BMCR 2009.04.75

Urbem adornare: die Stadt Rom und ihre Gestaltumwandlung unter Augustus

, Urbem adornare: die Stadt Rom und ihre Gestaltumwandlung unter Augustus = Rome's Urban Metamorphosis under Augustus. Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series; no. 64. Portsmouth, R.I.: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2007. Pp. 288. ISBN 9781887829649 $99.00.

[Table of Contents (in English and German) at the end of the review.]

Rome and its physical transformation under Augustus remains one of the most popular subjects for scholars and students of the ancient world. Because of this interest in Augustan Rome, saying something new is often a challenge. One of the scholars at the forefront of recent work on Augustan Rome has been Lothar Haselberger. Haselberger’s contribution to the study of the topography of Rome is considerable, specifically in the form of his Mapping Augustan Rome project and his work on imagining ancient Rome.1 Here he explores the well-known topic of the transformation of the city of Rome under Augustus and builds on the work of previous scholars, specifically Zanker, Favro and Hülscher (p. 18).2 In six chapters, a postscript and addenda, Haselberger examines how the Augustan Revolution affected the urban image of Rome.

Chapter 1, “Adorn this city,” sets the stage for the main arguments of the book. This chapter focuses on the idea of “adorning the city,” (Dio 52.30.1) and the visual built image of Rome as perceived in the ancient sources. The discussion is heavily focused on textual analysis, with archaeology a distant second place here, which is surprising considering the considerable archaeological evidence there is on the topic. However, the rest of the book draws on archaeology, epigraphy and the ancient sources.

He also sets out the two main arguments of the book. First, the Campus Martius was the center of the Augustan building program and its development reflects a shift away from the center of the Urbs and a new focus for the city of Rome. Second, he argues that the Augustan reforms of 7 BC, specifically the reorganization of the city into fourteen regions and “the all-encompassing ‘opening’ of the urbs, along with the neglect of its walls,” (p. 36) reflect a radical transformation of the city. It is this two-pronged transformation of Rome that allowed Augustus to articulate his “revolutionary realities” (p. 28). Haselberger sees Augustus as the driver for all of these programs even if he was not explicitly involved in them; specifically, he sees Augustus and Agrippa working in concert (p. 36).

In Chapter 2, “Rome—a deficient metropolis,” Haselberger retraces the well-accepted facts that Rome was not constructed, planned or organized the way that a leading ancient metropolis should be and that Augustus tried to address the scruffy image of Rome, now the capital of the ancient world, through this extensive building project. The position of the city on seven hills and its organic development dictated its form and, as a result, its failure to be as architecturally grand as many Greek and Hellenistic cities. He argues that the Campus Martius was the only place where orthogonal planning in accordance with cardinal points could be applied since it was outside the heart of the city of Rome (pp. 40-43). In other words, in Haselberger’s opinion, it was the only part of the city whose urban image could be made into something comparable or superior to the cities of the Greek East and, even, Alexandria.

Chapter 3, “La grande Rome—creating and preserving the new Rome” (pp. 70-221), explores the development of the Campus Martius. The development of the Campus Martius, which commenced under Caesar and Pompey, continued unabated under the auspices of Augustus and Agrippa. It became a “new urban landscape” of gleaming monumental architecture and green space (p. 126). There is little doubt of this from the textual and surviving archaeological data. However, Haselberger’s image of an orderly, designed Campus Martius, is not sustained in his discussion of the various building projects. This argument becomes increasingly difficult to support when one considers the buildings whose locations in the Campus Martius are known archaeologically and those buildings and properties whose placement in the Campus Martius remains unknown. The boundaries of the Horti Agrippae, Thermae Agrippae, Horti Pompei, the park complex associated with the Mausoleum of Augustus are unknown. Even Haselberger’s maps from Mapping Augustan Rome suggest that there are large portions of the Campus Martius that we simply do not know enough about to assess its organization accurately.

