Before "Antiquity"

Petrarch and Boccaccio

The Landscape of Ancient Rome

The Landscape of Antiquity

The Inhabitants of Antiquity






The Landcape of Ancient Rome


uctores vetustissimi

Annio da Viterbo, Auctores vetustissimi

Urbis Romae topographia

Bartolomeo Marliani, Urbis Romae topographia

De ludis circensibus

Onofrio Panvinio, De ludis circensibus

One project initiated by Petrarch that his successors adopted with particular zeal was the reconstruction of the landscape of ancient Rome. Whereas the Nuremberg Chronicle had shown the old monuments intermingled with the new, antiquarians began to imagine the pure form of the pre-Christian city. These depictions provided a context within which to fit individual artifacts, events, and customs. Rome became the first capital of antiquity; not until the 18th century would it be rivaled by Athens.

The pioneering scholar of the topography of ancient Rome was Flavio Biondo (1392-1463), whose Roma instaturata, based on texts and material remains, was the first comprehensive guide to the buildings of the ancient city. Biondo's book was not illustrated. One of the first printed depictions of the ancient city was essayed by a Dominican friar, Annio da Viterbo (1432-1502). Annio was an inventor in every sense of the word. His Auctores vetustissimi was an anthology of seventeen purportedly classical texts, all of which he had written himself. Annio's map of Rome as founded by Romulus is a loose interpretation of one of his own forgeries. It prominently features "Vicus Tuscus," the home of the Etruscans whom Annio and his fellow Viterbans claimed as their ancestors.

At first glance, both later maps shown here, the first from a guidebook by Bartolomeo Marliani (d. 1560), and the second from a treatise by Onofrio Panvinio (1530-1568), represent extraordinary advances over Annio's crude sketch. Indeed, a great deal of archaeological activity during the 16th century contributed to a more sophisticated understanding of the remains of ancient Rome. But in one important respect, Annio's map may be considered the more accurate: it shows the city as imagined at a specific moment in history, whereas Marliani's and Panvinio's are composites of all the Roman "antiquities," regardless of their dates. The "ancient Rome" depicted in these later maps is a modern invention that had never existed at any one point in antiquity.


[Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections]