Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.08.22

Anna Leone, Domenico Palombi, Susan Walker (ed.), Res bene gestae: ricerche di storia urbana su Roma antica in onore di Eva Margareta Steinby. Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, Supplementum, IV.   Roma:  Edizioni Quasar, 2007.  Pp. xviii, 478; 169 ills.  ISBN 9788871403533.  134.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Mary T. Boatwright, Duke University (
Word count: 4219 words

Many have contributed to the flourishing of Roman topography in the last three decades, but special recognition must go to Eva Margareta Steinby. Under her patient tutelage the invaluable Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae appeared in six volumes from 1993 to 2000. Involving scholars of different nationalities and capitalizing on new archaeological work in the city, LTUR made available up-to-date and well-illustrated entries on the sites, monuments, shrines, statues, and other elements of Rome's cityscape. But as is clear in this Festschrift that honors Dr. Steinby on the occasion of her retirement from the University of Oxford, LTUR was never meant to be "the last word." Rather, LTUR's individual entries and compilation were directed not only at enabling specialists to compare, contrast, and examine more deeply sites and areas, but also at making Roman topography accessible to Roman historians, philologists, and art and architectural historians. LTUR's aims are certainly realized in the present volume. This, the fourth supplement to LTUR, contains 29 articles introduced by the editors' preface and a dedication by Fergus Millar, and by Dr. Steinby's biography and bibliography. Among other contributions, the Festschrift illuminates obscure regions of Rome, examines fragments of the Forma Urbis Romae / Severan Marble Plan (hereafter FUR) and of other ancient plans of the city, re-ignites debate on some obstinate problems, publishes new finds, and provides insight into the lives of Rome's lower administrators and workers. Most articles address the imperial period, with a few notably looking later. Its main audience will be Roman topographers, but the wide range of subjects should attract those interested in Rome's religions, society, culture, and economy.

Res bene gestae publishes its 29 articles alphabetically by author, but I think it more useful to discuss them below according to shared themes, evidence, or aims. (The table of contents is listed with abbreviated titles at the end of the review.)

Three articles give synthetic overviews of little known regions, using archival material and/or new finds. Laura Chioffi, "Regio XIV: Hercules Campanus e dintorni. Per un aggiornamento del Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae" (15-40), turns to finds from Rome's antiquarian markets and vigne to write the topography of the part of Regio XIV (Trans Tiberim) that went from the Porta Portese to the old Trastevere station. Cults thrived here, especially for Hercules, Silvanus, and Sol, and along the river were humble housing, horrea, figlinae, moles, and other utilitarian structures. These were dependent on the more grandiose residences above (including those owned by the Licinii), and the region was an important part of the city until the Aurelian Walls cut off much of it. Vincent Jolivet, "La localization des toponymes de la Rome antique à partir des Régionnaires. Une étude de cas" (103-25), uses information from excavations conducted from 1981 to 2005 by the École française de Rome on the western slopes of the Pincio to test the validity of the Regionary Catalogues for the VII Augustan region (Via Lata). Jolivet proposes identifications for all but five monuments or sites of the 12 (Curiosum) or 14 (Notitia) toponyms listed. While publishing new material pertaining to Regio VII, Jolivet also illuminates the Regionary Catalogues and their use by scholars. He has a short appendix on Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, UA 915v. Carlo Pavolini, "L' 'Agrippina-Orante' di Villa Casale e la politica religiosa degli imperatori sul Celio" (309-34), focuses on another relatively obscure area of Rome. Archaeological material directs him to religious aspects of the Caelian, and he stresses the locale as a site for oriental cults. Most interesting is his argument that the Basilica Hilariana (re-excavated 1987-2000) was the meeting hall of the dendrophori who annually carried the sacred pine tree (or rather shoot) from it to the Magna Mater sanctuary on the Palatine. The title is a bit of a teaser, since Agrippina's statue is discussed briefly and only the religious policy of Claudius and Antoninus Pius is explored. (Muzzioli, Zevi and Tucci, whose articles I discuss with others centering on the Marble Plan, help clarify the difficult Circus Flaminius area.)

