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p323 Aedes Matris Deum

(Temples of Cybele, Mother of the Gods)

Articles on pp323‑326 of

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


Magna Mater, sacellum (?): annually, on 27th March, the sacred black stone of the Magna Mater was brought from her temple on the Palatine (q.v.) to the brook Almo, the modern Acquataccio, where this crossed the via Appia south of the porta Capena, for the ceremony of lavatio. Although there are numerous references to this ceremony, there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of sacred edifice, and there was p324probably only a locus sacratus (Cic. de nat. deor. III.52; Ov. Fast. IV.337‑340; Mart. III.47.2; Stat. Silv. V.1.222; Lucan I.600; Sil. Ital. VIII.363; Ammian. XXIII.3.7; Vib. Sequester 2;1 Fast. Philoc. ad VI Kal. Apr., CIL I2 pp260, 314; Pol. Silv. Fast. Rust. ib. p261; ib. VI.10098 =33961 = Carm. epig. 1110; Prud. Peristeph. X.160; HJ 215).

Mater Deum, aedes: a shrine of Cybele in the circus Maximus, mentioned in the Notitia (Reg. XI),º and by Tertullian (de spect. 8: frigebat daemonum concilium sine sua Matre: ea itaque illic praesidet Euripo). The reliefs representing the circus (cf. HJ 138, n68) and a mosaic (at Barcelona, cf. ib. n69) represent Cybele sitting on a lion on the spina of the circus, just east of its centre (HJ 131, 40; RE III.2574; Rosch. II.1667‑1668).

Magna Mater, aedes* (templum, Cic., Ov., Val. Max., Auct. de vir. ill.): the famous temple on the Palatine erected after 204 B.C. when the Roman embassy brought from Pessinus the pointed black stone (acus) which represented the goddess (Liv. XXIX.37.2; XXXVI.36; de vir. ill. 46.3; Prudent. Mart. Rom. 206; Serv. ad Aen. VII.188). It was dedicated on 11th April, 191 B.C., by the praetor M. Junius Brutus, on which occasion the ludi Megalenses were instituted (Liv. loc. cit.; Fast. Praen. ap. CIL I2 pp235, 314‑315, cf. p251 = VI.32498; Fast. Ant. ap. NS 1921, 91) and celebrated in front of the temple (Cic. de har. resp. 24; cf. for site Ov. Fast. II.55; Mart. VII.73.3). It was burned in 111 B.C., when the statue of Quinta Cloelia within it was uninjured, restored by a Metellus, probably the consul of 110 B.C., burned again and restored by Augustus in 3 A.D. (Val. Max. I.8.11; Obseq. 99; Ov. Fast. IV.347‑348; Mon. Anc. IV.8), and was standing unharmed in the fourth century (Not. Reg. X). It is referred to incidentally under date of 38 B.C. (Cass. Dio XLVIII.43.4), by Juvenal (IX.23) as a place of assignation, and in the third century (Hist. Aug. Claud. 4; Aurel. 1). The stone needle itself is described by a late writer (Arnob. adv. gentes VII.49) as small and set in a silver statue of the goddess (cf. Herodianus ab exc. d. Marci I.11; Arnob. V.5). It was perhaps removed by Elagabalus to his temple (q.v.) on the Palatine (Hist. Aug. Elag. 3; cf. LR 134‑138; but cf. BC 1883, 211; HJ 53‑54, n44).

