Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Vibeke Goldbeck, Fora augusta. Das Augustusforum und seine Rezeption im Westen des Imperium Romanum. Eikoniká. Kunstwissenschaftliche Beiträge, 5. Regensburg: Schnell und Steiner, 2015. Pp. 268. ISBN 9783795428785. €74.00.
Reviewed by Karl Galinsky, University of Texas at Austin (
Version at BMCR home site

Publisher's Preview
Architectural and decorative elements from the Forum Augustum were part of the imitatio urbis in various provincial cities especially in the west. Goldbeck's monograph is the first comprehensive survey of the available evidence and offers rich detail with judicious perspectives. No attempt is made to situate the material within the larger scholarly discussion of Romanization, but Goldbeck's thorough study, based on her dissertation, will be an important work of reference and useful information in that context and others. Unsurprisingly, the overall picture is not one of slavish imitation but of considerable adaptation in terms of both individual parts and larger design.
Goldbeck clearly states her aims in the Introduction (Part A), proceeds to give an up-to-date overview of the current state of our knowledge of the Forum of Augustus and its interpretations (Part B), and then devotes the major part of the book to the Rezeption of the forum in the city of Rome, central Italy, Spain and Portugal, France and Switzerland, the North Adriatic region, and North Africa (Part C). Using five clearly defined perspectives she concludes with an assessment of that reception (Part D), followed by an Appendix (Part E) that contains, among other useful items, a tabulation of the sculptural motifs (such as clipei) and architectural elements (e.g., exedrae) found at some forty sites, including their dates and possible connection with the imperial cult. It is an easy sequence to follow in this review also as her book is well organized and free of dissertationese; in addition, the 250 black-and-white illustrations are an excellent resource.
In Part A, Goldbeck concisely surveys the state of previous scholarly work, consisting as it did largely of disiecta fragmenta; other shortcomings have included the tendency to overinterpret especially statuary fragments by generous name calling ("Aeneas" and "Romulus" being obvious favorites) and some imprecise terminology (in contrast, she carefully differentiates between the use of "citation" and "copy"). She then spells out five questions guiding her discussion of the finds at each site: (1) Where do we find examples of a reception of the Augustus Forum? For we need to keep in mind that the evidence, which for the most part does not consist of grand architectural imitation but of sculptural fragments of various sizes, comes from a relatively small number of cities or towns, and the significance of the phenomenon must be viewed within these parameters. The example of Merida has reached iconic status but stands pretty much by itself for its comprehensiveness. (2) Who were the agents? In most cases, concrete details are missing. Unless there is clear epigraphic or other attestation, Goldbeck therefore wisely opts for not engaging in speculation on sponsorship in her discussion of the individual sites, but she returns to the issue in her final assessment.
(3) What was copied/cited/imitated (the German rezipiert includes all of these variants)? Most of the material consists of adaptations of motifs—clipei lead the way with 25 total—and the sensible and important distinction Goldbeck introduces is the one between formal characteristics and programmatic content.
(4) At what point in time did the reception occur? Were there different phases of intensity in the early principate?
(5) What purpose(s) did the reception serve? In what instances were individual motifs, or groups of motifs, adopted? In what kind of ensemble did they function?
Goldbeck reprises these questions in Part D, following her analysis of the individual finds and sites, in order to provide a concluding overview.
Given the many layers and aspects of the Forum Augustum and the resulting multiple interpretations, Goldbeck's decision to offer an up-to-date summary makes excellent sense (Part B). She concisely discusses its several components—such as the Temple of Mars Ultor, the sculptural decorations of the porticoes, and the gallery of summi viri—obviously not at the same length as Spannagel but adding her own accents.1 Inter alia she rejects the connection with the relief in Algiers, accepts the existence of a smaller second set of exedrae while rejecting their reconstruction as part of a basilica, and opts for Divus Iulius as the occupant of the Sala del Colosso.2 Particularly valuable is her emphasis on virtus and pietas as the two primary conceptual themes of the Forum. Unbeknownst to many interpreters of the Aeneid, for instance, pietas is closely linked with ultio and Goldbeck sees the korai, too, as emblems of pietas. It is not surprising then, I might add, that in view of the programmatic importance of pietas in his Forum Augustus readily deaccessioned (i.e. razed) the existing Temple of Pietas in the Circus Flaminius and rebuilt it, if it was rebuilt at all, on a minimal scale.3
The detailed discussion and analysis of the sites and their finds constitutes the bulk of Goldbeck's study (Part C). It is thoroughly informative without being tediously exhaustive and we are dealing with more than a catalogue raisonné as Goldbeck introduces each venue (except for the five examples in Rome itself) with a summary of the historical and other background, which helps with contextualization. She also concludes with a summary for each geographic section; even within each one of these, the bandwidth of borrowing and adaptation varies. A few major examples:
