Quanta Roma fuit ipsa ruina docet

How Great Rome Was, its Very Ruins Tell

Abstract:
Many visitors encounter a complex feeling when visiting the ruins of Rome: admiration for its past greatness, but also grief over the present devastation. The article discusses the historical development of this feeling as well as the means and methods with which this dualism has been countered over the centuries.
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2022-19624.
Languages: Italian, English

“Quanta Roma fuit ipsa ruina docet” [Quanto fosse grande Roma lo mostrano le stesse sue rovine]: in questa frase c’è il sentimento complesso che provano tanti visitatori di fronte alle rovine della Città Eterna, un sentimento fatto di ammirazione per la grandezza passata, ma anche di dolore per la devastazione attuale. Questa frase apparve agli inizi del Cinquecento in una guida di Roma scritta dal canonico Francesco Albertini,[1] e ha avuto fortuna. La si ritrova ad esempio qualche decennio dopo sul frontespizio del terzo volume del trattato di architettura di Sebastiano Serlio,[2] un’opera che ebbe una grande diffusione, e ancora oggi torna nei titoli di libri e convegni.[3]

La nascita di un mito

Questa frase è stata coniata nel Rinascimento, ma l’idea non era nuova. Già secoli prima la esprimeva Ildeberto di Lavardin (1056-1133), arcivescovo e influente poeta francese, nella sua poesia De Roma: “Nulla è pari a te, Roma: … distrutta, mostri quanto eri grande quando eri intatta.”[4] Francesco Petrarca, in una lettera all’amico Giovanni Colonna scritta nel 1337 in occasione del suo primo e breve soggiorno a Roma, scriveva che la vista della città in rovina non l’aveva affatto deluso – come l’amico gli aveva annunciato – anzi era avvenuto proprio il contrario: “Roma fu più grande di quel che io non pensavo, e più grandi ne sono le reliquie.”[5] Le rovine di Roma hanno continuato per secoli a essere fonte di fascino e di ispirazione.

La Roma di Sigmund Freud

Roma però non è soltanto antichità, ma anche una continua e straordinaria sedimentazione di tracce storiche attraverso tutti i secoli. Questa sua particolarità suggerì a Sigmund Freud un paragone con la vita psichica, nella quale nessuna esperienza viene perduta per sempre e può essere riportata alla luce in circostanze appropriate. Se Roma non fosse una città ma un’entità psichica, egli scrive nelle prime pagine de Il disagio della civiltà, un visitatore potrebbe ammirare contemporaneamente, uno dentro l’altro, tutti gli edifici che si sono succeduti in un determinato luogo:

“Sul Palatino i palazzi dei Cesari e il Septizonium di Settimio Severo si ergerebbero ancora nella loro antica imponenza … Nel posto occupato dal Palazzo Caffarelli sorgerebbe di nuovo, senza che tale edificio debba venir demolito, il tempio di Giove Capitolino, e non solo nel suo aspetto più recente, quale lo videro i romani dell’epoca imperiale, ma anche in quello originario, quando ancora presentava forme etrusche ed era ornato di antefisse fittili. Dove ora sorge il Colosseo potremmo del pari ammirare la scomparsa Domus aurea di Nerone; sulla piazza del Pantheon troveremmo non solo il Pantheon odierno, quale ci venne lasciato da Adriano, ma, sul medesimo suolo, anche l’edificio originario di Marco Agrippa.”[6]

Vedere il passato

Questa pagina di Freud invita a sviluppare un’affascinante visione profonda dei luoghi storici, non solo romani naturalmente, che vada oltre la loro realtà presente e ne attraversi tutto il passato, con  ricostruzioni o immagini d’epoca. L’archeologia offre oggi ricostruzioni degli edifici antichi di Roma, che i visitatori di un tempo non avevano, e a partire dal Cinquecento un gran numero di dipinti e incisioni mostra le trasformazioni della città.[7] Con questo materiale iconografico si può costruire un album, su carta o su uno strumento digitale, da sfogliare mentre ci si trova in un certo luogo, stimolando l’immaginazione nel senso indicato da Freud.

Per quanto riguarda l’antichità, uno strumento tecnologicamente molto semplice ma efficace venne brevettato proprio a Roma nel 1959 dalla casa editrice Vision: si trattava di volumetti con rilegatura a spirale, formati da fotografie a tutta pagina dello stato attuale di vari luoghi archeologici, su cui si poteva sovrapporre una pagina di plastica. Su quest’ultima era disegnata una ricostruzione del luogo in età imperiale che copriva gli elementi moderni della foto, ma lasciava vedere in trasparenza gli elementi antichi della foto inseriti nella ricostruzione. In tal modo era assicurato un rapporto diretto con il presente. A corredo delle immagini c’erano testi brevi ma specialistici, che davano informazioni storiche e archeologiche e approfondivano la conoscenza dei luoghi. Il primo volumetto sull’antica Roma[8] uscì nel 1962, seguito da molti altri su Ostia antica, sulle catacombe romane, su Pompei e su Villa Adriana, e poi anche su siti archeologici in Grecia, Turchia, Egitto e Giordania.

L’efficacia di questi libretti è dimostrata dal successo che incontrano ancora oggi, a sessanta anni di distanza, tradotti in molte lingue. L’edizione attuale di quello dedicato a Roma[9] è molto più ricca della prima in fotografie e ricostruzioni, ma mantiene lo stesso sistema di sovrapposizione della pagina di plastica. Vi sono stati inseriti anche un DVD e materiali multimediali, attivabili su smartphone con QR code, certo attraenti, in particolare per le carrellate a volo d’uccello, ma che non aggiungono nulla di sostanziale alla fruizione tradizionale.

A parte questi libretti, la visita di Roma, come del resto di altri luoghi storici, viene sempre più assistita con tecnologie digitali sempre più sofisticate, con risultati assai diversi. In alcuni casi si usano visori per la Realtà Virtuale, come nel caso della Domus aurea,[10] ma questi dispositivi hanno il problema di isolare totalmente l’utilizzatore dall’ambiente reale. Ciò non avviene invece con l’uso di proiezioni e luci laser per la ricostruzione della decorazione di ambienti chiusi, come nel caso della chiesa paleocristiana di Santa Maria Antiqua[11] nel Foro romano, costruita in uno degli ambienti del palazzo imperiale. Promettenti sembrano i vari dispositivi per la Realtà Aumentata, perché consentono di osservare insieme l’ambiente circostante e la sua ricostruzione su uno schermo portatile o attraverso uno smart glass.[12] In tal modo sarebbe possibile vedere Roma come immaginava Freud.

Raschiare il palinsesto

Gli edifici storici si presentano al visitatore odierno in condizioni molto varie: alcuni sono quasi intatti, altri distrutti, cancellati, poco riconoscibili o nascosti, oppure rimaneggiati, restaurati, ricostruiti. Ognuno ha una storia significativa, la cui conoscenza cambia l’esperienza immediata.

