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Four Emperors and an Architect:
How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy

book review Four Emperors and an Architect This book is bound to appeal to anyone with a love of what they assume to be, and indeed what has become, classic English architecture. We’re talking about Robert Adam’s buildings so they couldn’t be anything other than quintessentially English, could they? Well, yes and no.

Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy illustrates in words and images a significant influence on the young Adam. It’s only now that we can fully appreciate the impact of a very particular region and historic era.

We know it these days as the Balkan Peninsula, and it was Robert Adam’s eventual destination when he embarked on the Grand Tour. Politics, then as now, made the region difficult to negotiate, and for Adam in particular as his stay was cut short by the ruling Venetians, who suspected him of spying. This setback evidently didn’t diminish his enthusiasm for Spalatro, which was the name Split went by in those days. He later published his groundbreaking and highly successful work, The Ruins of Spalatro, which added to the architect’s growing celebrity.

Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy – even the title of the book is intriguing. Who were the four Emperors? Diocletian was one of them, and a quarter of the Tetrarchy (the word describes any form of government where power is divided between four people, although it has come to signify the system instituted by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 293AD in particular).

The book introduces us to the ruins of Diocletian’s palace, and tells how it inspired Robert Adam to create iconic features in some of his most famous houses such as Kedleston Hall, designed by Robert in 1761 and Syon House, Middlesex, begun in 1762. These were also incorporated into the neoclassical Adelphi Development designs for London.

Four Emperors and an Architect tells of glorious ancient history, of political cooperation, of the rediscovery of architectural marvels. It also acts as a superb handbook to anyone interested in visiting the sites in modern Croatia, as well as encouraging us to take another look at Robert Adam’s fine buildings nearer home. Author Alicia Salter has an engaging style and meshes both history and architecture together in an accessible fashion. This is outstanding value for just £20.
 
Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy
Author: Alicia Salter
Price: £20
Publisher: Lexicon Publishing
ISBN-10: 0957571909
ISBN-13: 978-0957571907


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