A Scale Model Displays the Glory of Ancient Rome

The incredible model city that took almost 40 years to create

by Rossana Vinci
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Italian archeologist Italo Gismondi has spent over 35 years to reconstruct the huge model at a scale of 1:250 which shows the city of Rome in the 4th century AD at the time of Constantine I.

 

Known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, it is now considered one of the most important references for how ancient Rome looked: Gismondi used precise maps for known monuments like the Pantheon and Colosseum.

The plaster model was first commissioned by Mussolini in 1933, then in the 1950s, it was installed permanently in the Museum of Roman Civilization (a museum opened in the 1930s to demonstrate the history of ancient Rome), with Gismondi continuing to expand the model up until 1971.

 

Ph. Via flickr © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra; "Maquette de Rome (musée de la civilisation romaine, Rome)".

 

Ph. Via flickr © seier+seier ; “Plastico, E.U.R. rom marts 2003”.

 

 

The reconstruction, integrates the information from the marble Forma Urbis (the large plan of Rome created in the early III century AD) with data from the archaeological remains and ancient sources.

The initial core of the scale model, which was partially based on Rodolfo Lanciani's 1901 map Forma Urbis, was completed for a large exhibition celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of the death of Augustus.

 

Ph. Via flickr © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra; "Maquette de Rome (musée de la civilisation romaine, Rome)".

 

Ph. Via flickr © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra; "Détail de la maquette de Rome à l'époque de Constantin".

 

 

Whatever its initial purpose as propaganda, the scale model continues to draw school children and tourists who now use it as an educational tool for envisioning how the ancient ruins they see today once fit into the larger urban landscape. The immense scope and detail of the scale model, which measures 55 feet by 55 feet, has also been useful for filmmakers, including Ridley Scott, who included a few shots in his 2000 film, The Gladiator.

 

Ph. Via flickr © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra; "La maquette de Rome à l'époque de Constantin (musée de la civilisation romaine, Rome)".

 

 

 

 

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Cover image: Ph. Via flickr © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra; "Détail de la maquette de Rome à l'époque de Constantin".

 

 

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