A Roma molti edifici antichi sono stati distrutti nel corso dei secoli per costruirne altri, riutilizzandone le colonne o addirittura trasformando il marmo in calce. Altri sono sopravvissuti perché sono stati trasformati in chiese. E’ questo il caso del Pantheon, dei due templi di Ercole vincitore e di Portuno in piazza della Bocca della Verità, e della Curia Iulia al Foro romano, fondata da Giulio Cesare e sede del Senato per tutta l’età imperiale. Gli ultimi tre edifici sono stati sconsacrati e rimaneggiati per restituirli il più possibile alla forma originaria: una scelta di politica culturale intesa a valorizzare l’antichità e la romanità rispetto al presente. L’intervento sul tempio di Ercole vincitore venne fatto agli inizi dell’Ottocento, durante il periodo napoleonico, e quello sulla Curia Iulia negli anni ’30 del Novecento, durante il regime fascista.

In quest’ultimo caso venne completamente demolito l’interno barocco della chiesa, e furono recuperati gli elementi antichi per ricostituire il pavimento e i tre larghi gradoni su cui c’erano i seggi dei senatori. Intervento che è stato anche fortemente criticato e definito “vandalico”,[13] proprio per la cancellazione del palinsesto storico che la chiesa rappresentava. Certo tutta la questione del restauro è molto complessa e controversa, condizionata da ideologie politiche ed estetiche, e non riguarda solo l’antico: ad alcune chiese medievali romane, ad esempio, nell’Ottocento vennero tolti gli elementi aggiunti in età barocca. Interventi apprezzati un tempo oggi sarebbero inammissibili. Quanto alla Curia Iulia, il visitatore potrà forse più facilmente sovrapporre all’attuale ambiente spoglio la ricostruzione che il libretto dell’editrice Vision[14] gli offre sulla carta e  sul suo smartphone, e immaginare di trovarsi all’interno del Senato.

Uscendo, egli troverà un altro edificio fondato da Giulio Cesare, la Basilica Iulia, della quale invece non rimane null’altro che il pavimento. Ma qualche dettaglio superstite lo mette in contatto con la vita quotidiana di allora: si tratta di tavole da gioco, come quelle per il gioco delle fossette,[15] grossolanamente incise sui gradini esterni, su cui i romani passavano il tempo. Anche se non conosce le regole del gioco, potrà immaginare essere seduto lì a giocare con qualcuno.

Essere lì

La presenza fisica su un luogo storico è un elemento fondamentale dell’esperienza, perché fa nascere dalla conoscenza anche l’emozione, sollecitando l’immaginazione e l’immedesimazione come nessuna fruizione remota può fare. Petrarca, passeggiando per Roma, lasciava correre la fantasia, ripercorrendone tutta la storia attraverso i luoghi, e pensava fra gli altri a Giulio Cesare: “Qui Cesare trionfò, e qui fu ucciso”.[16] Non so se Petrarca poteva identificare la Curia di Pompeo, dove Cesare fu pugnalato: le rovine di oggi non sono più quelle di allora. Oggi, dopo gli scavi novecenteschi, chi passeggia davanti al Teatro Argentina sa che quel luogo si trova proprio sotto i suoi piedi, ad alcuni metri di profondità sotto il marciapiede.

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Per approfondire

  • Coarelli, Filippo. Roma. Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori, 2002.
  • Zorach, Rebecca, ed. The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome. Printing and collecting the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Siti web

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[1] Francesco Albertini, Opusculum de mirabilibus novae & veteris urbis Romae (Impressum Romae per Iacobum Mazochium, MDX). Il libro non é paginato, la frase si trova nel capitolo De nova Urbe, all’Inizio del liber tertius.
[2] Sebastiano Serlio, Il Terzo Libro Di Sabastiano Serlio Bolognese, Nel Qval Si Figvrano, E Descrivono Le Antiqvita Di Roma, E Le Altre Che Sono In Italia, E Fvori De Italia, In Venetia, MDXLIIII.
[3] Nicole Dacos, Roma quanta fuit. Tre pittori fiamminghi nella Domus Aurea (Roma: Donzelli editore, 2001). Una conferenza con questo titolo è stato tenuti alla Bibliotheka Hertziana di Roma 1986.
[4] Hildeberti Cenomannensis episcopi, Carmina minora, recensuit A. Brian Scott (Leipzig: BSB B. G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, 1969), 22.
[5] Francesco Petrarca, Le familiari. Scelta, edited by Enrico Bianchi, introduction by Guido Martellotti (Torino: Giulio Einaudi editore, 1977), Brief II, 14, 23.
[6] Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents,” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, translated from the German unter the General Editorship of James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud (London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis XXI, 1971), 70.
[7] Numerose sono le fonti digitalizzate. Una collezione miscellanea di incisori del Cinquecento e del Seicento si trova in https://speculum.lib.uchicago.edu/index.html (last accessed 19 April 2022). Per il Settecento, i quattro volumi dell’opera Le antichità romane di Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) si trovano nel sito https://archive.org/index.php (last accessed 19 April 2022). Le duecento incisioni contenute nei dieci volumi dell’opera di Giuseppe Vasi (1710-1782) Sulle magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna si trovano nel sito https://romeartlover.tripod.com/Vasi.html (last accessed 19 April 2022): per ciascuna di esse c’è una scheda con informazioni storico –artistiche e alcune foto che mostrano lo stato odierno del luogo. Per l’Ottocento c’è la collezione Roma sparita di Ettore Roesler Franz, composta da 120 acquerelli che egli realizzò fra il 1878 e il 1896 per documentare lo stato di molti luoghi prima della profonda e spesso devastante trasformazione urbanistica iniziata dopo l’annessione della città all’Italia e continuata durante il regime fascista. L’integrale si trova nel sito https://www.ettoreroeslerfranz.com/acquerelli/roma-sparita/ (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[8] Roma come era e come è, con ricostruzione dei monumenti antichi, testi e ricerche di R. A. Staccioli, edited by A. Equini (Roma: Vision s.r.l., 1962).
[9] R. A. Staccioli, Roma antica. La Roma dei Cesari e dei Papi (Roma: Vision Past & Present, Altair Multimedia, 2020).
[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiSaw8FobTk&ab_channel=ROMEREPORTSinEnglish (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[11] https://www.treccani.it/magazine/webtv/videos/Itin_Santa_Maria_Antiqua.html (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[12] Samanta Mariotti, “The Use of Serious Games as an Educational and Dissemination Tool for Archaeological Heritage. Potential and Challenges for the Future,” magazén, 2.1 (2021), 119-138, DOI 10.30687/mag/2724-3923/2021/03/005; Samuli Laato, Sampsa Rauti, Antti Laato, Teemu H. Laine, Erkki Sutinen, Erno Lehtinen, “Learning History with Location-Based Applications. An Architecture for Points of Interest in Multiple Layers,” Sensors 21.1 (2021), 129, https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s21010129.
[13] Antonio Cederna, Mussolini urbanista. Lo sventramento di Roma negli anni del consenso (Bari: Laterza, 1979), 198.
[14] Il QR code connette con un filmato di 1:49 minuti sulla ricostruzione del Foro romano con l’interno della Basilica Iulia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4PACYJKxic (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[15] Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti, Giochi e giocattoli (= Vita e costumi dei Romani antichi, Collana promossa dal Museo della Civiltà Romana, n. 18) (Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2010), 99-101.
[16] Francesco Petrarca, Letters, translated by Giuseppe Fracassetti, Vol. II (Firenze: Felice Lemonnier, 1864), letter VI, 2, 115.

