RM 121: Evelyne Bukowiecki – Ulrike Wulf-Rheidt, I bolli laterizi delle residenze imperiali sul Palatino a Roma, RM 121, 2015, 311–482.
The Brick Stamps of the Imperial Residences on the Palatine Hill in Rome
As part of the German Archaeological Institute’s “Palatin-Projekt”, a series of large-scale, systematic and architectural studies have been carried out in the southeast corner of the Palatine Hill, in collaboration with German and international universities. A comprehensive topographical survey of the four major monumental complexes in this area – the Domus Severiana, the Stadium, the Domus Augustana and the Domus Flavia – has allowed for an overarching and improved understanding of the development of the Imperial residences. The detailed archaeological analysis of the façade in opus testaceum made possible the identification of more than 400 epigraphic bricks stamps.
This article’s primary objective is the presentation of these brick stamps found in situ. For the sake of comprehensiveness, we also consider all the brick stamps identified in previous studies and mentioned by the bibliography, which cannot be found in situ anymore. Altogether, the current collection consists of 940 stamps, of which 599 were found in situ and 341 out of context: 160 in the Domus Severiana, 305 in the Stadium, 207 in the Domus Augustana and 268 in the Domus Flavia. This catalog has made possible detailed insight into the topographical repartition of the brick stamps on the Palatine, to establish a much more nuanced – and moreover modified – chronology of the building activities, and to study the supply mechanisms of building materials in the Imperial sites. Therefore, the article represents an important instrument for further research – not only on the Palatine, but also for the whole of Imperial Rome.
For each of the four monuments studied, the brick stamps mentioned by the bibliography will first be identified and then, considering all the stamps found in situ, their topographic repartition will be presented according to the five levels of circulation identified on the Palatine. For each monument, a subsection will subsequently be devoted to the interpretation of the construction phases (pre-Flavian, Flavian, Trajanic, Hadrianic, Antonine, Diocletian, Maxentian and Theodoric) according to predefined “chronological groups”.
These “chronological groups” reflect an arbitrary choice that, on the one hand, takes into account our interpretive assumptions of the succession of construction phases, and, on the other, considers the important historical phases of brick production in Rome:
- Group 1: 1st century AD until 93/94 AD
- Group 2: end of Domitian’s reign to the beginning of Trajan’s reign (95–110 AD)
- Group 3: end of Trajan’s reign to the beginning of Hadrian’s reign (111–122 AD)
- Group 4: Hadrian’s reign after 123 AD (123–138 AD)
- Group 5: Antonine Dynasty after Hadrian (138–192 AD)
- Group 6: Severan Dynasty (193–235 AD)
- Group 7: Diocletian to Theodoric
The last section of the article will focus on the brick supply of the Imperial residences, looking at the collection of bricks stamps found in the four building complexes as a whole. The likely geographical origin of the mass of brick stamps that were transported on the Palatine during the first five centuries AD will be determined with reference to recent studies, which suggest that Roman figlinae were concentrated around the territories of Statonia, Horta, Ameria and Narnia, in the middle valley of the Tiber.
By way of conclusion, summarizing the data presented in the paper, we will reiterate how the careful examination of the brick stamps on such a wide expanse of the Palatine can illuminate the processes of designing, planning and construction of the Imperial residences. At this time, we will also address, in particular, the special relationship between the dating of the brick stamps and the interpretation of the development phases of the Imperial palace. The detailed analysis of the four parts of the Imperial palace on the Palatine, together with the dating of the brick stamps found in situ, has afforded new insight into the Imperial palace’s development. What first appeared to be a new Domitianic vision for the architecture of the Roman emperors’ palace may instead be one that was in constant development. It is very likely that Domitian continued or integrated a part of an early Flavian palace into his vision for a new palace, and we must come to terms with the possibility that the Flavian project was not completed under Domitian, but only during the era of Trajan. We can divide the 2nd century AD into two phases: a Hadrianic and an Antonine. The Severan phase may have consisted of massive reparation work and an extension of the palace. The brick stamps suggest that an additional generous extension
To make the brick stamp digital catalog in Arachne more user-friendly, two methods of access are provided: The brick stamps have been organized first by “chronological groups”, each divided according to the four sections of the Imperial palaces. The brick stamps are then also organized according to their topographic distribution within the four complexes, with subdivisions of brick stamps found in situ, brick stamps out of context, all the brick stamps, for the respective levels, as well as those mentioned in the bibliography whose precise location is unknown. The locations of the brick stamps found in situ and of those from the literature, which can be clearly assigned to a room, are marked on the floor plans of the different levels of the complexes. They are marked in different colors, according to their corresponding “chronological group”.