Trajan and Hadrian Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Trajan and Hadrian Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Trajan and Hadrian Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The ‘Poikile’ was a huge open space measuring 232 × 97 meters with a large pool, 107 × 26 meters, in the middle. Because the ground sloped away to the SW the site was artificially leveled by a terrace of earth buttressed by rows of concrete barrel vaults. These provided the ‘100 small rooms’ probably used to house domestic staff. The two short ends of the peristyle curved gently outwards and all four sides were lined with colonnades. On the north side, there was a double colonnade with a wall between and turning points at the two short ends. This feature and the fact that the wall was a stade or 600 feet (180 meters) long suggests that this side of the building imitated a dromos (running track) common in Greek cities, e.g. the Stoa of Hercules and Hermes in Cyrene. The layout of the complex with a pool in the center of a large open space suggests that it might well have been an imitation of the Lyceum or Academy in Athens, rather than the Stoa Poikile (Painted Stoa) at Athens.

Apart from the Herodium near Jerusalem, built between 25 and 15 bc, the Island Villa is the only other domestic building set within a circle. With an overall diameter of almost exactly 150 Roman feet (44.4 meters), it formed a kind of ‘Petit Trianon’ where the emperor could escape the ceremony of his huge abode (Figure 8.14). Circles dominate the planning. The villa itself was circular and surrounded by a moat around which ran an annular colonnaded passageway (Figure 8.15). The white columns of this passage must have sparkled in the sunlight reflected by the water of the moat and contrasted with the shaded passage itself. Semicircles divided the circular villa itself into four suites of rooms, accessible from the corridors around a central peristyle courtyard with concave sides which were a product of the geometry of the complex. Two bridges across the north side of the moat led to a semicircular vestibule opening into one of the four corridors around the central courtyard. To the east were two cubicula with a tiny semicircular latrine behind one of them, accessible from the vestibule. Opposite the vestibule on the south side of the central courtyard was a dining room with smaller rooms on each side. There were small semicircular latrines in the angles of the two smaller rooms. On the west side was a small bathing suit complete with a heating system and a small cold plunge whose bottom was below the level of the moat outside. The spatial and light effects of this tiny architectural jewel must have been splendid. This must have been one of the most architecturally complete and satisfying delights of the whole villa.

Figure 8.14  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Island Villa: plan.

Figure 8.15  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Island Villa.

Piazza d’Oro was a richly decorated peristyle court accessible through an octagonal vestibule with round-headed niches in four of its sides (Figure 8.16). The vestibule was covered by an eight-sided umbrella dome, presumably one of the pumpkins for which Apollodorus of Damascus criticized Hadrian (Dio, 69.4.1–5). No attempt was made to fit this complex shape into a square, the outer walls being simply a reflection of the shape of the interior. The vestibule opened into a rectangular courtyard with a long pool running down the center and double colonnades on all four sides. Its floors were paved with fine orchard- and yellow-toned mosaics, hence the term ‘Piazza d’Oro’. The colonnades had half as many columns running down the middle as on the front, an arrangement commonly found in Greek and Hellenistic stores, which would make Piazza d’Oro a candidate for the Stoa Poikile (SHA, Hadrian 26.5). The suite of rooms at the south end of the peristyle, some of whose white marble Corinthian columns have been re-erected, was architecturally the most significant part of the complex. In the middle was an open courtyard with a fountain the middle, which may be described as octagonal with alternately convex and concave sides when seen from the inside. One concave side was the entrance and the side opposite opened onto a big semicircular nymphaeum with a boldly curving back wall lined with fountain niches. The convex sides opened onto four intriguingly shaped rooms, each of which terminated in a semicircular exedra. The other two concave sides led into small open courtyards with fountains in the middle of the floor. The rest of the rooms were vaulted. This complex would have offered vistas of light and shade, as well as the sight and sound of water from almost every direction which cannot fail to have enhanced the effect.

