Saturday, May 30, 2015



Erected for Pharaoh Ramses II (1297/1213 BC) and his son Mineptah at Heliopolis in Egypt in about 1250 BC

It is 23.30 m (76 feet) high

It was brought to Rome by Augustus and placed in the center of the Circus Maximus in 10 BC
The inscription still on the base remembers the dedication of the obelisk that Augustus made to the Sun

It was found in 1587 at the center of the Circus Maximus broken in three and it was restored and moved to Piazza del Popolo by Domenico Fontana (1543/1607) in 1589 for Sixtus V Peretti (1585/90)

When it was moved to Piazza del Popolo an inscription was engraved on the side facing the church of S. Maria del Popolo in opposition to the Augustan one: “Most august and more glad I rise before the sacred temple of her virginal womb from which during the reign of Augustus the Sun of Justice was born”

It was decorated in 1823 with the basins and the fake Egyptian lions by Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839) who replaced the previous fountain by Giacomo Della Porta

Friday, May 29, 2015



Built for the pharaoh Ramses II (1297/1213 BC) at Heliopolis in Egypt in about 1280 BC

It was taken to Rome in the first century BC to decorate probably the driveway of the Iseo Campensis, the temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis

It was found in 1883 in Via Beato Angelico precisely in the area where the Temple of Isis used to stand
The monument was designed by Francesco Azzurri (1831/1901) and it was erected in 1887

It was located, in the first place, in front of the Termini Train Station and it was moved in the current location in 1925

It is dedicated to the 548 Italian soldiers killed in Dogali, Eritrea on January 26, 1887 after whom the nearby Piazza dei Cinquecento is named

In 1936 after the colonial conquest of Ethiopia a bronze statue of a “Lion of Judah”, the Ethiopian national symbol, was placed at its base. It was returned after the war

Wednesday, May 27, 2015




1575 designed by Giacomo Della Porta (1533/1602) and sculpted by Leonardo Sormani (before 1530/after 1589) in gray African marble

The dolphins have been installed during the restoration of 1880


Obelisk of Ramses II (1297/1213 BC) dating back to about 1250 BC (the time of Moses!) from the nearby Iseo Campense, the temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis

It was moved here from its original location in Piazza S. Macuto, about 200 m (650 feet) away, and it was placed over the fountain in 1711 by Filippo Barigioni (about 1680/1753) for Clement XI Albani (1700/21)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015



Two marble giants “Castor and Pollux keeping two horses at bay” (or maybe, according to some scholars, two statues both representing Alexander the Great) from the nearby Baths of Constantine (306/337), Roman copies of Greek originals of the fifth century BC

The Quirinal Hill took the popular name of Monte Cavallo from these gigantic statues

In 1589 Sixtus V Peretti (1585/90) had them restored and moved to the center of the square

In 1786 Pius VI Braschi (1775/99) had them rotated by Giovanni Antinori (1734/92) who also erected the Obelisk of the Mausoleum of Augustus which, with its twin now behind S. Maria Maggiore, used to stand at the entrance of the Mausoleum where it was found in 1527

It is 14.63 m (48 feet) high and, with the base, 28.94 m (95 feet)

The material is the red granite of Aswan and, considering the lack of inscriptions, it is believed to have been carved in the same first century AD when it was brought to Rome

In 1818 Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23) had Raffaele Stern (1774/1820) to design a new fountain with a basin taken from the Roman Forum known at the time as Campo Vaccino, field of the cows

Sunday, May 24, 2015



594/589 BC, erected for Psammetichus II at Heliopolis in Egypt

It was transported to Rome by order of Augustus (27 BC/14) who placed it in 10 BC in a square of about 160 x 75 m (525 x 246 feet) in the Campus Martius (north of Parliament Square) as the sundial gnomon

It measures 22 meters (72 feet)
With base and globe with papal coat of arms it measures 29 m (95 feet)

Augustus took the advice of astronomers and mathematicians from Alexandria including Facondo Novio

It was an instrument for measuring time located on a square divided into a pattern of bronze rules, but also a monument to the sun, to the stars and to the golden Augustan aetas, the golden age of Augustus
It fell in the ninth century and it was restored in 1792 with pieces from the Column of Antoninus Pius (138/161) of red granite and moved in Piazza Montecitorio by Giovanni Antinori (1734/92) at the behest of Pius VI Braschi (1775/99)

The Column of Antoninus Pius had been accidentally destroyed during the transport organized by Francesco Fontana in 1705 from the nearby garden of monks in which it had been found in Piazza Montecitorio

In 1998, a renovation of the square by Franco Zagari (1945) reinstated the visibility of the sundial

“The elegant topography is reconstructed as it was before the change made by Ernesto Basile at the beginning of the century, reconstructing a 'peacock's tail' similar to the original by Carlo Fontana, the point of culmination of an upward momentum of no less than four meters from the back of the piazza to the entrance of the building (part of the 'monte'). This reintroduces a counter-movement to the curvature of the palace by Bernini and Fontana, which is the essential key of the Baroque conception of the square. The project makes visible the sophisticated reuse of the obelisk as a sundial (...): a line on the ground allows to read the 'true noon' (astronomical), when sunlight passes through a hole of the spheroid on the top and makes a hole of light in the shadow on the ground” (Franco Zagari Web Site -

An inscription on the base of the obelisk erroneously attributes it to Pharaoh Sesostris

