Encyclopedia Ichnographica




Italian text of the the dedication of Il Campo Marzio dell'antica Roma to Robert Adam.

I remember when we were in Rome together a few years ago, how enthusiactically you examined each of the many surviving monuments of the Romans and contemplated their beauty and their magnificence, especially when we explored the Campus Martius. You ofter asked me to engrave the remains of the buildings in that famous part of the city and to produce a bird's eye view of the whole area. . . . It would be a long task to enumerate all the different buildings which used to exist in the Campus. Most of them have completely vanished while the remains of others lie buried or are broken by the foundations of houses and are so scanty that it is hard to recognize their original purpose . . . I can promise you that no part of the Campus was too insignificent for me to examine frequently and minutely, and I even penetrated the cellars of the houses, not without some trouble and expense, in case anything should excape me. When I had collected the remians of these buildings and copied them with the greatest care I showed them to the best antiquarians to get their opinion and then I compared them with the old plan of the city in the Capitol because I hoped that if i did so no one would claim that I had followed my own whim rather than sure reasoning or probable conjecture in setting out the names, the appearance and the position of these monuments. I am rather afraid that some parts of the Campus which I describe should seem figments of my imagination and not based on any evidence: certainly if anyone compares them with the architectural theory of the ancients he will see that they differ greatly from it and are actually closer to the usage of our own times. But before anyone accuses me of falsehood, he should ,I beg, examine the ancient plan of the city [Forma Urbis] which I have just mentioned, he should examine the villas of Latium and that of Hadrian at Tivoli, the baths, the tombs and other ruins, especially those beyond the Porta Capena, and he will find that the ancients transgressed the strict rules of architecture just as much as the moderns. Perhaps it is inevitable and a general rule that the arts on reaching a peak should decline, or perhaps it is part of man's nature to demand some license in creative expression as in other things, but we should not be surprised to see that ancient architects have done the very things which we sometimes criticize in buildings of our times. Here then, my dear Adam, is the Campus Martius, not as perfect perhaps as you wanted but as complete as I could manage, given the complexities of the subject and the lapse of time. . . . Whatever your judgment may be about this little work, I am happy to have done as you asked and to have provided for posterity a monument to our friendship.




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