All pneumatic machines – including the Ctesibian machine and the famous ancient machines built for entertainment purposes, such as singing birds and hydraulic organs – conveyed potentially fundamental questions related to the constitution of matter (of the elements). In a world that had no concepts such as, for example ‘pressure’, the explanation of the functioning of pneumatic machines was not trivial and required continuous investigation of the characteristics and constitution of matter. Obviously, this sensitive issue is at the fundament of every worldview. Such questions, and others related to them, were eventually faced by practically oriented Hellenistic scientists, and the traces of their ensuing scientific debates can be followed over the centuries up until the foundation of modern mechanics in the seventeenth century. Until now, ancient pneumatics has been investigated either concerning just its theoretical consequences, for example, in reference to the work of Hero of Alexandria, or in reference to its social meaning, as a symbol of power in ancient culture. Building on the results of these previous scholarly investigations, the way in which such technology circulated during antiquity will be investigated in order to map the technological innovations and contextual conditions that led to the significant outcomes following the emergence of new scientific knowledge. The analysis of archeological findings and of primary sources related to pneumatics – the fundamental sources – will be utilized to develop this investigation.
The widespread circulation of balances, steelyards and the corresponding technological and metrological knowledge is connected more with the development of ancient markets and the instruments, directions and dynamics of their import and export activities, rather than to mechanics itself. The circulation of this technology, however, led to the emergence of standards employed during measuring activities, as happened with the development of metrology, and the foundation of mechanics related to the circulation of the steelyard. However, no attempt has ever been made to carefully map the circulation and employment of balances and, in particular, of steelyards. Even less investigated are the meta reflections on such mechanical devices that were achieved possibly earlier than the fourth century BCE and that constituted a first theoretical input leading to the formulation of the most ancient law of mechanics. The investigations to be accomplished within the frame defined by the subject “Balances, Steelyards and the Foundation of Mechanics” aims to achieve a map of the circulation of early mechanical devices from the perspective of technological innovation and an analysis of the first meta reflections on these innovations.
Besides the sources directly connected to the history of mechanics, such as the Problemata, the sources that need to be analyzed in this context are the literary Greek sources, both from the perspective of technology transfer and as well the development of ancient markets, focusing in particular on the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.
Taking Rome as an example, the workshop will survey the different modes of the perception and organizing of the urban space in written and visual sources during the 15th and 16th century. In particular we will put the focus on texts in which the perspective of a person wandering through the city is adopted, as well as on cartographic views, in order to discuss their (possible) reciprocal interdependencies.
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Prudentius’ Werk Contra Symmachum entsteht zu einer Zeit (zwischen 394 und 405 n. Chr.), in der die Literatur, welche sich mit der Roma aeterna auseinandersetzt, einen zweiten Höhepunkt erlebt. Besonders einer von Prudentius’ prominentesten Zeitgenossen, der Hofpoet Claudian, greift neben anderen Autoren in seinen Werken immer wieder auf das vor allem unter der Herrschaft des Augustus weithin florierende Konzept der Stadt zurück. Indem er den Blick seiner Leser auf die herausragenden Monumente, Heiligtümer und Erinnerungsorte der maiores lenkt oder das Volk entsprechend alter Sitten im urbanen Raum agieren lässt, rekurriert er auf eine Romvorstellung, nach der die Stadt ihre Macht und Bedeutung durch heidnisch-göttliche Fürsorge und Bestimmung erlangt hat. Dieser seit Jahrhunderten gewachsenen urbanen Götter- und Erinnerungslandschaft setzt Prudentius ein neues, christliches Stadtkonzept entgegen. Mit Hilfe verschiedener narrativer Techniken, wie etwa dem imaginären Stadtrundgang, Anthropomorphisierung der Stadt oder Darstellung von Bewegung im städtischen Raum, wird in seinem Werk eine Veränderung der Blick- und Laufrichtung des Lesers angestrebt, so dass sowohl eine Umkehr von Zentrum und Peripherie, als auch eine Umbewertung der Bedeutsamkeit einzelner Orte sowie der ganzen Stadt erzielt wird.
The dismanteling of the Septizonium and the reuse of its construction materials
The Septizonium, built under the rule of Septimius Severus (193 – 211 A.D.), dedicated in 203, and completely destroyed under Pope Sixtus V in 1588, is considered one of the most important monuments of ancient Rome. The reconstruction of the original design of the building, in particular, has interested research from the 19th century to the present. Along with current archaeological findings, the pictorial and written sources created from Antiquity through the Renaissance and their later copies convey an image of this multifaceted building.
The dissertation project “The dismantling of the Septizonium and the reuse of its construction materials” concentrates essentially on two starting points. First, the monument will be grasped on the archaeological level in its parts – few of them extant, most of them lost – and as detailed and accurate a picture of the function and original shape of the Septizonium will be traced. Here, the specific spatial-topographical context of axially laid-out imperial Rome serves as the basis and template within which the construction is to be read and located. Second, the aim on the material level is to find those parts of the Septizonium that were reused as spolia in post-ancient times, to demonstrate this in detail, and to reveal their original function in the Septizonium. In a broader sense, this also raises the many-layered question of the material, semantic, historical, and also aesthetic content of the spolia in their respective contexts of transposition. This thematic field will be unpacked and elaborated in detail on the basis of a spatial reference system of the spolia as well as with the aid of a new contextualization of them – first, within the individual site and monument, their reuse; and second, within the urban cityscape of Rome.