With fascinating information and some dispute, many articles (re-)investigate fragments of the FUR and/or fragments of other marble plans found in Rome. Roberto Meneghini, "La cartografia antica e il catasto di Roma imperiale" (205-18), provides a useful overview of this kind of cartography. His real focus is on the eight marble fragments of plans found in and around Rome that do not belong to the Severan Marble Plan (now represented by 1187 fragments). Basic to his argument, which builds on that of C. Nicolet and others for a cadastre of Rome beginning in the Augustan period,1 is the new fragment of the FUR found in recent excavations at the Forum of Peace. This piece, showing part of the northwest side of the Circus Maximus, unusually preserves traces of a red line on the commonly understood boundary between Regio X and Regio XI. But Meneghini also analyzes the other marble fragments of plans, the earliest of which he dates to 54/61 CE, and discusses inscriptions from around Rome that cite vici and viae. The following article, "Sui portici raffigurati nella lastra di Via Anicia" by Maria Pia Muzzioli (219-37), concentrates on one of the non-FUR fragments, though without mentioning Meneghini's work (further, the dates proposed for the fragment differ on pages 210 and 224). The Via Anicia fragment depicts part of the controversial Circus Flaminius area. Muzzioli's focus is on the two porticoes it outlines facing the Tiber and the Circus Flaminius. Adducing information from excavations from the turn into the 20th century, she suggests that the porticoes may date to the end of the first or the second century CE. But she refers to Livy 40.51.6 to imply that the build up of this area began much earlier, at the end of the third century BCE.

Two other articles use the Via Anicia fragment to explore the Circus Flaminius region. (Both refer to Muzzioli's article in the book's rare cross-references.) Fausto Zevi, "Minucia frumentaria, crypta Balbi, circus Flaminius: note in margine" (451-64), builds explicitly from Muzzioli's arguments. Zevi reassesses porticoes located in or near this area, aiming in part at F. Coarelli's often published understanding of the Porticus Minucia Vetus and the temple of the Via delle Botteghe Oscure. Bringing together visual material and epigraphic arguments, Zevi identifies what is depicted on the Via Anicia fragment as the (Porticus) Minucia Frumentaria of the mid-first century CE. He argues that this was a plebeian space open to the Circus Flaminius, and that the Circus itself, paved by Augustus' time, served as the gathering place for grain distribution. Pier Luigi Tucci, "Imagining the temple of Castor and Pollux in Circo Flaminio" (411-25), starts with the importance of including elevations and sections when analyzing monuments of Rome. Had this been done for the building excavated in 1996 in the Piazza delle Cinque Scole, he contends, no one could have rashly identified it as the Temple of Castor and Pollux in Circo Flaminio (see, e.g., LTUR V [1999], 234-35, s.v. Castor et Pollux in Circo [P. Ciancio Rossetto]). Tucci tentatively identifies the relatively small structure as the Secretarium Circi documented in the late fourth through sixth centuries CE, or even as a synagogue.

Disputed readings of FUR fragments inspire three papers. Domenico Palombi, "FUR, fr. 18a [--]astoris: una lettura alternativa?" (279-91), examines a fragment Dr. Steinby has herself investigated, FUR fr. 18a. On the grounds of its many incongruities with the Forum's topography, Palombi argues strongly against the conventional placement of this fragment in the Forum and its reading as [aedes C] astoris. Nor does he accept the compromise, that fr. 18a is from a Flavian predecessor of the Marble Plan, since he doubts that the Flavian Temple of Peace exhibited a marble plan identical to the FUR in material, form, dimensions, and the like. Palombi proposes that the fragment is now misplaced; he suggests expansion as Lacus Pastoris and location on the slope of the Oppian towards the valley between the Oppian and the Caelian. Christer Bruun, "Aqueductium e statio aquarum. La sede della cura aquarum di Roma" (1-13), returns to a topic he first explored with Dr. Steinby at the Lacus Iuturnae: where was the oversight of Rome's water supply organized? He focuses on the puzzling Aqueductium incised on FUR, fr. 4. Turning to linguistic arguments and late Latin, Bruun rejects earlier interpretations, proposing instead that this Aqueductium located by the FUR on the Caelian indicates where administration of Rome's aqueducts was headquartered (perhaps in the second century CE). Filippo Coarelli, "Horrea Cornelia?" (41-46), takes on S. Tuck's identification of the Horrea Cornelia (e.g., in LTUR V [1999], 263). Noting that this would effectively bring down the dating of opus incertum to the time of Sulla, thus overthrowing the entire history of building construction in Rome in the second and first centuries BCE, Coarelli attacks Tuck's argument on epigraphic and other grounds. Coarelli re-asserts the usual reading of the disputed fragment as [NAVA]LIA and as showing part of the emporium constructed early in the second century BCE with opus incertum.

