Architectural Restoration and the Concept of Built Heritage in Imperial Rome
Siwicki, Christopher Stephen
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
An 18 month embargo to enable publication of the research elsewhere
This study examines the practice of restoring public buildings in ancient Rome and attendant attitudes towards them in order to develop an understanding of the Roman concept of built heritage. Drawing on a combination of archaeological and textual evidence and focusing primarily on six decades from the Great Fire of AD 64 to the AD 120s, a period of dramatic urban transformation and architectural innovation, it explores the ways in which individual structures and the cityscape as a whole was rebuilt. With specific reference to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, it is shown how buildings developed through successive reconstructions and that the prevailing approach was to modernise the aesthetic and materiality of structures, rather than to restore them to their original appearance. Furthermore, by recognising the importance of religion as a potential agent in the restoration process, a new interpretation of the exceptional treatment of the casa Romuli is proposed. With the intention of uncovering attitudes to built heritage in society more widely, the study goes beyond analysing the physical treatment of buildings to consider also how changes to the urban fabric were received by those who experienced them firsthand. Through examining descriptions of destruction and restoration in literature of the period, particularly in the works of Seneca the Younger, Pliny the Elder, Martial and Tacitus, an insight is gained into the ways that Rome’s inhabitants responded to the redevelopment of their historic built environment. This thesis argues for a Roman concept of built heritage that is dramatically different from many modern ideas on the subject. The findings question the extent to which the historical value and identity of a structure resided in its physicality, and demonstrates that the Roman concern for historic buildings did not equate to preservation of historic architecture.
PhD in Classics