Mapping the Presence of Rome’s Pasts: from Piranesi to Freud and Back

We now map mega-regions that extend along highways far beyond the former boundaries of cities, along roads and through suburbs increasingly lack clear bounds.  The extent of such cities seem oddly appropriate for forms of mapping that seem to lack respect for physical markers of bounds.  These maps reflect the experience of their environments as networks more than sites, to be sure.  It may be surprising to see the mapping of the ancient world as a similar network, and to try to understand the mobility of the ancient world and Mediterranean in terms of modern tools of mapping travel: tracing the extension of extra-urban areas along distended networks of inhabited paved space, indeed, suggests the morphing of cities from the past, and almost removes them from historical time or erase the familiar palimpsestic relation to known space, or the city as a space for walking.

We may be compelled to apply the same data driven images to ancient Rome, driven due to our own continuing and increased disorientation on the proliferating data maps.  But does their logic maintain the complexity of time, space, and place in the ancient world, or how might it better attract interest, by casting the map as a site of investigating not only space, but time? Despite the limitations of their coverage of space, and the limited benefits of imagining the ability to measure times of travel or distances to monuments as a record of ancient space or Roman life, it is tempting to be satisfied with placing it in a network. For to do so offers a way of envisioning ancient Rome as a mega city and hub of transit.  But the erasure that this brings in humanistic experience of the map is striking.  

mobility fingerprint ROme

The risk of a loss of materiality is steep: for we seem to lose a sense of the presence of the map of the city, visualizing the distances of travel, costs of economic transit, and time of travel in a web of commercial exchange we both project back our own sense of disorientation.  When we use modern notions such as that of the urban mobility fingerprint as Moovel labs did in concretely visualizing the medieval saying that “all roads lead to Rome” in its  project of mapping distances from the ancient city, we run the risk of insisting on the transparency of data, reducing maps and the patttern of mapping to a substrate of spatial relations sufficient in an almost ahistorical sense, and risk asserting the authority of an app over material processes of building and mapping Rome across time.  

In doing so, we may be trying to find mooring in the mapping of the past.  We avoid the problem of mapping the presence of the ancient form of the city so long returned to be mapped, as a key to presence of the ancient city in the city, in ways that Rome was so long understood. The reipscription of the authority of Rome in the map–or from those classic images of the nineteenth century imagination, the Baedecker Guide, may posit mobility as fons et origo. And while we do want to illustrate or understand flows from the city, and the location of Rome in a broader Mediterranean and European space–by privileging flow, we wonder–

Flow from Rome

is there some loss of the materiality of the ancient world? For rather than show the city of Rome, so often refigured in almost encomiastic terms, by asserting its pride of place in a network, and celebrating the construction of its almost vegetal organic network of modernized roads in order to bring it closer to the viewer, there is a visual trick of transferring a dataset to a schematic rendering that flattens the complex human patterns of the past, and does so by obscuring the deeply humanistic layered nature of the map and of the past, so clearly preserved in the famous bifolium image of Rome, that old imperial city, in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, based on a lost chorographic encomiastic of its buildings’ magnificence.

Nuremberg Chronicle, “Roma,” (1493), leaves LVII-LVIII

If we might consider the imperial schema of travel as a more exact map of space, the enhanced topographic rendering that calls attention to its place in a network, alters the intense interest that the mapping of the city’s place has held, so aptly illustrated back when the physician Hartman Schedel returned to his native Nuremberg, with woodcuts by Francesco Roselli and other Italians in hand, to assemble a new genealogy of the place of Germans on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, and to map the cities of Swabia as the heirs of Roman imperial claims. The symbolic authority of the city, long taken as akin ago a vessel of memory, gained broad symbolic authority as it was encoded in maps.  In ways that are in danger of erasure by the generic symbology of a map that sizes vector files to suggest flow in an organic or unobstructed fashion, the material practices of mapping Rome have their own history, neglected in data visualizations’ relatively flat space,–not to mention the sense of a space removed from history that they create.