Two fascinating epigraphic articles elucidate lower administrative levels in Rome. Werner Eck, "Procurator, nicht curator operum publicorum: zu einem ritterlichen Funktionsträger in AE 1917/18, 111" (47-53), re-examines a fragmentary small inscribed base dedicating a statue in 152 to Silvanus for the wellbeing of the Augusti. Eck dismantles the commonly accepted restoration of the dedicator as a curator operum publicorum identified as L. Petronius Sabinus suff. cos. 145, persuasively arguing that the dedicator is a procurator of low or mid equestrian standing. This emendation reaffirms the general rule within Rome that equestrian functionaries mediated between senatorial office holders (e.g., the curatores aedium sacrarum et operum locorumque publicorum), and the imperial freedmen and slaves doing the work of that office. Silvio Panciera, "Domus Augustana" (293-308), rigorously investigates all inscriptions documenting Domus Augustana - Augustiana - Augusta, starting with a (now misplaced) inscription recording Domus Augustana that was found in a 1985 survey of the lower peristyle of the "Domus Flavia." Although the pertinent inscriptions total less than 20, Panciera convincingly shows that the term Domus Augustiana appeared in the Neronian/Flavian period and continued into the second century, and that Domus Augustana dates to the second and third centuries. He distinguishes various functionaries who worked to maintain the building and institution of the official residence of the emperor on the Palatine. Both articles are models of clarity and precision.

Other parts of the Palatine figure in three articles. Henry Hurst, "The 'Murus Romuli' at the northern corner of the Palatine and the Porta Romanula: a progress report" (79-102), relies on the geology of the area and building phases to disentangle the many different structures clustered here. Hurst argues that this was the location of the Porta Romanula of a "Romulean" wall, and he suggests that remnants of the Porta were visible here until the Domitianic-Trajanic rebuilding of the area. Patrizio Pensabene, "Portici, sostruzioni, condotte idriche e quartieri di servizi del santuario della Magna Mater sul Palatino" (335-60), with excellent plans and illustrations of the sanctuary of the Magna Mater, explores the scrappy remains of its secondary building and use, including for (by?) fullers and service people. (Associating the build-up of this corner of the Palatine with Rome's embrace of expansionism in the early third century BCE, on p. 336 Pensabene oddly dates the Temple of Magna Mater to 304-291 BCE.) Pensabene identifies one structure in the sector of the Palatine as the cult center to the Argei. Timothy P. Wiseman, "Three notes on the triumphal route" (445-49), revises and expressly challenges Coarelli's proposed route with its "ritually fossilized" (p. 446) detours. Wiseman identifies the Velabrum as a specific spot rather than the whole area between the Capitoline and the Palatine; he argues that the procession went around rather than through the spina of the Circus Maximus (although he does not say on which side the procession then went); and he proposes that the triumphal route, a long and devious route through varied parts of the city, changed over time and according to the length and displays of the triumphal procession itself. (This last contention corresponds with M. Beard, The Roman Triumph [2007].)

