Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Art & Archaeology of Mediterranean World
While Domitian’s damnatio memoriae led to the destruction of the emperor’s image, the massive architectural footprint he left on the city of Rome was indelible. Most scholarly assessments of Domitian’s building program emphasize the Flavian emperor’s continuity with Vespasian and his more retrospective connection with Augustan policy. On closer inspection, however, his architectural projects exhibit an undeniable thirst for innovation. This dissertation provides the first systematic analysis of the entire building program carried out by Domitian in Rome between 81 and 96 A.D., and repositions this emperor among the great urban planners. His building program is characterized by scale and lavishness as a reflection of his grandeur and by an unprecedented planning for crowd management and circulation in larger public spaces. The imperial complex on the Palatine — the palace, the Domus Tiberiana and the Vigna Barberini — responded efficaciously to the increasing needs of the imperial self-representation and bureaucracy and remained in use after Domitian’s death. Hyperbolic ornamentation met functionality. Traffic control was obtained by the use of original architectural forms such as a horsehoe shape and off-axis entry points in the Porticus Absidata in the forum Transitorium and the innovative solutions adopted in the stadium vestibule in the Campus Martius. The most “Domitianic” aspects of his building program can be identified in regulation of paths of traffic and topographical connections, sightlines and vistas, innovation in architectural design, sensorial experience of Domitian’s Rome, special interest in libraries and horrea, and, last but not least, the importance of water features and landscape design. In conclusion, Domitian’s Rome was beautiful and opulent, functional and comfortable, a city for the emperor but also for the people. This city deserves to be examined and visualized in a way that is holistic, complete, and reflective of its patron’s innovative vision. New architectural and topographical designs aimed at beautification, but also at directing traffic and presenting the viewer with breathtaking vistas, made the Rome of Domitian eternal beyond the emperor’s disgrace.
Nocera, Daira, "Beyond The Emperor’s Disgrace: Reconstructing The Architectural, Topographical, And Landscape Design Of Domitian’s Rome" (2018). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2789.