History for the Rest of Us

Temple of Concord

Temple of Concord

Jun 6, 2014

Dedicated to the Roman goddess Concordia (goddess of concord and harmony), the Temple of Concord was vowed in 367 BC to commemorate reconciliation between patricians and plebians after the Aventine Secession. The Licinian laws, expanding the civil rights of the commoners or ‘plebians’, had been proposed and were eventually accepted despite great opposition by the patricians. M. Furius Camillus had promised to consecrate a temple to Concordia if peace was made. As part of the agreement between the two groups the first plebian consul was elected and going forward one of the two consuls was required to be a plebian. Centrally located between the Capitoline Hill and the Comitium, the Temple served as a reminder of the peace that had been established. In 211 B.C. a statue of Victory on its roof was struck down by lightning. In order to foster harmony after the murder of Gaius Gracchus, the Temple was rebuilt in 121 BC. The original dedication probably taking place on the 22nd of July. It was rededicated on January 16, 12 AD by the future emperor Tiberius during the reign of Augustus. This final restoration was noted for its opulent marble and rich architectural ornamentation. The cella, (central chamber or sanctuary of the temple) housed a row of Corinthian columns. These columns had pairs of leaping rams instead of the traditional corner volutes and were raised on a continuous plinth projecting from the wall that divided the cella into bays. Part of the function of the Temple appears to have been as a museum since it housed a wealth of Greek sculpture, paintings, and other works of art. The Temple was also used for meetings of the Senate – especially in times of civil disturbance (Cicero delivered his fourth Catilinarian oration here). The Temple of Concord backed up against the Tabularium at the base of the Capitoline Hill on the northwestern side of the Forum. Its design was unique since due to space limitations it’s facade was on the long side of the structure. The Temple was razed to the ground and turned into a lime-kiln to recover its marble during the 1400s so only the foundation remains today. [nform...

The Forum of Julius Caesar

The Forum of Julius Caesar

Oct 27, 2012

The Forum Iulium was the first of the so‑called imperial fora, begun by Julius Caesar and designed, not for a market, but to provide a centre for business of other kinds. The plan of this forum had been conceived as early as 54 B.C., for in that year Cicero and Oppius engaged in purchasing land for Caesar from private owners, and had already paid sixty million sesterces. More land was acquired afterwards, and the final cost is said to have been one hundred million sesterces, a sum perhaps exaggerated. Work was probably begun in 51, during Caesar’s absence in Gaul. At the battle of Pharsalus Caesar vowed a temple to Venus Genetrix, the mythical ancestress of the Julian gens, and proceeded to build it in the centre of his forum, which thus became in effect a porticus surrounding the temple, a type followed in all the later fora. Temple and forum were dedicated on the last day of Caesar’s great triumph, 26th September, 46 B.C., although the forum was not finished by Caesar, but by Octavianus after the dictator’s death. In the forum Caesar allowed the erection of a statue of himself wearing a cuirass, and he himself dedicated a statue of his horse with ‘humanis similes pedes priores’, on which the dictator was mounted. In front of the temple stood a fountain surrounded by nymphs, called Appiades. The forum was burned in 283 A.D. and restored by Diocletian. While the official designation was forum Iulium it appears regularly in our sources as forum Caesaris. The temple of Venus was pycnostyle and built of solid marble. The statue of Venus Genetrix by Arcesilas, which Caesar set up, in foro Caesaris, was probably in the cella of the temple. Caesar also placed in the temple two paintings by Timomachus, Ajax and Medea; a gilded statue of Cleopatra; six dactyliothecae or collections of engraved gems; and a thorax adorned with British pearl. Later, Augustus is stated to have set up in the temple a statue of the deified Julius with a star above his head, although some scholars believe that this is a mistake for the temple of divus Iulius in the forum. A colossal statue...

The Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus

Oct 27, 2012

The Forum Augustum or Augusti was the second of the imperial fora, adjoining the Forum Iulium, built by Augustus to provide additional room for the courts, and for other needs of the increasing population. The site was purchased by Augustus from its owners with the proceeds of the spoils of war, but he did not succeed in acquiring enough land to carry out his original plan. Within the forum was the temple of Mars Ultor which formed the essential element of the forum as the temple of Venus Genetrix did that of the forum Iulium. The work was greatly delayed, but that on the forum was hurried at last and this was opened before the temple was finished, although its actual dedication is said to have taken place on 1st August, 2 B.C., at the same time as that of the temple. Because of the temple of Mars, this forum was sometimes called forum Martis. In 19 A.D. Tiberius erected two arches, one on each side of the temple, in honour of the victories of Drusus and Germanicus in Germany. Pliny regarded this forum with the temple of Peace and the basilica Aemilia, as the three most beautiful buildings in the world, and says that the timber used in its construction was cut in the Raetian Alps in the dog days, considered to be the best time. In fact, wooden dowels were found in the sixteenth century so well preserved that they could be used again. As might be expected, many works of art were collected in the forum, including a quadriga dedicated by the senate to Augustus; and in the temple, which was as magnificent as the rest of the structure. The forum was restored by Hadrian, and is mentioned in the Notitia. How long the forum was used for the courts is not known. Claudius and Trajan sat in judgment here, but the building of Trajan’s forum probably diminished the importance of all the others. Once at least Augustus celebrated the festival of Mars in his forum on account of an inundation of the Tiber, and the Arval Brethren sacrificed here to Mars Ultor, Salus and the genius of the princeps. Augustus...