The banqueting room (triclinium), the ‘hippodrome’ and the tower block behind formed a single, axially planned composition (Figure 8.13). The triclinium was more developed in

Figure 8.16  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Piazza d’Oro: plan.

terms of layout than those of those of Nero and Domitian. It was a square room covered with a trabeated ceiling and surrounded on three sides by exedras each with a semicircular garden. On the fourth side was a huge, ornate fountain set in an open rectangular peristyle. The roar and flash of its waters must have made a mighty impression on the diners within. The idea came from Domitian’s dining room on the Palatine, but here fountains and open courtyards surrounded the diners on all four sides. The decor too was elaborate. The floors were paved with fine polychrome marble (opus sectile) and the walls were encrusted with white Proconnesian marble. The columns were extraordinarily elaborate, with bases and capitals decorated with spiral, leaf, guilloche, cable, and scroll patterns of tremendous intricacy and precision. Today, after rain, the fragments of these columns glow and sparkle with a sharpness Hadrian must have admired when they were first cut. The ‘hippodrome’ or ‘circus’ lay between the triclinium and the tower block. Like the ‘hippodrome’ on the Palatine, this was a formal garden, a promenade in the shape of a hippodrome. Access to the tower block was strictly limited to one main staircase from the hippodrome direction. It contains the largest residential rooms of the villa and the only ones with under-floor heating. It also commanded splendid views of Tivoli and the hills behind on one side and to Rome on the other. The east side of the tower block was taken up by a large rectangular pool, surrounded by a colonnade and supported on all four sides by a cryptoporticus, which was also used as a service corridor. These factors suggest that this was the official (winter) residence block of the villa.

The Small Baths were closer to the main palace than the Large Baths and may have been the emperor’s private bathing suite. The intricacy of the architecture suggests that the emperor himself may have had a hand in their planning of them (Figure 8.17). Their layout

Figure 8.17  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Small Baths: plan.

is tortuous, the result of a laboured attempt to make rooms of ingenious shape fit together into a compact whole. Along the east side was a small palaestra flanked to the west by the frigidarium with two rectilinear and two curved sides covered with a cross-vault. Off the rectilinear sides opened two apsed plunges. From there one passed via the tepidarium into a row of hot rooms facing west. To the east of these was a large octagonal domed hall from which the smaller bathing rooms opened. The hall was an architectural tour de force in that each alternate side was convex, an irregularity transmitted from the abutting rooms. However, the result is hardly harmonious, especially the transition from convex wall to the dome.

The Large Baths had a more conventional layout and the spaces had greater clarity and better proportions. There was a large palaestra to the east. The cross-vaulted frigidarium, with its semicircular and rectangular plunges must have been particularly impressive (Figure 8.18). The screen in front of the semicircular plunge has now been restored, as well as its two Ionic columns with cipollino shafts which once supported three semicircular arches in the lunette. To the south of the frigidarium was a heated room whose cross-vault was decorated with extremely delicate stucco reliefs. To the west of the frigidarium was a row of hot rooms including a circular room with big windows facing SW to take advantage of the heat of the afternoon sun.

The Canopus/Serapeum complex may recall buildings the emperor saw during his travels to Egypt (Figure 8.19). The long lake may be based upon the canal from Canopus to Alexandria and the semicircular half-domed Serapeum had a shape similar to the Serapaeum, marked on the Marble Plan of Rome next to the Saepta Julia.14  All around the pool are

Figure 8.18  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Large Baths, frigidarium.

