Museum of Roman Civilization, Rome, Italy

The Museum of Roman Culture unites in its halls and extraordinary and rich display of various aspects of ancient Rome, documented in their entirety, through the combination of casts, models and reconstructions of works conserved in museums throughout the world and of monuments from all over the Roman Empire.

The Museum of Roman Civilization is located in Rome, in the EUR district. It documents the various aspects of Roman civilization, including habits and customs, through a very rich collection of copies of statues, casts of bas – reliefs, architectural models of individual works and monumental complexes, including large plastic models; all artifacts are made with an accuracy that makes them real works of art. Among the works on display, two stand out: the complete series of the casts of the Trajan ‘s Column and the large model of imperial Rome, made by Italo Gismondi. It is part of the “Shared museums” system of the municipality of Rome.

The course is divided into two sectors, one chronological and one thematic. The first, which is divided into twelve rooms, offers a historical summary of Rome from its origins to the 6th century AD; the thematic sector runs along twelve other rooms and documents the various aspects of daily life and material culture. The series of casts of the Trajan ‘s Column is exhibited within the thematic sector and at the end of it there is the large model of imperial Rome.

The visit to the museum is complementary to the observation of the ancient monuments of the capital, given that thanks to the very accurate models on display, the visitor can better understand their structure and original appearance. In addition, the museum excellently completes the visit to the city also because it allows you to get to know the most important works of the lands in which Roman civilization has spread and to know its many aspects of daily life. For these reasons, despite the almost total absence of original finds, the museum has a great didactic and documentary value.

The Museum of Roman Culture unites in its halls and extraordinary and rich display of various aspects of ancient Rome. The Museum of Roman Culture unites in its halls and extraordinary and rich display of various aspects of ancient Rome, documented in their entirety, through the combination of casts, models and reconstructions of works conserved in museums throughout the world and of monuments from all over the Roman Empire. The museum was inaugurated in 1955, but it had existed for a long time previously.

The Archaeological Exhibition of 1911
The initial kernel of the collection came form the Archaeological Exhibition organised in 1911 in the halls of the Baths of Diocletian under the direction on Rodolfo Lanciani, as part of the celebrations for the Fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy. A series of models were created for the exhibition – both casts and recreations – of relevant scientific and cultural interest that would enable the exhibition’s organisers to create a permanent display.

The material exhibited in the Museum comes largely from two historical exhibition occasions: the first was the archaeological exhibition organized by Rodolfo Lanciani in 1911 at the Baths of Diocletian, on the occasion of the first fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy; it was mainly dedicated to illustrating Roman civilization in the imperial provinces.

The materials prepared for the 1911 exhibition were not dispersed, but placed in the headquarters of the former Pastificio Pantanella at the Bocca della Verità (residue of the industrial plants that occupied the area of the Circus Maximus until the 1930s), converted into the headquarters of the Roman Empire, inaugurated on June 19, 1929.

The Museum of the Roman Empire
The material collected for this museum, was temporarily placed in the ex-convent of Sant’Ambrogio in 1927, it was then arranged in the former Pantanella bakery near the Bocca della Verità, which was transformed into the Palazzo of the Museums. In this way the Museum of the Roman Empire came into existence and, having been inaugurated in 1929, also took on the role of archive and study center for the Roman world.

The Augustan Exhibition of Romanitas
Another especially significant moment in the history of the Museum of Roman Culture was the Augustan Exhibition of Romanitas, which took place in 1937 in the Palazzo of the Exhibition under the direction of GQ Giglioli to celebrate to bi-millennium of the birth of Augustus, and led to a considerable increase in the material on display in the Museum of the Roman Empire.

In 1937, the Fascist government organized the Mostra Augustea della Romanità at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni to celebrate the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of Augustus and at the same time the fascist regime, which had just proclaimed the empire, in 1936. The exhibition exhibited the materials already collected in the Museum of the Roman Empire, which were supplemented by numerous others created for the occasion; among these, the grandiose model of imperial Rome, today undoubtedly the most well-known layout of the Museum, also internationally. The exhibition aroused exceptional interest and, also for this reason, it was decided to establish a museum that permanently exhibited the materials presented in it. Thus was born the idea of a Museum of Roman Civilization to be set up at the EUR.