1. City of Rome: no dominating form of reception; the most extensive instance, is, of course, the Forum Traiani.
2. Central Italy, including Pompeii and Arezzo: with the exception of the Temple of Mars Ultor, all motifs recur, in a variety of adaptations. An unusual highlight is the gallery of summi viri in Arezzo who, to judge from the extant elogia, are identical to those in Rome though they were represented in the form of herms. One reason for following the Roman model so closely may be the early date, which the summi viri at Arezzo share with most of the other sculptures in this geographic group, with the possible exception of Pompeii.
3. Spain and Portugal. For good reason, the discussion of the five sites in this area is the most extensive in the book. With its two fora and numerous remains of sculptures modeled on those in the Forum Augustum, Merida is the well-known cynosure whose many aspects have been extensively explored and published. With a good eye for both formal and conceptual aspects Goldbeck does an excellent job especially of explaining the nature of the sculptural adaptations. The korai, for instance, lose their pietas character and simply become a decorative support motif (Stützmotiv); we can add that this is an early example of a wider process, documented especially for the second and third centuries, albeit in a different context. 4 As for the summi viri, it is just about certain that Aeneas and Romulus were represented and probably some of the mythical kings, too, but Goldbeck refrains from speculating about the identity of other togate statues that may well have been those of local dignitaries on the model of Tarraco, where they are attested by epigraphic evidence. 5 Good attention is also paid to the characteristics of the workshops: some follow practices in Rome more closely. In the case of Merida, we have evidence for masons from Italy; others are regional. Overall, the phenomenon is "a continuing and creative process of adoption and adaptation of models from (the city of) Rome" (p. 93).
Nor was this phenomenon limited to the provincial capitals of Tarraco, Emerita, and Corduba. The pertinent finds, though sparse, at ancient Carmona (today's Carmo), lead Goldbeck to opine that it "ultimately may apply to all ancient cities" (p. 94). That may be a somewhat extravagant assumption, but we can readily surmise that various receptions of the Forum Augustum extended beyond the currently available evidence.
4. France and Switzerland. Again there are five sites where the finds can be securely linked to models from the Forum Augustum; Goldbeck also briefly discusses others (e.g. Nîmes and Augst) for which such claims have been made on an insufficient basis. Arles with its forum and exedrae and Vienne are the most prominent examples of comprehensive and creative borrowing, but even at Arles there is no attempt to replicate the total ensemble of the Forum Augustum. Instead, individual components are adapted and used in various ways, which is true of the Rezeption of the Augustan Forum in general. Also, as throughout her study, Goldbeck critically reviews and corrects previous assumptions which, in these cases, have been made about both the configuration of sites (a good example is Gros' reconstruction of the forum at Viennes) and their relation to others in the region in terms of possibly shared sculptural trends.
5. North Adriatic region: the only motif that is found, though in all seven cities (Aquileia and Pola are the major ones), is protomes with the heads of Ammon and Medusa, with only two clear cases of occurrence in the context of a forum. Still, they obviously set a trend that extended to coloniae, such as Celeia (Celje in today's Slovenia) and Iader (Zadar in Croatia).
6. North Africa: direct influence on finds in Carthage cannot be ascertained. The only other instance is Leptis Magna where the reshaping of clipei and other sculptural forms is considerable as they date from Severan times.
In the final part (D) of the text portion of the book, Goldbeck presents a concise analysis of her findings under the rubrics of the five questions listed at the beginning. I have interspersed some of these throughout my review and there is no need to be repetitive. I recommend this section of the book for quick orientation; it is clear that her holistic perspective alone greatly improves our knowledge of the phenomenon. The book certainly is a model of how such a study of Rezeption should be carried out and some of its methodologies, mutatis mutandis, can be usefully considered for reception studies in other fields, too.

1.   M. Spannagel. Exemplaria Principis. Untersuchungen zur Entstehung und Ausstattung des Augustusforums (Heidelberg 1999).
2.   Not discussed is the provocative but closely argued suggestion by A. J. Droge that the Temple had no cult statue: "Finding his Niche: On the 'Autoapotheosis' of Augustus," MAAR 56/57 [2011/2012] 85-112.
3.   See E. Orlin, "Augustan Reconstruction and Roman Memory," in K. Galinsky, ed., Memory in Ancient Rome and Early Christianity (Oxford 2016) 131-2 and my Todd Memorial Lecture Memory and Forgetting in the Age of Augustus (University of Sydney, Dept. of Classics Publications, 2016), in press.
4.   H. von Hesberg, "Stützfiguren im 2. und 3. Jh. n. Chr.: Spiele mit der Tradition," in O. Cordovana and M. Galli, eds., Arte e memoria culturale nell'età della Seconda Sofistica (Catania 2007) 67-77.
5.   See J. Shaya, "The Public Life of Monuments: The Summi Viri of the Forum of Augustus," AJA 117 (2013) 103-4 with further documentation.

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