UD Conference Revives Scholarship on Lost Roman City Bovillae

Rome Campus Conference Revives Scholarship on Lost Roman City Bovillae

 

In A.D. 100, the city of Bovillae was one of ancient Rome's most important suburbs. Now, although its remains are almost invisible to the human eye, the city is once more coming into the limelight.

Where is Bovillae? 

It's beneath the Rome campus. More specifically, UD's campus occupies the southeastern corner of ancient Bovillae. Former Romers may remember a partially buried arch in the middle of the vineyard -- that's actually an archaeological ruin from Bovillae, called the cistern (it's probably an extension of the city's nymphaeum, an elaborate fountain structure). Marble and stone blocks from the city are scattered throughout campus -- one near the swimming pool, several near the villa.

A group of international experts on Roman archaeology, history and art convened in May on the University of Dallas' Eugene Constantin Campus to examine the history and heritage of Bovillae. As a result of the conference, Peter Hatlie, a historian and vice president, dean and director of the Catholic university's popular study abroad program, has begun work editing the conferences findings into the first-ever English language book on Bovillae, and the first book on the topic in any language in over a century.

"It was my pleasure to welcome this group of Italian, English, Dutch and American scholars to discuss this fascinating and historically rich, yet almost forgotten, city," said Hatlie.

Among the conference's proceedings, Italy's National Archaeological Heritage Foundation reported on approximately 20 excavations conducted in the area in recent years that have brought to light 1,600 new archaeological finds from Bovillae, including an impressive marble bust of the Emperor Titus (A.D. 79-81), found in 2011 and now on temporary exhibition on the Eugene Constantin Campus.

Located 11 miles from ancient Rome, Bovillae boasted a large chariot-racing stadium (the outlines of which are still visible), an important shrine to the prestigious Julian dynasty of Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus, and a theater and school for actors. After Bovillae reached its peak around A.D. 100, both the end of the Julio-Claudian line of emperors and the later fall of Rome ushered in centuries of decline in the city. In modern times, ambitious treasure-hunting campaigns of the 19th century, along with the rapid growth of Rome's modern suburbs from the 1960s until now, effectively erased all significant traces of the surviving archaeology of Bovillae.

An important focus of the University of Dallas conference was the large number of important 19th century finds from Bovillae that were then removed to other locales. These include an elegant Dionysiac frieze now in the Vatican Museums in Rome, the so-called Tabula Iliaca Capitolina now in Rome's Capitoline Museums, an impressive statue of the god Dionysos in Rome's Palazzo Massimo Museum, a relief called the Apotheosis of Homer by the important Hellenistic artist Archelaus of Priene now in the British Museum, and a Roman statue of the Emperor Caligula now owned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

For more information about the event, visit udallas.edu/bovillae.

PHOTO: Conference attendees gather at ruins near the university's Rome campus.

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