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Paradigm and Progeny: Roman Imperial Architecture and Its Legacy. Proceedings of a Conference Held at the American Academy in Rome on 6–7 December, 2011, in Honor of William L. MacDonald

July 2018 (122.3)

Book Review

Paradigm and Progeny: Roman Imperial Architecture and Its Legacy. Proceedings of a Conference Held at the American Academy in Rome on 6–7 December, 2011, in Honor of William L. MacDonald

Edited by D. Favro, F.K. Yegül, J. Pinto, and G. Métraux (JRA Suppl. 101). Pp. 230. Journal of Roman Archaeology, Portsmouth, R.I., 2015. $109. ISBN 978-0-9913730-5-5 (cloth).

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The edited volume Paradigm and Progeny: Roman Imperial Architecture and Its Legacy is the result of a colloquium held in 2011 at the American Academy in Rome in honor of William MacDonald (1921–2010). The 14 papers are grouped into four parts that reflect MacDonald’s own interests and contributions to the field: construction, urbanism, the emperor Hadrian, and the reception of classical architecture.

In the first part, “Construction and Design,” the two papers by Ponti and Haselberger complement each other in their approach to the problem of size discrepancies in marble column and entablature elements. Ponti, examining column drums and entablature blocks from Leptis Magna, argues against the idea of architectural elements arriving at the site having been prefabricated at the quarry and shows that a more likely scenario was for the quarry to supply standard-sized blocks that were then carved on-site. Haselberger, in his study of the Pantheon, picks up the argument and shows that the Corinthian capitals along the facade were of varying heights to make up the difference in the slight discrepancies of the heights of the column shafts. He goes on to present an ingenious (and unexpected) argument: that such inevitable discrepancies in the modular production of column shafts resulted in different-sized capitals that created a “pulsating” effect (52), which paved the way for the eventual Late Antique aesthetic that accepted mismatched spolia. The third paper in this section is by Spanu on the adoption in Asia Minor of opus caementicium along with the accompanying facings of opus reticulatum and opus testaceum. He presents an overview of the development of these techniques, drawing on his long experience of archaeological work in Turkey.

If the papers in the first part are a tribute to MacDonald’s more material approach in Architecture of the Roman Empire I: An Introductory Study (New Haven 1965), the papers in the second part, “Shaping the City and Villa,” take their cue from his Architecture of the Roman Empire II: An Urban Appraisal (New Haven 1986), with its emphasis on the experience of urban space. Howe gives an enlightening synopsis of the villas along the coast of the Bay of Naples near Stabiae, drawing on his own involvement in the excavation there. He then takes the reader on a tour of the Villa Arianna and the Villa San Marco, noting how they changed over time with new views emphasized and garden spaces added. Packer gives a diachronic panorama of the major changes in the Forum Romanum, emphasizing how different materials and building placement affected the viewer’s experience of the space over time and by providing an extensive bibliography. La Rocca’s contribution is most creative in his examination of the changing perception of urban space as Rome developed from a city of individual monuments built by triumphant generals to one of more coordinated urban spaces. Nevertheless, he notes that the imperial city consisted of inward-facing nodes of ordered design and was never the object of urban planning as we know it today. These papers are followed by two that take up MacDonald’s idea of the “urban armature.” Favro presents an intriguing attempt to use MacDonald’s theory of armatures as a “tool applied to, rather than derived from, ancient remains” (105) in her analysis of Nysa in Turkey. The city itself is perched on either side of a spectacular gorge with structures distributed on either side. By trying to work backward to determine what sort of connective armature could have existed in this most divided of sites, Favro is able to isolate zones where further trenches might yield useful information. Her goal is to turn a theoretical construct into a predictive tool. Morton also applies the concept of “armature” to his analysis of Carthage and uses digital models of the city to understand better how the Antonine Baths and the major monuments on Bursa Hill would have been perceived by those approaching the harbor city from the sea.

The papers of the third section, “Hadrian and the Empire,” are a bit less coherent as a group than those of the previous sections. Métraux explores the idea that opus reticulatum was used in Hadrian’s villa as deliberate reference tomemory of earlier times. He follows Hadrian in his travels where he might have seen the technique and takes the reader on a provocative exploration of the way memory could have affected material choices, albeit with more qualifiers than evidence. Fentress and Gatti give an overview of two other villas of Hadrian (or Hadrianic villas?), one near Palestrina and another near Anagni, the latter of which Fentress has excavated since 2006. They discuss these in the context of Hadrian’s villa nearby at Tivoli, one of MacDonald’s focal monuments, though readily admitting that nothing can compare to the Tivoli villa. Brennan examines the literary tradition of Hadrian’s reputation as a city-builder, looks at Mussolini’s celebration of the 1800th anniversary of Hadrian’s death in 1938, then explores the intentions behind his founding or renaming of cities. Finally, Gros looks at the development of the imperial cult and the influence of Augustan temples in Rome on those devoted to the imperial cult in a selection of cities in the western provinces. He then examines the effect that both the rituals and the architecture had on defining hierarchies of urban space and movements within the various cities discussed.

The last section, “The Nature and Legacy of Classicism,” consists of only two papers. Pinto, MacDonald’s coauthor for the book Hadrian’s Villa and Its Legacy (New Haven 1995), takes as his starting point an 18th-century pen and ink drawing by Giovanni Battista Piranesi of the interior of the Pantheon, which he uses as a vehicle to explore Piranesi’s changing theory of ornament. While always maintaining the superiority of Roman architecture over Greek (contra Winckelmann and others), Piranesi shifted from seeing Greek ornament as a corrupting influence on Roman structural simplicity to advocating for a more creative ornamentation that went beyond the strict rules Greek classicism. The book ends with Yegul’s meditation on the nature and legacy of the column from ancient times to modern. It is a fitting eulogy for this festschrift for William MacDonald.

As a collection, the volume has both the advantages and disadvantages of that genre. Some of the papers are excellent, using carefully crafted arguments to illustrate the influence and legacy of a great scholar. Some present compelling material clearly influenced by MacDonald’s approach but then end disconcertingly, leaving the reader turning the page looking for a concluding comment. Others take one on engaging if sometimes circuitous journeys that touch the edges of MacDonald’s interests. Ultimately, I think MacDonald would have appreciated the efforts of all who contributed to honor him in this volume.

Lynne C. Lancaster
Department of Classics and World Religions
Ohio University

Book Review of Paradigm and Progeny: Roman Imperial Architecture and Its Legacy. Proceedings of a Conference Held at the American Academy in Rome on 6–7 December, 2011, in Honor of William L. MacDonald, edited by D. Favro, F.K. Yegül, J. Pinto, and G. Métraux

Reviewed by Lynne C. Lancaster

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 122, No. 3 (July 2018)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1223.l-lancaster

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