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Bygone Rome in the Historia Augusta Jacqueline F. Long Loyola University Chicago The City and the Biographies Ancient Romans who cared to exercise a sensibility for their national memory and identity perennially found stimulus and material in their city itself. Many peoples do. But the Romans’ habit of physically commemorating persons, events, and institutions that marked their communal life made Rome an especially rich text of memory.1 And the Romans never let memory rest idle. Both the physical and the literary record present tales of ceaseless monumentalization, interpretation, reconfiguration, and appropriation of shared history for particular ends.2 This interest in no way declined when Rome ceased to function as the Roman Empire’s effective capital. Rome remained capital of the idea of the Empire, and its structures remained a focus of both constructional and interpretive activity.3 Even from a distance, Rome’s emperors continued to intervene prominently in its urban fabric.4 Diocletian and Maximian adorned the Ro1 See for example Wiseman (1986); N. Purcell, “Forum Romanum (the Republican period)” and “Forum Romanum (the Imperial period)” in Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (hereafter LTUR) 2.325–42. Purcell discusses later reactions to “The City of Rome” in The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal. On the relationship of urban topography and public memory in general, e.g., Mumford 447–48. 2 E.g., Favro; Edwards (1996); Vasaly; Zanker (1988). 3 E.g., Lançon; Curran; Harris. 4 Individual sites are reviewed in LTUR, with bibliographies current to publication . Thus, for some of the examples indicated, C. F. Giuliani and P. Verduchi, “Forum Romanum (età tarda),” 2.342–43 (1995); Verduchi, “Rostra Diocletiani” and A. Pulte, “Rostra: Fünfsäulendenkmal,” 4.217– LONG: BYGONE ROME IN THE HISTORIA AUGUSTA 181 man Forum, repairing damage of the fire of 283 and celebrating theTetrarchy. On the Viminal they constructed Rome’s largest baths. Maxentius grafted his claim to power onto the city in part through an ambitious building program;5 Constantine took it over on his victory, adding monuments and triumphal Christian building of his own. Constantius II and the dynasties of Valentinian and Theodosius studded Rome with additional monuments and restorations. The scale of works topped out again with the refortification of the Aurelian Walls against the prospect of Gothic attack, under Arcadius and Honorius, in 401–03. Concordantly, the biographies of the Historia Augusta, collectively exploring a range of ideas about Roman emperors through Lives of emperors from Hadrian to Carus, Carinus, and Numerian, note periodically how these emperors connected themselves with Rome. The city embodied the heritage of the Empire. Therefore it made a stage to dramatize the emperors’ relationships with history and the values that Romans identified with their past. Through significant interactions, a ruler’s biography could offer insight. Of course the operation was not solely literary: emperors in life, being Romans, shared the culture of memory vested in their capital city. They responded to its places both spontaneously and in calculated performance. Biography, by definition, records its subjects’ dealings. Selection and interpretation are logically secondary, if inevitable. The Historia Augusta raises a plethora of questions. I hope to address many of them elsewhere (especially the function of 19 (1999); D. Candilio, “Thermae Diocletianae,” 5.53–58 (1999); F. Coarelli, “Basilica Constantiniana, B. Nova,” 1.170–73 (1993); A. Capodiferro, “Arcus Constantini,” 1.86–91 (1993); M. Cecchelli, “S. Salvator, Basilica,” 4.230–33 (1999); J.-C. Grenier, “Obeliscus Constantii: Circus Maximus,” 3.356–57 (1996); Coarelli, “Pons Agrippae; Pons Aurelius; Pons Valentiniani,” 4.107–08 (1999); C. Lega, “Arcus Gratiani, Valentiniani et Theodosii,” 1.95–96 (1993); G. Pisani Sartorio, “Muri Aureliani” with additional entries on individual gates, 3.290–314 (1996). LTUR 5 (1999) and 6 (2000) list supplementary new bibliography for many items, edited by Nigel Pollard. 5 See especially Cullhed. 182 SYLLECTA CLASSICA the collection), for they exceed the study I wish to air here. Briefly, although the biographies present themselves as having been written variously by six different men, during the reigns of Diocletian, Constantius, or Constantine, Dessau showed in 1889 that the purported authorship and dates cannot be true.6 Dessau argued that the biographies were composed near the close...