The Bustum Hadriani of the Ichnographia Campus Martius comprises two circuses flanking an enormous funerary complex, all on axis with the gigantic Sepulchum Hadriani. This design by Piranesi perfectly reenacts the ancient Roman 'munus'.
munus : a service, office, post, employment, function, duty : a work : the last service, office to the dead, i. e. burial : a public show, spectacle, entertainment, exhibition
For formerly, in the belief that the souls of the departed were appeased by human blood, they were in the habit of buying captives or slaves of wicked disposition, and immolating them in their funeral obsequies. Afterwards they thought good to throw the veil of pleasure over their iniquity. Those, therefore, whom they had provided for the combat, and then trained in arms as best they could, only that they might learn to die, they, on the funeral day, killed at the places of sepulture. They alleviated death by murders. Such is the origin of the "Munus."
Tertullian, De Spectaculis
By its very name, the Bustum Hadriani indicates a place of ritual involving death -- 'bustum' is the Latin for the place where the bodies of the dead were burned and buried. Piranesi integrates the Roman bustum with the Roman tradition of munus, and thus creates an architectural complex that is both bombastic mortuary and public arena.
Enframing the Bustum Hadriani is a succession of sepulchers for free men and slaves -- Sepulchra Libertorum et Servorum. These sepulchers, which follow an alternating repeated pattern of facing outside and inside, define the munus precinct, while at the same time serve as the place of interment for those of common or lower social standing. Note also that the pattern of inversion is again exercised in Piranesi's delineation.
There is archaeological evidence that a street lined with tombs was once in this area of Rome during the Empire's latter centuries, and perhaps that is why Piranesi positions the sepulchers here. Beyond that reasoning, however, it could well be that the physical evidence of Hadrian's Tomb and Circus plus a street of sepulchers in the same area inspired Piranesi to here reenact a grand place of munus.
Crispus and Fausta
Hans A. Pohlsander:
I wonder if you could provide me with some information regarding the damnatio memoriae of Crispus and Fausta. Particularly, I'm trying to find out what ancient evidence there is that there was a damnatio memoriae of these two imperials. For example, was a damnatio memoriae typically issued as a Roman law, and, if so, what ancient legal text contains the damnatio of Crispus and Fausta. Or do we only know that there was a damnatio memoriae from post Constatine historians such as Aurelius Victor and Zosimus?
The main thrust of my present research involves Helena and Eutropia and their role in the rise of Christian architecture throughout the Empire. Presently, I am of the opinion that Crispus, Fausta, and Helena all died in 326 -- Crispus in May, and Fausta and Helena in Rome sometime next week 1675 years ago. Essentially, I take Eusebius' chapters 4 - 53 of book III of the Vita Constantini as being in chronological order. Who were those three imperials that first entered the Council of Niceae? I say Crispus, Fausta and Helena. The burial of Helena probably occurred August 1 or 2, just before Constantine left Rome for the last time of August 3. Eutropia remained ever loyal to Constantine, like she did in Rome, 312 when she admitted the adulterous paternaty of Maxentius. Moreover, Eutropia continued Helena's church building efforts in the Holy Land, and I believe it was Eutropia that died in 329 when the Helena coins stopped appearing. Did Eustathius speak of Helena and the Cross when everyone know that Constantine forbade such talk of his dead mother. You see, I believe with the Cross came again three deaths, and that this 'sign' became Constantine's greatest test of faith -- there was first confusion and then there was silence.
exactly 1675 years ago
It was yesterday 1675 years ago that Constantine the Great arrived in Rome to end his Vicennalia, his 20th anniversary as a Roman ruler. The next two weeks were not all joy and happiness, however, and indeed there was already a dark cloud over the celebration. Just two months prior, Constantine was for some reason forced to command the execution of his eldest son Crispus. That a father had to authorize and witness the death of his son is frightening enough, but just imagine what Rome was thinking given that, at this very same time 1675 years ago, Helena, Constantine's mother was also making her way to Rome for the celebrations, and she was bringing with her part of the newly discovered True Cross, testimony of the death of another Son.
Constantine's second wife, Fausta, was not the mother of Crispus, yet it is written that Constantine also ordered her death right around this time. It's said she died in an overheated bath, a compulsory suicide even. Could it be that Fausta died exactly on July 25, the very day of Constantine's anniversary? That might explain why she also suffered damnatio memoriae, like Crispus.
Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine, which was published the year after Constantine's death in 337, writes of Helena's death and burial, and even states that Constantine was with her at the time. Helena was indeed buried in Rome in what many believe was the mausoleum and sarcophagus originally intended for Constantine. Were the mausoleum and sarcophagus already complete in 326, and awaiting their presentation to Constantine during the Vicennalia? On August 3 Constantine left Rome and was never to return to Rome, alive or dead. After dying with a very broken heart, could it be that Helena was buried August 1 or 2? Could it be that with the finding of the True Cross again came three deaths?
I didn't get much sleep Monday night because my brain was uncontrollably working overtime. As much as I liked what I was thinking about, there was also dread because I wouldn't be able to sleep late Tuesday morning. Anna, my www.museumpeace.com summer assistant, was scheduled to show up at 11 o'clock. Well, since my mind was already working, I tried to think of a solution to my next days dilemma, and therefore Anna and played hooky Tuesday afternoon.
I've known Anna since she was in seventh grade (she just finished her freshman year at Temple U's Tyler School of Art) and I have known Anna's parents since my own high school days. When Anna arrived at my house I told her we were going on a field trip, but that I first needed sometime to adjust to my sleeplessness. We sat for a while on my front steps, and I asked her, "Do you know what tonight is?" Anna, already well acquainted with my one of my habitual topics of conversation, answered, "It's got to be Helena something or other." I had to laugh because Anna was right. It was already clear to both of us that Wednesday (today, 25 July) is the anniversary of Constantine's imperial Roman rulership, but what I just imagined during my sleepless night was that the eve of the anniversary was 'the ghost of Crispus party'. Anna asked, "And Crispus is the son that Constantine had killed?" "Yes," I answered, "just this past May 1675 years ago."
As the Imperial family (i.e., Constantine, Fausta/Constantine's wife, Helena/Constantine's mother, and Eutropia/Fausta's mother) met the morning of Constantine's 20th anniversary in Rome (25 July 326) they found out that they all had the same dream the night before, where the four of them plus Crispus were at a party together, and that all Crispus said was "With the Cross comes three deaths." The 'Cross' of course meant the True Cross which Helena discovered just within the prior year and had brought a piece of back to Rome to further celebrate Constantine's sole rule and 20th anniversary. The execution of Crispus, however, darkened the celebration, and now the celebration appeared even darker because of Crispus in a dream. What two deaths additional to Crispus' would make three?
History has already recorded the death of Fausta sometime just after the death of Crispus, but history has not recorded what this writer believes to have been the time of Helena's death as well. Fausta may well have died by suicide in an overheated bath tonight 1675 years ago, and Helena died sometime at the end of this month also 1675 years ago. It is an historical fact that Constantine left Rome for the last time 3 August 326, which may well have been a day or two after Helena's funeral. In any case, Constantine had now lost practically all of those closest to him, but luckily for him, Eutropia remained loyally by his side. This was when Constantinople truly became the Roman Empire's new capital. Rome now belonged forever to Helena, and Constantine now was to resolutely establish his own domain.
I told Anna that we were going on a 'Cedar Grove' tour. The oldest European name for the area I live in is Cedar Grove, which is within the Tacony Creek watershed. The name Tacony is derived from the Lenni-Lenapi 'tekene' which means 'wooded place'. There is a museum house in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park called 'Cedar Grove' which dates from 1743, and which was moved to the Park from its original site in Frankford, an old colonial town north of colonial Philadelphia. Frankford is today a Philadelphia neighborhood, and before Tacony Creek reaches the Delaware River, its name changes to Frankford Creek. I'm guessing that the part of Pennsylvania that all this refers to was once full of many cedar trees. So off we went to Cedar Grove, the house.
While driving on the Roosevelt Blvd., a 12 lane super-street (actually a product of the 1920s' Beaux Arts City Beautiful Movement), I pointed out three spontaneous shrines on the blvd's grassy islands. These are fairly recent markers where someone was killed, by accident I assume. The first is a short cross with a picture, the second is very knew and seems to memorialize a child for there are many stuffed animals and flowers all around the base of a large tree, and the third is a large picture of a man on a tree along with a cross made of artificial flowers. I think this is all indicative of the Hispanic population that has moved within my neighborhood over the last decade or so. I told Anna we are driving through 'holy land'.