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Crediti d’immagine

Roma, Basilica Iulia, gioco delle fossette. © The Author.

Citazione raccomandata

Cajani, Luigi: Quanta Roma fuit ipsa ruina docet. In: Public History Weekly 10 (2022) 3, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2022-19624.

Responsabilità editoriale

Peter Gautschi / Moritz Hoffmann 

“Quanta Roma fuit ipsa ruina docet” [How great Rome was is shown by its ruins]: This sentence reflects the complex feeling which many visitors have when they see the ruins of the Eternal City, a feeling that consists of admiration for its past greatness, but also grief over the present devastation. This phrase appeared at the beginning of the 16th century in a guide to Rome written by Canon Francesco Albertini,[1] and it has prevailed. Thus, it is found a few decades later on the title page of the third volume of Sebastiano Serlio’s Treatise on Architecture,[2] a work that was widely circulated and still today appears in the titles of books and conferences.[3]

The Birth of a Myth

This statement was coined during the Renaissance, but the idea was not new. Centuries earlier, Ildebert de Lavardin (1056-1133), an archbishop and influential French poet, had expressed this in his poem “De Roma”: “Nothing is equal to you, Rome: … destroyed you show how great you were when you were still intact.”[4] Francesco Petrarch, in a letter to his friend Giovanni Colonna, written in 1337 on the occasion of his first and short stay in Rome, writes that the sight of the city in ruins did not disappoint him at all – as his friend had said to him -, but that the opposite had been the case: “In truth Rome was greater, and greater are its ruins than I imagined.” The ruins of Rome have for centuries been a source of fascination and inspiration.[5]

The Rome of Sigmund Freud

However, Rome is not only antiquity, but also a continuous and extraordinary deposit of historical traces over the centuries. This peculiarity suggested to Sigmund Freud a comparison with the psychic life in which no experience is lost forever and can be brought to light again under suitable circumstances. If Rome were not a city but a psychic entity, thus he writes on the first pages of “Civilization and Its Discontents”, a visitor could admire at the same time all the buildings which followed one another in a given place:

“The palaces of the Caesars and the Septizonium of Septimius Severus would still be rising to their old height on the Palatine … In the place occupied by the Palazzo Caffarelli would once more stand, without the Palazzo having to be removed, the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; and this not only in its latest shape, as the Romans of the Empire saw it, but also in its earliest one, when it still showed Etruscan forms and was ornamented with terracotta antefixes. Where the Coliseum now stands we could at the same time admire Nero’s vanished Golden House. On the Piazza of the Pantheon we should find not only the Pantheon of today, as it was bequeathed to us by Hadrian, but, on the same site, the original edifice erected by Agrippa.”[6]

Seeing the Past

This page of Freud invites you to take a fascinating look at historical places, of course, not only Roman ones, a look going beyond the present reality and covering the entire past with reconstructions or contemporary images. Archaeology today offers reconstructions of ancient buildings in Rome which were not available to visitors of the past, and since the 16th century numerous paintings and engravings have shown the changes in the city.[7] With this iconographic material one can create an album, on paper or on a digital device which you leaf through while you are in a particular place, and which stimulates the power of imagination in the sense mentioned by Freud.

As for antiquity, a technologically very simple but effective tool was patented in Rome in 1959 by the Vision publishing house: These were small, spiral-bound volumes with full-page photographs of the current condition of various archaeological sites over which a plastic page could be laid. On the plastic page, a reconstruction of the site of the imperial period was drawn, obscuring the modern elements of the photo but allowing the ancient elements of the photo to be visible through the reconstruction. In this way, a direct link to the present was established. The pictures were accompanied by short but expert texts which provided historical and archaeological information and deepened the knowledge about the sites. The first booklet on ancient Rome was published in 1962,[8] it was followed by numerous others on ancient Ostia, the Roman catacombs, Pompeii, and Hadrian’s Villa, as well as on archaeological sites in Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

How effective these brochures were is shown by the success they still have today, sixty years later, and the many languages into which they have been translated. The current edition of the publication dedicated to Rome is much richer in photographs and reconstructions than the first one, but retains the same system of overlapping plastic pages.[9] It also includes a DVD and multimedia materials that can be activated via a QR code on a smartphone. These are certainly attractive, especially the bird’s eye perspective, but they do not add significantly to the traditional experience.

Apart from these brochures, visits to Rome, as well as to other historical sites, are increasingly supported by more and more sophisticated digital technologies, with very different results. In some cases, virtual reality viewers are used, as in the case of the Domus Aurea,[10] but these devices have the problem that they completely isolate the user from the real environment. The situation is different with the use of projections and laser light to reconstruct the decoration of closed rooms, as in the case of the early Christian church of Santa Maria Antiqua on the Roman Forum,[11] which was built in one of the rooms of the imperial palace. The various augmented reality devices seem promising, since they allow viewing the environment and its reconstruction on a screen or through smart glasses. In this way, it becomes possible to see Rome as Freud imagined it.[12]

Scratching on the Palimpsest

Historic buildings present themselves to today’s visitor in a very different condition: some are almost intact, others destroyed, ravaged, barely recognizable or hidden, or else rebuilt, restored, reconstructed. Each building has a significant history, the knowledge of which changes the immediate experience.

In Rome, over the centuries, many ancient buildings were destroyed to build others; columns were reused, stones and marble were turned into lime. This is true for the Pantheon, the two temples of Hercules the Victorious and Portunus in Piazza della Bocca della Verità and the Curia Iulia in the Roman Forum, founded by Julius Caesar, which has been the seat of the Senate throughout the imperial period. The last three buildings were desecrated and remodeled to restore them to their original form as much as possible: a cultural-political decision aimed at valorizing antiquity and the Roman era over the present. The works on the Temple of Hercules the Victorious were carried out at the beginning of the 19th century during the Napoleonic period, while the works on the Curia Julia took place in the 1930s during the Fascist regime.

In the latter case, the Baroque interior of the church was completely demolished and the ancient elements were restored to reconstruct the floor and the three wide steps where the seats of the senators were located. This intervention was also strongly criticized and called “vandalism”,[13] just because of the annulment of the historical palimpsest which represented the church. Of course, the whole subject of restoration is very complex and controversial, as it is influenced by political and aesthetic ideologies and does not only concern antiquity: in the nineteenth century, for example, elements added in the Baroque period were removed from some Roman medieval churches. Interventions that formerly used to be appreciated would be unacceptable today. As for the Curia Iulia, visitors may thus find it easier to superimpose the reconstruction of the current bare environment on paper and on their smartphone in Vision’s brochure and to imagine that they are in the Senate.[14]

Leaving the curia, one comes across another building founded by Julius Caesar, the Basilica Julia of which only the floor remains. But some preserved details bring the visitors in contact with the everyday life of the time: game boards, such as those for the “Gioco delle Fossette”,[15] which are crudely engraved on the outer steps on which the Romans passed their time. Even though they do not know the rules of the game, they can imagine themselves playing with someone.

