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Area Capitolina

 p47  Article on pp47‑50 of

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

Area Capitolina: * the open space in front of and around the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the south summit of the Capitoline (Suet. Cal. 22, 34; Gell. II.10.2; Sidon. Ep. I.7.8; Vell. II.3.2; Liv. XXV.3.14: area Capitolii), made by building retaining walls and substructures round the edge of the hill and levelling off the surface enclosed. The  p48 area was therefore in effect a built-up platform, part of which at least was contemporaneous with the foundations of the temple. It was enlarged in 388 B.C., and was regarded as a notable monument even at the beginning of the empire (Liv. VI.4.11). The extent of the area has been a matter of dispute, and some scholars have maintained that it did not extend more than about 15‑16 metres from the sides of the temple (Richter, Beiträge zur rom. Top. II.24‑25; Hermes, 1883, 115‑118; cf.  Gilb. III.398‑399; Aust in Roscher II.709), but the prevailing view at present is that it covered practically all of the Capitolium (Hülsen, Festschrift für H. Kiepert 209‑222; RE III.1534‑1538; Rodocanachi, Le Capitole romain 25‑26). Remains of the walls of the substructure have been found on the east side which prove that the area extended in this direction about 35 metres from the temple. On the west it was probably not more than 30 metres wide, and in front from 40 to 45. Behind the temple there appears to have been only a narrow space, but wide enough for the passage of a procession (Plin. NH VIII.161). Besides the space occupied by the great temple, the area therefore contained something more than one hectare of surface, sufficient for the other temples and monuments that stood in Capitolio — an expression ordinarily interpreted as equivalent to in area Capitolina.

The area was surrounded by a wall, and a porticus built in 159 B.C. on the inner side of the wall (Vell. II.1.2, 3.1). The principal entrance was in the middle of the south-east side, opposite the front of the great temple, where the clivus Capitolinus ended, and was sometimes referred to as fores Capitolii (Suet. Aug. 94; App. B. C. I.16; Tac. Hist. III.71). A little south of this entrance, near the corner of the area, was the Porta Pandana (q.v.), and there may have been others. The area was closed at night and protected by dogs (Cic. pro Rosc. Am. 56; Dionys. XIII.7; Gell. VI.1.6), under the charge of a janitor in whose house Domitian took refuge from the Vitellians. This house was afterwards removed to make room for the Shrine (q.v.) of Iuppiter Conservator (Tac. Hist. III.74; Suet. Dom. 5; cf. CIL VI.479XIV.32). Sacred geese were also kept in the area (Dionys. Cic. locc. citt.) Beneath the surface of the area were subterranean passages called favissae, which were entered from the cella of the great temple, and served as store-rooms for the old statues that had fallen from its roof, and for various dedicatory gifts (Fest. 88; Gell. II.10.2; Gilb. II.419; Roscher II.710).

Within this area were the casa Romuli, the Curia calabra, the aedes Tensarum, and the atrium Publicum; and a considerable number of temples — of Fides, Iuppiter Feretrius, Iuppiter Custos, Iuppiter Conservator, Iuppiter Tonans, Ops, Mars Ultor, Fortuna Primigenia, and probably of Mens and Venus Erycina; as well as of several altars or shrines — the great altar of Jupiter (see Temple of Jupiter), of Iuppiter Soter, Isis and Serapis, Bellona, Genius Populi Romani with Felicitas and Venus Victrix, the gens Iulia, and perhaps Iuppiter Victor  p49 and Indulgentia (see all these under their own names). The temple of Fides probably stood at the south-west corner of the area, but the site of the others is unknown.1

