La bellezza di Roma, ovvero gli spazi della memoria e dell'identità. Alcuni aspetti urbanistici tra Repubblica e Impero
In: Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma: 113, 2014
The monumenta ‒ public or private buildings, funerary structures, works of art and, even better, written texts, which were considered longer-lasting than stone ‒ are of paramount importance to Rome as instruments capable of awakening the memory of illustrious men of the past. Stone monuments were scattered throughout the city, in a space that was sanctified by their presence: indeed, in some respects, all of Rome was a sacred landscape, in which the monumenta acted as “commemorative places”.
In the late Republic, monumenta were intended to awaken in visitors exempla of the glorious deeds performed by their ancestors and their virtutes: in short, to cement the sense of identity of the Romans. Yet, the principal buildings of the past were demolished to make way for new and larger buildings.
What interested Rome was rather the survival of the locus memoriae, despite the city’s profound and sometimes total physical transformation. The building could help to recall, but it was not the “memory”. However, an attempt was made to preserve the urban fabric. In a phase in which, confronted by the overbearing ascendancy of the Greek cultural system, Rome seemed to lose its personal identity, the ruling classes wanted to declare programmatically the cultural diversity of the Romans, at times by manipulating historical reality, and at other times by not disrupting the urban image inherited from the past. Ancient urban theory was in fact focused more on the creation of new cities or utopias, rather than on a complete reorganization of existing cities. Still for a long time Roma vetus endured and even overcame reformers’ endeavours (at times only projected, and never realized).