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...

Shrine of Cloacina – Sacrum Cloacina

Shrine of Cloacina – Sacrum Cloacina

Apr 21, 2014

Shrine of Cloacina or Sacrum Cloacina The Sacrum Cloacina was a shrine to Cloacina, an Etruscan diety who may well have been associated with the small brook that would eventually become the sewer of Rome, the Cloaca Maxima. Cloacina’s name may be a derivation of the Latin verb cloare (to purify or to clean), or the noun cloaca (sewer). For unknown reasons, the goddess would eventually become associated with the Roman goddess Venus and be called Venus Cloacina. The shrine was located in the Roman Forum in front of the Tabernae Novae (new shops and eventual location of the Basilica Aemilia) on the Via Sacra. The foundations of the shrine were discovered directly in front of the Basilica Aemilia in 1899-1901. They stand over the drain that flows under the Basilica, near the point where it drains into the Cloaca Maxima. The remains consist of a round marble base, except on the west side where there is a rectangular projection. It appears that the foundation of the shrine was raised over time, probably as the Basilica encroached on it. Coins minted around 42 BC give a clear visual representation of the shrine. The coins show the legend CLOACIN, with two statues of females standing on a round sacellum (small, uncovered shrine) with a metal balustrade. Each statue has a low pillar with a bird on it. One is holding an object in her hand (possibly a flower) or waving. Tradition ascribes the shrine to Titus Tatius, the Sabine king (8th century BC), during the reign of Romulus though it seems more reasonable that it would have been erected some time during the early history of the Cloaca Maxima (traditionally held to be around 600 BC during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus king of Rome), given its relationship with the sewer. In 449 BC, according to legend a butcher named Verginius emerged from his shop in the Tabernae Novae and stabbed his daughter Verginia in front of the shrine to save her honor from the lecherous attentions of the lustful Appius Claudius. According to the poem below by Plautus (c. 254–184 BC) a Roman playwright, the shrine was a place where you would find braggarts...

All Roads Lead to Rome – Milliarium Aureum

In 20 BC, Augustus, as curator viarum or inspector-in-chief of a road or roads, erected the Milliarium Aureum. This monument was most likely a marble column sheathed in gilded bronze and was adjacent to the Rostra on the opposite side from the Umbilicus Urbis. A huge marble cylinder matching this description was found in 1835 near this location. All roman roads were considered to begin from this point and distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point. Hence, the saying ‘All roads lead to Rome’ was surely a reference to the Milliarium Aureum. There are three main hypotheses about what the inscription on the monument contained: 1. It contained only the name and title of the Emperor. 2. It contained the names of the most important cities of Italy and the Empire with the distances to them from Rome. 3. It contained the names of the roads out of Rome and the men who had been made curator viarum to oversee the upkeep of them. While there are marble fragments in the Forum Romanum labeled Milliarium Aureum, scholars tend to believe these fragments actually are from the Umbilicus Urbis. The derived diameter of these fragments match the diameter of the Umbilicus Urbis and would have probably been too large for a milestone monument. Items from the Creating History...

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

Mar 13, 2013

The USS Constitution was one of the original six frigates of the United States Navy and is perhaps the most famous ship in US History. US President John Adams was in attendance when it first launched from Edmund Hartts shipyard in Boston Massachusetts on October 21, 1797. The ship was named in honor of the then-new US Constitution by President George Washington. The copper bolts and breasthooks of the ship were forged by Paul Revere. In Battle The Constitution captured the French merchant ship Niger during the Quasi-War and was involved in the defeat of the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War. During the War of 1812 the Constitution defeated four British warships: HMS Guerriere, HMS Java, HMS Cyane, and HMS Levant. She was given the nickname of ‘Old Ironsides’ after her encounter with the HMS Guerriere. To the astonishment of the crew, during the battle many of the shots from the Guerriere rebounded harmlessly off the hull of the Constitution’s hull. Reportedly, an American sailor shouted, “Huzzah! her sides are made of iron!”. Saved from being Scrapped On September 16, 1830, a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was published as a tribute to the USS Constitution. Two days earlier, an article had appeared in the Boston Advertiser claiming that the Navy intended to scrap the Constitution. Public indignation was ignited and efforts to save ‘Old Ironsides’ were successful. The poem written by Holmes is as follows: Aye tear her tattered ensign down long has it waved on high, And many an eye has danced to see That banner in the sky; Beneath it rung the battle shout, And burst the cannon’s roar;– The meteor of the ocean air Shall sweep the clouds no more. Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood, Where knelt the vanquished foe, When winds were hurrying o’er the flood, And waves were white below, No more shall feel the victor’s tread, Or know the conquered knee;– The harpies of the shore shall pluck The eagle of the sea! Oh, better that her shattered hulk Should sink beneath the wave; Her thunders shook the mighty deep, And there should be her grave; Nail to the mast her holy...

Scalae Gemoniæ

Scalae Gemoniæ

Dec 22, 2012

The Scalae Gemoniæ was a flight of steps leading up to the Capitoline past the carcer, on which the bodies of certain criminals, who had been executed, were thrown and left exposed for a time — a frequent practice during the empire. They are often mentioned, first under Tiberius, and are called scalae Gemoniæ, …gradus gemitorii, and…gradus Gemonii. Only two…passages give any topographical information, but that does not determine the course of these steps with precision. It is probable, however, that it coincided approximately with the present Via di S. Pietro in carcere. It is possible that the Gradus Monetae, mentioned by Ovid, may have connected in some way with these steps. Gemoniæ was undoubtedly connected in the popular mind with gemo, ‘I groan’ but incorrectly. It is rather derived from the proper name Gemonius, but the reason for its use is unknown. The most famous to be meet their demise on the sight were the former confidant of Tiberius, Sejanus; and the emperor Vitellius. Death of Sejanus and his Family Cassius Dio mentions the Scalae in Roman History – Book LVIII: ‘For the moment, it is true, he [Sejanus] was merely cast into prison; but a little later, in fact that very day, the senate associated in the temple of Concord not far from the jail, when they saw the attitude of the populace and that none of the Pretorians was about,…condemned him to death. By their order he was executed and his body cast down the Stairway [Scalae Gemoniæ], where the rabble abused it for three whole days and afterwards threw it into the river. His children also were put to death by decree… His wife Apicata was not condemned, to be sure, but on learning that her children were dead, and after seeing their bodies on the Stairway [Scalae Gemoniæ], she withdrew and composed a statement about the death of Drusus,…then, after sending this document to Tiberius, she committed suicide.’ Death of Vitellius Tacitus refers to the Scalae in The Histories – Book III:’Vitellius, compelled by threatening swords, first to raise his face and offer it to insulting blows, then to behold his own statues falling round him, and more than...

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...