While driving on the Roosevelt Expressway, Anna tells be she just read The Eddie Polec Story. You may not immediately recognize the name, but Eddie was the young boy beaten to death by other young boys while Philadelphia's 911 emergency dispatchers made a whole mess of the calls reporting the incident in November 1995 (I think the date is right). Eddie went to the same high school that Anna and I went to, and his family is a member of the same parish that Anna and my mother and brother belong to. Indeed, Eddie died on the steps of St. Cecilia Church. Anna is an avid reader, and she found interesting fault with some of the books content. For example, a teacher that Anna knew very well told Eddie's parents at Eddie's funeral that his last paper was honor quality. Anna found that dubious not because Eddie was not exactly an honor student, but because she always felt that that teacher never really read the student's papers. (Both of Anna's parents are school teachers, so her insight may not be altogether off.) The second thing to bother Anna was the prosecutions closing argument at the murder trial. They said something about Eddie's whereabouts prior to the beating incident that had absolutely no evidence. I commented that all that is exactly how legends start, and is, moreover, a prime example of where and how history and what really happened start to part ways. If you asked me, I believe Eddie Polec is already the patron saint of 911 operators.
After driving along beautiful West River Drive we finally arrive at Cedar Grove. We don't go inside because there much more I want us to do, but I make sure Anna understands that within this house is an extremely valuable collection of antique American furniture that is actually indigenous to the house -- a full Chippendale dinning room and a full Sheraton living room and more. Just one of Philadelphia's many 'forgotten' treasures.
Next we went to Memorial Hall, one of the few remaining buildings of the 1876 Centennial Exposition, and Philadelphia's quondam Museum of Art as well (i.e., before the PMA moved into its present building). The great hall of this building is what I believe to be one of Philadelphia grandest spaces, and again hardly anyone knows about it.
Just down the way is the Japanese House, and that's our next destination. Again, again, this place is a true Philadelphia gem, and, just like Cedar Grove, was moved to Fairmount Park from someplace else. The house follows the design of a 17th(?) century Japanese scholar's house, and is built entirely of cedar wood (we surprisingly found out) in Japan in the middle of the 20th century, disassembled, and sent to NYC's Museum of Modern Art for exhibition in MOMA's courtyard in 1954(?), and somehow or other wound up in Philadelphia. We had a great time there despite the fact that I had to wear these cheap brown paper slippers -- no shoes or bare feet allowed inside the house -- because I was wearing sandals without socks. I kept on making Anna laugh by walking around the house taking tiny staccato oriental steps, which was really the only way my big feet wouldn't tear open the shoes.
It was now time to eat something, and thus we were off to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is build right on the original 'Fair Mount'. I'm not going into any detail here because there will soon be a photo exhibit of Anna's and my hooky playing at www.museumpeace.com, but I have to relate something that happened toward the end of our museum visit. I have visited the Philadelphia museum since I was a teenager in 1972. I think it's safe to say that I've been to the museum somewhere between 50 and 100 times so far, but not until yesterday did I find that depictions of Constantine, Fausta, Helena, and very likely Eutropia have been hanging on the walls of the museum's grand stair hall all these years. In doing other research on the outside decoration of the PMA this past Spring, I found reference to the tapestries and their Constantinian subject matter. Although I've been to the museum three times since then, I was primarily there to see the Venturi Scott Brown Architecture exhibit, and never thought to go upstairs. This may all seem a bit hard to believe, but in the past all I ever saw were these enormous tapestries hanging there, and they never, ever interested me. In fact, I've lately been of the opinion that the museum should take them down, and hang big modern art there instead.
There are a dozen or so of these tapestries, which are designed by Rubens and depict scenes from the life of Constantine. Not all the scenes, like the baptism of Constantine by Pope Sylvester, are historically true, but one scene in particular wins the prize, The Marriage of Constantine to Fausta. After some careful consideration, Anna and I agree on who Fausta and Constantine are, but who exactly are all the other people depicted. It makes sense that the man presenting Fausta should be the emperor Maximian, Fausta's father, but who is the man in the background between Fausta and Maximian? Could it be Fausta's brother Maxentius, who Constantine would soon enough kill in battle (and just for the record, Constantine also even sooner made sure Maximian was also dead). Could the woman behind Fausta be Eutropia? And finally, is the woman holding Constantine's hand between Maximian and Constantine actually Helena?
Even though I didn't say it yesterday, I'm gonna say it now, "You know, Anna, that tapestry could just as easily be called THE GHOST OF CRISPUS PARTY."
new member, etc.
I just joined the late antiquity list. I am an architect and among other things presently doing much research/writing regarding Flavia Julia Helena Augusta (St. Helena) and her imperial relations (the Constantinian dynasty). I intend to post inquires as well as hypothesis, of course all in the hope for good scholarly exchange. Before I begin, however, I'm wondering if there is an archive of LT-ANTIQ and if so what its URL is. I'd like to review whatever past posts may involve the same period and personalities I'm interested in.
new member, etc.
