Katherine Jenkins and Parker Sutton
Many landscapes in the quarantine period took on new appearances in the face of neglect. In Rome, an absence of foot traffic and the suspension of public maintenance programs gave the city’s cobbled piazzas a verdant wash. The aesthetic of these new landscapes was an affront to some, while others rejoiced in the lush, if weedy, “naturalness.” The same plants that signal municipal failure in cosmopolitan urban contexts, however, are not only tolerated at ancient cultural sites, but are often viewed romantically in the way that they conjure a Virgilian past that is central to Rome’s self-conception. We will examine how systems of Roman landscape maintenance are integral to the preservation, adaptation, and commodification of Rome’s landscape identity. We will explore the extent to which Roman aesthetics of care are culturally contingent—how they are driven by standards of beauty, infrastructural capacities, and technocratic will.