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Römische Ruine

Roman Ruin

Originally called the Ruin of Carthage, the Roman Ruin stands at the foot of the wooded slopes of Schönbrunn Hill. Designed by Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and built in 1778, the ensemble is completely integrated into the surrounding landscape as a picturesque garden feature. The fashion for picturesque artificial ruins had started before the middle of the 18th century in England but it had taken several decades for it to spread further afield.

Hohenberg created the Roman Ruin at Schönbrunn as an entirely new structure on the model of the Ancient Roman temple of Vespasian and Titus, the remains of which
had been recorded in an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi dating to around 1756.

In contrast to the Gloriette, all the architectural elements of the structure, including the columns and reliefs, were made under the supervision of the court architect, as has only recently been verified.
The stone decorations were executed by the sculptors Beyer, Henrici and Franz Zächerle, and spoils from the Neugebäude palace were only used for the decorative compositions of stones surrounding the structure.

The ensemble consists of a rectangular pool framed by a massive semi-circular arch with lateral walls evoking the impression of an ancient edifice slowly crumbling into the ground.
The centre of the ensemble is the arch with its fragmented architrave and frieze, which is decorated with reliefs of various sacrificial implements based on Roman models. The lateral walls projecting forward at
rightangles display the same relief decoration in addition to Classicistic figures and busts.

In the pool in front of the ruin is a figural group representing the gods of the Rivers Danube and Enns, executed by Wilhelm Beyer.

The aisle in the woods rising directly behind the central arch was originally terraced to simulate a cascade. It leads to the statue of Hercules fighting Cerberus, the three-headed hound which guarded the
entrance to Hades, as well as the personified Vices, while beneath his feet lies the defeated Hydra, a many-headed water-snake.

Quite apart from the romantic or picturesque effect that the architect was striving for, the fact that the structure was commonly referred to as the 'Ruin of Carthage' indicates that
it was probably intended as an allusion to the victory of Rome over Carthage. For centuries, the Habsburgs had embodied the office of Roman-German Emperor, seeing themselves as the legitimate successors
to the ancient Roman Empire; this edifice was thus also intended as an expression of their dynastic claims.

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