BMCR 2002.08.09

Response: Reeder on Lusnia on Reeder

Response to 2002.07.18

Response by

I regret that Susann Lusnia, the reviewer of my book, The Villa of Livia ad Gallinas Albas, A Study in the Augustan Villa and Garden, found “no substantially new ground” broken in it. It is admittedly more difficult to offer much entirely new after the extensive series of Augustan studies and the wealth of work done in Augustan iconography especially in the last decade or so. What is new in my study is the attempt to identify the architectural type of the “garden room”, to compare it with others of its kind and above all to integrate the underground chamber and its decoration with the rest of the villa. An investigation of the architectural type was begun by Heinrich Sulze in 1932, but new information has been furnished by the recent Italian excavations.1 Lusnia remarked that such a connection was correctly assumed, but she had no further comment on the importance or success of this task.

Among these recent studies and two related to my subject were the articles of Reinhard Förtsch (1989) and Barbara Kellum (1994).2 While Förtsch compared the unique structure of the painting of the garden room to that of the Ara Pacis and focused on the ordering of the planting and the symbolism of the Golden Age, Kellum, as Lusnia notes, placed the landscapes in a rich Augustan context. Kellum does offer an excellent treatment of Augustan iconography, with emphasis on the role of laurel in the city landscape and its meaning for Augustus in particular as well as elaboration on the symbolism of flora and plant life identified in the painting. But I do not believe that either Förtsch or Kellum would claim to have exhausted the analysis and resonance of this creation. I was able to develop the topoi of grotto and grove, the depiction and symbolism of the stuccoes, and the meaning of the garden room and its relation to the larger villa-gardens and to Livia in particular, aspects on which neither Förtsch nor Kellum focused. For Livia’s role I am particularly indebted to the work of Marleen Flory, especially her exemplary article on the laurel symbolism of the cameo portraits of Livia.3

For my interpretation of Livia’s painted grove as a sacred grove, I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of a recent international colloquium on the subject of sacred groves and to make use of articles by Filippo Coarelli and Carmine Ampolo in particular on the luci of Latium.4 The most serious of Lusnia’s charges of “carelessness” sufficient to “weaken all” that I argue in the book is that I have “lifted directly” several passages from these Italian authors. Far from approaching the matter carelessly I made a concerted effort to avoid on one hand the Scylla of a paraphrase too close to the original while translating and condensing, and on the other hand the Charybdis of excessive quotations and what some editors would complain of as obsessive footnoting. If on occasion I came too close to the original, there are numerous quotations from Coarelli, for example, in the whole passage (p. 94) as well as four footnotes citing Coarelli’s article as the source in the short paragraph alone that contains the sentence which, according to Lusnia, was “lifted directly”. It should be clear therefore, and I believe indeed that it is clear, that I am following Coarelli and am not attempting to pass off his argument as my own. The same goes for Ampolo’s argument.

Lusnia complains that one of the lesser problems of the book is the paucity of illustrations. Certainly more illustrations are always greatly to be desired; sometimes, however, there are budgetary constraints. She finds that some of the architectural illustrations were not as helpful as others would have been. Since a good part of the book is on architecture I felt such details were necessary. In addition these are perhaps not as easily available as the more famous paintings of the Palatine Houses of Livia and Augustus, for example, which are readily obtained in numerous publications. As for the lesser editorial errors, any misspelling is unfortunate; I trust I have kept this to a minimum. The particular formatting of the bibliography is set by the series Archaeologica Transatlantica; any errors or omissions in it are of course my own.


1. H. Sulze, “Die unterirdischen Räume der Villa der Livia in Prima Porta,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 47 (1932) 174-92. See my bibliography for the first volume on the villa and subsequent reports by Gaetano Messineo, the Director of Excavations. Dr. Messineo’s own (second) book on the villa has since come out in the fall and should be added to the bibliography: Ad Gallinas Albas Villa di Livia (Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma, Supplement 8) Rome, 200l.

2. R. Förtsch, “Ein Aurea-Aetas-Schema”, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 96 (1989) 333-345; B. Kellum, “The Construction of Landscape in Augustan Rome: The Garden Room at the Villa ad Gallinas“, Art Bulletin 76 (1994) 211-224.

3. M. Flory, “The Symbolism of Laurel in Cameo Portraits of Livia”, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 40 (1995) 43-68.

4. F. Coarelli, “I luci del Lazio: la documentazione archeologica” and C. Ampolo, “Boschi sacri e culti federali: l’esempio del Lazio” in Les Bois Sacrés: Actes du Colloque International (Collection du Centre Jean Bérard, 10) Naples, 1993.