Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Response: Tucci on Santangeli Valenzani on Tucci, The Temple of Peace in Rome. Response to 2018.11.05

Response by Pier Luigi Tucci (pigitucci@hotmail.com)

Version at BMCR home site

Santangeli Valenzani's review is unfair especially in making a number of incorrect and often incoherent criticisms and never addressing my major points. In particular, he has a recurrent objection regarding the title of my book, which suggests to him that it is 'a complete picture' and 'a complete treatise' on 'the state of the art of the Templum Pacis.' Although he cites the subtitles of my two volumes—Art and Culture in Imperial Rome and Remodelings, Conversions, Excavations—he forgets them immediately and reiterates his criticism on the title as a mantra; yet, these are precisely the themes I explore in my book, which I never present as a monograph on the Temple of Peace. Putting aside the minor issue of the book's objectionable title, let me address the few specific criticisms he makes.

1. The reviewer thinks that 'the title of part V (The Templum Pacis in the Middle Ages) is completely misleading seeing that the whole [second] volume deals exclusively with one of the halls that made up the monument—the one converted in the 6th century into the church dedicated to SS. Cosmas and Damian—which actually constitutes only a small part of the entire Templum Pacis.' In fact, the second volume begins with the 'metamorphosis' of the halls of the Templum Pacis located next to the Sacra Via, from their 4th-century remodelling (ch. 9-10) to their conversion into a Christian basilica (ch. 11-12). I begin part V (ch. 13-15) with a summary of the transformations of the square of the Templum Pacis relying on a report by the reviewer himself (p. 636 n. 25 and p. 681 n. 1; see also p. 492 n. 1 for the commercial structure and p. 734 n. 3 for the cemetery), despite his claim that the events 'that occurred in the area of the old Forum … are practically never cited nor even fleetingly mentioned.' In chapter 16 I follow Renaissance antiquarians and looters at work in the Templum Pacis and I comment on the discovery of the Forma Urbis in 1562. Ch. 17 deals with the urbanization of the whole area in the early-17th century, which allows to date ad annum the modern walls excavated by the reviewer. Ch. 18 sheds light on the demolition of the side walls of the basilica under Urban VIII, the archival records of which contribute to the identification of the Domitianic library hall. Ch. 19 examines Tocco's excavation in the hall of the Forma Urbis (1867) and, among many other trenches, a test trench in the square. Finally, ch. 20 covers the 20th-century excavations beneath the monastery that brought to light the rear side of the portico, many column shafts and even a Corinthian capital. Therefore, how can the reviewer conclude that 'a much more correct and truthfully accurate title' would be 'The Transformations of the Church of SS. Cosmas and Damian'?

2. The reviewer claims that 'in some cases the book has already been outdated by the results of the latest research, particularly in the cult-room,' where 'studies conducted on the podium of the statue of Pax have revealed a complex sequence characterized by three phases of gradual structural enlargement … Likewise, the analyses of the architectural decorations are irremediably surpassed by the study of hundreds of marble fragments.' But he undercuts his criticism in the next sentence: 'Naturally these lacunae cannot be attributed to Tucci.' Further, the new evidence simply confirms my guess that the Severan podium could hide or replace a pre- existing Flavian phase (p. 117) because of its similarity with the Domitianic T-shaped podium inside the temple of Via delle Botteghe Oscure (p. 439 n. 5).1 In general, the latest finds corroborate my 'theory' that either Vespasian and Domitian wished to emulate Augustus.2

3. The reviewer complains 'Tucci's theories are always voiced without the minimum doubt.' In fact, I say 'in my view' six times in the first two chapters (pp. 21, 22, 30, 34, 87, 99) and I repeat this, or something similar, many other times in the rest of the work.

4. As for my comments on the plan of the sewer system 'on the sole basis of a photograph' that I took outside of the site enclosure (which does not make the photograph inaccurate), BMCR readers may wish to know that I visited the excavation and, instead of a sewer, I noticed huge Republican walls (depicted in the same photo [Fig. 5]) that are still missing from the reports and plans published to date. Moreover, I wrote that the plan is 'conjectural,' not 'unreliable,' because most of the sewer system is still buried.

5. Santangeli Valenzani criticizes my presumed 'acritical use of false news spread by the press' during the reconstruction of seven columns in 2015, 'without ever citing the publications of those responsible for the work.' I am afraid that he overlooked p. 44 and the endnotes 116-117, 121, 125-126, 128-129, 133 (at pp. 422-424), in which I not only cite and quote those authors but I also comment on their statements.3

6. The reviewer ends by regretting he cannot 'discuss in detail the different theories' which he says 'are always articulated in a thorough and detailed manner, in some cases argued with objective forms of evidence' and then says that 'other conjectures are contradictory, and in the absence of certain proof, it is impossible to reach some form of definitive conclusion.' So, the reviewer can spend 500 words on my 'misleading' title but has no time to discuss my thoroughly articulated theories which he admits are based on actual evidence, or even the ones that are 'contradictory' (whatever that means) and impossible to prove for certain, or the ones where my reasoning is 'not particularly convincing.'

7. In the latter case, the reviewer's only attempt to discuss my theories is a failure. He claims that I support 'a decorative and symbolic function' of the Forma Urbis: in fact, I have always dismissed the former, in previous articles and in my book (pp. 126-154 and especially p. 152, where my proposed 'triumphal / celebrative / symbolic / religious' function of the marble plan is opposed to a 'decorative' or 'practical' one). He says that I give 'a long digression' on maps being used as Fascist propaganda 'which demonstrates the exact opposite of what is argued,' but does not say what 'the exact opposite' is or how a 'digression' can be part of an argument. In fact I argue that public marble plans, from antiquity to Fascist Italy, were actual 'monuments' and I conclude that the Forma Urbis might have had a religious significance—a point missed by the reviewer.4


1.   In 2014 the podium of Pax was believed to be entirely Severan in date, whereas the latest investigations brought to light a Domitianic phase characterized by a podium that recalls, so the excavators say, precisely that of the temple of Via delle Botteghe Oscure: A. Coletta, F. Montella, in Roma Universalis. 2018. Eds. A. D'Alessio, C. Panella, R . Rea. Milan: Electa, p. 180.
2.   As regards the architectural decorations, once it has been established that the capitals of the cella featured cornucopiae and bucrania, it makes no difference whether the relevant fragments are ten or one hundred, considering that I discuss the religious character of that unusual, open cella and its relationship with the Ara Pacis Augustae. The identification of three fragments of a clipeus different from those of the Forums of Augustus and Trajan—cf. P. Pensabene, F. Caprioli, in Roma Universalis. 2018. Eds. A. D'Alessio, C. Panella, R . Rea. Milan: Electa, p. 215 n. 12—is particularly welcome, because it confirms the existence of my proposed attic story.
3.   Three articles that reiterate the preliminary information appeared too late to be cited: see BullCom 115 (2014, but published in late 2016), RendPontAcc 89 (2016-2017) and Roma Universalis. 2018. Eds. A. D'Alessio, C. Panella, R . Rea. Milan: Electa.
4.   The reviewer says that the debate on the function of the Forma Urbis is 'one of those classic ongoing controversies in which it will be impossible to reach generally shared conclusions'; however, it should suffice to read my pp. 143-144 to realize that for many scholars (including the present writer) the debate is closed.

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