Lecture Series - The Making of Modern Rome: A City Transformed

May 19, 2021

If you are unable to attend the live sessions, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lectures to view in your own time (from around four hours after they take place).  Further details on how to register can be found at the end of this newsletter.

The Making of Modern Rome: A City Transformed

Following the defeat of Napoleon, visitors returned to Rome, recognising once again the city as an oasis of civilisation. Beginning with Pope Pius VII, who oversaw the return of stolen art and antiquities from France, nineteenth century pontiffs took great pride in, and care of the city’s monuments. The systematic excavation, consolidation and analysis of the ancient sites, including the Roman Forum, accelerated. Simultaneously, with the unification of Italy as a kingdom, and with Rome as its new capital from 1870, the most rapid urban transformation in the city’s history gathered pace. This culminated in the twentieth century with a daring new approach to the classical language of architecture and urban planning as the Fascist era of the 1920s and ‘30s sought to recreated the achievements of past emperors. James Hill concludes his series on the urban history of Rome tracing the changes which provided contemporary archaeology with extraordinary opportunities, presented against the dramatic political context as Rome moved from its status as capital of a Papal State to that of the new Kingdom of Italy, its future conditioned by both Fascism and the emergence of the modern Republic of Italy. 

Tuesday 1 June 2021 at 11am

Lecture 1 – The Roman Question: Excavation & Foundation 

When Pope Pius VII returned to Rome in 1814 from Napoleonic ‘captivity’, he initiated the transformation of the city’s ancient monuments, clearing away not only the colonising flora and fauna, but also the domestic buildings and churches that had smothered triumphal arches, theatres and temples in past centuries. The Roman Forum began to be systematically excavated as pioneering archeologists traced the topography of the ancient city. Newly-discovered antiquities emerged from the earth as Rome’s status turned from that of a localised papal capital into a unified and regal one. The construction of new avenues, widened thoroughfares, enlarged piazzas and the civic buildings associated with central government altered the city forever. Simultaneously, a wider ‘Roman Question’ emerged as successive popes, no longer ruling from the Quirinal Palace, but in self-exile within the walls of the Vatican, observed the Rome they had presided over for centuries changing all around them.


Tuesday 8 June2021 at 11am
Lecture 2 – ‘The Third Rome’: Antiquity, Architecture & Artifice
At the beginning of the twentieth century the River Tiber was dammed and banked, new suburbs such as Prati were modelled on Turin’s grid plan lay-out, and the ancient quarter round the Vatican, the Borgo, was divided by a long thoroughfare deliberately separating church from state, the Vatican from the new Rome, the ironically named Via della Conciliazioni. Mussolini’s ‘March on Rome’ in 1922 heralded darker times for the city, the nation and Italy’s international standing. Indeed a new ‘Rubicon’ had been crossed, and the glorification of his rule, reflecting that of the emperors, was rarely far from Il Duce’s rhetoric, manifesting itself in the fervent archeological and architectural activity of the 1920s and ‘30s. Grandiose urban projects classicised established architectural settings, sweeping away irreplaceable remnants of Rome’s past. This ‘stripped-down’ language of classicism is today what is left of Mussolini’s ‘Third Rome’, silent, but ever present.

Lecture Notes:

Your can download the slide and reading lists for the two lectures below:

Lecture 1

Lecture 2

Format for Lecture

James will give two one-hour illustrated lectures for £19. During the lecture you will have the chance to submit written questions which James will answer at the end - if time permits.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet. You will be also able to re-watch or watch a recording after the lecture.

Register for Lectures - 1 & 8 June at 11am

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