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There are a great number of foreign research institutes in Rome, concentrating on ancient history, art science, history and other humanities. Many of these can reflect on more than a hundred years of activity. The Swedish Institute, however, is somewhat younger. It differs from most of the other institutes in that academic instruction has been prioritized to the same degree as research. The institute was founded in 1925 through the initiative of, among others, Crown Prince Gustav Adolf, who became the board’s first chairman. The aim was, above all, to further research in the classics but also to serve research in the interest of the humanities and of art. Activities began in 1926, led by the first director, Axel Boëthius, in rooms on Via del Boschetto 68. The same year saw the first archaeological course. After a couple years (1928) the institute was granted larger premises in Palazzo Brancaccio. Since 1929 the institute is run through public funding.

Initially, activities were led by a director, assisted by a holder of a scholarship (1 year) in archaeology. Smaller scholarships (3-4 months) were created for participants in the archaeological course. The course was intended for Ph.D. students but soon allowance was also made for high school teachers instructing classical subjects. Furthermore, one scholarship (1 year) in philology was formed, as well as an architect scholarship (originally for 2 years, later 1 year). The architect played an important role in the archaeological field work taking place. In 1939 the institute was given its own building on Via Omero 14, in the outer fringes of Villa Borghese. The lot was provided by the Italian state, in an area reserved for foreign institutes. The building was planned by Ivar Tengbom and was furnished by, among others, Carl Malmsten. In connection with this new building, the institute was reorganized and the building became state property.

During the post-war years the staff consisted of a director, secretary, librarian/curator as well as caretakers. Dr. Axel Munthe’s Villa San Michele on Capri was co-ordinated with the institute in Rome in 1949. A guest wing and an archaeological laboratory were added to the institute in 1960-64. Major excavation projects have taken place under the direction of the institute. Before 1939 these were, among others, on the Forum Romanum. After the war excavations were primarily in Etruria: San Giovenale 1956-65, Luni sul Mignone 1960-63, Selvasecca 1965-71, Acqua Rossa 1966-78. In 1959 a course in Art Sciences was established, corresponding to the archaeological course.
During the 1980s and 1990s the institute has experienced another expansion. Instruction in Classical Archaeology as well as research resources have increased, through the establishment of a research assistant position in 1985. In 1991 the office of university lecturer in Art sciences and assistant director was established. The structure of the scholarships has been modified somewhat. One of the one year scholarships alternates between Philology and Art sciences. During 1990-94, The National Property Board (Byggnadsstyrelsen) financed a scholarship in conservation. When it ceased a moveable scholarship was established, primarily for disciplines not represented in any other way. Research possibilities at the institute have been reinforced considerably through a fund for humanities research in Italy, which was founded by the Rausing family in 1979. This has led to a widening of the institute’s research, further strengthened by funds from the Swedish Ministry of Education for expanded activities in 1995.

Research staff 1926-

Directors: Axel Boethius (1926-35, 1952-53, 1955-57), Einar Gjerstad (1935-40), Erik Sjöqvist (1940-48), Arvid Andrén (1948-52, 1964-66), Olov Vessberg (1953-55), Erik Wellin (1957-61), Bengt E. Thomasson (1961-64), Paul Åström (1967-70), Carl Eric Östenberg (1970-78), Carl Nylander (1979-97), Anne-Marie Leander Touati (1997-2001), Barbro Santillo Frizell (2001-2013), Kristian Göransson (2013-)

Assistant directors: Torgil Magnusson (1979-1992), Börje Magnusson (1992-2008), Sabrina Norlander Eliasson (2008-2013), Marin Olin (2013-)

Research assistants: Paavo Roos (1984-87), Barbro Santillo Frizell (1988-1992), Lars Karlsson (1993-1999), Arja Karivieri (2000-2003), Allan Klynne (2003-2007), Simon Malmberg (2007-2012), Ingela Wiman (2012-2013), Henrik Boman (2013-)

Carl Nylander, Svenska institutet i Rom 1925-1989, Rome 1989; Carl Nylander, ‘L’Istituto Svedese di studi Classici a Roma’, in C. Vian (ed.), Speculum Mundi. Roma centro internazionale di ricerche umanistiche, Rome 1989, 490-525.

Seminars at the Institute

Seminar 2019: II
Tuesday 22 January 17.00

Gaius SternUniversity of California at Berkeley (retired)
Correcting the Reconstruction and Some Interpretations of the Ara Pacis

Modern students and scholars sometimes forget the Ara Pacis looked somewhat different in the year 1 than it does today.  Despite his best efforts, Giuseppe Moretti, building upon the work of Eugen Petersen, was able to reconstruct only an approximation of the Ara Pacis, unveiled to the public on 30 January 9 BC.  Missing material made it impossible to fill in certain gaps, and in a few places, Moretti deliberately or accidentally hid the loss of characters with an illusion of completion.  The combination of the missing pieces and the slightly flawed reconstruction have misled scholars, whose interpretations, in turn, deviated from the Roman vision of a New Golden Age, especially if they imagined they were looking at a perfect reconstruction of a great piece of imperial propaganda.  The result resembles a performance of a bad translation of a Shakespeare play.  The elegance of a great work of art is partly lost.   However, it is possible to correct some of these approximations and thereby get closer to the Augustan (and Senatorial) vision for the future, even though that future never took place as planned, for the death of Agrippa upended the stability of the regime and set in motion more than one crisis.




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