Detail of Nuremberg Chronicle, leaves LVII-LVIII (1493)

The deep history of the material practices of mapping Rome constitute something of a deep source of meaning and a source of fascination; mapping of the city the remained in the city, negotiating the presence of the antique in the city.  Rather than disembody the routes of motion as defining the city, the images that embodied the material presence of the antique city was the dominant presence in a long history of mapping the city, whose ancient traces were preserved and excavated in the many maps of Rome made since before the Renaissance.  Such maps, viewed in their historical context and continuity, preserve a sense of the form of the antique that provided a form as an actor for visitors to Rome, and a lure for the site of the continued presence of traces of the space of a historical Rome that exists among the modern city’s space.  Indeed, maps may themselves offer the best ways to familiarize oneself to the material traces of orienting oneself to the presence of the antique that continue to inhabit its present. And the prestige that the Baedecker guide long held in the German imagination during the nineteenth century to orient educated travelers who were reprising Schedel’s Reise of cultural formation informed the brazen wartime announcement of the Nazi government that its Luftwaffe would target domestic populations in Britain by the landmarks meriting three stars in “Baedeker Guides” bombing historical cities in “Baedeker Raids”–those military operations designed to hit historic cities Exeter, Bath, York, Norwich and Canterbury. The threat led British and Allied attacks to target over a thousand historic cities of Germany that were themselves reduced to rubble by the end of the war, escalating the scale of human destructiveness, in a theater of destructive energy that was rooted not in aerial technologies alone, but the mateirality of the map–and designed to eliminate the very traces of historical treasures that the American Antiquities Commission hoped to avoid by reducing the list of targeted German cities.

The deeply affective ties to place that led to the escalation of the Baedeker Raids began from a sense of If practices of mapping demand to be placed in their distinct media. While these guides demand a post of their own, this post turns attention to how the media of mapping Rome gained particular sensitivity, as preserving access to the past, and of orienting viewers to a presence no longer present in the present, as most all maps of Rome effectively do.  By considering the mapping of Rome in relation to datamaps, and the sense of presence that they encode, one almost seems obligated to begin from what may be the primary image–if not primal image–of the way that all roads lead to Rome, or were described to.    If all roads lead to Rome in a deeply ahistorical sense in the middle ages, when the statement seems to have first appeared, the possibly medieval rendering of the ancient “Peutinger Map” or Tabula Peutingerianawhich presents Rome at the center of an acient road network–across the empire–and was suggested to be  copied from the form of a large frieze on a building, but survives in a paper copy of distinctively distorted elongated form, reduced oceans to strips to foreground its road network.

1. Routes remain perhaps the oldest maps. Rarely are they understood as networks. The trick of topographic rendering of privileging the disposition of roads and their distances–measured in local units, but spanning the Empire–do not radiate, but extend laterally across mapped space.  The form of the antique led to the eager the recovery of the prized Peutinger map of the peninsula, surviving in the copy of the Tabula Peutingeriana, that preserved, showing east-west routes at greater scale than north-south in dimensions of a marble frieze, more than a sheet of paper; its collapsing of a collection of routes inscribed into a peninsula as a seat of empire, placing the enthroned figure of Rome holding a globe at the head of a cursus publicus–as if to demonstrate how all roads lead Rome-ward or, more accurately, from Rome, emphasizing its legibility by replicating the left-to-right reading of space.

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Duvuded ubti Grurds.png

–as if in a comprehensive representation the cursus, where continuity is less present than the network, but the network visualized by making present criteria of measurement embedded in the map itself.

Rather than orienting readers by showing Rome as the center of a web of transit, that has its own life and coherence, the map’s oddly compressed format seems to have the imprint of the material place that it held, fittingly, as a record of the cursus publicus, on a frieze, if so probably etched in marble, showing the prominence of Rome and its port of Ostia not at the center of the peninsula, but in the enthroned figure.  Rome occupies a place at the start and head of its cursus publicus, perhaps as a remnant of a global map prepared in Augustan Rome, which in the surviving thirteenth century copy digests data that may derive from the Agrippa map, but embodies it in the form of a marble frieze.

