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 p297  Aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini

Article on pp297‑302 of

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

Iuppiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus, Aedes,* templum, νεώς, also called aedes Capitolina (Plin. NH XXXIII.16, 19; XXXV.14; XXXVI.45): the great temple on the Capitol, dedicated to Jupiter and his companion deities, Juno and Minerva, the Capitoline Triad. Tarquinius Priscus vowed this temple while battling with the Sabines, and seems to have laid some of its foundations, but a large part of the work was done by Tarquinius Superbus, who is said to have nearly completed it. According to the tradition current in later times, there were shrines of other deities on the site intended for this temple, all of whom allowed themselves to be dispossessed in the proper way except Terminus (q.v.) and Iuventas (q.v.). These shrines were therefore incorporated in the new temple, and the action of Terminus was regarded as a prophecy of the permanence of the cult and of Rome itself (Cic. de rep. II.36; Liv. I.38.7, 55, 56; Plin. NH III.70; Dionys. III.69; IV.61; Tac. Hist. III.72; Plut. Popl.13‑14). The dedication of the temple on 13th September was ascribed to the first year of the republic, when this honour fell to Horatius Pulvillus by lot (Liv. II.8; VII.3.8; Polyb. III.22; Tac. Hist. III.72; Plut. Popl. 14; cf. Plin. NH XXXIII.19).

The original structure was probably built of the native tufa of the hill, which cropped out at the foot of the Capitoline on the forum side (AJA 1918, 185). During the digging for the foundations a caput humanum integra facie (Liv. I.55.5) was found, and this the Etruscan diviners interpreted as an omen of Rome's sovereignty of the world (Varro, LL V.41; Plin. XXXIII.15; Serv. Aen. VIII.345; Arnob. VI.7; Isid. XV.2.31; Cass. Dio, frg. 11.8).

There were three cellae side by side.  p298 That in the middle was dedicated to Jupiter and contained a terra cotta statue of the god, with a thunderbolt in his right hand, said to have been the work of Vulca of Veii, the face of which was painted red on festival days (Ov. Fast. I.201‑202; Plin. NH XXXIII.111‑112; XXXV.157). The character of this statue, and of the rest of the decoration of the temple, is clear from the life-size figures, recently discovered at Veii, belonging to a group representing the stealing by Heracles of a stag sacred to Apollo (NS 1919, 3).​1 The chamber on the right was dedicated to Minerva (Liv. VII.3.5), and that on the left to Juno.​2 Probably there were statues also in these two chambers, and each deity had her own altar (Varro ap. Serv. Aen. III.134). The statue of Jupiter was clothed with a tunic adorned with palm branches and Victories (tunica palmata), and a purple toga embroidered with gold (toga picta, palmata), the costume afterwards worn by Roman generals when celebrating a triumph (Liv. X.7.10; XXX.15.11‑12; Iuv. X.38; Hist. Aug. Alex. 40; Gord. 4; Prob. 7; Fest. 209; Serv. Aen. XI.334; Marquardt, Privatl. 542‑543; cf. SR II. 1914, 254‑256). The entablature was of wood, and on the apex of the pediment was a terra cotta group, Jupiter in a quadriga, by the same Etruscan artist as the statue in the cella (Plin. NH XXVIII.16; XXXV.157; Fest. 274; Plut. Popl. 13). This was replaced in 296 B.C. by another, probably of bronze (Liv. X.23.12). There is no doubt that pediment and roof were decorated with terra cotta figures, among them a statue of Summanus 'in fastigio' (perhaps therefore an acroterion), the head of which was broken off by a thunderbolt in 275 B.C. (Cic. de Div. I.10; Liv. Epit. XIV). See Terracotta Revetments, 47. In 193 B.C. the aediles M. Aemilius Lepidus and L. Aemilius Paullus placed gilt shields on the pediment (Liv. XXXV.10).

In 179 B.C. the walls and columns were covered anew with stucco (Liv. XL.51.3), and a copy of the dedicatory inscription of L. Aemilius Regillus, from the temple of the Lares Permarini (q.v.) was placed over the door (ib. 52). A little later a mosaic pavement was laid in the cella (Plin. NH XXXVI.185), and in 142 the ceiling was gilded (Plin. NH XXXIII.57). The temple stood in the Area Capitolina (q.v.), and in front of the steps was the great altar of Jupiter (ara Iovis), where solemn sacrifices were offered at the beginning of the year, at the celebration of triumphs, and on some other occasions (Suet. Aug. 94; Zonaras VIII.1; Fest. 285). This temple became a repository of works of art of many sorts, the gifts of Roman generals and foreigners, as well as of dedicatory offerings and trophies of victory (see Rosch. II.728‑730; Jord. I.2.16‑18), of which the earliest recorded was a golden crown presented by the Latins in 459 (Liv. II.22.6). The number of these became so great that in 179 B.C. it was necessary to remove some of the statues and many of the shields affixed to the columns (Liv. XL.51.3).

