule. Renamed Augustus Caesar, and holding the position of consul, he soon wielded vast powers under the titles of imperator (commander-in-chief) and princeps (first citizen), and in an attempt to ensure his own safety established the Praetorian Guard, which soon became a highly trained and prestigious quasi-military bodyguard. To support his role as an imperator and princeps, Augustus relied upon a cabinet of senor senators, known as the consilium, both to offer advice and to act as an intermediary between him and the Senate. 21 He also formed a new civil service to take over many of the responsibilities of the Senate, and among its members the most important office was that of the procuratorijisci, who not only replaced the old and corrupt private tax collectors, but administered the treasury (fiscus) and the princeps' personal wealth (patrimonium). 22 It was during the early days ofhis rule that Augustus, contemplating his future demise and that ofhis close relatives, ordered the construction of his family's burial place, the Mausoleum of Augustus. Built mainly oftravertine between 27-23 BC, and with a diameter of87 metres (285 feet) and height of 45 metres (148 feet), the large domed structure contained Augustus' ashes until they were despoiled by the Goths during the Sack of Rome in 410 AD. It is probable that the remains of his family, also deposited in the mausoleum, were similarly destroyed. In the Renaissance and beyond, the mausoleum (which had become a 21 V. Lintner, A Traveller's History ofItaly, Gloucestershire, Windrush Press, 1988, p42. 22 Ibid., p42.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

Mausoleum (?fAugustus 27-23 Be

fortress in the Middle Ages) was pillaged to provide building materials for the construction of other buildings. Built around the same time as Augustus commissioned his tomb, the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella was being erected. Situated on the Via Appia some 8.5 kilometres (5.37 miles) south of the Porta San Sebastiano, the edifice was built by Cecilia's husband Marcus Licinius Crassus, the namesake ofhis grandfather ofthe First Triumvirate, and a close ally ofAugustus. Constructed on a square podium 8.3 metres (27 feet) tall, the building is a cylindrical drum 12 metres (39 feet) in height and 29.5 metres (97 feet) in width. It is surmounted by crenellations added by the Caetani family in 1302 when the mausoleum became a corner tower in their fortifications. In 23 BC, possibly because of ill health, Augustus relinquished his annual consulship and was no longer in an official position to rule the state or intervene in provincial affairs throughout the empire. But, as if to remedy this power deficit, the Senate granted him a form of general imperium proconslare for life that applied not only to the provinces but also throughout the empire, and gave him constitutional power superior to all other proconsuls in the empire. With support from army veterans,

The Rome of the Caesars



his status was fully renewed in 13 Be. The Senate also conferred upon him additional powers that had been the preserve ofthe old magistrates. In addition to the above roles, Augustus was granted sole imperium within the city of Rome itself While there was a virtual absence ofwars within the empire during Augustus' periods of office, Rome's imperial possessions expanded substantially in area and population in the early first century BC and at the beginning of the new century Anno Domini. By the end of Augustus' reign, the armies ofRome had conquered northern Hispania (modern Spain and Portugal) by 19 BC; the Alpine regions of Raetia and Noricum (modern Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria and Slovenia) in 16 BC; and Illyricum and Pannonia (modern Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and the eastern Rhineland) in 12 BC, and throughout much of this period extended the borders of the Mrican Province to the east and south. In addition, to protect the eastern territories of Rome from Parthian invasion, Augustus depended upon client states ofthe east to act as buffers and raise their own troops to defend Roman interests, though Augustus' adopted son Tiberius negotiated a thaw in the relations between Rome and Parthia in 20 BC, making war less likely and - to some - symbolising the submission of Part hi a to Rome. To celebrate, Augustus immediately ordered the construction of a new forum, as extensive as 8,000 square metres (86,112 square feet) and built to the east of the Forum of Caesar. Subsequently known eponymouslyas the Forum ofAugustus, it provided accommodation for legal proceedings since the Roman Forum was by now very crowded. Like Caesar's Forum, his great-nephew's 'was conceived as a square surrounded by a columned hall of several stories, with additional wide exedrae [colonnades] adjoining it' .23 When completed, the forum was a magnificent and colourful example oftown planning, richly adorned by buildings constructed of expensive polychrome marble, and decorated with countless statues, the most striking of which was the statue of Augustus in his triumphal chariot. Augustus also speeded up the construction of the Temple of Mars Ultor - initially commissioned in 42 BC - to house the battle standards of Crassus, held by the Parthians since Crassus lost the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, but returned 23 B. Hintzen-Bohlen with]. Sorges, Rome and the Ult;can City, Cologne, K6nemann, 2000, p134.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

