Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Interactive Nolli Map Project

I was so excited to read the local paper that described a research project right here at my own University where a group of Architecture professors collaborated with cartographers and computer graphics specialist to product an online, interactive map of Rome based on the Nolli map of 1748.

"The 1748 Nolli map of Rome, regarded by scholars and cartographers as one of the most important historical documents of the city, serves to geo-reference a vast body of information to better understand the Eternal City and its key role in shaping Western Civilization. The Nolli Map Web Site introduces students to Rome and the structure of its urban form; it illustrates the evolution of the city over time; and it reveals diverse factors that determined its development. Above all the Nolli Web Site is intended to provide a vehicle for students and teachers around the world to explore and facilitate creative thought.

Giambattista Nolli (1701-1756) was an architect and surveyor who lived in Rome and devoted his life to documenting the architectural and urban foundations of the city. The fruit of his labor, La Pianta Grande di Roma ("the great plan of Rome") is one of the most revealing and artistically designed urban plans of all time. The Nolli map is an ichnographic plan map of the city, as opposed to a bird?s eye perspective, which was the dominant cartographic representation style prevalent before his work. He was not only one of the first people to construct an ichnographic map of Rome, but his perspective has been copied ever since.
The map depicts the city in astonishing detail. Nolli accomplished this by using scientific surveying techniques, careful base drawings, and minutely prepared engravings. The map?s graphic representations include not only a precise architectural scale, but also a prominent compass rose, with both magnetic north and astronomical north carefully noted. The Nolli map is the first accurate map of Rome since antiquity and captures the city at the height of its cultural and artistic achievements. The historic center of Rome has changed little over the last 250 years; therefore, the Nolli map remains one of the best sources for understanding the contemporary city.

In the last half of the 20th century a renewed interest in the map by architects and urban designers has flourished and led to new urban theories that present a model for the study of all cities and their urban patterns. The intention of this website is to both reveal the historical significance of the map and the principles of urban form that may influence city design in the future.

Features of the Nolli Map

The Nolli map consists of twelve exquisitely engraved copper plates that measure approximately six feet high and seven feet wide when combined (176 cm by 208 cm). The map includes almost eight square miles of the densely built city as well as the surrounding terrain. It also identifies nearly two thousand sites of cultural significance. Nolli?s map is an extraordinary technical achievement that represents a milestone in the art and science of cartography. Modern surveys and sophisticated satellite images have confirmed the accuracy of Nolli?s map within the very smallest margin of error. The map not only records the streets, squares and public urban spaces of Rome, but Nolli carefully renders hundreds of building interiors by way of detailed plans. The detail of the map representation ensures the map's continuing value as a unique historical document, and it gives the viewer a glimpse into the ancient metropolitan center during one of its most illustrious periods.

Key Features of the Web Site

The website features a digitally mastered, high resolution interactive Nolli map, designed for broadband connections. The Map Engine may be accessed from any page of the website, allowing you to navigate through the city at a variety of scales. Using the Map Engine, the user can pan in any direction and zoom in or out from the macro-scale of the city to the micro-scale of the building. Layers have been created to focus on particular topics, for example " gardens.? The layers in this first edition will be updated and expanded to include many more topics. The topics that will be added include topographic and hydrographic information, specific building types, and census data by Rioni. Layers may be turned on and off, and blended with map below to provide for the best viewing conditions."

Check it out!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Magic in Roman Law

by James B. Rives

As Book 4 of The Aeneid draws to its climax, Dido begins to make plans for her
self-immolation and enlists her sister?s help with the preparations. In order to hide
from Anna the true significance of her requests, she explains that she has found
a way either to get Aeneas back or to loosen the hold of love: a female sacerdos of
the Massylii can by means of carmina free her mind from cares. But before giving
Anna her instructions, Dido makes a short but emotional apology: ?Dear sister,
I call the gods to witness, and you and your sweet life, that unwillingly do I resort
to magical arts? (Aen. 4.492?93). An innocent reader might wonder why she
feels the need to apologize in this way.