Transferred and kept on a sheet of paper since when the humanist Conrad Celtis discovered in in France, and presented humanist Konrad Peutinger with the treasured cartographic image in a surviving copy, the map was thought to be a fragment of a global map organized by Roman roads.  It has been attempted to be returned to its material context in many alternative historical settings–hypotheses including Carolingian origins or, a marble frieze, to historicize the audiences it addressed–but in ways that preserve the centrality of its physical medium.  

The problem of seeing the along map of the world, and the curiously elongated image of Italy, have only recently been revised, as ways that re-examine the humanist status of the map as an argument about space.  But if the material form of the map has provoked repeated reflection, as much as the transparent reflection of spatial data by which our own data-driven world is increasingly obsessed, it reminds us of the material basis of the maxim of all roads leading to Rome, which the depiction of the cursus publicus so clearly embodied.

Roma

But the image of all roads leading to–or from–Rome is not, perhaps, the map that best expresses the place that the city has held in the humanist imagination.  If the Tabula Peutingeriana offers an interrupted record of all roads leading to Rome continues to captivate, the presence of the ancient in Rome suggested a deeper problem of temporal mapping that data cannot capture, in part because it so relentlessly adopts and employs a present-day form of mapping to chart an elusive past.  

The history with which the presence of maps that continued to process the antique in Rome certainly led to the fascination of uncovering the road network of the city.  The presence of the elusive but ever-present antique in the city laid a basis for curiosity of times of travel in mapping the Empire, the maps of travel times on its system of roads is only one level of the building of Rome.  Although the city’s status at the center of the empire provided a source of fascination, and a promise of classical recovery, to the humanist collector, the presence of ancient roadworks in the Tabula mirror the continued fascination with mapping presence of the antique in Rome, that have been a longstanding subject of fascination.  While Rome remained the center of the Tabula, on the far left of the three strip maps of the peninsula compressed to a single sheet, the rendering of the peninsula’s network of roads omits the deep presence of the city’s ruins–the “city within the city”–in Rome, and the extent to which the mapping of that presence contributed to how Rome was seen.

Is deeper excavation of the spatial perception of those roads, and indeed of the inhabitation of the twelve via that radiate from Rome’s walls in such a symmetrical manner–the via Salaria, via Nomentana, via Tyburtina, via Latina, via Appia–even an adequate record of one’s attachment to its pasts?

Roma.png

Rather than viewing Rome as a center of transit, a humanist mapping of the city might entail map the sense of presence of the antique by which the city has long been appreciated and understood.  The mapping of the presence of the past in Rome runs against the grain of data-driven visualizations, but might bring us to define the compelling presence of the antique in the city, challenging the notion of its primacy in a network of communication, to trace the place of the antique in the imagination of the city, as much as treating its sense of its place being impermanent.  

Indeed, the presence of the city on any map must begin from the presence of the antique in the city, and the manner that maps of Rome shape our experience of the city–and serve to shape our sense of the distinction of Rome as a site within our imagination, and our sense of space. If the conceit that all roads lead to Rome has long and continues to occupy a significant space in our mental imaginary, as well as the European highway system–

roads-to-rome

Roads to Rome

–traveling or journeying to Rome offers a limited orientation to the rich humanist history of the mapping of its space, or even of the space of the Roman Empire, if the mapping of Rome omits any traces of its historical inhabitation, or the palpable presence of its ruins.  These ruins, and their surviving remnants, drew many to Rome since the Renaissance, and has provided one of the most basic–if primal–forms of mapping the historical past, and of seeing evidence of the living presence of the concrete.  Attracted by the multiple presences that seem to coexist within Rome’s space, in ways an archeological map cannot do complete justice, as knows any visitor challenged to grasp and orient themselves to the abundance of its underlying pasts present in its ruins.  

2. Was the psychic proximity that Sigmund Freud described to Rome–a site whose attraction he was tempted to see as a site of attraction to death–indeed informed not by his visits to the city, but rather his own close attraction to the maps of the ancient city’s archeological ruins?  Such maps would have provided the very horizon of expectations through which he oriented himself to the modern city, even before he had visited it for the first time.  Freud repeatedly deferred a personal visit to Rome in his life,–when he was left explaining its disappointment “as all such fulfillments are when one has waited for them too long,” even though, in his previous writings on dreams and on the dream-life, he recorded five dreams of visiting Rome.  If he held the city as a seat of Christendom, however, he must have experience its historical wealth primarily in maps.