The project thereby touches on deep spatial matters on various levels: the traces and paths of the construction parts and fragments from the Septizonium to the site of their subsequent transposition initially form a widely branching network across the urban territory of Rome. On a higher level, a picture of Rome at the time of Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) develops, which can be read in terms of space and topography as well as in terms of history and perception. Like a topographically arranged city map, emphases, structures of connection, and the emergence and shifting of peripheral areas crystallize here. The spatial dimensions of the dissertation project, however, emerge on the respectively next level of investigation, because then the individual spolia lay a three-dimensional grid over the respective sites of their transposition – monuments, constructions, squares, and streets. This entails a shift in habits of seeing, which initially affects the recipient’s spatial-historical perception, but then also leads to starting and connecting points of a newly forming structure of thought and perception in the Renaissance. Finally, the shifting of the fragments during the dismantling of the Septizonium, as well as their categorization and the calculation of their volume by the architect entrusted with their dismantling, Domenico Fontana, and their subsequent recombination pose a complex puzzle with spatial dimensions. The mobility of the spolia, their decontextualization, and their suitability for a recontextualization offer multiple starting points for exploring the material-historical structure of spaces. The existence and present location of dismantled materials as spolia of the ancient Septizonium in a new construction context present additional indications on a historical-factual level of the original design and function of the ancient building.
Another emphasis of the dissertation project is the interpretation and reinterpretation of the semantic content of the monument. The connection of the sites that can be made out today where spolia were brought, on the one hand, and the topography of Rome at the time of Sixtus V, on the other, plays an important role thereby. For these sites and their spatial and semantic connotations have a reciprocal effect on the post-ancient perception of the Septizonium itself. Accordingly, its vanished splendor and historical significance are mirrored in the post-ancient, spolia-adorned buildings and sites. The fragmentary seeming, but sudden and unexpected appearance of the lost glory of Antiquity in the form of spolia, like “flashes of genius from Antiquity”, initiate in such sites a “process of gentrification”, to speak in the jargon of sociology. The newer buildings gain more own importance by means of the transformation and accumulation of the semantic layers of the ancient monument that has been lost. The spatial dimension elaborated here, on both the material-factual and the semantic level, makes a crucial contribution to decoding the Septizonium and its spolia. A level shaped primarily by perceptual aspects comes into play that goes beyond a purely materially oriented archaeology of the factual.
A philosophical-perceptual dimension also opens up. The spatial transformation of fragments of a past culture, whose memory is nonetheless omnipresent in Rome, is reflected in a special way in the spolia of an ancient building. In their new surroundings and function, these construction elements often seem strange or like foreign bodies, initially raising questions in the viewer. On the epistemological level, they thereby also raise the question of uncovering the view of such ancient pieces. The way habits of seeing and aesthetic feeling differed between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is extremely interesting. Here, the effect and method of mounting, fitting, and material matching provide a basis upon which the composition of lines to develop the gaze backward or forward can be grasped. In this area, a connection develops to the aesthetic feeling of what is perceived, which is shown, developed, and evidenced in detail on the architectonic level in the example of the spolia of the Septizonium.
Methodologically, the analytic instruments of a historically critical study of the sources and an architectural research analysis of materials and details will be employed. The evaluation and interpretation of the sources will be carried out in relation to both pictorial and written testimony. The pictorial documents comprise above all architectural, panorama, ground plan, frontal, and detail drawings of the Septizonium executed by Renaissance artists and architects, as well as – and this is new – their architectural and detail studies of the sites and monuments into which the spolia and fragments of the dismantled Septizonium were integrated. Here, the methodology will be a detailed and rigorous analysis and interpretation of the drawings, in order to grasp the construction and material changes and the de- and recontextualization of the fragments and spolia.
The complex of written documents consists, first, of the already known sources and written evidence from Antiquity to the Renaissance on the building and its functional, material, and semantic perception, which are evaluated above all in terms of historical construction research and possible interpretations toward an archaeological reconstruction of the monument. Second, there is the extensive written documentation of the dismantling of the Septizonium and the transposition and reuse of its parts in various monuments and buildings within Rome. This documentation includes the sources in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano and the Archivio di Stato di Roma, which hold the already known construction documents of Domenico Fontana as well as various newly discovered documents on the transport and measuring of the spolia. The insertion of spolia, evidenced in documents for the respective sites and monuments of their transposition, is especially interesting and calls for precise study.
3D laser scan technology, common in the archaeological analysis of construction and monuments, will be used. This method is justified by its precise determination of the details and dimensions of the installed materials, as is found in the reused spolia of the Septizonium. The mounting of individual building components in inaccessible heights and monument-protected complexes justifies registering the dimensions and surface structure of the spolia by means of laser scan technology. This allows conclusions about the material of the spolia and can lay foundations for a precise matching with the statements of the Renaissance architects and transporters of the construction materials to the spolia. The further processing of the 3D photos of the spolia also permits their inclusion in an overarching 3D model of the possible ancient form of the Septizonium, as recreated by construction research and archaeology. The 3D laser scan campaign to photograph and survey the spolia of the Septizonium carried out from May to July 2009 could be carried out as a collaborative project of TOPOI Berlin with the DAAD RISE-Project (Research Internship in Science and Engineering) and the John Hopkins University of Baltimore.