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...

Great Fire of Rome

Great Fire of Rome

Jul 13, 2013

On July 19, 64 AD the Great Fire of Rome began in the merchant area of the city and burned for six days. Three of Rome’s fourteen districts were ‘leveled to the ground’ and seven others were reduced ‘to a few scorched and mangled ruins’ according to Tacitus. There are contradictory accounts explaining the cause of the fire. Rumors were rampant that Nero had sent men into the city to set it on fire, while he sang songs of the destruction of Troy and played on his lyre. The following verse, orally conveyed or posted on a city wall at the time, expresses the sentiment of residents of the city: Though Nero may pluck the cords of a lyre, And the Parthian King the string of a bow, He who chants to the lyre with heavenly fire Is Apollo as much as his far-darting foe. Suetonius indicated that ‘Nero watched the conflagration from the Tower of Maecenas, enraptured by what he called the “beauty of the flames”; then put on his tragedian’s costume and sang The Sack of Ilium from beginning to end’. Some believed that the fire was an accident. Tacitus says that Nero wasn’t in Rome when the fire started but was in Antium, returning only when the fire threatened a mansion he had built. Many inhabitants of the city were further convinced that the fires should be attributed to Nero when he decided to build the ‘Domus Aurea’, his ‘Golden House’, a massive palace complex, on the site. Nero placed blame on the Christians as indicated by Tacitus. ‘…to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians’. Related Stories: Temple of Mars Ultor Nerva Forum of Nerva Forum of Trajan Belly Button of Rome Elsewhere on the Web: Yale Courses:Notorious Nero and his Amazing Architectural Legacy Items from the Creating History...

Mercuralia – Festival of Mercury

Mercuralia – Festival of Mercury

May 14, 2013

Mercuralia was a Roman celebration that was also known as the ‘Festival of Mercury’. Mercury, was a Roman messenger god whose attributes were mainly borrowed from the Greek god Hermes although there are myths regarding Mercury that are distinctly Roman. He was a god of trade, thieves, and travel. The name is closely related to merx, mercari, and merces which respectively mean merchandise, to trade, and wages. For good luck, on the Ides of May (May 15th) which was considered his birthday, the merchants of Rome would use laurel boughs to sprinkle their merchandise, their ships, and their heads with water from a fountain at Porta Capena known as aqua Mercurii. They also offered prayers to Mercury for forgiveness of past and future perjuries, for profit, and the continued ability to cheat customers! Related Stories: Neptunalia Ludi Apollinares Vestalia Matralia Portunalia Items from the Creating History...