The Temple of Peace

The Temple of Peace

Oct 27, 2012

The temple of Peace was begun by Vespasian after the capture of Jerusalem in 71 A.D., and dedicated in 75. It stood in the middle of the forum Pacis, north of the basilica Aemilia, probably at the junction of the modern Vie Alessandrina and dei Pozzi. Statius seems to ascribe the completion of this temple to Domitian, but this emperor’s claim may have had little foundation. Within the temple, or attached closely to it, was a library, bibliotheca Pacis. In it were placed many of the treasures brought by Vespasian from Jerusalem, as well as famous works of Greek artists, and Pliny speaks of it, the basilica Aemilia and the forum of Augustus, as the three most beautiful monuments in Rome. Just before the death of Commodus, probably in 191, the temple was destroyed by fire, but it must have been restored, probably by Severus, for it is mentioned in the succeeding centuries as one of the most magnificent buildings in the city. It gave its name to the fourth region of the city. In 408 there were seismic disturbances for seven successive days in the forum Pacis, and the temple may have been injured then. At any rate Procopius, writing in the sixth century, says that it had long since been destroyed by lightning, although there were still many works of art set up in the immediate vicinity. The enclosure within which the temple stood is not called forum in literature until after the time of Constantine. Enclosure and temple together appear in Pliny as Pacis opera. On the north-west it adjoined the (later) forum Transitorium, and on the south-east the basilica of Constantine, being rectangular in shape with the same orientation as the other imperial fora. Its length was 145 metres, and its width about two-thirds as much, although its north-east boundary is uncertain. It had an enclosing wall of peperino lined with marble and pierced with several gates. The peperino blocks have left impressions on the concrete of the basilica of Constantine, the north-west side of which was set against it. At the south-east corner there was an entrance from the Sacra via through a monumental passage which, after several changes,...

Trajan’s Forum

Trajan’s Forum

Sep 27, 2012

The last, largest and most magnificent of the imperial fora, built by Trajan with the assistance of the Greek architect Apollodorus, and dedicated, at least in part, about 113 A.D. When completed by Trajan it consisted of the forum proper, the basilica Ulpia, the column of Trajan, and the bibliotheca, and extended from the forum Augustum north-west between the Capitoline and Quirinal hills, with the same orientation as the other imperial fora. Unlike these it did not contain a central temple of which it formed a virtual porticus. After Trajan’s death, however, Hadrian erected the great temple of Trajan on the north-west side of the bibliotheca, which thenceforth formed an integral part of the forum whole, and made it conform somewhat to the imperial type. Although the walls of the forum of Trajan and the forum of Augustus seem to have been separated by a short distance, they must have been connected by a wide avenue at least, and thus Caesar’s plan of connecting the forum Romanum and the campus Martius was finally carried out. The construction of Trajan’s forum necessitated much excavation and levelling. The space thus prepared was 185 metres in width, and the extreme length of forum and temple precinct was about 310 metres. The inscription on the pedestal of the column in connection with a passage in Cassius Dio was formerly taken to mean that the height of the column (100 Roman feet) was that of a ridge between the Capitoline and Quirinal hills which had to be cut away, but geological evidence showed that it never existed. This was confirmed by the discovery of an ancient street and houses of the early empire beneath the foundation of the column. In view of this fact various attempts have been made to explain the inscription, and especially mons, in some other way. The least unsatisfactory explanation as yet suggested is that mons refers to the extreme eastern shoulder of the Quirinal, the collis Latiaris, that was cut back so far that the height of the excavation was approximately 100 feet. Groh accepts this view, explaining that the mons was probably situated to the north-west of the forum of Augustus; and suggests...

Belly Button of Ancient Rome

Belly Button of Ancient Rome

May 2, 2012

The Umbilicus Urbis Romae Adjacent to the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum, lie the remains of the Umbilicus Urbis Romae, or “Navel of the City of Rome”. It is from this monument that all distances in Ancient Rome were measured (all roads lead to Rome). The Umbilicus was originally covered in marble. There is some debate as to whether or not three monuments discussed in Roman writings, the Milliarium Aureum (Golden Milestone), the Umbilicus Urbis, and the Mundus (Underground Gate to the Underworld), refer to the same monument, but regardless, this area near the Rostra was the center of the empire. It’s possible that the Umbilicus was the external part of the subterranean Mundus. The Mundus Legend indicates that Romulus had a circular pit dug in the area of the Forum when he founded the city, where the first fruit of the year was cast as a sacrifice to underworld deities, particularly Ceres, goddess of the fruitful earth. All new citizens were required to throw a handful of dirt coming from their place of origin into the Mundus as well. This pit was sealed with a stone covering with the exception of August 24, October 5, and November 8 when it was ceremonially opened. These days were considered dies nefasti, or days on which official transactions were forbidden on religious grounds. They were considered such because evil spirits of the underworld were thought to escape when the doors were open and could negatively impact such transactions. Varro is quoted as saying ‘Mundus cum patet, deorum tristium atque inferum quasi ianua patet.’ translated to mean ‘When the mundus is open, it is as if a door stands open for the sorrowful gods of the underworld.’ The Milliarium Aureum Build by Augustus in 20 BC the Milliarium Aureum was said to serve the same purpose as the Umbilicus, that is, measuring distances to and from the...