In 2008 archaeologists discover the 2nd century tomb of a wealthy senator, distinguished consul, and highly decorated battle-hardened general who led 20 years worth of Roman military campaigns for Emperor Marcus Aurelius against the Germanic tribes. Marcus Nonius Macrinus was possibly the closest confidant of the philosopher Emperor, and also served as proconsul in Asia. (Btw, Macrinus was the figure upon which screenwriter Franzoni very loosely based Russel Crowe’s character Maximus in Gladiator, hence the name used colloquially for the tomb.)
The tomb, toppled over on its side but perfectly preserved under meters of silt in northern Rome along a newly discovered section of the ancient Via Flaminia, is simply mind-boggling. It is a large mausoleum with a four column wide portico, made entirely of carved, decorated, and inscription engraved solid white marble. Even the roof tiles are marble! (No cheapo terracotta used here.) It is so well preserved and complete that you could put the blocks in place and prop the columns back up.. voila’, instant re-construction.
If it weren’t for the distinct possibility that Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency might have to bury the entire thing.
Yes, that’s right. Unfortunately, when resources are scarce (such as now), discoveries such as this are simply left in place and covered up in their own mud once again without further excavation. Barring looters, it is counter-intuitively the best way to preserve archaeological finds. Since the mud preserved them for 2000 years, what’s another century?
But what a loss to everyone now, that we risk not benefiting from the knowledge and beauty that such a find would bring.
So here’s how it works… a) there are simply oodles of discovered Roman ruins sitting in the ground that have been re-buried for the above-mentioned reasons; and b) the Superintendency has a limited budget and so basically runs triage (importance, preservation urgency, public demands, etc.) as to which sites get priority for excavation.
Darius Arya has lived in Rome for the past 14 years where he is Chairman and co-founder of the American Institute for Roman Culture which promotes and defends Rome’s cultural heritage through graduate-level educational programs, public outreach, and onsite archaeological projects in conjunction with Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. He’s a Fulbright scholar and a Rome Prize recipient from the American Academy in Rome… i.e. he’s legit. (disclaimer: he and I were at Penn in Philadelphia before he went off to U of T Austin for his Ph.D in archaeology; we are good friends. -ed.)
Well, together with other archaeologists and professors, Darius has launched an online petition to keep the Superintendency from re-burying the “Gladiator Tomb,” requesting that they examine all other possible solutions. (You can read about the initiative here.)
So here’s what we figure… the ItalianNotebook community consists of +12,000 wonderful people from around the world who love Italy and so much of what it has to offer, both from the present and from the past. With this petition we have an opportunity to make that statement loud and clear. Let’s all sign it, and forward and blog and tweet and “like” this note or the petition itself (again here) to our contacts, friends, families and have them sign it too… let’s, in a nutshell, raise enough of an international stink (scientific PR term, that!) to encourage the Superintendency to seek a constructive solution that ensures that the “Gladiator Tomb” becomes a legacy from the past for the benefit of all and one that we in turn can proudly leave to generations to come.
(nb. – The fundraising request that follows the petition signature is optional and separate from the petition itself.)