Being There

The physical presence at an original historical site is a fundamental element of the experience because from the knowledge it evokes emotions which stimulate imagination and identification in a way that no experience from a distance is capable of. As Petrarch strolled through Rome, he let his imagination run wild, tracing the entire history of the city by its sites and thinking, among others, of Julius Caesar: “Here Cesar triumphed, here he perished.”[16] I do not know if Petrarch could identify the curia of Pompey in which Caesar was stabbed: the ruins of today are no longer those from back then. Nowadays, after the excavations of the 20th century, everyone who strolls in front of the Teatro Argentina knows that this place lies directly under his feet, a few meters below the sidewalk.

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Further Reading

  • Coarelli, Filippo. Roma. Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori, 2002.
  • Zorach, Rebecca, ed. The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome. Printing and collection of the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Web Resources

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[1] Francesco Albertini, Opusculum de mirabilibus novae & veteris urbis Romae (Impressum Romae per Iacobum Mazochium, MDX). The book is not paginated, the sentence is found in the chapter De nova Urbe at the beginning of the liber tertius.
[2] Sebastiano Serlio, Il Terzo Libro Di Sabastiano Serlio Bolognese, Nel Qval Si Figvrano, E Descrivono Le Antiqvita Di Roma, E Le Altre Che Sono In Italia, E Fvori De Italia, In Venetia, MDXLIIII.
[3] Nicole Dacos, Roma quanta fuit. Tre pittori fiamminghi nella Domus Aurea (Rome: Donzelli editore, 2001). A conference with this title was held at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome in 1986.
[4] Hildeberti Cenomannensis episcopi, Carmina minora, recensuit A. Brian Scott (Leipzig: BSB B. G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, 1969), 22.
[5] Francesco Petrarca, Rerum familiarium libri I-VIII, translated by Aldo S. Bernardo, Albany (NY), State University of New York Press, 1975, letter II, 14, p. 113: “In truth Rome was greater, and greater are its ruins than I imagined”; letter VI, 2, p. 192: “Here Cesar triumphed, here he perished”.
[6] Sigmund Freud, Il disagio della civiltà e altri saggi (Turin, Boringhieri, 1971), 205.
[7] Numerous sources have been digitized. A versatile collection of engravers of the 16th and 17th century can be found at https://speculum.lib.uchicago.edu/index.html (last accessed 19 April 2022). The two hundred engravings included in the ten volumes of Giuseppe Vasi’s (1710-1782) work “Sulle magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna” can be viewed on the website https://romeartlover.tripod.com/Vasi.html (last accessed 19 April 2022): For each engraving, there is a box with art historical information and some photos showing the current state of the site. For the 19th century, there is the collection Roma sparita by Ettore Roesler Franz consisting of 120 watercolors which he painted between 1878 and 1896 to document the state of many places before the profound and often devastating urban transformation which began after the annexation of the city to Italy and continued during the Fascist regime. The full collection can be found at https://www.ettoreroeslerfranz.com/acquerelli /roma-sparita/ (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[8] Roma come era e come è, con ricostruzione dei monumenti antichi, texts and researches by R. A. Staccioli, edited by A. Equini (Rome: Vision s.r.l., 1962).
[9] R. A. Staccioli, Roma antica. La Roma dei Cesari e dei Papi (Rome: Vision Past & Present, Altair Multimedia, 2020).
[10] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiSaw8FobTk&ab_channel=ROMEREPORTSinEnglish (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[11] https://www.treccani.it/magazine/webtv/videos/Itin_Santa_Maria_Antiqua.html (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[12] Samanta Mariotti, “The Use of Serious Games as an Educational and Dissemination Tool for Archaeological Heritage. Potential and Challenges for the Future,” magazén, 2.1 (2021), 119-138, DOI 10.30687/mag/2724-3923/2021/03/005; Samuli Laato, Sampsa Rauti, Antti Laato, Teemu H. Laine, Erkki Sutinen, and Erno Lehtinen, “Learning History with Location-Based Applications. An Architecture for Points of Interest in Multiple Layers,” Sensors 21.1 (2021), 129, https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s21010129.
[13] Antonio Cederna, Mussolini urbanista. Lo sventramento di Roma negli anni del consenso (Bari: Laterza, 1979), 198.
[14] The QR code connects with a 1:49 minute film on the reconstruction of the Roman Forum with the interior of the Basilica Julia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4PACYJKxic (last accessed 19 April 2022).
[15] Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti, Giochi e giocattoli (= Vita e costumi dei Romani antichi, Collana promossa dal Museo della Civiltà Romana, n. 18) (Rom: Edizioni Quasar, 2010), 99-101.
[16] Francesco Petrarca, Rerum familiarium libri I-VIII, translated by Aldo S. Bernardo, Albany (NY), State University of New York Press, 1975, letter II, 14, p. 113: “In truth Rome was greater, and greater are its ruins than I imagined”; letter VI, 2, p. 192: “Here Cesar triumphed, here he perished”.

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Image Credits

Roma, Basilica Iulia, gioco delle fossette. © The Author.

Recommended Citation

Cajani, Luigi: How Great Rome Was, its Very Ruins Tell. In: Public History Weekly 10 (2022) 3, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2022-19624.

Editorial Responsibility

Peter Gautschi / Moritz Hoffmann 

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Categories: 10 (2022) 3
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2022-19624

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3 replies »

  1. German version below. To all readers we recommend the automatic DeepL-Translator for 22 languages. Just copy and paste.

    OPEN PEER REVIEW

    Ruina non docet!

    Just in the morning when I read L. Cajani’s contribution to “eternal Rome” – by which probably less the substance of buildings is meant than the meaning or idea (perhaps even the idea of the city itself) – I visit Dornum. Less important than Rome, of course, and certainly not of the same eternity as the Tiber metropolis, founded more than 1,500 years later. And with its population of just over 1,000 it is not so much future-orientated. At least the Wik-village has a castle (Norderburg), which identifies it as a former East Frisian chieftain’s seat. Currently, a part of it is not accessible. It has been restored and is being restored. This part has housed a school since 1951. However, the visitor cannot see that. Nor that this part of the complex was added only in the 17th/18th century, while the basic part of the ensemble was built in the 15th century, but destroyed in 1517 and rebuilt a generation later. The information boards could convey this information if they were not soiled to the point of illegibility by the droppings of the countless rooks, which obviously also belong to the historic location. What is the historical site or place or the “original historical site” here?

    Historical learning at the historical location[1] – that sounds like an ideal constellation. But on the one hand, however, little is known about what effects historical learning actually produces at historical sites; on the other hand – as P. Gautschi has pointed out – historical sites do not work by themselves. Their pure existence has no consequences for historical learning, because for the observer the Historicity of the site simply remains in the dark, unless he has knowledge that represents the history of the site or of concrete events connected with it. Rather, it remains mute, not only when it has been reshaped over time, but also when it has retained its original form or been restored to it. Basically, the location as a text (in the sense of cultural-scientific) requires contextualization, that is, historical narratives that reveal its meaning as a historical site for the very first time.