The ancient commentator Servius, writingprobably in the early fifth century ??, provides a plausible answer: ?because, although the Romans adopted many rites (sacra), they always condemned those of magic (semper magica damnarunt); for that reason she excuses herself? (ad
Aen. 4.493). Since Servius was writing as an ancient grammaticus, concerned above all with the linguistic exposition of his text for young students, it is not surprising that his comment is somewhat lacking in nuance. It is not, however, inapposite: if we understand that both the author and his readers condemned magical rites, a character who was meant to appear sympathetic would naturally express shame at recourse to them.

Nor did Servius? observation lack historical basis. By using the verb damnare,
with its strong legal connotations, Servius almost certainly meant to suggest that
sacra magica were not merely improper but actually illegal. At the time that he
was writing, this was indeed the case.1 Moreover, Servius had good reason to
believe that it had in fact ?always? been the case, for he knew of a law from
the XII Tables, the ancient compilation of Roman laws written some eight and
a half centuries before, that concerned a specific magical rite. Commenting on the
second half of Vergil?s eighth Eclogue, a poem in which a young girl attempts
by ritual means to bring her lover back from town, he elucidates her claim that
certain herbae and venena can be used to transfer crops from one field to another
(Ecl. 8.99) by remarking that ?this came about by means of certain magical arts;
hence in the XII Tables there is the clause ?nor entice the crop of others.??2 It
was therefore with some justification that he could assert that the Romans had
?always? condemned magical rites.

The Two Republicae of the Roman Stoics: Can a Cosmopolite be a Patriot?

By Lisa Hill

"Marcus Aurelius argued in the Meditations that ?since we are all rational
beings so the law which governs us must be universal ? we are all fellow
citizens and share a common citizenship ? the world is a single city? (Marcus
Aurelius, 1964). Epictetus recalls the famous story of Socrates who, when asked
to which country he belonged, refused to say ?I am an Athenian? or ?I am a
Corinthian? but replied: ?I am a citizen of the universe? (Epictetus, (1989). Our
species is by nature social and ?fellowship? is the end for which all ?rational?
creatures exist (Stanton, 1968, pp. 187?188). It is our duty, Cicero tells us, ?to
respect, defend, and maintain the common bonds of union and fellowship
subsisting between all members of the human race? (Cicero, 1990)."

The Heroic Age: Lucius Artorius Castus

by Linda A. Malcor

The Heroic Age: Lucius Artorius Castus: "While some scholars over the last century have tried to derive the name 'Arthur' from Celtic sources, such attempts at etymology have yielded unsatisfactory results.11 Zimmer (1890:785 ff.) was the first scholar to propose that the name 'Arthur' actually derived from the Roman gens nomen 'Artorius,' and many modern scholars have followed his lead.12 Although most scholars claim that the name 'Arthur' is unattested in Britain prior to the late-sixth century, there was one notable exception: Lucius Artorius Castus, who lived and fought in Britain in the late second-century.

Prior to the writing of the Historia Brittonum, the name 'Arthur' started cropping up among late-sixth-century and seventh-century Irish immigrants to Wales and Scotland (Green 1999; Ziegler 1999). Padel (1994:24) suggested that the reason the name Arthur did not appear in Britain prior to the use by the Irish was because the name was regarded 'with exceptional awe' by the Britons, while the Irish 'when they came into contact with the folklore as a result of their settlements in western Britain, need not have felt such reverence or reluctance' and so had no taboo against the use of the name. This hypothesis certainly fits the pattern for legend transmission as we know it in Britain.13 That so many people would suddenly start naming sons 'Arthur' and making comments such as 'although he was no Arthur' (the infamous reference to Arthur in Y Gododdin, ca. 600), indicates that the cycle of legend was no longer in its simple formative stage but rather at a point that the core stories were so well known that Arthur's name had become proverbial in its usage.14

Yet the name 'Arthur' is not the only onomastic parallel between Arthur and Castus. The Historia Brittonum (ca. 800),15 which was probably compiled by, rather than written by, Nennius, has the dubious honor of being the oldest work to record legends of Arthur.16 As such, this text is important for estab"