 p299  The first temple was burned to the ground on 6th July, 83 B.C. (Cic. Cat. III.9; Sall. Cat. 47.2; Tac. Hist. III.72; App. B. C. I.83, 86; Obseq. 57; Plut. Sulla 27; Cassiod. ad a. 671), with the statue of Jupiter (Plut. de Iside 71; cf. Ov. Fast. I.201), and the Sibylline books that had been kept in a stone chest (Dionys. IV.62), but the temple treasure was carried in safety to Praeneste by the younger Marius (Plin. NH XXXIII.16). The rebuilding was taken in hand by Sulla (Val. Max. IX.3.8; Tac. Hist. III.72), who is said to have brought the white marble Corinthian columns of the Olympieion in Athens to Rome for this temple (Plin. NH XXXVI.45). They do not seem to have been used, for coins of 43 B.C.3 (Babelon, II.291, Pet. 1‑4; BM Rep. I.571.4217‑25) represent those standing as Doric. Most of the rebuilding fell to the lot of Q. Lutatius Catulus, being assigned to him by the Senate (Cic. Verr. IV.69; Varro ap. Gell. II.10; Lactant. de ira dei 22.6; Suet. Caes. 15), and the new structure was dedicated by him in 69 (Liv. ep. 98; Plut. Popl. 15; cf. Plin. NH VII.138; XIX.23; Suet. Aug. 94). Catulus' name was inscribed above the entrance and remained there until 69 A.D., so that the vote of the senate to substitute Caesar's name, after the dictator's death (Cass. Dio XLIII.14; cf. XXXVII.44), was not carried out. This temple was built on the original foundations (Tac. loc. cit.) and plan, except that it was higher (Val. Max. IV.4.11), more expensive (Dionys. IV.61), and doubtless more splendid. The greater height of the temple was not in harmony with that of the stylobate, and Catulus wished to remedy this fault by lowering the level of the area Capitolina. This, however, could not be done because of the favissae, or under­ground passages which were entered from the cella of the temple, and in which were stored the old statues that had fallen from the roof, and various dedicatory gifts (Fest. 88; Gell. II.10; Gilb. II.419; Rosch. II.710). The kind of stone employed is not known. The roof was supported by eagles 'vetere ligno' (Tac. loc. cit.), and covered with plates of gilt bronze (Plin. NH XXXIII.57; Sen. Contr. I.6.4; II.1.1). The denarius referred to above shows Roma standing on shields between two birds, with the wolf and twins on the right (cf. Cass. Dio XLV.1; Suet. Aug. 94), and on the apex a statue of Jupiter in a quadriga. The ancient terra cotta statue of Jupiter seems to have been replaced by one of gold and ivory, in sitting posture (Joseph. Ant. Iud. XIX.1.2), made probably by some Greek artist, perhaps Apollonius, in imitation of that of Zeus at Olympia (Chalcid. in Plat. Tim. 338C; Brunn, Künstlergeschichte I2.543 = I2.379). Catulus also dedicated a statue to Minerva, infra Capitolium (Plin. NH XXXIV.77). Cf. CIL I2725, 730‑732 = VI.30920‑4 for dedicatory  p300 inscriptions set up at this temple. Whether VI.30928 (with which go 30921, 30923; cf. ib. I2.732) belonged to it or to the Capitolium Vetus (q.v.) cannot be determined.

Lightning frequently struck on the Capitol and did much damage, probably to the temple itself (Cic. Cat. III.19; de Div. I.20; II.45; Cass. Dio XLI.14; XLII.26; XLV.17; XLVII.10), and Augustus restored it at great expense, probably about 26 B.C., but without placing his own name upon it (Mon. Anc. IV.9). It is thrice mentioned in the Acta Lud. Saec. (CIL VI.32323.9, 29, 70). Further injury by lightning is recorded in 9 B.C. (Cass. Dio LV.1) and 56 A.D. (Tac. Ann. XIII.24).