Freud’s relation to Rome is not only rhetorical.  For it gets at the presence of the past that are left on maps, and the traces of place that maps preserve, but that data maps omit in failing to preserve as humanly rich or intellectual rich a relation to space.  When Freud famously described how the “historical past is preserved in historical sites like Rome” that contain within its presence copious testimonies of the past, alongside and parallel to its actual human habitation, he seems to have been referring to the “unity” of the city not only in the present, but on a map.  

As a psychical entity with a “long and copious past” as much as a physical entity or plant, Freud allowed himself a “flight of imagination” in treating it as a metaphor for the human unconscious in one of the most expansively literary passages of Civilization and its Discontents, as a site where one might imagine that “nothing that has come into existence will have [ever] passed away, and all earlier phases of development continue to survive and coexist [simultaneously] alongside the most recent.”  Writing these words shortly after his first visit to Rome, the passage reveals the huge impression that visits to the city made to his theory of mind, and was made at the culmination of Freud’s thoughts of memory processes and their location in the mind, the concrete metaphor is an echo not only of the personal fascination he felt when visiting the city and the famous “flight of fancy” that he asked readers of Civilization to indulge. By imagining the city as a physical illustration of the continuity of memories in the human mind, Freud seems to have exploited the public imaginary of Rome, and the mapping of ancient Rome by which his own relation to the city had been deeply affected.  

Travel to Italy–or tour of Italy–was long seen as a process of cultivation and civilization, albeit it was a visit that Freud had long resisted, not undertaking a visit until 1901, despite visiting Italy often, and even staying in the Roman Campagna before seeing the city.  It was perhaps no coincidence Freud seized on the city of Rome–and the plan of its archeological figures–as evidence of the ability to “bring to light” the past through what he termed “memory-traces,” which long survive, and which he imagines–while noting the insufficiency of such a visual image to represent the mind or mental states–to express how a visitor “equipped with the most complete historical and topographical knowledge,” can grasp even in the present the form of the Rome of earlier times, which retain its integrity–as does the individual–but which can be  mapped as it existed across different historical periods at the same time, despite “all the transformations during the periods of the Republic and the early Caesars.” Although it is difficult to imagine the presence of multiple layers of time in the city after the remaking of the city’s plan since the Master Plan that implicated massive destruction of buildings that accelerated in the Fascist Era, the copresence of the multiple pasts in the urban plan was perhaps far more easily visualized and imagined when archeological maps provided a point of orientation to urban space.

The identification of the collation of mental periods with the city’s actual topography was impressive, as was the sense of a city that held multiple cities within itself.  If the problem of mastering the historical discontinuity of the political epochs of Roman civilization were a problem of gymnasium education that would be very well known to the readers Freud sought to address.  Indeed, Freud’s arrival in Rome–which he seems to have deferred, in part due to historical circumstance, until he was in his mid-forties, may have been due to how Rome had provided a model to understand human history from the work of the German classical historian Barthold Neibuhr, if not the procedures of historical verification by scientific methods of historical investigation set forth in the work Leopold von Ranke.  For Ranke, the very project and prospect of visiting Rome transcended the mastery of the past based on archival written sources; Freud no doubt internalized and felt the centrality of any visit to Rome in ways that led him to postpone it until 1901, perhaps until his preparation for the task.  

When Freud noted that he had dreamed of Rome at least five times between 1900-01, he registered deep imaginary ties he had developed to the city, undoubtedly through the engraved images he had studied from youth, and perhaps through the story of the archeologist who travelled to Rome to he must have seen as deeply other than his Jewish-Austrian identity, and even psychically dangerous.  He openly described his attachment to Rome as akin to a neurosis by 1897, and a longing that he actively willed to contain.  In describing himself as tragically “fated not to see Rome” in 1900, as if it were an affliction, Hannibal, but neglected to add he often indulged a penchant for Italian tourism.