The project of the museum headquarters
This led to the design of the building that now houses the museum in 1939, the work of architects Pietro Aschieri, Cesare Pascoletti, Gino Peressutti and Domenico Bernardini. The structure should have been used initially for an exhibition celebrating the fascist victories, to be held on the occasion of the planned Universal Exposition of Rome in 1942. The work had been commissioned by FIAT, which remained its owner for years; at the time the great Turin industry was governed by Senator Agnelli. Only after the showof 1942, the building was supposed to permanently house the large amount of material that had already been exhibited at the Augustean Exhibition of Romanity; thus a new large didactic museum would arise, full of models, models and casts useful to reconstruct before the eyes of visitors all aspects of Roman civilization and all the most important monuments that this civilization left in the three continents in which it spread.

The Museum of Roman Culture
In order to create a stable home for the collection, arranging it all as a permanent Exhibition of Romanitas, it was decided to create a suitable building as part of the Universal Exhibition of Rome, planned for 1942, to celebrate twenty years of Fascism. However, because of the ongoing events of war, building work was interrupted and the building remained unfinished.

The municipality of Rome recommenced the initiative in the 50s, when FIAT offered to take on the completion of the building, as well as the financing of the project and the early stages of the work. The Museum of Roman Culture thus came into existence. Ten rooms were inaugurated in 1952 and the museum was opened to the public in its entirety in 1955.

The museum
The museum system run by Rome City Council comprises an extremely diverse group of museums and archaeological sites of undoubted artistic and historic value. In addition to the Musei Capitolini – the world’s oldest public museum – the system also encompasses the Museo dell’Ara Pacis, designed by Richard Meier and home to various important exhibitions. others include Mercati di Traiano, with the Museo dei Fori Imperiali, and the Museo di Roma at Palazzo Braschi.

The system is further enriched by several “hidden” gems – small museums with prized collections such as the Napoleonic Museum, the Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco, the Museo Carlo Bilotti, the Museo Pietro Canonica, the Museo delle Mura and others still – all waiting to be discovered. Numerous events and temporary exhibitions help make the System of Municipal Museums unique among other museum networks in Italy, providing a constant stream of initiatives that are always original and guaranteed to appeal to all sections of the public.

The Building
The complex which houses the museum was designed by the architects Aschieri, Bernardini, Pascoletti and Peressutti, who won one of the public competitions for the most outstanding buildings at the Universal Exhibition of Rome in 1942.

Among the designers, Pietro Aschieri was pre-eminent, and in the creation of a majestic and magniloquent structure, was able fully to express his ideas, inspired by a classicism mixed with scenography.

The architectural complex is made up of two imposing structures connected in a symmetrical arrangement in a long portico of travertine columns, which delimit the piazza created and surrounded by the structure and give it scenographic depth.

Onto the centre of the protrusions, set obliquely to the piazza, open two monumental entrances, each of which leads to a narrow embedded corridor, flanked by solemn travertine columns. These openings form an interruption in the compact mass of the walls, which are immense blind surfaces of dressed blocks of bugnate worked dark tufo, surmounted by a travertine cornice. The static nature of the external space is in contrasted to the outstanding dynamism of the internal space, which is articulated into an irregular sequence of rooms of various shapes and sizes.

Building characteristics
The building consists of two lateral buildings, connected by a third body, consisting of a scenic colonnade raised and open towards the green area of the Tre Fontane. The walls are covered with a rustication in peperino and the colossal columns are in travertine. Below the colonnade floor is the long underground gallery that connects the two lateral bodies and in which the casts of the Trajan’s Column are exposed. A striking peculiarity of the structure is the almost total absence of windows and skylight ceilings, characteristics that prevent the visitor from contact with the outside world and help him to immerse himself emotionally in the past. In memory of the contribution from FIAT, the square between the three bodies of the building is named after Senator Giovanni Agnelli.

In 2004 the Planetarium, from the Octagonal Hall of the Baths of Diocletian, and the Astronomical Museum of Rome were installed in the museum.

