History of the Marbles
In 1901 two scholars, Paul Hartwig, a German archaeologist, and Francis Kelsey, a professor from the University of Michigan, purchased fragments of Roman relief sculptures on the antiquities market in Rome. They were apparently unaware of each other's purchases. Hartwig presented his nine sculptures to the Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome, and Kelsey donated his six fragments to the University of Michigan. Then the detective work began.
Although scholars knew the sculptural fragments had been found near a building that the emperor Diocletian (AD 284-305) had constructed on the Quirinal Hill in Rome, they did not know to which ancient Roman building the sculptures belonged.
On the basis of style and workmanship, the fragments were dated to the Flavian era, two hundred years before Diocletian's reign. As early as 1904 Hartwig conjectured that the fragments he had acquired might have come from the Templum Gentis Flaviae. Roman authors tell us that the Flavian emperor Domitian built this temple dedicated to his family on the site of his birthplace on the Quirinal Hill.
However, the fragments that Kelsey had purchased remained unidentified for almost eighty years. In 1977, Anne Haeckl proposed that the head of Vespasian may have come from the Templum Gentis Flaviae, but it was not until 1978 that it was discovered, by Professor Gerhard Koeppel of the University of North Carolina, that the Hartwig head of a soldier (MNR 310257) and the Kelsey breastplate (KM 2431) joined perfectly. This discovery ultimately led to the current collaboration between the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma.
In 1980, Professor Koeppel published all the Hartwig-Kelsey fragments and attributed them to the Templum Gentis Flaviae. The rejoined Hartwig-Kelsey fragments represent the earliest surviving example of sculptural decoration from a Roman imperial funerary complex.
Copyright ©1997, 2002 Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.