Did this avoidance of Rome run against the exposure that he must have had to the rich archeological maps of the ancient city in his Vienna library?  Did the map provide a basis for his deferral of a visit to Rome, and investigation of its antiquities in the flesh, so impressed was he by the authority of archeological maps of the city, and the abundance of information that they contained?   It is very striking that Freud had visited multiple Italian cities at a younger age–touring Venice, visiting Pisa, Livorno, Siena, Rapallo, Florence, Gorizia, Verona, and Ravenna, the somewhat nearby site of Byzantine mosaics, as well as Naples; the visit to Rome may well have been intentionally deferred, less as a masochistic deferment, than a postponement of enjoyment of its pleasures.  He often dreamed of Rome.  Freud even once let himself to remain on a train that stopped in Rome, deciding against deboarding the train, but described the sensation as it pulled out of the station, even as he cultivated the image of the city in his head.  

While Freud described his repeated dreams of visiting the city as “based on a longing to visit Rome,” perhaps the refusal to visit the place was based on fear of inadequate preparation of studying its plant, as much as a masochistic urge to deny himself the experience of the city.  Indeed, although his visit to Naples bypassed Rome, as if intentionally, and he visited the nearby Lake Trasimeno in the Campagna, he deferred any visit to Rome, as if intentionally; he wrote his  colleague Fleiss in 1898 that even if he had closely studied Rome’s topography, he deferring his visit, even if “the yearning [for Rome] becomes ever more tormenting.”

Such imposition of a regime of deferral occupied increasing mental energy, and seems oddly tortured, but may be interpreted in terms of his desire for fitting Rome into his sense of bildung, and indeed compels us to ask about his visceral sense of its materiality.  Freud hence described as the subject of recurrent dreams–and listing its appearance in five dreams.  Freud seems continually inspired by the hope of unpacking city of Rome, perhaps cowed by the prospect; the time that serious study of its presence might demand may have led him only to visit the city in 1901.  But even if he visited Rome late in life, it would be wrong to think that he had not encountered it previously multiple times, and even traveled to its ruins in the form of maps recreating the organization of its monuments.  He could have performed the visits by confronting archeological maps of the city’s ruins, as if training himself for his arrival, kept in his libraries.  

And when later in life, when he even joked to Stefan Zweig that his avid collection of images of antiquity, he no acknowledge the thought he gave to assembling a substantial collection of objects from antiquity, including statuettes and fragments, as testimonies to partial remains, amply displayed in his office walls and on his desk, including the famous bas relief image of Gradiva–a reproduction of the ancient bas-relief of a young girl, who was taken as a physical embodiment of a past.   The Gravida figure, as imagined in an eponymous novel, was imagined as a trace of the past, was imagined in a contemporary novel as having been a girl killed by the ash erupting from Vesuvius, who presented a solitary archeologist with an elusive subject of desire; after the appearance of the young woman in a dream, the archeologist’s travelled to the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, where while wandering in its excavated streets he was struck by the uncanny appearance of the living presence of the woman, who he recognized by very gait, and whose encounter offered an occasion of psychic release.  The quite creepy story led Freud to value the image as an emblem of recovering repressed memories, and a talisman of recovering memories, and of the excavation if not overcoming of repressed memories.

Freud’s discussion of Rome as a site of antiquities and a site of memory was an image that was dear to Freud and which he cultivated.  The cultivation Freud may have led Freud to confess to the novelist Zweig about having more deeply studied antiquity than psychology; in addition to such studies, archeological maps of the discovery of the city’s strata seem to have provided a formative relation to the historical and personal past.  The city was famously portrayed, long after the appearance of the first guides of Baedecker of Rome in 1867, in a series of historical atlases as a stratigraphy of sedimented layers demanding deciphering–and as such maps were indeed intended to provide a basis through which one finally encountered the city, it is more than likely that Freud’s large library of antiquarian maps provided something of a resource with which he occupied himself before his travel.  Ands much as serve as a “flight of fancy” or metaphor, the image of the layers of Roman archeology was emblematic of the past, and a challenge of detection, as well as observation; once, while visiting the city, he was sodeeply affected that he was “disappointed to find that the scenery was far from being of an urban character,” and at another time visited Rome only to express deep disappointment at seeing German-language posters in the city, rather than the image of the antique that he had privately treasured.  The city seemed far off from the detection of a removed past that lay in the maps of the city’s ancient ruins that remained in his private study.