Since the post-war period, the square in front of the museum has been used, often as a ready-made set for mythological historical films such as the peplums of the 50s and 60s, one of the first films shot on the site was OK Nero, by Mario Soldati in 1950, until recent television serials on Ancient Rome. In 2015 the colonnade was turned into a cemetery to shoot scenes from Specter, a James Bond series movie.

Current layout
The museum is currently divided into 59 sections, occupies an area of 12,000 square meters and is ordered in rooms with an average height of 10 meters, such as to allow the reconstruction on a 1: 1 scale of facades of monuments.

Among the most interesting pieces include the large plastic of ancient Rome at the time of Constantine I, that in the fourth century AD (XXXVIII room). The model (to which a very large room is dedicated) is in scale 1: 250. The reconstruction, created by the architect Italo Gismondi, meets rigorous scientific criteria, having as its basis the Forma Urbis Severiana, a marble map dating back to the III century AD, and the Forma Urbis Romae of the archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani. The model also continues to be updated and modified in the light of new discoveries.

Of extreme interest are also the casts of the reliefs of the Trajan ‘s Column, built in 113 AD on a project by Apollodorus of Damascus to celebrate the victories reported by the emperor Trajan on the Dacians, in the two Dacian wars, of 101-102 and 105 and 106 AD (room LI). The reproduction of the reliefs of the column exposed in this museum is one of the three series made by Napoleon III in 1861; the other two are exhibited in France, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and in England, at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The copy present in the Museum was donated by Bonaparte to Pope Pius IX and subsequently granted by Pius XIIin perpetual storage at the Museum of Roman Civilization. The current horizontal exposure of the scenes, which extend for about 200 meters, allows a close view of all the reliefs in the state of conservation of the 1800s and allows you to make contact with the 2500 figures of one of the greatest masterpieces of Roman art.

Also of great interest are the casts of the reliefs of the great frieze of Trajan, 3 meters high and over 18 meters long (room XXXVIII). They allow you to admire in its original unity this important sculptural work, which at the time of the emperor Constantine was divided into four parts and placed on the arch dedicated to him, where it is still divided into four blocks, two in the passage of the archway central and two at the top of the attic .

Other models of great interest are that of Villa Adriana (room XII) and that of archaic Rome (room XVIII), in scale 1: 1000.

The course is divided into two sectors, one chronological and one thematic. The first, which is divided into twelve rooms, offers a historical summary of Rome from its origins to the 6th century AD; the thematic sector runs along twelve other rooms and documents the various aspects of daily life and material culture. The series of casts of the Trajan ‘s Column is exhibited within the thematic sector and at the end of it there is the large model of imperial Rome.

Historical sections
The first four rooms house the ticket office and services. The most important materials displayed in each room are listed below; the numbering of the rooms is not always progressive, but reflects the current visit route. The materials listed are only a choice from the many present.

Room V: of Roman legends
copy of the Warrior of Capestrano, an example of pre-Roman art; models of the archaic houses of Rome.
Room VI: of the origins of Rome
cast of the Capitoline she-wolf, copy of the Sarcophagus of Mars and Rea Silvia of the Vatican.
Room XVIII: of archaic Rome
model of archaic Rome; first group of modern statues that reconstruct the appearance of the warriors of pre-Roman Italy (Piceno, Etruscan, Samnite)
Room VII: The conquest of the Mediterranean.
reconstruction of the rostrated column of Gaius Duilio; second group of modern statues that reconstruct the appearance of the warriors of pre-Roman Italy
Room VIII: by Cesare:
scale reconstruction of the most important battles and war machines used by Caesar during the conquest of Gaul, including a model illustrating the siege of Alesia, as well as a copy of a loricate statue of Julius Caesar (of the Trajan era, now exhibited in the council hall of the Municipality of Rome).
Room IX: of Augustus
copies of statues illustrating the various functions performed by the emperor: Augusto di Prima Porta, Augusto di via Labicana, of the portrait of Augusto capite veiled by Ancona; model of aqueduct in the section where it crosses a valley; model of the Theater of Marcellus, real life reconstruction of the pronaos of the temple of Augustus and Rome (Monumentum Ancyranum) of Ancyra.
Room X: of the emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty
Room XI: of the emperors of the Flavian dynasty
architectural model of the Colosseum, with cross-section that allows you to observe the structure; section of the Colosseum showing the ascent mechanisms; Ludus Magnus model; model of the Arch of Titus and cast of the reliefs placed on it representing the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Titus; architectural model of the Stadium of Domitian.
Room XII: of Traiano and Adriano
casts of the most important statues and portraits representing Trajan; architectural model and reliefs of the Arch of Benevento; architectural model of the Arch of Ancona; casts of the statues of prisoner dacians; portrait of Plotina; model of the Villa Adriana; casts of the reliefs of the Tropaeum Traiani of Adamclisi, example of Roman provincial art.
Room XIII: of the emperors from Antonino Pio to the Severans
Room XIV: of Constantine (or of the emperors from Macrino to Justinian)
architectural models of the Arch of Constantine and the Circus of Maxentius; cast of the colossal statue of Constantine.
Room XV: of Christianity
cast of the statue of the Good Shepherd of the Vatican profane Gregorian Museum; copy of the sarcophagus of Constantine in Rome and the sarcophagus of Giunio Basso in Milan.
Room XVI
representation of the triumph of Trajan celebrated after the victory in the Dacian War (temporary location)
Rooms from XVI to XXXVI: currently closed to the public.

