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p56 Atrium Libertatis

Article on pp56‑57 of

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

Atrium Libertatis: a building containing the offices of the censors, some at least of their records, and some of the law on bronze tablets (Liv. XLIII.16; XLV.15; Fest. 241; Serv. ad Aen. I.726; Gran. Licin. 15). It is also said to have served as the place of detention of the Thurian hostages in 212 B.C. (Liv. XXV.7.12) and for the torture of the slaves during the trial of Milo (Cic. pro Mil. 59). It was restored in 194 B.C. (Liv. XXXIV.44) and again with great magnificence by Asinius Pollio (Suet. Aug. 29), who established here the first public library in Rome (Isid. Orig. 6.5; Ov. Trist. III.1.72; V. Bibliotheca Asini Pollionis). It is not to be confused with the Aedes Libertatis on the Aventine, and probably not with the shrine or monument that is marked with the word Libertatis on the Marble Plan in the north apse of the basilica Ulpia (see Forum Traiani, p242). Three inscriptions refer to this atrium in the first century A.D. (CIL VI.470, 472, 10025).

The first runs thus: Senatus populusque Romanus Libertati (in large letters on a marble slab); and the second, Libertati ab. imp. Nerva Caesare Aug. anno ab urbe condita DCCCXXXVIII, XIIII K. Oct. restitutae S.P.Q.R. Hülsen supposes, very naturally, that the first inscription belonged to the dedicatory inscription of a shrine with the statue of Libertas (near the curia, not on the Capitol) under which the second inscription could very well have stood (Mitt. 1889, 240, 241). There is no other reference until the sixth century, when an inscription was set up in some part of the curia as follows (CIL VI.1794): salvis domino nostro Augusto et gloriosissimo rege Theoderico Va . . . ex com(es) domesticorum in atrio Libertatis quae vetustate squaloreque confecta erant refecit. The restoration was obviously an important one, and Mommsen (Hermes, 1888, 631‑633) has collected several references to the building in Cassiodorus and Ennodius. Of other earlier p57references to the building (Ov. Fast. IV.624;1 Tac. Hist. I.31; Serv. ad Aen. I.726; cf. also Babelon I. p472; but cf. BM Rep. I. p399, n3) the only one that has topographical value is in Cicero's letter to Atticus (IV.16), where he says that he and Oppius proposed to extend the new forum of Caesar usque ad atrium Libertatis. This extension must have been along the line of the successive imperial fora, passing the comitium, but how far from the old forum this atrium was we do not know. The history of the restored building of Pollio, and its relation to that part of the curia that bore its name in the sixth century, are unknown. The earlier atrium was probably not on the site of the later curia, and it was probably destroyed or used for other purposes before the sixth century (FUR 28‑32; Jord. I.2.460 ff.; BC 1889, 362; DE I.760; Roscher II.2032‑2033; Boyd, Public Libraries in Rome, Chicago, 1915, 3‑5, 31; RE XIII.102‑104).


The Authors' Note:

1 This may, however, belong rather to Jupiter Libertas (NS 1921, 92).


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