    How much more does this apply to a city like Rome, which, with the adjective “eternal”, virtually claims timelessness for itself. This, of course, remains pure rhetoric. Rome, too, has (been) subject to temporal change in many ways. Again and again the antique building substance was ground down, built over and restored, as L. Cajani demonstrates with illustrative examples. But the eternity of the city is probably based on its ancient heritage, which has been staged again and again to bring the exemplary culture of the Romans to (re)light. It is probably this Roman heritage, which never quite fades away, that is to be expressed in the much invoked eternity. The (former) greatness of Rome can be experienced through the ruins. However, it is only revealed to those who know the history of Rome (in its basic features). By no means “everyone who strolls in front of the Teatro Argentina knows that this place lies directly under his feet, a few meters below the sidewalk”. Presumably, many tourists who walk this way have familiarized themselves with the past of the place and the stories (including the archaeological ones) that surround it. Perhaps also with the different time layers of the tradition, which can be illustrated so well by the slide technique of the Vision publishing house, which the author himself used during his first visit to Rome. At that time, still at a very youthful age, he hardly read all the texts, let alone understood them. In his mind’s eye, the sequence of buildings developed rather contextlessly, without any actual historical learning being associated with it – his historical knowledge was all too marginal for that.

    Seeing the past at the historical location is a difficult enterprise. Not only the autobiographical experience indicates it: Ruina non docet! Nor do ruins show the greatness of Rome. Ruins must be made to speak. This requires more than the material relics. This requires stories about their complex past.

    If one takes palimpsest not as a terminus technicus, but as a metaphor, it can be used to illustrate how tradition is a permanent process of writing, rewriting, and continuing[2] – but little or nothing is gained for historical learning. Perhaps a viable path would be the one via the theory of memory sites, because these are undoubtedly the “original place”. However, despite the numerous anthologies on places of remembering (Lieux de mémoire), there is neither a theory nor a discourse on how to examine them. Consequently, such a recourse does not lead any further in the didactics of history, currently. No matter how you look at it – in the end you rub your eyes in amazement: the discourse about learning history at the historical site is still very much in its infancy.

    [1]     The term “historical place” seems adequate because it covers not only places where action took place in the past ­– as the term “original scene” suggests – but also buildings or natural landscapes, etc., which do not stand for any particular past event as a symbol, but rather as a place existed in the past.; cf. Schreiber, Waltraud: Geschichte lernen an historischen Stätten, in: dies. (Hrsg.): Erste Begegnungen mit Geschichte (BStGd 1), 2. erw. Neuried 2004, S. 629-647.

    [2]     Koselleck, Reinhart: Erfahrungswandel und Methodenwechsel, in: ders.: Zeitschichten, Frankfurt a. M. 2003, S. 27-7.

    __________

    Ruina non docet!

    Just an dem Morgen als ich L. Cajanis Beitrag zum „ewigen Rom“ – womit wohl weniger die Bausubstanz als die Bedeutung und Idee (vielleicht sogar die Idee der Stadt an sich) gemeint ist – lese, besuche ich Dornum. Weniger bedeutend als Rom, selbstverständlich, und sicherlich nicht von derselben Ewigkeit wie die Tibermetropole, nämlich mehr als 1.500 Jahre später gegründet. Und mit seinen gut 1.000 Einwohnern auch nicht ganz so zukunftsträchtig. Immerhin verfügt der Wikort über ein Schloss (Norderburg), das ihn als ehemaligen ostfriesischen Häuptlingssitz ausweist. Ein Teil desselben ist derzeit nicht zugänglich. Er ist eingerüstet, wird restauriert. Darin ist seit 1951 eine Schule untergebracht. Das kann der Besucher freilich nicht erkennen. Ebenso wenig, dass dieser Teil der Anlage erst im 17./18. Jahrhundert hinzugefügt wurde, während der Grundbestand des Ensembles im 15. Jh. errichtet wurde, allerdings 1517 zerstört und eine Generation später wieder errichtet wurde. Die Hinweistafeln könnten diese Informationen vermitteln, wären sie nicht vom Kot der zahllosen Saatkrähen, die offensichtlich auch zum historischen Ort gehören, bis hin zur Unlesbarkeit verschmutzt. Was ist hier der historische Ort oder der „historische Originalschauplatz“?

    Historisches Lernen am historischen Ort[1] – das klingt nach einer idealen Konstellation. Zum einen aber ist wenig darüber bekannt, welche Effekte das historische Lernen am historischen Orte tatsächlich erzeugt; zum anderen wirken – worauf P. Gautschi hingewiesen hat – historische Stätten nicht aus sich heraus. Ihre pure Existenz bleibt folgenlos für das historische Lernen, weil für den Betrachter das Historische des Ortes schlichtweg im Dunkeln bleibt, sofern er über kein Wissen verfügt, das die Geschichte des Ortes oder einzelner mit diesem verbundener Geschehnisse repräsentiert. Vielmehr bleibt er stumm, und zwar nicht nur, wenn er im Laufe der Zeit überformt wurde, sondern auch dann, wenn er seine ursprüngliche Form bewahrt hat oder in diese zurückversetzt wurde. Grundsätzlich bedarf der Ort als Text (im kulturwissenschaftlichen Sinne) einer Kontextualisierung, also historischer Erzählungen, die seine Bedeutung als historischen Ort allererst zu erkennen geben.

    Um wie viel mehr gilt das für eine Stadt wie Rom, die mit dem Adjektiv „ewig“ quasi Zeitlosigkeit für sich in Anspruch nimmt. Das freilich bleibt pure Rhetorik. Dem zeitlichen Wandel ist auch Rom in vielfacher Weise unterlegen (gewesen). Immer wieder wurde die antike Bausubstanz geschliffen, überbaut und wieder hergestellt, wie L. Cajani an anschaulichen Beispielen vor Augen führt. Aber die Ewigkeit der Stadt beruht wohl auf ihrem antiken Erbe, das immer wieder neue in Szene gesetzt wurde, um die beispielhafte Kultur der Römer zum (Wieder-)Vorschein zu bringen. Wohl dieses römische Erbe, das niemals ganz vergeht, soll in der viel beschworenen Ewigkeit zum Ausdruck gebracht werden. Die (ehemalige) Größe Roms erfährt man eben über die Ruinen. Sie erschließt sich indes nur demjenigen, der die Geschichte Roms (in ihren Grundzügen) kennt. Keineswegs „jeder, der vor dem Teatro Argentina spazieren geht, „weiß dass dieser Ort direkt unter seinen Füßen liegt“. Vermutlich haben sich zwar viele Touristen, die diesen Weg gehen, mit der Vergangenheit des Ortes und den Geschichten (einschließlich den archäologischen) vertraut gemacht, die sich um ihn ranken. Vielleicht auch mit den verschiedenen Überlieferungsebenen, die sich so gut durch die Folientechnik des Vision-Verlags veranschaulichen lässt, derer sich der Verfasser selbst bei seinem ersten Rombesuch bediente. Damals noch in sehr jugendlichem Alter hat er die Texte wohl kaum alle gelesen, geschweige denn verstanden. Vor seinem geistigen Auge entwickelte sich eher kontextlos die Abfolge von Baulichkeiten, ohne dass damit tatsächlich historisches Lernen verbunden gewesen wäre – dazu waren seine historischen Kenntnisse allzu marginal.