Figure 8.19  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Canopus, and Serapeum: plan.

columns, supporting alternately arches and lintels, in the Syrian fashion (Figure 8.20). The pool was lined with rows of statuary copied from Greek originals, the Amazons, Mars and the Caryatids of the Erechtheum. The half-domed complex is architecturally the most interesting part of the group. It was built against a steeply sloping hillside, and behind was a barrel-vaulted nymphaeum encrusted with pumice and glass mosaic to imitate a grotto. Water reached the building by an aqueduct from the hill above and fountains must have roared in this passageway much as they do today in the nearby Villa d’Este. The aqueduct parted into

Figure 8.20  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Canopus.

two branches carried on the tops of the walls of the back passageway and around the sides of the dome at the level of its springing. Hadrian himself may have had a hand in designing the dome as it is composed of segments alternately of umbrella and domical section. The entire surface was covered with blue and green glass mosaic. Under it was a stadium, a large semicircular masonry couch, of a kind that became popular for outdoor entertaining (Pliny the Younger, 5.6.36). In effect it was a triclinium aestivum or summer dining area, accommodating a dozen or more people, where guests could recline in the midst of an aquatic fantasy. Stadia became common indoors from the late second century and onwards and are illustrated in many catacomb frescoes.

Among the peripheral parts of the villa was the so-called Academy, a large open-air building whose ground plan is reminiscent of the octagonal hall of the small bath. There were also three theatres: the ‘Greek theatre’, the ‘Latin theatre’ and the South theatre. There was a Vale of Tempe and Hadrian even provided himself with an underworld, the Inferi, or entrance to the underworld. Finally, mention must be made of the charming circular Doric temple, based upon the Temple of Aphrodite at Cnidos (Figure 8.21).

The last building of Hadrian was a more unhappy project. He personally planned a large temple of Venus and Rome to stand on a piece of high ground between the Colosseum and the Temple of Peace (Figure 8.22). Its scale was enormous, comparable to that of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Heraeum of Samos. Decastyle and peripteral, it measured 52.5 × 105 meters, making it a perfect double square. Hadrian planned this in the Greek style with the columns resting not upon a high podium, but on a stylobate, albeit of seven steps, but still comparatively low. This was the cause of the famous quarrel between Hadrian and Apollodorus (Dio, 69.4.3–6). Hadrian was already at odds with Apollodorus even when Trajan was alive because he had told him to ‘go away and draw your pumpkins’, presumably

Figure 8.21  Tibur (Tivoli), Hadrian’s Villa, Temple of Aphrodite.

Figure 8.22  Rome, Temple of Venus and Rome, dedicated ad 135 and rebuilt by Maxentius: plan.

the umbrella domes that Hadrian probably took pleasure in when planning his villa at Tivoli. When Hadrian submitted his drawings of the temple of Venus and Rome to Apollodorus to show that ‘it was possible for a great work to be conceived without his help’ the great architect criticized it on the grounds that it should have been higher up and that a hollow space should have been made beneath it to ‘receive the machines’. The machines referred to were perhaps the devices and scenery used in the nearby Colosseum. The emperor was so angry he is said to have had Apollodorus executed (Dio, 69.4.1–5). The entablature, of Proconnesian marble, does not survive in its entirety, although Canina reconstructed it from fragments that he says still survived in his day. His drawings show a two-fascia architrave capped by an astragal, ovolo, and cavetto (Figure 8.23). The frieze is shown as plain and the plain consoles above support a cornice and sima separated by an ovolo. The sima is decorated with palmettes alternating with flame palmettes and lions head spouts. This type of entablature is closely similar to that of the Trajaneum at Pergamum and suggests that Hadrian may have brought in architects from Asia Minor perhaps after his quarrel with Apollodorus.15 This marks the first major break with the orthodox Corinthian order as developed in Rome by the architects of Augustus.

Two other major monuments in Rome had similar features, both finished after Hadrian’s death. One was the Temple of deified Hadrian in the Campus Martius, begun about ad 138– 140 and dedicated in ad 145. Almost a whole side survives, an imposing feature of Piazza di Pietra (Figure 8.24). Like the Temple of Venus and Rome, it had a two-fascia architrave and the cornice was supported by plain consoles instead of modillions, but the frieze in this case was pulvinated. The sima had a similar arrangement of palmettes and lions’ head spouts,

Figure 8.23  Rome, Temple of Venus and Rome, entablature: engraving (Canina).

