piranesi

1998

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1998.09.21
new palace of Elagabalus
from: Amanda Claridge, Rome: An Oxford Archeological Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). p. 21:
Bassianus, came to Rome in 219 and, holding the family priesthood of the sun-god Elalgabalus, declared that he and the god were one and the same, building himself a temple on the Palatine and laying out a new palace, later called the 'Sessorian', with its own circus and amphitheatre, on older imperial property in the south-east sector of the city (S. Croce in Gerusalemme).
This description fits perfectly Piranesi's design of the Domus Alexander Severus, and I therefore think Piranesi was well aware of the connection between the two emperors. What Piranesi's reason for doing this is unclear however, and I can only speculate there is some kind of inversion message involved. This makes sense because Alexander very much reversed the debauchery of Elagabalus.


1998.10.01
Antoninus Elagabalus
from: David Magie (translator), The Scriptores Historiae Augustae (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), vol. II.
p. 113: Then, when he held his first audience with the senate, he gave orders that his mother should be asked to come intothe senate-chamber. On her arrival she was invited to a place on the consuls' bench and there she took part in the drafting--that is to say, she witnessed the drafting up of the senate's decree. And Elagabalus was the only one of all of the emperors under whom a woman attended the senate like a man, just as though she belonged to the senatorial order.
He also established a senaculum, or woman's senate, on the Quirinal Hill. Before his time, in fact, a congress of matrons had met here, but only on certain festivals, or whenever a matron was presented with the insignia of a "consular marriage" -- bestowed by the early emperors on their kinswomen, particualrly on those whose husbands were not nobles, in order that they might not lose their nobel rank.
p. 149-51: He gave a naval spectacle, it is said, on the Circus-canals, which had been filled with wine, and he sprinkled the peoples cloaks with perfume made from the wild grape; also he drove a chariot drawn by four elephants on the Vatican Hill [The circus Vaticanus was constructed by Caligula at the north end of the Janiculum (the present site of the Church of St. Peter). Under Nero it was the scene of the tortures inflicted on the Christians; see Tacitus, Annals, xv.44. The context of the present passage, however, seems to indicate that it was not this circus that was the scene of Elagabalus' exploit, but the immediate vicinity, generally known as Vaticanum, where remains of tombs have been discovered; see O. Richter, Topographie d. Stadt Rom, p. 280 f.], destroying the tombs which obstructed the way, and he harnessed four camels to a chariot at a private spectacle in the circus.