    Die Vergangenheit am historischen Ort zu sehen, ist ein schwieriges Unterfangen. Darauf verweist nicht allein die autobiographische Erfahrung. Ruina non docet! Sie zeigen auch nicht die Größe Roms. Ruinen müssen zum Sprechen gebracht werden. Dazu bedarf es mehr als der materiellen Relikte. Dazu bedarf es der Geschichten über ihre vielschichtige Vergangenheit.

    Nimmt man dafür das Palimpsest nicht als terminus technicus, sondern als Metapher, kann damit gut veranschaulicht werden, wie die Tradition ein permanenter Prozesse des Auf-, Fort- und Umschreibens ist[2] – für das historische Lernen ist damit allerdings wenig bis nichts gewonnen. Vielleicht wäre ein gangbarer Weg der über die Theorie der Erinnerungsorte, denn um solche handelt es sich bei den „originalen Schauplätzen“ zweifelsohne. Wie diese allerdings zu untersuchen sind, dazu gibt es trotz der zahlreichen Sammelbände zu Erinnerungsorten weder eine Theorie noch einen Diskus. Folglich führte auch ein solcher Rekurs geschichtsdidaktisch einstweilen nicht weiter. Wie man es dreht und wendet – am Ende reibt man sich verwundert die Augen: der Diskurs um das historische Lernen am historischen Ort steht doch noch sehr am Anfang.

    [1]     Der Begriff „historischer Ort“ erscheint deshalb angemessen, weil damit nicht nur Orte erfasst werden, an denen Handeln in der Vergangenheit stattgefunden hat – wie der Begriff „Originalschauplatz“ suggeriert –, sondern auch Gebäude oder natürliche Landschaften etc., die für kein spezielles vergangenes Geschehen als Symbol stehen, sondern als Stätten, die bereits in der Vergangenheit bestanden haben; vgl. etwa Schreiber, Waltraud: Geschichte lernen an historischen Stätten, in: dies. (Hrsg.): Erste Begegnungen mit Geschichte (BStGd 1), 2. erw. Neuried 2004, S. 629-647.

    [2]     Koselleck, Reinhart: Erfahrungswandel und Methodenwechsel, in: ders.: Zeitschichten, Frankfurt a. M. 2003, S. 27-7.

  2. German version below. To all readers we recommend the automatic DeepL-Translator for 22 languages. Just copy and paste.

    OPEN PEER REVIEW

    Et in Arcadia ego!

    Rome is not only the city of antiquity, it is the metropolis of the Roman Empire, the center of the Latin West and of the Roman Catholic Church, and it is a travelled and longed-for Arcadia for artists, scientists, and educational travelers. But it also is the capital of the Italian nation-state and of the fascist empire. Like no other city in the world, Rome thus serves and served as a point of reference for many different groups and both individual and collective desire and remembrance.[1]  The original sites of the eternal city point to a multi-layered “presentness” of history.

    To be sure, the ruins of Rome are a source of fascination and inspiration. Yet Luigi Cajani quite rightly states,

    “However, Rome is not only antiquity, but also a continuous and extraordinary deposit of historical traces over the centuries.”

    Ancient monuments, temples, and other buildings have often been destroyed and lost. They are ruins in archaeological sites. Over the centuries, ruins also became new buildings, which in turn were rebuilt, reconstructed, or – politically and aesthetically ideologically – restored. Many historic buildings also changed their function. Rightly, for Cajani, the physical presence in a historical place is “fundamental element of the experience because from the knowledge it evokes emotions which stimulate imagination and identification in a way that no experience from a distance is capable of.” But this pure perception depends on the historical image that defines the perspective under which the topographical reality is brought into focus. Oftentimes, the complexity of the historical is lost right here. Since the 16th century, however, numerous paintings and prints have been created that show the transformation of the city. According to Cajani, these, compiled in an album, can reveal the different layers of the past. With analog and digital overlay – whether on a plastic card, digitally as a DVD or with multimedia materials accessible via QR code with BYOD, or experienced through the use of projection and laser for reconstruction or as virtual reality – a reconstruction can be visualized that can convey its history with expert texts.

    But these paintings and prints are not simply illustrations of the past. Certainly, numerous true-to-life representations – so-called vedute – have been created since that time, especially for tourist purposes. But compared to a purely topographical survey, a documentation, the veduta had another task. To convey as complex and vivid an image as possible of a section of visible reality, artists included more and more factors that were characteristic of the location. In this way they combined topographical, chronistic, genre-bound, landscape-oriented and atmospheric elements into a motif ensemble of architecture, open space and staffage. Gradually, even different varieties of vedute emerged. A collective veduta brought existing buildings into a new, invented constellation. The ideal veduta placed existing buildings in a new, idealized environment. And fantasy vedute gave their freely invented architectural and landscape elements the appearance of a topographical reality. The boundaries to the architectural and ruin picture and up to the Capriccio are thereby fluent. On the one hand, vedute thus document the views of cityscapes as the printed post card or photograph did from the end of the 19th century onward.[2]

    At the same time, they were and still are works of art, and should be perceived as such beyond the function of a pure document. The artists captured imagery of an expression of their present and environment, which increasingly included the examination of historical and mythological environment, but also events of their social sphere. They constructed the past out of their present and charged it with individual and collective memory. In this way they shaped the ideas of historical places and sites for generations until today.

    An album compiled with paintings and prints, which, according to Cajani, “stimulates the power of imagination in the sense mentioned by Freud,” therefore serves not only to illustrate, but also expand the impression conveyed only visually on site, makes one open to new impressions, enables sensory experiences, and at the same time paves the way for a different experience of time and important questions with regard to dealing with memory culture: What forms and contents have been preserved in the forms of expression? How are they passed on, by whom, why and at what point in time? What did other generations consider worth remembering? And how did it shape our present?

    [1] Michael Matheus: Rom, S. 263. In: Pim den Boer, Heinz Duchardt, Georg Kreis, Wolfgang Schmale: Europäische Erinnerungsorte 2. Das Haus Europa. München 2012, S. 263-281.

    [2] Cf. Wolf Stadler, Peter Wiench: Lexikon der Kunst. Malerei- Architektur- Bildhauerkunst (12 Bände). Erlangen 1994, Bd. 12, S. 107ff.

    _________

    Et in Arcadia ego!

