The Carceri stands apart from the main body of Piranesi's work for several reasons, most important of which is the mystery surrounding the actual purpose of the series. Unlike the other thousand or so etchings he produced over forty years, which essentially set out to record the magnificence of Rome's imperial past and argue for the superiority of Roman over Greek culture, Piranesi refused to expand upon what these strange, haunting interiors were meant to signify. They show the influence both of his early training in stage design with the Bibiena family in Bologna and his fascination with architecture, encouraged no doubt by his father's being a stone-mason. The rather theatrical, two-dimensional treatment of the space is certainly reminiscent of a stage backdrop, complete with trompe-l'oeil effects and dramatic lighting. Perhaps they are best understood as the prospectus of a young man anxious to display his virtuosity, for it is only after the radical revisions carried out twelve years later for the Second Edition that we find any overt references to torture and punishment.