In the View of the Ancient Roman Forum Piranesi ostensibly provides another close-up view of the famous site. However, the particular use of ancient in the title not only distinguishes it from the other types of views in the volume, but also declares the subject of the print: the history of the space. While viewers observe the modern eighteenth-century forum in image, in words, Piranesi illuminates one of the most gruesome and “memorable” episodes of Roman history – the execution of orator and politician Cicero. The rhetorician was publicly executed following the assassination of Caesar on the rostrum (labeled 1 in the key), or raised platform on which orators and magistrates gave speeches. In the very same place that Cicero “had flung forth his stunning eloquence” (Boswell, On the Grand Tour, 60), his severed head and hand were made a public spectacle by his executioners.
To see this image in Vedute di Roma, vol 17 of Piranesi's Opere, click here.