In 69 A.D. the second temple, though ungarrisoned and unplundered, was burned when the Capitol was stormed by the Vitellians (Tac. Hist. III.71; Suet. Vit. 15; Cass. Dio LXIV.17; Stat. Silv. V.3.195‑200; Hier. a. Abr. 2089), and rebuilt by Vespasian on its original lines but with still greater height (Tac. Hist. IV.4, 9, 53; Suet. Vesp. 8; Cass. Dio LXV.7.10;º Plut. Popl. 15; Aur. Vict. Caes. 9.7; ep. de Caes. 9.8; Zon. XI.17). Coins of the period​4 agree in representing this temple as hexastyle, with Corinthian columns, and statues of Jupiter, Juno (left), and Minerva (right), in the three central intercolumniations, but they differ in the number and position of the figures surmounting the pediment — quadrigae, eagles, heads of horses, and objects of an uncertain character (Cohen, Vesp. 486‑493; Titus 242‑245; Dom. 533; for a list of coins representing the temple at different periods, see Arch. Zeit. 1872, 1‑8; Jord. I.2.88‑90).

This temple was again burned down in 80 A.D. (Cass. Dio LXVI.24) and restored by Domitian (Suet. Dom. 5; Plut. Popl. 15; Eutrop. VII.23; Chron. 146), although the actual work was apparently begun in 80 (Act. Arv. Henzen, cvi.115‑116). The dedication probably took place in 82 (Cohen, Dom. 230; Hier. a. Abr. 2105, wrongly). This structure surpassed the earlier in magnificence. It was hexastyle, of the Corinthian order, and its columns were of white Pentelic marble, a material used in no other Roman building (Plut. Popl. 15). The doors were plated with gold (Zos. V.38), and the roof was covered with gilt tiles (Procop. b. Vand. I.5). The four bronze columns made of the rostra of the ships captured at Antium, which Domitian set up 'in Capitolio' (Serv. Georg. III.29), perhaps stood in this temple. The pediment was adorned with reliefs, and its apex and gables with statues, as in the earlier temples, but for them we must depend on the evidence of coins (Cohen, Dom. 23, 174) and fragments of reliefs or drawings of the same, as e.g. one in the Louvre from the forum of Trajan, in which the part showing the pediment is lost (PBS IV.230, 240‑244; cf. Mél. 1889, 120‑133;º Mitt. 1888, 150‑155; 1889, 250‑252; and Jord. I.2.89‑90; Rosch. II.718‑719) and another in the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Cons. 23). See BC 1925, 181‑191; and cf. Bernhart, Handbuch zur Münzkunde der röm. Kaiserzeit, 125.

 p301  This temple is referred to in glowing terms by Ammianus (XVI.10.14; XXII.16.12) and Ausonius (Clar. urb. XIX.17: aurea Capitoli culmina). Its destruction began in the fifth century when Stilicho carried off the gold plates of the doors (Zos. V.38). The inscription said to have been found on this occasion was simply a graffito, carelessly read, which is restored by Reinach: Niger, Q. Regii ser(vus) (CRA 1914, 562).​5 Gaiseric removed half of the gilt tiles​6 (Procop. b. Vand. I.5), but in the sixth century it was still one of the wonders of the world (Cassiod. Var. VII.6). In 571, however, Narses appears to have removed the statues, or many of them: Chron. Min. I.336 (571), p. c. Iustini Aug. IIII anno. De Neapolim egressus Narsis ingressus Romam et deposuit palatii eius statuam et Capitolium (see BCr 1867, 22; Hülsen cit.) The bull of Anacletus II (1130‑8) refers to it as templum maius quod respicit super Alafantum (v Elephas Herbarius). The history of its destruction is little known down to the sixteenth century (Nibby, Roma Antica I.505 ff.; cf. Jord. I.2.32‑34) when the Caffarelli built their palace on its ruins (LS II.94‑96).

Excavations and borings (Ann. d. Inst. 1865, 382; 1876, 145‑172; Mon. d. Inst. VIII pl. 23.2; X pl. 30a; BC 1875, 165‑189; 1876, 31‑34; Bull. d. Inst. 1882, 276; NS 1896, 161; 1921, 38), with the information given by Vitruvius (III.3.5) and Dionysius (IV.61), have established the general plan of the temple, which remained the same for the successive rebuildings (cf. Delbrück, Der Apollotempel auf dem Marsfeld in Rom, Rome 1903, 12‑13). The temple was rectangular, almost square, and fronted south, its main axis deviating about 26½ degrees to the east of the north and south line. The stylobate seems not to have been a solid mass, but it consisted of parallel walls, 5.60 metres wide, made of tufa blocks laid without mortar and set deep in the ground. Considerable remains of it are visible in the Museo Mussolini, which occupies the former Palazzo Caffarelli. Its height was apparently from 4 to 5 metres. The proportion in width between the central chamber of the cella and those on the sides was as four to three. The length of the shorter sides of the stylobate, derived from actual measurement, exclusive of its outer facing of which nothing is known, was about 55 metres, and that of the longer sides about 60 metres. (For a discussion of the evidence of the use of the Italic foot (0.278 m) instead of the Roman (0.2977 m) in these foundations, see Hermes, 1887, 17‑28; 1888, 477‑479; Richter, 122‑123; Mitt. 1889, 249; CR 1902, 335‑336; NS 1907, 362; AA 1914, 75‑82.)

