Visconti, Filippo Aurelio
Lettera sopra la colonna dell’imperatore Foca.
Roma, Stamperia de Romanis 1813.
4to. 21 + (1)pp, folding engraved plate (with elevation of column and images of the inscription on its base). Contemporary wrappers. A little spotting, but a good, fresh copy.
The earliest scholarly publication on the Column of Phocas in the Roman Forum, providing the text of a lecture read to the Accademia Romana di Archeologia on 1 April 1813 by the scholar and antiquary Filippo Aurelio Visconti (1754-1831). This was only some three weeks after excavations financed by Elizabeth, Duchess of Devonshire (the former Lady Elizabeth Foster, successively the mistress, second wife and widow of the 5th Duke) had revealed an inscription at the base of the column which recorded that the column had been erected and dedicated on 1 August 608 in honour of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas on instructions from Smaragdus, Exarch of Ravenna. This made it the latest in date of all the structures in the Roman Forum, and Visconti provides a careful discussion of the wording of the inscription and of its historical context. It is now believed that the column itself is of second-century date and that Smaragdus had recycled it from a site elsewhere in the city, but its association with Phocas has caught the imagination of a succession of scholars and writers, and it has given a title to a historical novel written by Sean Gabb (under the pseudonym Richard Blake) and published as recently as 2006. Cicognara 1226.