    Rom ist nicht nur die Stadt der Antike, sie ist Metropole des römischen Weltreichs, Zentrum des lateinischen Westens bzw. der römischen Weltkirche, und sie ist für Künstler:innen, Wissenschaftler:innen und Bildungsreisende bereistes und ersehntes Arkadien. Sie ist aber auch Hauptstadt des italienischen Nationalstaates und des faschistischen Imperiums. Wie kaum eine andere Stadt auf der Welt dient(e) Rom so unterschiedlichen Gruppen als Bezugspunkt individueller, aber auch kollektiver Sehnsucht und Erinnerung.[1] Die Originalschauplätze der ewigen Stadt verweisen auf eine vielschichtige „Gegenwärtigkeit“ von Geschichte.

    Zwar sind die Ruinen von Rom Quelle von Faszination und Inspiration. Doch Luigi Cajani formuliert ganz zurecht,

    „Rom ist jedoch nicht nur Antike, sondern auch eine kontinuierliche und aussergewöhnliche Ablagerung historischer Spuren über die Jahrhunderte hinweg.“

    Antike Monumente, Tempel und andere Gebäude sind oftmals zerstört und verloren. Sie sind Ruinen in archäologischen Stätten. Im Verlauf der Jahrhunderte wurden aus Ruinen auch neue Gebäude, die wiederum erneut umgebaut, rekonstruiert oder – politisch und ästhetisch ideologisch geprägt – restauriert wurden. Viele historische Gebäude wechselten zudem ihre Funktion. Ganz richtig ist für Cajani ist die physische Anwesenheit an einem historischen Ort „grundlegendes Element der Erfahrung, weil sie aus dem Wissen heraus Emotionen hervorruft, die die Vorstellungskraft und die Identifikation anregen, wie es keine Erfahrung aus der Ferne vermag.“ Doch diese reine Perzeption hängt vom Geschichtsbild ab, das die Perspektive definiert, unter der die topografische Realität in den Blick genommen wird. Oftmals geht hier gerade diese Vielschichtigkeit des Historischen verloren. Seit dem 16. Jahrhundert sind jedoch zahlreiche Gemälde und Druckgrafiken entstanden, die den Wandel der Stadt aufzeigen. Gerade sie können nach Cajani zusammengestellt in einem Album die unterschiedlichen Schichten der Vergangenheit vor Augen führen. Mit analoger und digitaler „Überlagerung“ – sei es nun auf einer Plastikkarte, digital als DVD oder mit Multimedia-Materialien über QR Code mit BYOD abrufbar oder durch den Einsatz von Projektion und Laserlicht zur Rekonstruktion oder als Virtual Reality erfahrbar – lässt sich eine Rekonstruktion visualisieren, die mit fachkundigen Texten ihre Geschichte vermitteln kann.

    Doch diese Gemälde und Drucke sind nicht einfach nur Veranschaulichung von Vergangenheit. Gewiss entstanden seit dieser Zeit vor allem für touristische Zwecke zahlreiche wirklichkeitsgetreue Darstellungen – sogenannte Veduten. Doch gegenüber einer reinen topografischen Bestandaufnahme, einer Dokumentation hatte die Vedute eine weitere Aufgabe. Um ein möglich komplexes, lebendiges Abbild eines Ausschnittes der sichtbaren Wirklichkeit zu vermitteln, nahmen Künstler immer mehr ortskennzeichnende Faktoren auf. Damit vereinten sie topografische, chronistische, genrehafte, landschaftliche und atmosphärische Elemente zu einem Motivensemble von Architektur, Freiraum und Staffage. Nach und nach entstanden sogar verschiedene Spielarten von Veduten. Eine Sammelvedute brachte in Wirklichkeit existierende Bauten in eine neue, erfundene Konstellation. Die Idealvedute versetzte existierende Gebäude in eine neuartige, idealisierte Umgebung. Und Phantasieveduten gaben ihren frei erfundenen architektonischen und landschaftlichen Elementen das Aussehen einer topografischen Realität. Die Grenzen zum Architektur- und Ruinenbild bis hin zum Capriccio sind dabei fliessend. Einerseits dokumentieren Veduten also die Ansichten der Stadtbilder, wie es ab Ende 19. Jahrhundert die gedruckte Ölansichtskarte oder Fotografie tat.[2]

    Gleichzeitig waren und sind sie bis heute Kunstwerke und sollten über die Funktion des reinen Dokuments auch als solche wahrgenommen werden. Die Künstler hielten Abbilder eines Ausdrucks ihrer Gegenwart und Umgebung fest, in denen immer mehr auch die Auseinandersetzung mit historischen, mythologischen aber auch Ereignissen ihres sozialen Umfeldes eingingen. Sie konstruierten aus ihrer Gegenwart heraus Vergangenheit und luden sie mit individueller und kollektiver Erinnerung auf. So prägten sie bis heute die Vorstellungen von historischen Orten und Plätzen für Generationen.

    Ein mit Gemälden und Drucken zusammengestelltes Album, das nach Cajani „die Vorstellungskraft in dem von Freud genannten Sinne anregt“ dient aber daher nicht nur der Veranschaulichung, sondern erweitert den vor Ort nur visuell vermittelten Eindruck, macht offen für neue Eindrücke, ermöglicht sinnliche Erfahrungen und ebnet zugleich den Weg für ein anderes Erleben von Zeit und wichtige Fragen im Hinblick auf den Umgang mit Erinnerungskultur: Welche Formen und Inhalte haben sich in den Ausdruckformen bewahrt? Wie werden sie weitergegeben, von wem, warum und zu welchem Zeitpunkt? Was hielten andere Generationen für erinnerungswürdig? Und wie prägte es unsere Gegenwart?

    [1] Michael Matheus: Rom, S. 263. In: Pim den Boer, Heinz Duchardt, Georg Kreis, Wolfgang Schmale: Europäische Erinnerungsorte 2. Das Haus Europa. München 2012, S. 263-281.

    [2] Vgl. Wolf Stadler, Peter Wiench: Lexikon der Kunst. Malerei- Architektur- Bildhauerkunst (12 Bände). Erlangen 1994, Bd. 12, S. 107ff.

  3. To all readers we recommend the automatic DeepL-Translator for 22 languages. Just copy and paste.

    Geschichtsdidaktische Kernprinzipien einer Stadtführung

    Mit grossem Interesse verfolge ich den Themenmonat «Geschichte am Originalschauplatz». Die Initial-Posts sind anregend, und die Kommentare akzentuieren wichtige Aspekte, stellen neue Fragen – oder präsentieren wie Wolfgang Hasberg eine überraschende Einsicht, bei der sich der Autor, wie er selber schreibt, am Ende verwundert die Augen reibt: «Der Diskurs um das historische Lernen am historischen Ort steht doch noch sehr am Anfang.»