Furthermore, Haselberger sees the Campus Martius as the focus of the Augustan building program. It was certainly a critical part of the program; however, he underplays Augustus’s restoration or construction of new monuments within the bounds of the old Urbs, specifically the eighty-two temples mentioned in the Res Gestae, his completion of the Forum Iulium, the construction of the Forum Augustum, the restoration of the city gates, and his building projects in the Roman Forum. While Haselberger discusses these projects (pp. 127-144), he sees them as secondary to the building works of Agrippa and the construction of monuments on the Campus Martius. Clearly, Augustus focused on these monuments; the construction or restoration of temples reflected his ideological goal of restoring pietas, one of Republican Rome’s core values, while Agrippa, probably with Augustus’s approval, carried out the bulk of the improvements to the Campus Martius. While the Campus Martius was undoubtedly important, as its new public monuments presented Rome as an imperial city and underlined the importance of public building, Augustus and his associates focused on restoring and transforming all of Rome.3 Haselberger also places the transformation of the city in a strict chronological framework, seeing the first two decades of Augustus’s reign until 7 BC as the most critical for the development of the new urban image of Rome.

Chapter 4, “The silent revolution of 7 BC—the ‘open city,’ ” serves as a platform for Haselberger’s second argument that Augustus’ other radical transformation of the city occurred with the reorganization of city into fourteen regions that included the suburban part of the city and even a whole region across the Tiber. As he observes, Rome became a city without walls, whose gates became open gateways, and the suburban edge of the city became subject to the city’s administration, although the pomerium was not extended to include these domains. This was quite revolutionary, since many cities in Roman Italy were still walled. Rome, like Sparta, “was protected by its strength rather than its walls” (p. 230). The opening of the gates, the decline of Rome’s walls and her urban boundaries remain understudied generally and should provide a fruitful area for further study.

Chapter 5, “Augustus’ new Rome,” summarizes Haselberger’s two arguments. Although with a slightly different emphasis on the Campus Martius and the opening of the city, Haselberger presents the same argument about the transformation of Augustan Rome that we have seen before. She became an imperial capital from a city of brick. In conclusion, Haselberger’s argument for the centrality of the Campus Martius in Augustan Rome is less convincing and original than his argument about the opening of the city and its transformative power. While the Campus Martius becomes a space for public entertainment and leisure, the political, religious and ceremony heart of Rome remained the Forum Romanum and Forum Augustum. The continued imperial focus on this region remained throughout Rome’s history.

This study, however, makes a number of useful contributions. It provides a clear overview and narrative for the Augustan building programs and a precise chronology; his list of Augustan buildings (Chapter 6, “Augustan buildings in Rome: a list”) is particularly helpful, it gives dates for the years of dedication and individuals involved in the various Augustan building projects. It serves as a good starting point for a student new to Augustan Rome or for a scholar engaging with complex topographical arguments.

Now let us briefly discuss certain issues of the bilingual German and English text, formatting and images. Publishing the text in German and English is laudable; Haselberger’s ideas are quickly available to a wider range of scholars, and the book achieves its goal of engaging non-German scholars with the German tradition of Bauforschung (p. 10). However, the decision not to translate the footnotes or the addenda is irritating. Only the most active of readers will hunt through the long, complicated footnotes to find references. Inevitably, those reading in English naturally find themselves ignoring the footnotes, and thus, do not get as much out of the book as they could. Furthermore, not all of the captions of the images (for example, Abb. 3, p. 47) are translated. As an experiment in this type of bilingual publishing, the book is fairly successful and should encourage similar efforts; however, a full translation would make the book even more accessible and user-friendly.

Finally, for a book on the metamorphosis of Augustan Rome, it is far too short on maps and images. There are only four figures and a total of nine images, including one small map that only depicts part of the Campus Martius. This work assumes that one will have Haselberger’s previous book, Mapping Augustan Rome, or at least a map of Rome, to hand when assessing his arguments (p. 10); if one does, this book is much easier to use. It would have been helpful if at least one or two large-scale maps, perhaps of pre- and post-7 BC Rome, had been included to allow the reader to follow and dissect Haselberger’s arguments. Considering Haselberger’s recent work on creating accurate visual reconstructions of ancient Rome and the topic of this book on the urban image of Rome, it is also surprising that no reconstructions play a role in it. Inclusion of such images might have also strengthened his arguments, particularly those about the organization of the Campus Martius, by helping the reader to visualize the transformation of Rome and understand how the topography of Rome changed during this period in its history.