to Rome as an outcome of Tiberius' diplomacy. By 20 BC (or soon after), the octastyle temple had eight fluted columns with Corinthian capitals - a total of 17 metres (56 feet) in height - on three of its sides, an apsidal cella, and a broad flight of very steep steps to a capacious pronaos (vestibule) . It was built on a high podium and was flanked by two colonnaded porticos. The magnificence of the temple is, in large part, attributable to the white Carrara marble used in constructing its exterior and the colour marble (also from Carrara) used internally. Behind the temple, a 30 metre (98 foot) wall separated the temple from a densely occupied part of Rome and acted as a firewall. Augustus' next project ofnote was the reconstruction ofthe Basilica Aemilia. Initially built in 210-191 BC, rebuilt in 179 and 55-32 BC, and destroyed by fire in 14 BC, the new basilica rose from the ashes of its predecessor and very much assumed the same use as a market and law court. Situated on the northern edge of the Via Sacra in the Forum Romanum, and begun soon after the fire, the edifice was 100 metres (328 feet) in length and 30 metres (98 feet) in width, and its two-storey facade was pierced by sixteen arches with Doric semi-columns and pilasters, and surmounted by an attic. The two lower storeys enclosed a row of small trading booths (tabernae), which in turn backed on to a four-aisle hall supported by Corinthian columns and the three-storey central section. Archaeological evidence suggests that a great deal of coloured marble was used in its construction, particularly in the floors, columns and interior wall panelling, though little remains. 24 Later, between 13-9 BC, Augustus ordered the construction of the Ara Pacis Augustae, a splendid ceremonial altar combining the essential attributes of 'a building and piece of furniture [and] made of Carrara marble from the quarries opened by AugustuS'.25 Situated next to his mausoleum, and built by Greek sculptors, 'its upper half is a frieze portraying the dedication ceremony of 4 July 13 BC [and] its lower half is decorated by a pattern combining acanthus leaf scrollwork and swans'.26 An even more unconventional example of Roman artistry is the Pyramid of Guius Cestius. Designed as his tomb it was built of brick, 24 Ibid., p78-79.

25 C. Woodward, Rome, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1995, p35.

26 Ibid., p35.

The Rome of the Caesars



Pyramid ofGaius Cestius 12 BC

clad in white limestone and erected in 12 Be. Though influenced by Rome's new relations with Egypt, it was unique in Italy. At the beginning of the new millennium, there was a turn in the fortunes of Rome. In 9 AD, three entire legions, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, were almost completely annihilated by Arminius, the leader of the Cherusci - a Germanic tribe - at the Battle ofTeutoburg Forest. The location of the battle is not certain, but it was probably in Lower Saxony, north of modern-day Osnabriick. In the same year, Augustus sent an army under Tiberius and Drusus to the Rhineland to pacifY it, but after indifferent success Roman expansion into Germany came to an end.



In between political events at home and military adventures abroad,

Augustus manifestly spent much of his life developing the built environment of his city. He was not content that Rome, with a