Don't forget that August 18 is both the feast of Saint Helena and the anniversary of the Rape of the Sabine Women -- a strange (but perhaps even intentional?) coincidence of paradigm shifting ancient Roman motherhood for sure. as I like to say, "Better late antiquity then never!"
damnatio memoriae question
I have two questions about ancient Roman 'damnatio memoriae', one general and one specific:
1. Was there some kind of official decree that declared a damnatio memoriae? And, if so, could someone offer an example?
2. In the case of the deaths of Crispus and Fausta (Constantine I's eldest son and second wife respectively), all 20th century historians refer to their subsequent damnatio memoriae, although I have yet to find a footnote that supplies an actual (late) ancient reference to verify the damnatio memoriae. Is there such a "footnote"?
I'm curious about this particular occurrence of damnatio memoriae because in Eusebius' Life of Constantine there is no mention of the death of Crispus and Fausta (which is today explained as a result of damnatio memoriae) and at the same time in the same text there is no mention of Helena and the finding of the True Cross (which is today referred to as Eusebius' "silence" on the subject). As you might guess, I'm wondering whether the Crispus and Fausta damnatio memoriae and the "silence" regarding Helena and the finding of the True Cross are part of the same historical phenomenon c.326 and just after.
And just to add some zip to the punch, who do you think were those three "family" members that first entered the hall at the opening of the Nicene Council in 325? Eusebius, again in the Life of Constantine, makes clear reference to this occurrence, but strangely does not supply the names of these obviously Imperial personages. Was Eusebius 'silent' because it was Crispus, Fausta and Helena that entered in an imperial line? Remember, Crispus was already declared Caesar a few years earlier, and Fausta and Helena were declared Augustae most likely just the proceeding November. I'm thinking it would not be at all unlikely that those most recently raised to imperial rank get to lead off the imperial 'parade'. And if it can be verified that Crispus was somewhere else July 325, then maybe it was his little half-brother Constantius (II), who was for sure raised to the rank of Caesar in November 324, that lead the Imperial procession.
damnatio memoriae, next coins
Thanks all around for the damnatio memoriae answers, especially the Piso example and book reference. This data is indeed useful and helpful. I will soon present my case for Helena having died in Rome something like 31 July 326, just before Constantine left Rome for the last time.
In tandem with making my Helena death case, at the same time I'll have to address the more popular recent histories that place Helena's death date to c.328-9, which is based mostly on the fact that HELENA AUGUSTA coins were still being minted until late 328-9.
Is anyone on the list very familiar with these coins? Or is there a good reference book I could look to? I recall reading (I believe in Pohlsander, Helena: Empress and Saint, 1995) that there is actually a noticeable difference between the portrait of Helena on the later coins (those minted the few years prior to 329) and the Helena portrait on the pre-c.326 coins.
Helena: calendrical coincidences
Regarding Helena and calendrical coincidences I have a few more examples besides that of 18 August.
While Helena is revered as saint in the Roman Catholic Church, both Helena and Constantine are revered as saints in the Eastern/Greek Catholic Church, and, moreover, Helena and Constantine there share the same feast day, 21 May. The second Agonalia, a Roman 'festo' in honor of Janus is also on 21 May. Since Janus had two faces, one that looked forward and the other that look backward, I find it interesting that 21 May also celebrates double saints. Furthermore, Constantine and Helena themselves come to represent a 'Janus' like situation in that they too were at a distinct historical edge from which one could look back at the Pagan world and ahead towards the Christian world.
The dedication date for Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome is 20 March. This church is the remaining vestige of the Sessorian Palace which served as Helena's Roman residence very likely from late 312 to 326, and the story goes that Helena had a chapel built within the palace, and in this chapel was deposited ground/dirt from Golgotha along with many other relics including a piece of the Cross, hence the name 'Holy Cross in Jerusalem'. According to the Freund Latin-English Dictionary (under Bellona) 20 March is the "dies sanguinis", the day of blood when Bellona's (sister of Mars and goddess of war) priests and priestesses "gashed their arms and shoulders and offered their blood to the goddess." What I think is interesting here is that Santa Croce in Gerusalemme also represents an intense day of blood, namely Christ's crucifixion.
We are probably all here familiar with the notion that Christmas is a 'christianization' of the Sol Invictus feast, and I'm beginning to believe that there may well have been a deliberate design of Christian 'usurpation' of Pagan feasts, especially in Rome where apparently virtually every week there was something Pagan to celebrate. The above examples only strengthen my conviction.