Paolo Liverani, "Osservazioni sui rostri del Foro Romano in età tardoantica" (169-93), is one of five articles attending to Rome of the third century CE or later. Through careful analysis of archaeology, visual evidence (e.g., the adlocutio scene on the Arch of Constantine), literary references (including a new reading of Amm. Marc. 16.10.14), and the Regionary Catalogues, Liverani convincingly maintains that under the tetrarchs the Forum was renovated to emphasize equally the two rostra on its short sides. The plan contributed to the Forum's renewed importance for ceremony in late antiquity. Livorani's illustrations are excellent, although map scales would be useful and his fig. 1 should include the Templum divi Iulii. Russell T. Scott, "The later history of the 'Domus delle Vestali'" (397-409), also provides a meticulous and up-to-date site plan (without a north arrow, however) as he explores the second- through fourth-century (CE) history of the complicated structure known as the House of the Vestals. Like others, he takes the opportunity of this Festschrift to present new findings: in his case, from the 2004-05 seasons excavating the House's south and east sides. Scott reconfirms the Trajanic date for the design of the structure now visible, and outlines the hard times of the Domus in the fourth century. Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani, "Il vescovo, il drago e le vergini. Paesaggio urbano e paesaggio del mito nella leggenda di S. Silvestro e il drago" (379-95), moves into even later periods. Assessing the changing hagiographic tradition about Saint Sylvester, the bishop of Rome considered instrumental in Constantine's Christianity, Santangeli Valenzani focuses on the setting for Sylvester's miraculous appeasement of a dragon that was terrorizing Rome. Despite featuring virgins in the earlier (fourth-century) strand of Sylvester's Lives, the miracle has only a very vague setting "at Rome," cannot be connected with the Vestal Virgins or the Forum/Capitoline area, and derives from archetypal origin myths rather than real historic events. [For a fourth article on the Roman Forum, see the discussion below of Kajava.]

Two of the articles on later Rome look outside the Forum Romanum. Eugenio La Rocca and Paul Zanker contribute one of the volume's best-illustrated pieces, "Il ritratto colossale di Costantino dal Foro di Traiano" (145-68). This study authoritatively publishes the colossal Carrara marble head of Constantine found in 2005 in a drainage ditch at the southeast perimeter wall of Trajan's Forum. Calculating from the head's measurements that the whole statue would have been more than four meters high (larger than other extant portraits from this Forum), the authors show that Constantine's portrait is the product of two recuttings (perhaps a portrait of Caligula or Claudius later recut to resemble Constantius Chlorus). They use the occasion to discuss Constantinian building programs in Rome, Constantine's portraiture, and the reworking and reuse of earlier statuary. They hazard the hypothesis that the portrait was displayed in Trajan's Forum from the fourth through seventh century. Federico Guidobaldi, "Una domus tardoantica e la sua trasformazione in chiesa dei SS. Quirico et Giulitta" (55-78), scrutinizes a small church near the present-day Torre dei Conti. On the basis of archival plans of Rome, projections of the building, architecture, and the history of urban changes in that area, Guidobaldi argues that this church does not date to the "Byzantine" era (the sixth century, as maintained by S. Corbett in R. Krautheimer et al., Corpus Basilicarum Christianarum Romae, V [1976], 35-48), but is rather two centuries earlier. Guidobaldi also reveals that a polygonal apse once graced where the entrance now is. The dense piece illuminates an interesting area of Rome often overshadowed by the "fire wall" of Augustus' Forum.

Religious experience in Rome is at the heart of two articles (as well as Pavolini's piece on the Caelian, discussed above). Mika Kajava, "Ex oraculo" (127-32), addresses the rare epigraphic references to oracles (oraculum) that have been found in Rome, including ones identified by ex responso. Four (IGUR 94-97) were found in the Roman Forum or its proximity. Building on L. Moretti's remarks in IGUR and on other scholarship, Kajava interprets the inscriptions as connected to the disastrous plague of 165/166; he tentatively supposes that the emperors consulted the oracle of Clarus and were moved to inscribe its responses on a monument in the northern part of the Forum. But he does not address who was responsible for installing this monument, and reproduction of the texts he discusses would clarify his argument. Inge Nielsen, "Cultic Theatres and Ritual Drama in ancient Rome" (239-55), summarizes and expands on earlier work (her book of 2002 and article of 2004). Defining ritual drama in part as "non-literary dramas based on the myth of the deity in the sanctuary in question and performed at the great seasonal feasts" (p. 239), Nielsen uses literary and archaeological evidence to argue for performance of such dramas in Rome through the time of Ovid. On the basis of architectural design, she concludes that the predecessors of Rome's templétheater complexes were in central Italy (e.g., Praeneste, Iuvanum).