Figure 8.24  Rome, Piazza di Pietra, Temple of Deified Hadrian, dedicated in ad 145.

suggesting that the same architects must have been at work. The last monument to Hadrian was his Mausoleum (Figure 8.25) built along with its bridge, the Pons Aelius, and completed in ad 139. The Mausoleum of Augustus contained the ashes of Marcellus, Agrippa, Octavia, the sister of Augustus, and of course Augustus himself. It was also the burial place of his wife Livia, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nerva, the last emperor for whom the mausoleum was opened. By the time of Hadrian, the Mausoleum of Augustus was full and a new mausoleum was therefore needed. Hadrian’s mausoleum rested upon a square base, 87 × 87 meters × 10 meters high, originally faced with marble, whose architectural details bear the stamp of Pergamene architects. Above rose the cylindrical superstructure, 64 meters in diameter and 21 meters high constructed of concrete and once faced with Parian marble. Inside, an annular passage climbed a complete circle at a gradient of about 6 degrees up to the tomb chamber, which measured 9 × 8 meters and was exactly in the center of the cylindrical core. The chamber, lit by light wells obliquely cut in the vault and its side walls, was once veneered in marble and contained three arched niches. Many subsequent emperors including Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, Caracalla, and Geta were interred there (Dio, 76.15.4). The top of the mausoleum was covered with earth and crowned by a statue of Hadrian in a four-horse chariot. The solidity of its construction is attested by the fact that it became the chief place of refuge for medieval Popes from the sixth-century ad, and is now known as Castel S. Angelo. However, for the student of Roman architecture, it is still the Mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian and bears a silent witness to Rome at the height of her power.

After Hadrian great building projects were few and far between in Rome. The reasons are not difficult to seek. Apart from the changing status of Rome within the empire, such

Figure 8.25  Rome, Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel St. Angelo) completed in ad 140. In the foreground is the bridge, the Pons Aelius (Ponte St. Angelo), inaugurated in ad 134.

a frenzy of the building had occurred in the capital during the first 150 years of the imperial period and there was little room for new projects. The reign of Antoninus Pius (ad 138–160), conservative but completely confident in the cultural ideals of the Empire, was one of the emperors (starting with Nerva) known as the ‘five good Emperors’.16 He built the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in the Roman Forum, a rather dull and lifeless building, but using the kind of Asiatic detailing which had become standard building practice in the latter part of Hadrian’s reign. The Column of Antoninus Pius was a plain shaft of pink granite, 14.75 meters high, with a statue of the emperor at the top. It was set up by his sons, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus in ad 161 at the edge of Monte Citorio. Its marble base, showing the Apotheosis of Antoninus and Faustina, in the Vatican Museum since 1787, has been described as an example of ‘inflated and pompous official sculpture’.17 The fact is that the Classical orders had little relevance when it came to purely functional projects like the Markets of Trajan or the insulae of Ostia. Just as the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was a monument to the past, so the markets and the insulae pointed to the future. More telling still is the sculpture of the Column of Marcus Aurelius compared to that of Trajan. There were two fewer windings on the sculpted scroll and the relief was higher and thus more visible from below. Also, the pedestal was higher, making the monument as a whole taller. Whereas Trajan’s Column recorded the exact details of the campaign, the Column of Marcus Aurelius was more concerned with the horror and sufferings of war. More alarmingly, by the end of the second-century ad, Rome’s status was being gradually eroded away until soon it became just one of many prosperous cities vying for imperial patronage. In addition, the days of the great campaigns, which had brought in masses of slaves and booty, were over. Never again was Rome to have such opportunities for large-scale looting as she had enjoyed during the late Republic and early Empire. Trajan’s Dacian campaign, which financed his Forum/Markets complex, was Rome’s last great haul. It was so great that the money lasted throughout Hadrian’s reign and provided the apparently limitless resources to build the Pantheon and his architectural extravaganza near Tivoli. With the death of Marcus Aurelius the ‘Golden Age of the Roman Empire’ drew to a close. The phase known as the Late Empire had begun.

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