Today was one of those 'long morning days' according to Professor Ulrich; we went to the Musei Capitolini, home to some of Rome's most beloved historic artifacts. Before entering the museum, Emmanuel gave a presentation on the tabularium, connected to the basement of the museum. It is believed that bronze tablets on which the Romans recorded their laws were stored in the tabularium; it is also thought that it was used as a grain and salt storage. Although literary evidence is scant, a 15th century inscription reveals that it was built by Quintus Lutation Catullus, consul of Rome in 78BC, and construction was overseen by Lucius Cornelius, whose funerary inscription in Ostia describes him as 'prefect of engineers during the consulship of Lutatius Catullus'. Architecturally, it is one of the first buildings using a combination of engaged columns and an arcade, a style that became popular during the Imperial era.
In front of the museum stands a replica of the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius. Professor Ulrich told us that when he had visited Rome as a student on his FSP in 1974, the original statue had still stood in the piazza. Now the statue has been moved to the exekias of Aurelius within the museum; restoration work over the 1980s and the 1990s have revealed the statue had originally been plated in gold. It is the only bronze statue of such a size that remains from antiquity, and only by a lucky mistake–the Christians who had taken down the pagan temples and statues of Rome mistook it for a statue of Constantine giving benedictions.
The Musei Capitolini is also home to the remains of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, also known as the Capitolium of Rome. Nothing remains of the Capitolium except for a small section of the foundation and the podium made out of cappellacio tufa; no walls, revetments or cult statues have been preserved. The temple is thought to have been a hexastyle temple with three cult chambers with Juno on the left, Jupiter Capitolinus at the center and Minerva on the right, but debate continues to this day as to how the columns were laid out or how many columns there were. We can only know that the temple had used the original plan for all four of its restorations, the last of which carried out by Domition after the great fire of 80AD. For a building still described as 'one of the most magnificent temples in Rome' even in the 6th century as the Christians quarried pagan temples, records are suspiciously scant. Only one of the terracotta decorations from the temple have been found; a 'cruel joke', as described by Aaron and Teddy.
The long morning ended around 2 with a visit to the Palazzo Nuovo. Where the statues seem too well-preserved to be true, it is likely that they have been heavily restored during the Renaissance. Most of the busts and statues we saw at the Palazzo were complete but when observed closely, different parts were made out of different stones. We observed the changing phases of Roman Imperial portraiture such as the smooth, idealized figures of the Augustan age and the military haircuts of the Severan line.
Off to Palestrina tomorrow. Buonanotte!
Photos (courtesy of Mr. Aaron Pellowski):