Two articles address Rome's topography and economy. Daniele Manacorda, "Il Laterano e la produzione ceramica a Roma: aspetti del paesaggio urbano" (195-204), begins with the difficult crux of the relationship between the "aedes Lateranorum" and the "aedes Laterani." He then more fruitfully explores the name Lateranus and various small sites of brick, tile, and ceramic making in Rome. This useful overview would be even more valuable if accompanied by a plan showing the places mentioned in the text; also helpful would be reference to Chioffi's figlinae in Regio XIV. Nicholas Purcell, in "The horti of Rome and the landscape of property" (361-77), argues from Pliny HN 19.49-56, the Digest, and other sources that we should understand the city's horti as income-producing property, not simply "pleasure gardens." In horti pozzolana was quarried, land was tilled for high and low quality produce, and burials could be conducted. Purcell uses the changing names of many horti to indicate the fluid nature of property holding in what he calls the "peri-urban" setting of Rome. Drawing parallels to other pre-industrial cities, he discerns a "world of competition, anxiety, and incessant the landscape around [Rome]" (p. 373).

The remaining five articles of the volume are more difficult to group, although all repay reading. Lynne C. Lancaster, "The brick relieving arch and urban redevelopment in ancient Rome" (133-44), argues briskly that although "relieving" arches are known earlier in Rome, once brick-making expanded in the first-century BCE the use of such arches was developed as a way to build over previous walls and constructions. She defines such arches as "any arch built into a wall to relieve something underneath it from the load of the structure above" (p. 133). They provided multi-axial funneling of weight. This enabled a great deal of construction in the Flavian period and especially the Trajanic one, and by the Severan period they had become a standard constructional element. Lancaster's illustrations are meticulous. Also outstanding are the 21 illustrations accompanying James E. Packer's "Drawing Pompey: Three Centuries of Documenting Pompey's Theater (1833-2006)" (257-78). Packer canvasses plans of the Theater of Pompey from those made by Victor Baltard (at the École française de Rome 1834-1838) to new ones refined with the help of GPS. Packer shows that Baltard's 1837 plan is quite accurate; with some adjustments it can serve to fill in information now lost. Andrew Wilson, "The castra of Frontinus" (439-44), investigates the meaning of Frontinus' castra, one of the (many) uncertain terms in Frontinus' priceless treatise on Rome's aqueducts. Following Bruun's 1991 suggestion that castra is a term used for collecting tanks for water that was then to go to castella for distribution throughout the city,2 Wilson discusses the archaeological evidence for such tanks (unfortunately, without a map). He also provides a table of numbers of water elements and deliveries to them in quinaria by aqueduct line, according to Frontinus' figures.

Rita Volpe, "Le Terme di Traiano e la 'xystiche synodos'" (427-37), uses as springboard the excavations of 2003-2006 in the southwest corner of the Terme di Traiano on the Oppian Hill. Volpe reaffirms the identification of the exedra here as a "library," but expands this concept by use of epigraphic and other evidence. Fundamental to her argument is her view of the innovative design of these baths that she credits to Apollodorus of Damascus. The expansive structure featured two main parts, the baths proper and a gymnasium. The oversight of the two, although distinct, was given to a xystarch who was connected with the iera xystiche synodos of athletes, suggesting that the athletic component had greater significance. The final piece in the volume, by Adam Ziolkowski, "Prolegomena to any future methaphysics (sic) on Agrippa's Pantheon" (465-76), turns to the Augustan era (rarely represented in this volume). Beginning with the 1995-97 excavations in the Piazza della Rotonda that renewed debate on the Pantheon's early phases, Ziolkowski argues against the "hasty conclusion" that the original structure was somehow similar to what we see today. He holds that in Agrippa's day such a large dome would have been impossible from an engineering standpoint, and that the suggested "tambour without a dome" has no design parallels. But his main aim is to reread two texts: the famous inscription across the façade (CIL VI 896/1: M. Agrippa L. f. tert. fecit), and Dio's report on the Pantheon, 53.27.2-3. Ziolkowski argues that the inscription is not a copy of Agrippa's original, and that the Pantheon underwent a "change of character" between its founding in 25 BCE and the fire of 110 CE. Suggested emendations of Dio's corrupt text accompany his contention that the original Pantheon could not have been a dynastic shrine or one associated with the cult of Romulus or a living person in Rome. Yet in the end he does not really explain what was the nature of Agrippa's Pantheon, or what it looked like.