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

population of about one million, had become the largest city in the known world and was politically dominant in much of Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. He also 'wanted to make Rome unsurpassably beautiful. For that reason, it had to become Greek, but bigger. His famous declaration that he had found a city of mud-brick and left it marble was, to a surprising extent, true'Y The marble that was used provided a thick facing veneer over common brick, rather than being employed as masonry blocks. However, some of it was intimidatingly or inspirationally solid, as, for example, in the enormous Forum ofAugustus. Augustus completed Julius Caesar's plans for magnificently rebuilding the architectually diffused heart of Rome, which had been left unfinished at the time of his murder. In so doing, he had built or restored eighty-two Roman temples alone in one year, in addition to other structures. Maximum use was made of the best marble available from the Luna quarries in Carrara in the north ofItaly. It was particularly in demand since it was perfectly white, and that is what Augustus and his builders wanted. Its whiteness could be compared to that of the moon, hence the name of its source. Its huge demand was also attributable to it being very homogeneous and virtually free of internal cracks and veins, which reduced the risk of disfigurements appearing in the whiteness of the built structure or in a sculpture. Sometimes Carrara marble was combined with other marbles from numerous sources within the Roman Empire, for example pink marble was imported from the Greek island of Chios, a greeny-blue marble known as cipollino came from Euboea, and a yellow variant ofcipollino was shipped from North Mrica. 28 It was concrete, however (unknown in Greece) that enabled Roman builders to construct arches, vaults and domes, built-forms initially unique to Rome. The most influential architect and theorist of the Augustinian age was Vitruvius, noted for his text on Classical Roman building, the ten­ volume De Architectura (25-23 BC). In explicit detail, Vitruvius not only examined in great detail the principles of contemporary architecture and town planning, but also discussed the intricacies of water supply, engineering and war engines. In discussing the various attributes of 27 R. Hughes, Rome, London, Phoenix, 2011, p103. 28 Ibid., p103-104.

The Rome of the Caesars



the 'orders' of architecture (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Tuscan) and their symbolism, he pointed out their human and divine significance. Regarding the Temples of Minerva, Mars and Hercules, he suggested that, with the viral strength ofthese gods, the appropriate order should be Doric. But in the temples to Venus, Flora, Proserpine, Spring Water and the Nymphs, he explained that the slender outlines of the Corinthian order, with its flowers, leaves and ornamental volutes, would lend propriety where it was due. The construction oftemples to Diana,]uno and Bacchus should be in keeping with the middle position that they occupied, and therefore be Ionic, suggesting a combination of the severity of the Doric and the delicacy of the Corinthian. However, although Vitruvius also discussed a new type of capital introduced during the late republic, the Composite, which combined the volutes of the Ionic order and the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian order, he might not have foreseen that, although it was a hybrid and became one of the typical forms of Augustinian architecture, 'it required rather more skill to carve successfully than most Roman stonemasons had. Greek marble cutters had to be imported, because Greece trained better stonemasons than first century BC Rome'.29 Though Vitruvius' influence on the architectural style of Roman buildings was immense, there is no evidence that he actually designed a single building; nor is there any record of any architect being commissioned to design any building in Augustan Rome. This is in contrast to Ancient Greece, where we know that the architects of the Acropolis and Parthenon were respectively Propylaea and Phideas. There is the possibility, however, that Roman emperors were directly responsible for the architectural attributes of prominent buildings. Nero undoubtedly influenced the design of his Golden House, and Hadrian - an avid Hellenist - was a prolific architect. Could it be that they were not alone among Roman emperors to have had a working knowledge of architecture, and from time to time put it into effect? Though it is unknown to what extent Augustus personally influenced the design of buildings in his capital, during the years of peaceful rule (27 BC-AD 14), Rome not only enjoyed one ofthe greatest and most prosperous epochs in her history. Law and order had been 29 Ibid., pl04--10S.



Rome: The Shaping of Three Capitals

restored, and Augustus 'had provided an effective means of governing the city, the country and the vast empire which had been created. It effectively enabled the Roman hegemony to be extended for around 300 years, and this is perhaps the greatest testament to the importance of Augustus in Italian history'.3o As importantly, Rome experienced a transformation in its architecture and public places. Mter Augustus' death many of Rome's emperors would attempt to emulate both his political and architectural achievements, but not always successfully.


Though Augustus might have overseen the employment ofVitruvian architecture in the development of Rome, and boasted that he had turned his capital into a city ofmarble, a large majority ofthe population of Rome did not experience the benefits of an improved urban environment since it was increasingly crammed into overcrowded housing of poor quality. Whereas the wealthiest segment of Rome's citizenry (the equites) lived in domus - large single family residences - those of lower or middle-class status (the plebs) dwelt uncomfortably in insulae (apartment blocks), the two forms of housing being intermingled throughout the city, where there was little segregation by social class. But a sizeable proportion of those of aristocratic birth (the

Insulae on the northen edge