1998.10.06
excerpts from Procopius
from: Procopius, H. B. Dewing (translator), History of the Wars, Book V and VI (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).
p. 211-217: But in the meantime another Gothic assault was being made at the Aurelian Gate in the following manner. The tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian stands outside the Aurelian Gate, removed about a stone's throw from the fortifications, a very worthy sight. For it is made of Parian marble, and the stones fit closely one upon the other, having nothing at all between them. And it has four sides which are all equal, each being about a stone's throw in length, while their lieiubt exceeds that of the city wall; and above there are statues of the same marble, represeiitiing men and horses, of wonderful workmanship. But since this tomb seemed to the men of ancient times a fortress threatening the city, they enclosed it by two walls, which extend to it from the circuit-wall, and thus made it a part of the wall. And, indeed, it gives the appearance of a high tower built as a bulwark before the gate there. So the fortifications at that point were most adequate. Now Constantinus, as it happened, had been appointed by Belisarius to have charge of the garrison at this tomb. And he bad instructed him also to attend to the guarding of the adjoining wall, which had a small and inconsiderable garrison. For, since that part of the circuit-wall was the least assailable of all, because the river flows along it, he supposed that no assault would be made there, and so stationed an insignificant garrison at that place, and, since the soldiers he had were few,he assigned the great majority to the positions where there was most need of them. For the emperor's army gathered in Rome at the beginning of this siege amounted at most to only five thousand men. But since it was reported to Constantinus that the enemy were attempting the crossing of the Tiber, he became fearful for that part of the fortifications and went thither himself with all speed, accompanied by some few men to lend assistance, commanding the greater part of his men to attend to the guarding of the gate and the tomb. But meanwhile the Goths began an assault upon the Aurelian Gate and the Tower of Hadrian, and though tliev had no engines of war, they brought up a great quantity of ladders, and thought that by shooting a vast number of arrows they would very easily reduce the enem to a state of helplessness and overpower the garrison there without any trouble on account of its small numbers. And as they advanced, they held before them shields no smaller than the long shields used by the Persians, and they succeeded in getting very close to their opponents without being perceived by them. For they came hidden under the colonnade which extends to the church of the Apostle Peter. From that shelter they suddenly appeared and began the attack, so that the guards were neither able to use the engine called the ballista (for these engines do not send their missiles except straight out), nor, indeed, could they ward off their assailants with their arrows, since the situation was against them on account of the large shields. But the Goths kept pressing vigorously upon them, shooting many missiles at the battlements, and they were already about to set their ladders against the wall, having practically surrounded those who were fighting from the tomb; for whenever the Goths advanced they always got in the rear of the Romans on both flanks; and for a short time consternation fell upon the Romans, who knew not what means of defence they should employ to save themselves, but afterwards by common agreement they broke in pieces the most of the statues, which were very large, and taking up great numbers of stones thus secured, threw them with both hands down upon the heads of the enemy, who gave way before this sliower of missiles. And as they retreated a little way, the Romans, having by now the advantage, plucked up courage, and with a mighty shout began to drive back their assailants by using their boii,s and hurling stones at them. And putting their hands to the engines, they reduced their opponents to great fear, and their assault was quickly ended. And by this time Constantinus also was present, having frightened back those who bad tried the river and easily driven them off, because they did not find the wall there entirely unguarded, as they had supposed they would. And thus safety was restored at the Aurelian Gate.
p. 245-47: At that time some of the Romans attempted secretly to force open the doors of the temple of Janus. This Janus was the first of the ancient gods whom the Romans call in their own tongue Penates." And lie has his temple in that part of the forum in front of the senate-liouse which lies a little above the "Tria Fita" ; for thus the Romans are accustomed to call the Moirai. And the temple is entirely of bronze and was erected in the form of a square, but it is only large enough to cover the statue of Janus. Now this statue is of bronze, and not less than five cubits high ; in all other respects it resembles a man, but its head has two faces, one of which is turned toward the east and the other toward the west. And there are brazen doors fronting each face, which the Romans in olden times were accustomed to close in time of peace and prosperity, but when they had war they opened them. But when the Romans came to lionour, as truly as any others, the teachings of the Christians, they gave up the custom of opening these doors, even when they were at war. During this siege, however, some, I suppose, who had in mind the old belief, attempted secretly to open them, but they did not succeed entirely, and moved the doors only so far that they did not close tightly against one another as formerly. And those who had attempted to do this escaped detection; and no investigation of the act was made, as was natural in a time of great confusion, since it did not become known to the commanders, nor did it reach the ears of the multitude, except of a very few.
p. 25: After Theodatus had formed this plan, there came from Byzantium to the chief priest of Rome two envoys, Hypatius, the priest of Ephesus, and Demetrius, from Philippi in Macedonia, to confer about a tenet of faitb, which is a subject of disagreement and controversy among the Christians. As for the points in dispute, although I know them well, I shall by no means make mention of them; for I consider it a sort of insane folly to investigate the nature of God, enquiring of what sort it is. For man cannot, I think, apprehend even human affairs with accuracy, much less those things which pertain to the nature of God. As for me, therefore, I shall maintain a discreet silence concerning these matters, with the sole object that old and venerable beliefs may not be discredited. For I, for my part, will say nothing whatever about God save that He is altogether good and has all things in His power. But let each one say whatever be thinks he knows about these matters, both priest and layman.
p. 289-91: After this the Romans no longer dared risk a battle with their whole army; but they engaged in cavalry battles, making sudden sallies in the same manner as before, and were generally victorious over the barbarians. Foot-soldiers also went out from both sides, not, however, arrayed in a phalanx, but accompanying the horsemen. And once Bessas in the first rush dashed in among the enemy carrying his spear and killed three of their best horsemen and turned the rest to flight. And another time, when Constantinus had led out the Huns in the Plain of Nero in the late afternoon, and saw that they were being overpowered by the superior numbers of their opponents, lie took the following measures. There has been in that place from of old a great stadium where the gladiators of the city used to fight in former times, and the men of old built many other buildings round about this stadium; consequently there are, as one would expect, narrow ptssages all about this place. Now on the occasion in question, since Constantinus could neither overcome the throng of the Goths nor flee without great danger, he caused all the Huns to dismount from their horses, and on foot, in company with them, took his stand in one of the narrow passages there. Then by shooting from that safe position they slew large numbers of the enemy. And for some time the Goths withstood their missiles. For they hoped, as soon as the supply of missiles in the quivers of the Huns should be exhausted, to be able to surround them without any trouble, take them prisoners, and lead them back to their camp. But since the Massagetac, who were not only good bowmen but also had a dense throng to shoot into, hit an enemy with practically every shot, the Goths perceived that above half their number had perished, and since the sun was about to set, they knew not what to do and so rushed off in flight. Then indeed many of them fell; for the Massagetae followed them up, and since they know how to shoot the bow with the greatest accuracy even when running at great speed, they continued to discharge their arrows no less than before, shooting at their backs, and kept up the slaughter. And thus Constantinus with his Huns came back to Rome at night.
p. 321: Now there is a certain church of the Apostle Paul, fourteen stades distant from the fortifications of Rome, and the Tiber River flows beside it. In that place there is no fortification, but a colonnade extends all the way from the city to the church, and many other buildings which are round about it render the place not easy of access. But the Goths shew a certain degree of actual respect for sanctuaries such as this. And indeed during the whole time of the war no harm came to either church of the two Apostles at their hands, but all the rites were performed in them by the priests in the usual manner. At this spot, then, Belisarius commanded Valerian to take all the Huns and make a stockade by the bank of the Tiber, in order that their horses might be kept in greater security and that the Goths might be still further checked from going at their pleasure to great distances from their camps. And Valerian acted accordingly. Then, after the Huns bad made their camp in the place where the general directed, he rode back to the city.
p. 217-19: But at the gate beyond the Tiber River, which is called the Pancratian Gate, a force of the enemy came, but accomplished nothing worth mentioning because of the strength of the place; for the fortifications of the city at this point are on a steep elevation and are not favourably situated for assaults. Paulus was keeping guard there with an infantry detachment which he commanded in person. In like manner they made no attempt on the Flaminian Gate, because it is situated on a precipitous slope and is not very easy of access. The "Reges," an infantry detachment, were keeping guard there with Ursicinus, who commanded them. And between this gate and the small gate next on the right, which is called the Pineian, a certain portion of the wall had split open of its own accord in ancient times, not clear to the ground, however, but about half way down, but still it had not fallen or been otherwise destroyed, though it leaned so to either side that one part of it appeared outside the rest of the wall and the other inside. And from this circumstance the Romans from ancient times have called the place "Broken Wall" in tli eir own tongue. But when Belisarius in the beginning undertook to tear down this portion and rebuild it, the Romans prevented him, declaring that the Apostle Peter had promised them that lie would care for the guarding of the wall there. This Apostle is reverenced by the Romans and held in awe above all others. And the outcome of events at this place was in all respects what the Romans contemplated and expected. For neither on that day nor throughout the whole time during which the Goths were besieging Rome did any hostile force come to that place, nor did any disturbance occur there. And we marvelled indeed that it never occurred to us nor to the enemy to remember this portion of the fortifications during the whole time, either while they were makin- their assaults or carrying out their designs against the wall by night; and yet many such attempts were made. It was for this reason, in fact, that at a later time also no one ventured to rebuild this part of the defences, but tip to the present day the wall there is split open in this way So much, then, for this.
p. 223: Now the ground there was very level, and consequently the place lay open to the attteks of any assailant. And for some reason the wall at that point bad crumbled a great deal, and to such an extent that the binding of the bricks did not hold together very well. Consequently the ancient Romans had built another wall of short length outside of it and encircling it, not for the sake of safety (for it was neither strengthened with towers, nor indeed was there any battlement built upon it, nor any other means by which it would have been possible to repulse an enemy's assault upon the fortifications), but in order to provide for an unseemly kind of luxury, namely, that they might confine and keep there lions and other wild animals. And it is for this reason that this place has been named the Vivarium; for thus the Romans call a place where untamed animals are regularly cared for.