The 29 articles present new and interesting material and interpretation. Scholarship is sharp and nearly always fresh; the 169 illustrations are almost uniformly sharp (especially those of the FUR); and there are generally few typos (but see below). The volume may appear somewhat daunting, however, not only for its length and price. It lacks an index, and I found only two cross-references. Many of the articles in English seem not fully edited. At times the problem is simply a typo (as in the running head of Wilson's article that reads "Fontius" rather than "Frontinus") or the absence of standard format or spelling (as "methaphysics" in Ziolkowski's title). Purcell's "cod-Virigilian hexameters" (p. 365) was incomprehensible to me, even though I realized "Virigilian" was a typo. More serious difficulties come from words being dropped, as repeatedly in Hurst's dense piece (e.g., p. 81: "suggesting that the lower sloping surface of was cut"). More generally, illustrations would enhance a few of the articles (noted above). Plans could beneficially include the villas, modern streets, and other toponyms appearing in the relevant text; vice versa, an article's figures should be signaled in the narrative. But readers should not be deterred by these minor points. The students and collaborators of Dr. Steinby have put together a most valuable contribution. Their research and engagement with one another and other scholars underscore the vibrancy of Roman topography and its continuing development, as well as reflect the generous inspiration and rigorous standards of Dr. Steinby herself.

Table of Contents (for full titles of articles see above):

F. Millar, Dedicated to Eva Margareta Steinby
Eva Margareta Steinby: nota introduttiva e bibliografica
C. Bruun, Aqueductium e statio aquarum... 1-13
L. Chioffi, Regio XIV: Hercules Campanus e dintorni... 15-40
F. Coarelli, Horrea Cornelia? 41-46
W. Eck, Procurator, nicht curator operum publicorum... 47-53
F. Guidobaldi, Una domus tardoantica e la sua trasformazione ... 55-78
H. Hurst, "The 'Murus Romuli'... 79-102
V. Jolivet, La localisation des toponymes ... 103-25
M. Kajava, Ex oraculo 127-32
L. C. Lancaster, The brick relieving arch ... 133-44
E. La Rocca - P. Zanker, Il ritratto colossale di Costantino dal Foro di Traiano 145-68
P. Liverani, Osservazioni sui rostri del Foro Romano ... 169-93
D. Manacorda, Il Laterano e la produzione ceramica a Roma ... 195-204
R. Meneghini, La cartografia antica e il catasto di Roma imperiale 205-18
M. P. Muzzioli, Sui portici raffigurati nella lastra di via Anicia 219-37
I. Nielsen, Cultic Theatres and Ritual Drama in ancient Rome 239-55
J. E. Packer, Three Centuries of Documenting Pompey's Theater ... 257-78
D. Palombi, FUR, fr. 18a [- - -]astoris: una lettura alternativa? 279-91
S. Panciera, Domus augustana 293-308
C. Pavolini, ... La politica religiosa degli imperatori sul Celio 309-34
P. Pensabene, Portici ... del santuario della Magna Mater sul Palatino 335-60
N. Purcell; The horti of Rome and the landscape of property 361-77
R. Santangeli Valenzani, ... Paesaggio .. nella leggenda di S. Silvestro e il drago 379-95
R. T. Scott, The later history of the "Domus delle Vestali" 397-409
P. L. Tucci, ... Temple of Castor and Pollux in Circo Flaminio 411-25
Rita Volpe, Le Terme di Traiano ... 427-37
A. Wilson, The castra of Frontinus 439-44
T.P. Wiseman, Three notes on the triumphal route 445-49
F. Zevi, Minucia frumentaria, Crypta Balbi, Circus Flaminius... 451-64
A. Ziolkowsky, ... Agrippa's Pantheon 465-76


1.   See C. Nicolet, "La Table d'Héraclée et les origines du cadastre romain," in L'Urbs - Espace urbain et histoire, CEFR 98 (1987) 1-25.
2.   C. Bruun, The water supply of ancient Rome: A study of Roman Imperial administration (1991).

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