Thematic sections
The numbering of the rooms presented here is not progressive, but reflects the current visit route; also in this case the listed materials are only a choice of the many present

Room LVI: of the ports
cast of scene 58 of the Trajan ‘s Column, in which you can see the structures of the port of Ancona, a bireme and a trireme.
Room LV: of commerce and economic life
reproduction of the Arco degli Argentari in Rome; cast of the relief with merchants who thank the emperor Trajan, from the Arch of Benevento; reconstructive models of the markets of Leptis Magna and Serzio in Timgad.
Room LIV: hunting, fishing and feeding
cast of the sarcophagus of the vintner from Ancona (National Archaeological Museum).
Room LIII: of agriculture, pastoralism and land surveying
reproduction of millstones for wheat, similar to those found in Ostia antica; architectural model of a rustic Roman house: that of Boscoreale (Naples)
Room LII: of industry and crafts
Room LI: of the Trajan’s Column
here is the complete series of casts of the Trajan’s Column and the model of the monument.
Room L: of medicine and pharmacy
copy of the statue of the goddess Igea from Rhodes (National Archaeological Museum); copy of the statue of the god Asclepius of the Capitoline Museums in Rome.
Room XLIX: of letters and science
copy of the mosaic with portrait of the poet Virgil of Susa (Tunisia), now in the Bardo Museum of Tunis; playing sundial.
Room XLVIII: of music
reproductions and reconstructions of ancient musical instruments.
Room XLVII: libraries
life-size reproduction of a private library based on that of Villa Adriana; reproduction of tabulae ceratae; reconstructive model of the Trajan ‘s Forum library in Rome.
Room XLVI: of law
inscriptions containing the texts of the main laws, including that of the XII tables.
Room XXXVI: of the school
copy of the relief depicting a teacher among his pupils from Neumagen (Germany).
Room XXXVIII: of the great frieze of Trajan – view from above of the model of imperial Rome
reconstruction of the original appearance of the great frieze of Trajan.
Room XXXIX: of the house
reconstructive model of the house of the Tragic Poet of Pompeii; reconstructive model of the Diocletian palace of Split; architectural models of imperial buildings in Ostia.

The structure has been closed since 31 January 2014 due to the redevelopment works of the building. The prolonged closure has sparked protests and hundreds of archaeologists, scholars, intellectuals and actors have signed an appeal expressing concern for the works preserved in conditions that expose them to degradation and to urge the reopening of the prestigious museum. In January 2018, the Capitoline Assembly chaired by the mayor Virginia Raggi approved the allocation of 722,000 euros in the 2018-2020 budget for the rehabilitation and reopening of the Museum: the first works started in June 2017. The funds in 2020 have already been used and will allow the reopening of the planetarium hosted by the museum. It is estimated that € 9.8 million is still needed to complete the necessary interventions for the reopening, which will however take place in stages. After the planetarium, it is planned to make the large model of imperial Rome visible, perhaps as early as spring 2021. A committee of citizens is keeping the institutions’ attention alert by aiming for total reopening.