Roman AquariumThere are few period images still in circulation able to show us what the Roman Aquarium looked like back on 29 May 1887, the day of its inauguration. Slightly more than century has been enough to cancel from the unique history of this building any memory of the original appearance of the masterfully designed construction and its small but cheerful grounds, meant, together with the Aquarium, to serve both as a fish hatchery and a gathering place for the masses of the emerging middle class then populating the new Esquiline neighbourhood.
The photo-engravings illustrating reports of the inauguration in Roman newspapers undoubtedly exaggerate the size of the grounds, expanding sightlines and perspectives and stressing the pleasure to be drawn from the site, which featured a small lake that branched out in a number of directions, rustic bridges, rock outcroppings and even small boats for unlikely sport-fishing expeditions. The point of the images was to recreate the bucolic air of recreational socialising that the sponsors of the aquarium initiative had pursued so tenaciously. The image of the inside of the elliptical hall is striking for the grandiose scale of the space, both airy and monumental, marked by the luxuriant abundance of decorations and furnishings.
The display windows holding the aquariums appear few in number, given the majestic pitch of the structure as a whole, framed as small patches of light in the bottom portion of the magnificent overall composition. The reality hinted at by the image tells of the intricate mixing and compromising of purposes and interests that lay behind the creation of the Roman Excavation work is currently underway on the grounds, promoted by the Office of Ancient Monuments and Digs of the Municipal Superintendent's Office. The effort has brought to light the remains of a building of the imperial age set against the Servian Wall. The discovery constitutes a key contribution to knowledge of the Esquiline area in ancient times. A project entailing landscaping of the entire green area is to be carried out, with an eye towards showcasing the portion of the archaeological heritage recovered.
The Garden of Roman Aquarium: Entire generations of Esquiline residents felt the allure of this vague, chaotic space during their childhoods, fascinated by the mysterious, manmade reality of the small, disordered garden, the pond, the stony mass of the Servian wall and the bizarre, incomprehensible bulk of a building entitled - though who knew why - the Roman Aquarium. The memory of its fantastical reality still lives today, together with that of the garden of the Piazza Vittorio.