Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Theatrum Balbi


Theatrum Balbi

Teatro di Balbo.: « Sveton. in Augusto al cap. 29, Dione nel lib. 54, P. Vitt. nella Reg. IX di Roma. » Ne rimangona le rovine che si dinotano nella Tav. 2 col. num. 14, nella 3 e suo indice col. num. 61. Si riferiscono nel cap. 5 all'art. Il e si simostrano in prospetiva nella Tav. XXVIII.

The theater of Balbus. This theater was built by L. Cornelius Balbus, a friend of Augustus, and dedicated in 13 B.C. It was burned in 80 A.D., restored, probably by Domitian, and is mentioned as existing in the fourth century. It was smaller than the theater of Pompeius and held about eight thousand spectators. The ruins of this theater formed in the middle ages the slight elevation known as the monte dei Cenci, and some remains of walls are now hidden by the houses in the piazza dei Cenci. From data afforded by earlier excavations and by notes and drawings of the renaissance, it has been possible to fix the exact site of the theater. Its main axis ran northeast-southwest, and the cavea was turned toward the Tiber. Its exterior was like that of the theater of Pompeius and Marcellus, being built of travertine with three series of arcades with engaged columns, Doric below, and Ionic and Corinthian on the second and third stories. It contained four columns of onyx, which excited the utmost wonder and admiration in Rome. (Platner)

Vincenzo Fasolo, "The Campo Marzio of G. B. Piranesi".
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Pictorial Dictionary notes

Crypta Balbi: there is a drawing of the Crypta Balbi by Peruzzi in the Uffizi that Piranesi copied to draw the Porticus Philippi which is in front of the Theater Balbi, and in turn Piranesi labels a long plan to the side of the theater as the Crypta Balbi.

Mistakes and Inversions

...address Piranesi's own mistakes and inversions, particularly the inversion of the Circus Flaminius (which I now know to be also exchanged in location with the theater of Balba, which further shows Piranesi's intentional "mistakes" to make a specific point). [Perhaps,] Piranesi makes the mistakes, first to call attention to specific points, and second to highlight the notion of inversion. Piranesi is indeed being theatrical, which is only natural because of the whole notion of reenactment. ...discuss the Ichnographia's Triumphal Way and how Piranesi redesigns (reenacts) the Way making it more ideal to its purpose (marching through the theater district). The Way (within Ichnographia at least) ends at the Temple of Janus--a perfect example of inversion. Then following the Triumphal Way in reverse manifests the Christian theme of salvation and redemption, ending at the inverted "basilica"--the upside-down "inverted" crucifixion of St. Peter. ...the Ichnographia not only represents the history of ancient pagan city of Rome, but also the Christian city of Rome. This evokes Augustine's The City of God and also Bloomer's notion of the Ichnographia transcending time.

...the Scenographia as the stage upon which Piranesi reenacts--this is the first scene and the "play" is about to begin. In the course of the "play" the most egregious "mistake/inversion" is the misplacement and disorientation of the Circus Flaminius and its actual exchange with the Theater of Balba. This "mistake" manifests a composition of inverted theaters--essentially a double inverted theater. This configuration becomes one of the Il Campo Marzio's final scenes and thus represents the double inverted "theater" of Rome's own history--the narrative of pagan Rome and the narrative of Christian Rome, and in the Ichnographia the one story is indeed a reflection of the other.

Pagan - Christian - Triumphal Way
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Piranesi's Continual Double Theaters



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