Table of Contents (In English and German)

List of figures 6
Special abbreviations 7
Preface 8
I. “Adorn this city” 12
Problems and perspectives 16
The territorial definition of the Urbs 18
built urban image 22
Leading and directing public building 28
Augustus’ own urban building as represented in the Res gestae 32
Campus Martius and Urbs 36
II. Rome—a deficient metropolis 40
Not yet adorned 40
Attempts at a solution 46
Caesar’s inheritance and new initiatives 54
Programmatic building 64
III. “La grande Rome”—creating and preserving the new Rome 70
Staging the project (29/28 B.C.) 72
Building the Campus Martius: monumenta Agrippae (27-19 B.C.) 100
Suburb and “the rest of the Urbs” (27-19 B.C.) 128
A Rome transformed: aurea saecula (19-7 B.C.) 150
Sealing and confirming (7 B.C.-A.D. 14) 192
IV. The silent revolution of 7 B.C.—the “open city” 222
Regiones and urban territory 224
A city without walls 230
V. Augustus’ new Rome 238
New city and old Urbs 238
Traumatic notions 244
Augustus’ program and “deception” 248
VI. Augustan buildings in Rome: a list 256
Postscript 266
Addenda 272
Select bibliography 275
Indices 277
Rome: buildings and localities 277
Other cities and places 280
Terms, aspects, concepts 280
Prosopography (except authors) 282
Ancient authors 283
Inscriptions, papyri, coins 287

INHALTSVERZEICHNIS Abbildungsverzeichnis 6
Besondere Abkürzungen 7
Vorwort 9
I. “Schm7uuml;cke diese Stadt” 13
Fragen und Perspektiven 17
Die Urbs 19
Gebautes Stadtbild 23
Lenkung und Leitung 29
Die Res gestae 33
Marsfeld und Urbs 37
II. Rom—Weltstadt mit Mängeln 41
“Noch nicht geschmückt” 41
Lösungsversuche 47
Caesars Erbe und neue Initiativen 55
Bauen als Programm 65
III. “La grande Rome”—Schaffen und Bewahren des neuen Rom 71
Programmatisches Inszenieren (29/28 v.Chr.) 73
Grossbaustelle Marsfeld: monumenta Agrippae (27-19 v.Chr.) 101
Vorstadt und “übrige Stadt” (27-19 v.Chr.) 129
Ein verwandeltes Rom: aurea saecula (19-7 v.Chr.) 151
Besiegeln und Bekräftigen (7 v.Chr.-14 n.Chr.) 193
IV. Die stille Revolution von 7 v.Chr.—die “offene Stadt” 223
Gebietsreform und Stadtgebiet 225
Stadt ohne Mauern 230
V. Das neue Rom des Augustus 239
Neue Stadt und alte Urbs 239
Traumatische Stadtfragen 245
Augustus’ Programm und “Augentäuschung” 249
VI. Augusteisches Bauen in Rom: eine Liste 257
Postskript 267
Addenda 272
Bibliographie in Auswahl 275
Register 277
Rom: Bauten und Örtlichkeiten 277
Andere Städte und Orte 280
Begriffe, Aspekte, Konzepte 280
Antike Personennamen (ohne Autoren) 282
Antike Autoren 283
Inschriften, Papyri, Münzen 287


1. Mapping Augustan Rome, directed by Lothar Haselberger in collaboration with David Gilman Romano; edited by Elisha Ann Dumser. Journal of Roman archaeology. Suppl. 50, 2002; Imaging ancient Rome: documentation, visualization, imagination, ed. Lothar Haselberger and John Humphrey. Journal of Roman Archaeology Suppl. 61, 2006.

2. See Höllscher, T. “Augustus und die Macht der Archäologie,” in F. Miller et al. La révolution romaine après Ronald Syme. Bilans et perspectives (=EntrHardt 2000), 331-58; Favro, D. The Urban Image of Augustan Rome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; Zanker, P. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, trans. by Alan Shapiro. Ann Arbor, 1988.

3. Haselberger downplays the importance of the building programs within the traditional bounds of the city. For example, he sees the construction of the Naumachia Augusti and the Forum Augustum as two parts of a “twin project,” because the Naumachia was to host a spectacle celebrating the completion of the Forum Augustum (pp. 194-6). This seems to overstate the importance of the Naumachia, as the Forum Augustum was not only one of the most important constructions for its ideological significance, but it was used on a daily basis and as a setting for major public events and sacrifices.