1998.11.23
"Eisenman should read this"
I also now have an article to write entitled "Peter Eisenman should read this." The first draft outline is as follows:
1. The free use of the descriptive adjective "piranesian" is used by Eisenman too freely and in so doing is misservicing the architectural community at large and Piranesi himself in particular. (There is also the Venturi 1982 reference to Piranesian which I want to work in here as well.)
2. In what I guess Eisenman is referring to as Piranesian is better refered to as Carcerian or Piranesi Prisonesque, because it is the Carceri that is most evocative of Eisenman's current architecture.
3. Eisenman's other reference/connection/interpretation of the interstitial within the Campo Marzio is a case of misidentification. There is an interstitial within the Campo Marzio, but it is not the smaller (vernacular) non-descript buildings that Eisenman points to.
4. the interstitial of the Campo Marzio are precisely the Latin labels that Piranesi intersperses throughout the large plan that holds the entire design of the large plan together.
5. it is ironic that Tafuri states that it is exactly language that is missing from the Campo Marzio, when, in fact, it is precisely language that congeals the large plan into a cohesive whole.
6. Eisenman wants to use his interpretation of the Campo Marzio to validate his own arbitrary and fragmentary designs.
7. If an interpretation is wrong, does the argument based on the interpretation then become totally void as well? Common sense would have to answer in the affirmative.
8. there is far more order than disorder in the Ichnographia.
9. I'm not sure how this will end until I study the direct quotations from Eisenman and Tafuri. I may delve into describing/translating the buildings that Eisenman calls interstitial.
10. I could end the "Eisenman should read this" article with a reference to the caption mix ip in Ideology and Autonomy.
This article overall will be the first of a series of "...should read this" articles. For example, I could write "Jennifer Bloomer should read this" and "Stanley Allen should read this" and anyone who reads Tafuri should read this." This could well be part of my overall iconoclastic 1999 opus/oeuvre.


1998.12.07
Aldo Rossi dedication
...the second dedication of the EI to acknowledge the death of Aldo Rossi. This is to facilitate the telling of the whole Rossi/axis of death connection.


1998.12.20
Piranesi: paramount inter-disciplinarian
G.B. Piranesi - a paramount inter-disciplinarian - this is the title of a chapter on Piranesi, an exposition of how Piranesi employs both archeological skills and architectural/urban design skills to engrave the Ichnographia.

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