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Nuovi studi sulla Regia di Roma

July 2019 (123.3)

Book Review

Nuovi studi sulla Regia di Roma

Edited by Paolo Brocato and Nicola Terrenato (Paesaggi antichi 2). Pp. 185. Pellegrini, Cosenza, Italy 2016. €10.50. ISBN 978-88-6822-509-4 (paper).

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This book, which is handy and intuitive to consult, collects the preliminary results of the study of the archive of Frank Brown’s excavations in 1964 and 1965 in the Regia of Rome. The meticulous reexamination undertaken by the authors was necessitated because Brown’s well-conducted excavations were for various reasons only partially published (F.E. Brown, “New Soundings in the Regia: The Evidence for the Early Republic,”in E. Gjerstad, ed., Les origines de la republique romaine [Geneva 1967] 47–64; and “La protostoria della Regia,” RendPontAc 47[3] [1976] 15–36). 

Brocato and Terrenato are now directing a larger project to present a detailed account of this evidence and to apply the technologies and knowledge of the 21st century to reach new conclusions (11). As explained in the introduction, the project was made possible through the concession of the American Academy in Rome, holder of Brown’s archive. Initial results were presented at conferences in 2015 and 2017, leading scholars of archaic Rome to anticipate this book’s publication eagerly.

The book, which consists of 13 chapters, is organized into an introductory chapter followed by two main parts. The first main part (chs. 2–5) deals with the preliminary results of the authors’ examination of Brown’s excavation data. The second one (chs. 6–13) provides a glimpse of the archaeological materials discovered during the excavations in the Regia. Due to limited space, this review will briefly touch on the novel aspects of the book.

Some chapters in this volume appear to be of special interest. In that by Brocato and Terrenato (ch. 2), Brown’s traditional subdivision of the Regia into five periods, running from the end of the seventh century to 500 B.C.E., is superseded. The authors instead emphasize the differences and the similarities between their interpretation of the data and that of Brown. The core of the chapter (15–21) presents new hypotheses about an earlier phase of the Regia. While the first phase described by Brown dated to the end of the seventh and beginning of the sixth century B.C.E., these authors suggest the earliest phase can be dated to the second half of the seventh century B.C.E. The second phase according to Brocato and Terrenato (second quarter of the sixth century B.C.E.) coincides more or less with Brown’s second phase. The third phase (540–530 B.C.E.) is defined here as substantially different from Brown’s (570 B.C.E.), even though Brocato and Terrenato’s third phase coincides chronologically with Brown’s fourth phase (third quarter of the sixth century B.C.E.). Brocato and Terrenato’s fourth phase coincides, in the end, with the fifth phase of Brown; meanwhile, its chronology has been lowered to the first quarter of the fifth century B.C.E. The analysis of the data here is always scrupulously precise, but it is not always clear if the new conclusions presented by the scholars are the sum of a cross-examination, conducted on the archive and the field simultaneously, or merely a revision based on the archive. 

Brocato and Terrenato aim to clarify the connection between the structural phases and the architectural decoration of the building. They struggle to find an answer for many problems raised by the Regia excavations, referring to the comparison with the contemporary “palatial” evidence (20–1) for innovative suggestions. Even though the conclusions of this chapter appear perhaps a little brief, the questions raised constitute the most important contribution of this book to the study of the Regia. In fact, almost all of the other contributions in the volume are developed around the new proposals. 

One of these contributions is the fourth chapter, by Samuels and Pavia, which is devoted to the analysis of the excavation notebooks, spotlighting two case studies (scompartimenti 3 and 6c; 33–5). The difficult interpretation of the notebooks sometimes leads to important new conclusions and discoveries, such as the absence of the building in some places and time periods where previously recognized (40–2), or the significant differences of the new reconstructive proposals (44).

In examining the parts dedicated to the materials, new perspectives and problems are raised by some chapters. D’Acri and De Luca (ch. 6), for instance, discuss chronologies of ceramics that were previously almost uncritically dated (86). However, sometimes it seems like there is a lack of critical perspective about the functions and associations of some vessel forms (89–90; cf. A. Argento, “Periodi 1 e 2”, in A. Carandini, M.T. D’Alessio, and H. Di Giuseppe, eds., La fattoria e la villa dell’Auditorium nel quartiere Flaminio di Roma [Rome 2006] 456–58). Regoli (ch. 7) conducts a meticulous analysis of imported Greek and Etruscan ceramics found in the Regia. A general idea about the relative percentages of these finds, their chronology, and their origins, would have been useful, though that could probably be reserved for the additional publications planned. The absence of a comparison with the recent discoveries of the royal palace of Gabii was more surprising, even if it is only partially published (M. Fabbri et al., “Sur les traces des Tarquins à Gabies: Une découverte exceptionelle,” in Dossiers d’Archéologie 339 [2010] 62–5). Areas of possible comparison include the friezes with the Minotaur in Di Giuliomaria’s chapter (ch. 8, 111–12) and other minor lacunae (126–27), whereas some ideas like the reconstruction of the “horns” of the rooftop seem widely acceptable. 

In conclusion, a few words must be said about the quality of the images and plans, which appeared—in most cases—not appropriate to the level of the publication. However, one of the strengths of the book is that it is part of a project, which has at disposition the access to the digitized archive, and then the possibility strengths is the possibility of consulting online the Digital Humanites Center of the American Academy in Rome, which makes the material accessible to scholars all over the world. Therefore, the next phases of the project are eagerly anticipated. 

Aura Piccioni
KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt & Paris-Lodron-Universität Salzburg

Book Review of Nuovi studi sulla Regia di Roma, edited by Paolo Brocato and Nicola Terrenato

Reviewed by Aura Piccioni

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 123, No. 3 (July 2019)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1233.piccioni

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