At the top of the Scalae Caci, on the west corner of the Palatine, are the ruins of an ancient temple near which have been found inscriptions relating to Magna Mater (CIL VI.496, 1040, 3702 =30967; NS 1896, 186; cf. CIL XII.405), a portion of a colossal female figure seated on a throne, and a fragment of a base with the paws of lions, the regular attendants of the goddess. These ruins consist of a massive podium made of irregular pieces of tufa and peperino laid in thick mortar, and fragments of columns and entablature. The walls of the podium are 3.84 metres thick (those of the cella were somewhat thinner) on the sides and 5.50 in the rear, p325but this unusual thickness is due to the fact that the rear wall is double, with an air space, 1.80 metre wide, between the two parts. This wall was faced on the outside with stucco, not with opus quadratum. The total length of the temple was 33.18 metres and its width 17.10. It was prostyle hexastyle, of the Corinthian order, and was approached by a flight of steps extending entirely across the front. From the rear wall of the cella projects the base of a pedestal on which the stone needle probably stood. The concrete of the podium belongs to the time of Augustus (AJA 1912, 393), and since the remaining architectural fragments are of peperino, it is evident that the restoration of that period was carried out with the material of the original structure.2 The character of these remains and the inscriptions and objects found here make it extremely probable, to say the least, that this is the temple of Magna Mater, an identification that is strongly supported by the evidence of a coin of the elder Faustina (Cohen, Faust. sen. 55). This represents a temple of the Corinthian order, with curved roof, and a flight of steps on which is a statue of Cybele with a turreted crown enthroned between lions. The temple is also represented in a relief in the Villa Medici, formerly attributed to the Ara Pacis (SScR 69). (For the complete description of the ruins and argument for identification, see Mitt. 1895, 1‑28; 1906, 277; for the coins, ib. 1908, 368‑374; in general, HJ 51‑4; Rosch. II.1666‑1667; Gilb. III.104‑107; Graillot, Cybele (Bibl. Ec. Franç. 107, 320‑326; SScR 247‑249).)

Magna Mater, tholus: a round temple, adorned with frescoes, at the top of the Sacra via, where the clivus Palatinus branched off to the south (Mart. I.70.9‑10: flecte vias hac qua madidi sunt tecta Lyaei3 | et Cybeles picto stat Corybante tholus). Its approximate site is also probably indicated by the Haterii relief on which, to the immediate left of the arch of Titus, is a statue of the Magna Mater seated under an arch at the top of a flight of thirteen steps (Mon. d. Inst. V.7; Mitt. 1895, 25‑27; Altm. 71‑72; Rosch. II.2917). Spano believes the arch to be a Janus erected at the four cross-roads near the meta sudans — perhaps on or near the site of the arch of Constantine. He does not even quote the passage of Martial (Atti Accad. Napoli XXIV. (1906, II.) 227‑262). A passage in Cass. Dio (XLVI.33.3: ὣσπερ τό τε τῆς Μητρὸς τῶν θεῶν ἄγαλμα τὸ ἐν τῷ Παλατίῳ ὄν (πρὸς γὰρ τοι τὰς τοῦ ἡλίου ἀνατολὰς πρότερον βλέπων πρὸς δυσμὰς ἀπὸ ταὐτομάτου μετεστράφη)) is generally supposed to refer to this temple.

Magna Mater (in Vaticano): a shrine on the right bank of the Tiber, near the racecourse of Caligula (Gaianum), known from several inscriptions p326(CIL VI.497‑504) on fragmentary marble altars, dating from 305 to 390 A.D., all but one of which were found under the façade of S. Peter's in 1609 (Severano, Sette Chiese, 95; cf. also NS 1922, 81; DAP 2.XV.271‑278; JHS 1923, 194).4 This shrine is probably the Frigianum (Phrygianum) of the Not. (Reg. XIV). If an inscription on an altar at Lyon of the time of Hadrian (CIL XIII.1751: L. Aemilius Carpus IIIIIIvir Aug. item dendrophorus vires excepit et a Vaticano transtulit) refers to this shrine, it would indicate that this was an important cult centre (RhM 1891, 132; HJ 659; Rosch. II.2917).


The Authors' Notes:

1 p146, Riese.

2 There is considerable divergence of opinion as to the date of the podium; TF 98 attributes it to 110 B.C., and believes that the architectural members were given a new coat of stucco under Augustus. Fiechter (ap. Toeb. 5) assigns the whole to the middle of the first century B.C.; but it does not seem at all necessary to suppose that Augustus would not have used peperino coated with stucco (cf. HJ 53; ASA 23; HFP 61, 62).

3 v. supra, p321.

4 See also CIL VI.30779; Mél. 1923, 3; RL 1925, 3‑9; 858‑865. For another altar, with similar reliefs, but without inscription, which until recently stood in the church of SS. Michele e Magno, and five pilasters, with fine decorations in relief, which may also belong to it, see Cascioli, Guida al nuovo museo di San Pietro, 5, 39; and, for the pilasters, SScR 305, figs. 183, 184.


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