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Document Details :
Title: An Inquiry into the Origins of Campidoglio Statues
Author(s): BALAS, E. , LEVINE, F.
Volume: 72 Date: 1997
In Rome, in the piazza di Campidoglio, stand two ancient statues of river gods called the “Tiber” and the “Nile”, whose origins are mysterious. They stand facing each other before the Senators’ Staircase on the Piazza. Each is in repose, naked to the waist, leaning on one arm and with the other outstretched. Each is of near-colossal proportions, resting on bases measuring five by three meters. The Nile reclines on a sphinx and cradles in his arm a cornucopia; the Tiber also holds a cornucopia, and rests on the image of the She-Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. Dating from the second century A.D., they have survived above ground in Rome since antiquity; that is, they were never excavated. In the Middle Ages, they stood on the Monte Cavallo, along with the Horse-Tamers (Dioscuri), which are also on the Campidoglio. During most of the Quattrocento they were believed to represent Saturn and Bacchus. In 1480 they were identified as River Gods by Pomponio Leto, known to be a student of ancient spring and water worship, “a learned collector of antique sculptures” and a secretary to Pope Leo X. In 1510 they were thought to be “Neptunes” by Albertini. In 1513 Andrea Fulvio identified them as the Lester (Danube) and Achelous (the longest river in Greece), but changed his opinion and in 1527 recorded them the Nile and the Tigris, in his guidebook.