Amphitheatrum Castrense

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Misidentification of the Amphitheatrum Castrense<br />
The Amphitheatrum Castrense was once erroneously identified as the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus (source: F. de Rossi, Ritratto di Roma antica nel quale sono figurati [Rome 1654])
Amphitheatrum Castrense<br />
Exterior view (source: E. Varner)
Elagabalus (r. A.D. 217-222)<br />
Rome, Musei Capitolini (source: Flickr, Elagabalus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mharrsch/9941978) / Mary Harrsch (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mharrsch/) / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/))
View of the Amphitheatrum Castrense<br />
A print image depicting the remains of the amphitheater with its three storey articulation (source: Donati 1725)
Amphitheatrum Castrense, exterior detail<br />
Semi-columns and pilasters of the first and second storeys (source: E. Varner)
Amphitheatrum Castrense, semi-column detail<br />
Brick semi-column with Corinthian capital and travertine plinth (source: E. Varner)
Aurelian Walls<br />
Constructed in the 3rd century A.D. by the emperor Aurelian (source: E. Varner)
Amphitheatrum Castrense & Surrounding Area<br />
View of the remains of the amphitheater, S. Croce in Gerusalemme and the Aurelian Walls (source: Sadeler 1660)
S. Croce in Gerusalemme<br />
(source: E. Varner)

Title

Amphitheatrum Castrense

Description

The Amphitheatrum Castrense was constructed by the emperor Elagabalus (r. 217-222 C.E.) as part of an imperial residential complex, the so-called Sessorian Palace, which also included the adjacent Circus Varianus.

This elliptical arena was modeled on the Colosseum and measured 88 x 77.8 m. It was constructed of brick-faced concrete. The exterior was articulated in three storeys. The first storey consisted of an arcade with attached semi-columns on travertine plinths and Corinthian capitals in brick. In the second storey arcade, the semi-columns were replaced by rectangular pilasters, also with travertine plinths and brick Corinthian capitals. In the attic storey, similar pilasters flanked square windows as at the Colosseum. Based on drawings of Dosio, Palladio and Peruzzi, the upper storey originally included travertine consoles to hold the supports for the arena’s awning, also similar to the Colosseum. The intimate scale of the Amphitheatrum Castrense suggests that it was used by the emperor for private spectacles and entertainment. Later in the 3rd century C.E. the amphitheater was incorporated into the new defensive walls, commonly known as the Aurelian Walls, constructed by the emperor Aurelian (r. 270-275 C.E.).

Pirro Ligorio was the first to correctly identify this amphitheater (Burns [1988] 25). Ligorio’s identification was based on a close reading of the regionary catalogues, which placed the amphitheater in Regio V (the Esquiline). These regionary catalogues (the Curiosum and Notia) were compiled in the 4th century C.E. and listed the most important monuments then existing in Rome’s 14 regions. In the 16th century they were attributed to the authors Publius Victor and Sextus Rufus. Prior to Ligorio, the Amphitheatrum Castrense had been incorrectly associated with the Amphitheater of Statilius Taurus, which was actually located not on the Esquiline, but in the Campus Martius. Ligorio comments on the controversy:

They would have it that the amphitheater that is at S. Croce in Gerusalemme is that of Statilius Taurus and they don’t let it be known that the Amphitheater of Statilius was of marble and this one is of brick and that that amphitheater was in the Campus Martius as Dio writes in his 40th book [Loeb Classical Library translation, 51.23.1]. Victor says in his texts, written in pen, that it was in the Circus Flaminius, which incorporated part of the Campus Martius. And this amphitheater of S. Croce was called by Publius “Castrense”.

Essi vogliono, che l’Amphitheatro, che è à santa Croce in Hierusalem sia quello di Tauro Statilio, & non avertiscono che l’Amphitheatro di Statilio era di marmo, & quest’è di mattoni: che quello era in Campo Martio (come scrive Dione al quarantesimo libro) & Vittore dice nelli suoi testi scritti à penna, che era nel Circo Flaminio, il quale abbraciava in se parte del Campo Marzio. Et questo di Santa Croce da Publio fu appellato Castrense. (P. Ligorio, Libro, f. 38r. in Burns [1989] 53 n. 47; see also Negri [1989] 28)

The imperial residence next to the amphitheater was used in the early 4th century C.E. by the empress Helena (246/50-330 C.E.), mother of Rome’s first Christian emperor Constantine (r. 306-337 C.E.). An atrium of this palace was later transformed into the church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme and the amphitheater was eventually annexed to its convent. The gardens of the convent are now contained within the remains of the amphitheater.

Creator

Eric Varner

Source

Sources Available from the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Emory University

  • Baedeker, K., Italy Handbook for Travellers: Second Part: Central Italy and Rome, 7th ed. (Leipzig 1881).
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  • Baedeker, K., Italy Handbook for Travellers: Second Part: Central Italy and Rome, 11th ed. (Leipzig 1893).
  • Baedeker, K., Italy Handbook for Travellers: Second Part: Central Italy and Rome, 12th ed. (Leipzig 1897).
  • Baedeker, K., Italy Handbook for Travellers: Second Part: Central Italy and Rome, 13th ed. (Leipzig 1900).
  • Baedeker, K., Italy Handbook for Travellers: Second Part: Central Italy and Rome, 15th ed. (Leipzig 1909).
  • Barbault, J., Les plus beaux monuments de Rome ancienne, ou, recueïl des plus beaux morceaux de l’antiquité romaine qui existent encore (Rome 1761).
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  • Donati, A., Roma vetus ac recens, 3rd ed. (Rome 1725).
  • Eschinardi, F., Espositione della carta topografica cingolana dell’ agro romano (Rome 1696).
  • Fèa, C., Descrizione di Roma e de’ contorni, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Rome 1822).
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Secondary Sources

  • Burns, H., “Pirro Ligorio’s Reconstruction of Ancient Rome,” in R. W. Gaston ed., Pirro Ligorio: Artist and Antiquarian (Villa I Tatti. The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies 10, Florence 1988) 19-92.
  • Claridge, A., Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, 2nd ed. (Oxford 2010).
  • Coarelli, F., Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide, J. J. Clauss and D. P. Harmon trans. (Berkeley and Los Angeles 2007).
  • Colini, A. M., “Horti Spei Veteres—Palatium Sessorianum,” MemPontAcc 8.3 (1955) 137-77.
  • Lanciani, R., Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome (London 1897).
  • Mancioli, D., “Horti Variani ad Spem Veterem,” in Roma Capitale 1870-1911. L’archeologia in Roma capitale tra sterro e scavo (Venice 1983) 197-200.
  • Nash, E., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome, vol. 1 (London 1961).
  • Negri, D. ed., Pirro Ligorio. Delle Antichità di Roma. Circi, theatri, amphitheatri con numerose tavole e la pianta cinquecentesca di Roma (Rome 1989).
  • Platner, S. B. and T. Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Oxford 1929).
  • Richardson, L., Jr., A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (Chapel Hill 1992).
  • Rocca, S. V., Guide Rionali di Roma. Rione XV Esquilino (Rome 1982).
  • Volpe, R., “Amphitheatrum Castrense,” in LTUR, vol. 1 (Rome 1993) 19-20.

Date

July 18, 2012

Citation

Eric Varner, “Amphitheatrum Castrense,” Views of Rome, accessed December 15, 2017, http://viewsofrome.digitalscholarship.emory.edu/items/show/1.