Friday, July 08, 2005

Biography of Titus Labienus, Caesar?s Lieutenant in Gaul

Wm. Blake Tyrrell
Distinguished Professor of Classics
Michigan State University

The primary interest that scholars have in the life of Titus Labienus concerns his reasons for leaving Caesar after his service in Gaul to Caesar during the near-decade of the fifties. In January 49 B.C.E., Labienus crossed to Caesar?s enemies. Historians usually followed Dio Cassius (41.4.4) in attributing his departure to pride and frustrated ambition. Since the appearance in 1938 of Ronald Syme's "The Allegiance of T. Labienus" in the Journal of Roman Studies, scholars have generally accepted his view that Labienus thus made manifest an allegiance to Pompey that he had held from the outset. Syme's explanation has made Labienus the touchstone, as it were, upon whom rests the validity of prosopographical study of Roman politics. This assumption imparts to Labienus?s departure a significance for modern scholars apart from the act itself. Syme bases his interpretation upon Labienus's birth in Cingulum in Picenum where Pompey's family had extensive estates and a large following and upon Labienus's cooperation with agents of Pompey during his tribunate in 63 B.C.E. This biography of Labienus assumes that personal and hereditary ties served, not dictated, Labienus's policies and concludes that other motives than those proposed by Syme
caused Labienus to leave Caesar rather than go to Pompey.

The Calculus of Conquest: The Spoils of War and the Evolution of the Roman Republic

Previous authors have analyzed the State as a tax-maximizing corporate entity. The historian Edward Gibbon (1776) treated the Roman state as maximizing the returns from warfare when he described the role that increasing costs and declining benefits had in shaping Roman history. Gibbon, though, undoubtedly drew his analysis from the statements of Caesar Augustus himself, who likened conquests to fishing with a golden fishhook, where the expected payoff had to be measured against the risk (Starr, 1982:19). 4

In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Gibbon (1984:1) wrote:

The seven first centuries were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs; but it was reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils. Inclined to peace by his temper and situation, it was easy for him to discover that Rome, in her present exalted situation, had much less to hope than to fear from the chance of arms; and that, in the prosecution of remote wars, the undertaking became every day more difficult, the event more doubtful, and the possession more precarious, and less beneficial. (italics added) Gibbon presented a marginal economic analysis of territorial expansion, a theory of the "optimal" level of conquests, approximately 100 years ahead of marginal analysis in economics. Almost all necessary ingredients of a modern economic theory of conquests are included here, with rising marginal costs of conquests, falling marginal benefits and even falling probabilities of success. The rising marginal costs and the falling marginal benefits are due primarily to the natural heterogeneity of the world and the logistical problems of conquest and control over greater distances from the home base. The potential conquests were at different distances from Rome, had different amounts and types of wealth to be taken, and had varying degrees of military capability. With wars fought for gain, the first countries to be invaded were those with great wealth, those nearby and those that were relatively weak. Once those were defeated, the remaining countries were obviously less profitable.

While Gibbon?s calculus of conquests presents an excellent explanation of the end of Rome?s expansion, Gibbon does not examine how these benefits and costs affected individual decision makers. In this paper, the familiar social vs. private costs and benefits approach helps to explain Roman expansion and the very costly transitional civil wars.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Jerash once again alive with Roman Gladiators

"After a 2,000-year lull, games have again hit the sands of Jordan's famed Roman-ruin city of Jerash, 30 miles north of the capital, Amman, as a group of Jordanian investors and a Swedish history buff are re-creating gladiator matches and chariot racing at Jerash's 2nd Century hippodrome.

In 1806 Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, a German traveller, came upon ruins that he thought might be those of an ancient city buried under centuries of sand. It was in 1925 that excavations began on the site and as layer upon layer of civilisation were revealed, a well-preserved Greco-Roman city began to emerge.

Jerash rose from the rubble, awakened from its long repose ? its ancient city walls enclosing colonnaded paved streets with chariot tracks worn in the original stone, a dramatic oval plaza defined by a colonnade of Ionic columns, a complex of baths, theatres, the temples of Dionysus, Artemis and Zeus, and a superb hippodrome."