There were also many statues of various deities set up in the area and in the temples (Serv. ad Aen. II.319: in Capitolio omnium deorum simulacra colebantur; cf. Tert. Spect. 12; Jord. I.2.50‑51; Rodocanachi 43‑44). One of Jupiter, of colossal size, was erected by Sp. Carvilius in 293 B.C. and could be seen from the temple of Iuppiter Latiaris on the Alban mount (Plin. NH XXXIV.34,º 43); a second stood on a high pillar and after 63 B.C. was turned to face the east (Cic. Cat. III.20; de div. I.20; Cass. Dio XXXVII.9, 34; Obseq. 122). In 305 B.C. a colossal statue of Hercules was placed in Capitolio (Liv. IX.44), and another,2 the work of Lysippus, was brought from Tarentum in 209 (Plut. Fab. 22; Plin. NH XXXIV.40; Strabo VI p278). There were others of Mars (Cass. Dio XLI.14),3 Liber pater (CIL III p849), Iuppiter Africus (CIL III pp853, 885), and Nemesis (Plin. N.H. XI.251; XXVIII.22).

It became customary to erect statues of famous Romans on the Capitol, although it is not always possible to determine whether they stood in the open area, or within the precincts of some temple (Jord. I.2.58‑59; Gilb. III.386‑387; Rodocanachi 45‑46). Those that seem to have stood in the open area were the statues of the kings4 and Brutus (Cass. Dio XLIII.45; Asc. Scaur. 30; Plin. NH XXXIV.22‑23; XXXIII.9, 10, 24; App. BC I.16), L. Scipio (Cic. pro Rab. Post. 27; Val. Max. III.6.2), M. Aemilius Lepidus (ib. III.1.1), the Metelli (Cic. ad Att. VI.1.16), Q. Marcius Rex (CIL III p846), T. Seius (Plin. NH XVIII.16), Pinarius Natta (Cic. de div. II.47), Domitian (Suet. Dom. 13), Claudius (Hist. Aug. Cl. 3), Aurelian (Hist. Aug. Tac. 9). These became so numerous that Augustus removed many of them to the campus Martius (Suet. Cal. 34: statuas virorum illustrium ab Augusto ex Capitolina area propter angustias in campum Martium conlatas . . . subvertit).

Trophies of victory, like those of Marius (Plut. Caes. 6; Suet. Caes. 11) and Germanicus (CIL III p856), and votive monuments (Gilb. III.384‑387); were also thickly strewn about, and a wholesale removal of these objects was ordered, as it had been in 179 B.C., in the time of Augustus (Suet. Cal. 34). Cf. infra, p298. Very many bronze tablets containing treaties and laws and military diplomas were preserved within the area,  p50 being ordinarily fastened to the walls of the area and of the temples, and to the bases of the statues and monuments (cf. BC 1896, 187‑189; Jord. I.2.52‑56; CIL III Suppl. p2034; for the area Capitolina in general, see Hülsen, Festschrift für H. Kiepert 209‑22; Jord. I.2.37‑40; Gilb. II.423‑425; III.388, 399; Hermes, 1883, 115‑118; RE III.1535‑1537; Rodocanachi, Capitole, Paris 1905, 25‑26 et passim).

The Authors' Notes:

1 The foundations of the house which Caligula laid here (Suet. Cal. 22, mox, quo propior esset — to Jupiter Capitolinus — in area Capitolina novae domus fundamenta iecit) must have been removed after his death.

2 It is uncertain which of these is referred to by Cass. Dio XLII.26.

3 κεραυνοὶ σκῆπτρόν τε Διὸς καὶ ἀσπίδα κράνος τε Ἄρεως, ἐν τῷ Καπιτωλίῳ ἀνακείμενα would seem to refer to isolated votive offerings — though if they were in any building it is hard to see how they could be damaged without hurting the building also. See Mars (infra, p327). The passage continues καὶ προσέτι καὶ τὰς στήλας τὰς τοὺς νόμους ἐχούσας ἐλυμήναντο (cf. XLV.17).

4 For the group of the wolf and twins, see Cons. 56 sqq., 372. A diploma published in JRS 1926, 95‑101, shows that the statue of Numa stood close to the Gentis Iuliae ara (q.v.), i.e. in the area.

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