Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Now a Rome 'blog...

I forgot to mention sooner that the Cranky Professor may now be numbered among the Rome 'blogs as he's spending a semester here with some of his students. His post of today has a fascinating assignment which will help them get to grips with the ever-present historical character of the Eternal City.
The professor himself gave a presentation concerning one of my own favourite relics of pre-Christian Rome:
I did a demonstration by taking them around the corner from the Campo dei fiori to look at what modern Rome has made of the foundations of the Theater of Pompey. Click and enlarge at point A on the map - look at the semicircles of streets and blocks . . . those rise up on the form of the theater, a semicircle of concentric and radial lines of masonry. There is almost nothing left of the building (unless you go in a few restaurants and certainly some cellars), but the ghost of the building still shows. The straight streets to the right (east) of the semicircle represents the side walls of the very large courtyard attached to the theater - which allowed patrons to stroll in gardens between acts or between plays. Pompey built the first permanent theater in Rome in 60 BCE - something which always surprises me. Plautus (died 185 BCE) and Terence (died 158) would have played only in temporary theaters, or on one of the flat spaces at the Forum Romanum! Pompey's innovation was to introduce a permanent building on the Greek model (sort of) to the City, which at least shows Roman assimilation of Greek institutions and almost certainly should be understood as Roman triumphalism, especially when combined with the decorative statuary Pompey certainly imported as well. Oh, and Julius Caesar was assassinated here, which allowed me a second link to the Forum tour last week.

One of my favourite theories about Roman history is that Pompey managed to circumvent the prohibition on building permanent theatres within the city walls by designating the structure as a temple rather than a theatre. Officially speaking, the fact that this temple just happened to serve very well as a theatre was a happy coincidence. ;)

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