Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History

Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History

Robert Hughes

Language: English

Pages: 512

ISBN: 0375711686

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From Robert Hughes, one of the greatest art and cultural critics of our time, comes a sprawling, comprehensive, and deeply personal history of Rome—as a city, as an empire, and as an origin of Western art and civilization.
Starting on a personal note, Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry twenty-one-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. From there, he goes back more than two thousand years to the city’s foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome’s development for centuries. He explores in rich detail the formation of empire, the rise of early Christianity, the Crusades, the Renaissance, and takes us up to the present, through the rise and fall of Mussolini’s fascism. Equal parts idolizing, blasphemous, outraged, and awestruck, Rome is a portrait of the Eternal City as only Robert Hughes could paint it.

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Mass at Bolsena, where we see a priest celebrating Mass; it is the climactic moment of the ceremony, the consecration of the Host, when, at the words “Hoc est enim corpus meum” (“This is indeed my body”), first uttered by Christ at the Last Supper, the bread—so Catholics are required to believe—is transformed into the veritable flesh of Jesus. This Mass in the lakeside town of Bolsena, north of Rome, had a skeptic in its congregation who was unsure about the Transubstantiation, and to convince

Younger (1741–1825) seems to have extracted part of his answer from the ideas of Piranesi, whom he met in Rome in 1763, and whose Carceri he undoubtedly saw. In 1768, after he got back from Rome, Dance was given the job of rebuilding London’s main prison, Newgate Gaol. This task occupied him for the best part of seventeen years. It was hardly a coincidence that Dance’s design for Newgate, dreadful though it may seem today, emerged just as the movement for penal reform in England began to stumble

Europe had now been opened up to Romanization.” It also radically changed Gaul, transforming it, in effect, into an embryonic form of France. It was opened, though at great cost in blood and suffering, to classical culture. With long-term thoughts of enlarging Rome’s imperium still further, Caesar dispatched an expedition across the Rhine to Germany in 55 B.C.E., with inconclusive results; this was less an invasion than a probe. Its purpose was to show Roman power to the Germans on German

Rome, celebrated in numberless paintings and poems as well as in music—one thinks of the charming trills and tinklings of Respighi’s Le fontane di Roma—have always been a feature of the city and the culture it embodied. Because of the low water-pressure in the days before mechanical pumps, the “abounding glittering jet” that spells “fountain” to us today and was so magnificently choreographed by the likes of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the seventeenth century was not available in ancient Rome, but a

hundreds of bridges, which gave the Roman army swift access to the most remote parts of the Empire. The stuff of power and discipline, it was ugly and always would be—the brief mid-twentieth-century vogue for béton brut produced some of the most hideous, grime-attracting surfaces in all architecture, as a visit to London’s Festival Hall will confirm. But it could be rendered with stucco or faced with thin sheets of stone, and it was very strong and cheap, allowing the construction of very large

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