The powerful image of actively discerning and unpacking layers of the presence of the antique was not only speculative.  They were archeological concerns by the time that he visited, and topics of sustained archeological study evident in how archeological maps by Tuebner and others were designed, and sought to allow viewers to orient themselves to the city’s historical layers in its actual buildings by imagining the assembly of its ruins.  For while for all his allowance of the inadequacy of any visual analogy for the human unconscious; his rhetoric and formulation was deeply cartographical in its visual layering of pasts in both the historical, antiquarian, and tourist maps of late-nineteenth and early twentieth- century Rome.  Indeed, the unique form of map literacy seemed to propose a powerful project of mapping a cognitive relation to the past as much as a metaphor.  Freud boasted to Zweig that he devoted more attention to “read[ing] archeology than psychology” to assemble antique fragments, as the Gradiva, even as he wondered if he were able to see Rome, was he implicitly modelling himself, as the historian David Lowenthal acutely noted, his own mental activities on the literary figure of the archeologist described by Wilhelm Jensen in his 1903 novel, desiring that “the environment [of Pompeii] rose before his imagination like an actuality,” seeking to escape a “lifeless, archeological view” in finding the woman he knew as Gradiva?  Freud seems attracted and tantalized by the possibility of recovering a palpable sense of the past through undertaking a similar mental exercize.  He analyzed  Gradiva as a story of trauma–and recovered memories–in 1907, exploring the uncanny emergence of an Italian girl possessing the very gait of the relief of the lost woman in Pompeii’s ruins as an encounter in the ruins expressing the model of a therapeutic cure.

Can one find in maps a similar sense of release in uncovering traces of ancient Rome?   Freud’s encounter with the city surely began from and was lodged in his reading of maps.  What would such maps look like, and could one describe a history of readers’ attachments to them, the better to appreciate the mapping of Rome’s pasts?  We are today far less concerned with streets or walking since we’re less concerned with such maps as guides of habitation, and hope to trace guides to the spatial futures of metropoles:  such maps’ scope capture the order of lived space, but obscure the individual neighborhoods that once occupied space, or lent them coherence.  Maps of ancient Rome, in contrast, excavate a formerly inhabited space, providing images of study to come to terms with the past habitation of the ancient world–an idealized urban space, removed from the present.  Indeed, coherence is less a quality of the visual accuracy of the “maps” of Rome from glorious mosaics of cloud-free satellite images, which, while providing a level of spatial comprehensiveness, but beg questions of their coherence or presence, since they offer viewers few cognitive guides, so much as they trumpet their own documentary abilities.  Yet they recall the older use of city maps of questions  as objects of study, and the value of the map as sites of observation.  In the new views of modern cities as Rome, the image of the metropole is super-imposed over the image of the ancient city.

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Planet Labs 

It’s all the more jarring when the ancient city of Rome is mapped as lying at the center of a spatial web of roads, that privileges motion across an undifferentiated uniform space–at a scale that seems to ignore the material presence of the city that has so compulsively been mapped, to reduce it to knowledge, and to excavate its presence.  For rather than map the city as a network of monumental arches, public squares, civic buildings, temples and arenas, the presence of what has always been taken as public spaces are evident in a network of roads that seem to lead, as if organically, to the city that is situated mid-way down the peninsula, marked “Italy,” as if to place it at the center of the space of Europe.

roads-to-rome.jpgRoads to Rome

Such a network-based envisioning of Rome at the center of European web runs in a sense against our conceptions of what a map of Rome does.  It seems a retrograde version of the world wide web, indeed, foregrounding the conceit of mapping Europe as a brachiated network based in a geolocated Rome familiar from a format of Google Maps rather than a map of the ancient city’s space.  

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Filed under ancient Rome, antiquity, data visualizations, digital humanities, humanities

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