The poet Tibullus first described Rome as « The Eternal City » in the first century BC, and that evocative nickname has stuck over the thousands of years since. Or rather, he would have called it « Urbs Aeterna, » which for Italian-speakers would have been « La Città Eterna, » but regardless of which language you prefer it in, it throws down a daunting challenge before any historian of Rome. Each scholar has had to find their own way of approaching such a historically formidable place, and few have built up such a robust visual record as Rodolfo Lanciani, 4000 items from whose collection became available to view online this year, thanks to Stanford Libraries.
As an « archaeologist, professor of topography, and secretary of the Archaeological Commission, » says the collection’s about page, Lanciani, « was a pioneer in the systematic, modern study of the city of Rome. »