    Ganz so schlimm ist es nicht – jedenfalls nicht in der Praxis. Zwar sind offensichtlich sowohl in der Theorie als auch in diesem Themenmonat Beiträge zu den personal durchgeführten Stadtführungen, die noch immer ein grosses Angebot in der Public History[1] darstellen, aus dem Fokus der Aufmerksamkeit verschwunden. Dies obwohl sich viele Teilnehmer:innen von genau solchen Inszenierungen versprechen, ‘Spuren der Vergangenheit’ in ihrer Lebenswelt wahrnehmen und erfahren zu können. Das «Gefühl eines unmittelbaren Kontaktes mit der Vergangenheit» und eines «Erlebens der Wahrheit durch Geschichte»[2] erhoffen sich viele Menschen gerade von der Teilnahme an einer Stadtführung. Konkrete Umsetzungsstrategien und die Einbindung geschichtsdidaktischer Prinzipien in einer Stadtführung werden in der Fachliteratur tatsächlich nur in Ansätzen verhandelt – und da reibe auch ich mir die Augen. In diesem ergänzenden Kommentar soll es also um die geschichtsdidaktischen Kernprinzipien und deren Einbezug in die Praxis gehen: Es sind dies (1.) die Narrativität, (2.) die (Multi-)Medialität und (3.) die Authentizität. Sie ermöglichen den Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmern historische Bildung.

    Narrativität umsetzen

    Das narrative Medium ‘Stadtführung’ transferiert Wissen über Lebenswelten, Emotionen, Ereignisse und Zustände aus dem Universum des Historischen in die Gegenwart. In der Public History wird von den Erkenntnissen der Geschichtswissenschaft, die mit den Methoden ebendieser erarbeitet wurden, ausgegangen. Die Narrativität bringt diese in eine narrative Form, die für eine breite Öffentlichkeit zugänglich ist. Die Reduktion auf ein Kernthema und das Erarbeiten einer stringenten Erzählung, welche die verschiedenen Stationen der Stadtführung untereinander verbindet, ist dabei essenziell. Die Stationen werden in eine Abfolge gebracht und stehen gleichzeitig losgelöst voneinander als einzelne Erzähleinheiten. Sie erschliessen den physischen Ort jeweils in einer (teil-)geschlossenen Geschichte.[3] Der Aufbau, das Halten und der Ausbau eines dramaturgischen Bogens innerhalb der Basisnarration und in Einbezug der einzelnen Stationen in ebendiesen bindet die Aufmerksamkeit der Teilnehmer:innen und macht die Erzählung emotional zugänglich.

    Multimedialität nutzen

    Multiperspektivität und die – damit verbundene – Multimedialität der Geschichtsdarstellung spielen in Bezug auf das Wahrnehmen von Authentizität und Plausibilität eine entscheidende Rolle. Geschichte wird als (Re-)Konstruktion von Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart gekennzeichnet, deren Präsentation immer aus einer individuell-subjektiven Wahrnehmung heraus rezipiert und produziert wird. Geschichte ist in diesem Sinne nicht einfach bereits vorhanden, sondern entsteht erst durch Medien (und Quellen). Sie sind es zudem, die Geschichte mit ihren eigenen medienspezifischen Möglichkeiten erzählen und an das Publikum richten. Authentische Geschichten werden laut Eva Priker und Mark Rüdiger in ‘zwei dominanten Modi’ erzählt: «derjenige des authentischen Zeugnisses und derjenige des authentischen Erlebens. Zum Zeugnis gehören die Objektgruppen der Quellen, der Zeitzeugen, der Unikate und der ‘auratischen’ Orte, kurz die Suggestion des Originalen, eines Reliktes aus der Vergangenheit, das durch seine historische Echtheit selbst zu wirken scheint.» Ein weiterer Modus, den sie beschreiben, bezieht sich auf das Evozieren eines ‘authentischen Gefühls’, einer Zeitstimmung oder -atmosphäre durch die Annäherung der Teilnehmer:innen an die Vergangenheit mit Mitteln der Gegenwart.[4] Die gezielte Gegenüberstellung und die Verortung der Medien in einem historischen Kontext lösen unterschiedliche Authentizitätseffekte aus. Beim Einbinden von Zeitzeug:innen- und Expert:innen-Stimmen oder dem Abbilden von Originalquellen wird auf die Objektauthentizität gesetzt. Wenn Stimmen aus der Vergangenheit zum Sprechen kommen, wird Geschichte lebendig und damit authentisch.

    Authentizität zeigen

    In der Public History geht es in erster Linie um die Erfahrung von Geschichte.[5] Der historische Ort erlaubt das Erfahren von Geschichte mit allen Sinnen und gibt die Möglichkeit einer emotionalen Begegnung mit dem Universum des Historischen. Bei der Erfahrung und Wahrnehmung von Geschichte geht es einerseits darum, dass durch die Inszenierung das «Gefühl eines unmittelbaren Kontaktes mit Geschichte» und die damit verbundene Authentizität der Geschichtsdarstellung gewährleistet wird. Bei Stadtführungen greift die Konzeption von Authentizität in zweifacher Weise. Einerseits beschreibt sie die diskursiv erzeugte Authentizität, die aus der plausiblen Narration der Anbieter:innen innerhalb der Inszenierung resultiert. Andererseits kommt es neben dieser Heterologie auch auf die Autologie der Nutzer:innen von Subjektauthentizität an.[6] Hier spielt das ‘authentische Erleben’ eine zentrale Rolle. Die Wahrnehmung der Teilnehmer:innen muss jedoch von den Anbieterinnen und Anbietern der Stadtführung erst angestossen werden. Sie müssen auf die Spuren der Geschichte aufmerksam werden, diese entlang geschichtswissenschaftlicher Methoden und Erkenntnissen deuten und sichtbar machen. Ohne den Wissenstransfer von den Anbieterinnen und Anbietern zu den Teilnehmenden bleiben historische Artefakte unsichtbar.

    Werden diese drei einfachen Handlungsregeln umgesetzt, werden Stadtführungen Histotainment-Angebote, welche den Teilnehmenden historische Bildung ermöglichen und sie gleichzeitig unterhalten.

    _____

    [1] Lücke und Zündorf definieren Public History in ihrem Grundlagenwerk wie folgt: «Public History wird sowohl als jede Form der öffentlichen Geschichtsdarstellung verstanden, die sich an die breite, nicht geschichtswissenschaftliche Öffentlichkeit richtet, als auch als eine Teildisziplin der Geschichtswissenschaft, die sich der Erforschung von Geschichtspräsentationen widmet.» Vgl. Lücke, Martin/ Zündorf, Irmgard (2018), Public History und Medien, in: Einführung in die Public History, S. 89-94., hier S. 24.
    [2] Gundermann, Christine, u.a. (2021), Schlüsselbegriffe der Public History, Göttingen Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, S. 99.
    [3] Herbst, Dieter Georg (2014), Storytelling, Bd. 3, Konstanz PR Praxis Band 15, S. 103ff.
    [4] Pirker, Eva / Rüdiger, Mark (2010), Authentizitätsfiktionen in populären Geschichtskulturen, Annäherung, in: Piker, Eva, Echte Geschichte, S. 11- 30, S. 12ff.
    [5] Lücke, Martin, (2012), Multiperspektivität, Kontroversität, Pluralität, in: Barricelli, Michele/ Lücke, Martin (2017), Handbuch Praxis des Geschichtsunterrichts, Schwalbach Wochenschau Verlag, 2. Aufl, S. 281-289, S. 283.
    [6] Ebd., S. 108.

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