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Aedes Deorum Penatium

p388 Article on pp388‑389 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Penates Dei, Aedes: a temple on the Velia, on the site formerly occupied by the house of Tullus Hostilius (Varro ap. Non. 531; Solin. I.22; Donat. ad Ter. Eun. 256). This was not far from the forum, on a short street leading to the Carinae (Dionys. I.68.1: νὲως ἐν Ῥώμῃ δείκνυται τῆς ἀγορᾶς οὐ πρόσω κατὰ τὴν ἐπὶ Καρίνας φέρουσαν ἐπίτομον ὁδόν, from which street the temple was probably reached by the scalae deum Penatium mentioned by Varro (ap. Donat. loc. cit.). There is no record of its building, but it is first mentioned in the list of Argei (Varro V.54: Veliense sexticeps in Velia apud aedem deum Penatium) of the second half of the third century B.C. Dionysius (loc. cit.) describes it as ὑπεροχῇ σκοτεινὸς ἰδρυμενος οὐ μέγας, and its foundation was probably a little earlier than the first Punic war.

In 167 B.C. it was struck by lightning (Liv. XLV.16. 5), and in 165 the opening of its doors at night was listed among the prodigia (Obseq. 13). It was restored by Augustus (Mon. Anc. IV.7; cf. VI.33). In it were archaic statues of the Dioscuri as dei Penates1 (Dionys. loc. cit.), an identification that is further supported by the evidence of coins of M'. Fonteius, about 104 B.C. (Babelon, Monnaies I.503, No.8),2 C. Sulpicius, about 94 (ib. II.471, No.1), and C. Antius Restio 49‑45 (I.155, No.2). A temple of the Penates seems also to be represented on one of the reliefs of the ara Pacis Augustae (OJ X.1907, 186‑188; SScR 25).

p389 This temple is sometimes thought to have been removed by Vespasian when he built the forum Pacis (see Pacis Templum), sometimes to have occupied the site of the so‑called 'templum Romuli' (Jord. I.2.416‑417; Rosch. III.1889‑1890; Gilb. II.81‑84, where the identification of this temple with the actual rotunda is ridiculous; WR 165). But, according to the most recent theory, the rectangular building which forms the main part of the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano is the enclosure wall of the temple of the Penates as restored by Augustus (AJA 1923, 414), which is hidden under the church.

The brick wall at the back, which served to carry the forma Urbis (see Pax, Templum), is, in its present condition, even later than Septimius Severus: while the rotunda belongs to the time of Maxentius (see Urbis Fanum). The whole subject has been carefully studied by Whitehead and Biasiotti (RPA III.83‑122; AJA 1927, 1‑18; cf. also Leclercq in Cabrol, Dict. III.2350‑2367; Mem. Am. Acad. V.120).


The Authors' Notes:

1 See Wissowa, Ges. Abh. 96‑99, who supposes that Dionysius actually saw the inscription on the base.

Thayer's Note: for Servius and further details on the statue inscription, see Earnest Cary's note on Dionys. I.68.

2 BM. Rep. I.195.1230; 202.1314‑1326; 522.4032.


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