Paribeni (NS 1921, 38‑4) gives a new plan based on recent excavations in which three angles​7 and parts of the sides were laid bare, and  p302 deduces the measurements given above.​8 He points out that if we can suppose that Dionysius (who tells us that the perimeter of the temple was 8 plethra (800 Greek feet), that each side was about 200 feet, and that the difference between length and breadth did not exceed 15 feet) was using the older Greek foot of 296 mm or thereabouts, corresponding to the Roman foot (the Greek foot of 308 mm being really the Ptolemaic foot; cf. Segré in Aegyptus I.159), we get a measurement of 61.42 by 56.98 metres, which, allowing for the facing, agrees very closely with the measurements given above. If we supposed the Italic foot to have been used, we should get 59.77 by 55.60 metres, which is rather too small, as nothing is allowed for facing. The podium is that of the original temple (YW 1922‑3, 98). No more of the parallel walls of the stylobate have been found.

The temple was hexastyle, with three rows of columns across the front and a single row on each side, and the intercolumnar spaces corresponded with the different widths of the three adjacent cellae. As the bases of the columns were about 8 feet (2.23 m) in breadth, the wider intercolumniations measured 40 feet (11.12 m) and the narrower 30 feet (8.9 m). According to these measurements the cella was 100 feet (27.81 m) square. Of the superstructure only fragments now exist, a drum of a fluted column of Pentelic marble, 2.10 metres in diameter, part of an Attic base of the same stone, 2.26 metres in breadth, the lower half of a Corinthian capital (NS 1897, 60), although fragments of cornice and frieze with sculptured reliefs are reported to have been found (LR 300‑301; BC 1914, 88‑89). Cf. DAP 2.xv.372‑3 for the removal, as it seems, of another column in 1544‑6. It is very remarkable that so little of any of the subsequent temples has been found.

This temple was the centre of the religious system of the state during the republic and empire, and possessed great political importance. Here the consuls offered their first public sacrifices, the senate met in solemn assembly, it was the destination of the triumphal procession, and the repository of archives dealing with foreign relations. To the Romans it was the symbol of the sovereignty and power of Rome, and of her immortality. (For a catalogue of the uses of this temple, see Rosch. II.720‑739; Jord. I.2.94‑95; WR 125‑129; see also Area Capitolina. Besides the references already given, see, for the temple in general and the voluminous literature relating to it, Richter, Hermes 1884, 322‑324; Top. 121‑130; BRT II.23‑31; Jord. I.2.8‑101; Gilb. II.416‑423, 434‑448; III.382‑398; Rodocanachi, Le Capitole romain, 27‑40; Hülsen, Festschrift für H. Kiepert 209‑222; RE III.1531‑1538; X.1135‑1137; Rosch. II.705‑720; LR 298‑301; ZA 22‑28; ASA 12, 13.)

The Authors' Notes:

1 See also Ant. Denk. III.45‑55.

2 The cella Iunonis Reginae is mentioned in Act. Lud. Saec. Sev. (CIL VI.32329.9).

3 Add a coin of the gens Volteia (Babelon, II.565; BM Rep. I.388.1, where it is dated after 83 B.C.). The temple was areostyle, and its pediment was dedicated 'tuscanico more,' probably with statues of gilt bronze (Vitr. III.3.5, quoted on p255). See BC 1925, 169‑176. It is also represented, with its lofty podium, on one of the Boscoreale cups (Mon. Piot, V. (1899) pl. XXXVI.2; Rostowzew, History of the Ancient World, II. Rome; 186), where an eagle is clearly visible in the pediment.

4 See BC 1925, 176‑181.

5 As Hülsen points out, however, Niger is not a slave's name, nor is Regius a gentilicium.

6 That Constans II removed the gilt bronze tiles in 665 A.D. is asserted by many modern authors; but there is nothing said of it in LP LXXVIII. (Hülsen, Bilder aus der Geschichte des Kapitols, Rome, 1899, p31 n7).

7 The fourth angle is to be seen in the Piazzetta della Rupe Tarpea, off the Via Tor de' Specchi (see infra, p351).

8 For another see Capitolium, I.321‑326.

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