There are two other Augustan inscriptions: the conquest of Egypt, and the dedication to the sun
Every September 23, the birthday of Augustus, the shadow of the tip coincided with the entry of the Ara Pacis

Every April 21, the birthday of Rome, one of the sides of the obelisk perfectly aligned with the rising sun

Saturday, May 23, 2015



1937/59 Arturo Dazzi (1881/1966)

It was built in reinforced concrete, 45 m (148 feet) high

92 panels in Carrara marble with “Guglielmo Marconi achievements, and other allegorical scenes”
Guglielmo Marconi (1874/1937) in 1895 invented the radio, or more precisely, the wireless telegraphy using radio waves

Although other scientists of his time as the Serbian-born American Nikola Tesla or the Russian Alexander Stepanovič Popov conducted similar experiments in the same years, Marconi's experiments were the first to prompt applications of practical use and commercial scale

“Because of the war Dazzi worked with numerous interruptions on the truncated pyramid stele, until in 1952, at the height of a crisis of dissatisfaction, he broke all the plasterboards. Once he was given the job back for the involvement of the Marconi family, he began all alone, even without the help of a rough-hewer, and he completed the work in 1957. He drew the figures in charcoal on the marble rocks, then lowering the bottom plate in order to bring out the contour line. The representation, divided into 'Songs' - the 'Joy', the 'Dance', the 'Harvest', the 'Flood' and so on - celebrates the universality of the medium that unites all peoples of the world, including even animals. It is as one of the great medieval encyclopedias interpreted, however, with a completely modern spirit” (Maria Antonietta Picone Petrusa - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)

Friday, May 22, 2015



About 500 BC, built for Apries, Pharaoh mentioned in the Bible as Ofra (Jer. 44.30)
5.47 m (17.9 feet) High, 12.96 m (42.5 feet) with the base

It was found in 1665 in the area of the Iseum Campensis (Temple of Isis) to the decoration of which it probably belonged

Elephant sculpted in 1667 by Ercole Ferrata (1610/86) on a design and idea by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) inspired by Alexander VII Chigi (1755/67)

It is commonly called “Pulcin della Minerva” (chick of Minerva) for a refined corruption of the original nickname: in the eighteenth century it was called “Porcin della Minerva” (pig of Minerva) for its vague resemblance to a hog and for the Romans' unfamiliarity with elephants at the time

Wednesday, May 20, 2015



In 193 BC the censors Lucius Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Aemilius Paulus built the new port, the EMPORIUM near the Tiber River to the south of the Aventine Hill in the area of the Testaccio district with a long porch of 487 x 8 m (1600 x 26 feet) consisting of fifty communicating rooms

The censors of 174 BC Fulvius Flaccus and Albinus Postumius paved it, subdivided with barriers and built stairs down to the Tiber

Behind the Emporium there is a huge rectangular building measuring 487 x 60 m (1,600 x 200 feet) believed to be the “Portico of Aemilia” but, more probably, corresponding to the NAVALIA, a building mentioned by Cicero, built by Hermodoros of Salamis in 149/146 BC during the Third Punic War, considering the the building technique

It was used to house the Roman warships: fifty quinqueremes, ship with five men on each oar, as long as 60 m (196 feet) each

When, during the imperial period, there was no reason anymore to have a military port, it was used as a warehouse

The remains were found in the years 1868/70 and explored again in 1952

Some structures that date back to a rebuilding of the Trajan's period (98/117) are still visible and were embedded into the wall of Lungotevere Testaccio

Tuesday, May 19, 2015



Beginning of the second century AD for Trajan (98/117) in addition or in substitution of the Naumachia of Augustus

Some remains of about 102 x 300 m (335 x 985 feet), maybe belonging to the Naumachia were seen during the construction of the Prati district at the end of the nineteenth century

The remains have not been completely excavated and it is believed to have been certainly larger
In 1996 other remains were found during ground surveys for the planned, but never built, tunnels below Castel Sant'Angelo

Friday, May 15, 2015



2 BC for Augustus (27 BC/14) near the Horti of Caesar (Gardens of Julius Caesar)

The area covered was 552 x 355 m (1,800 x 1,200 feet), about three times larger than the Colosseum
It was used for performances of naval battles that are commonly believed to have taken place in the Colosseum

If naval battles really took place in the Colosseum as reported by Martial and Cassius Dio, and suggested by some archaeological evidence, they must have lasted only for the few years before the construction of the large underground level under the floor of the arena

The main building where these shows would regularly take place was this one and, about 100 years later, the Vatican Naumachia, which maybe took the place of Augustus' Naumachia

No trace remains but the exact location is shown by the Forma Urbis (monumental map of Rome of the beginning of the third century AD) and by the discovery of a section of the aqueduct that used to fed the Naumachia, the Alsietino Aqueduct coming with underground conduits from the lakes of Bracciano and Martignano at a distance of 33 km (20.5 miles)

It was probably built just to fill up the Naumachia with water because water was not drinkable
In the Naumachia there was room for thirty ships among triremes and biremes (in the Colosseum three at the most) plus other smaller ships with 3,000 soldiers, not to mention thousands of rowers
At the center of the lake there was an artificial island

Here it was celebrated with naval battles the inauguration of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus

It is mind-blowing for our mentality today to think that 2,000 years ago the Romans had built a giant stadium and a 33 km aqueduct to fill it with water just because they loved to see men killing each other on boats