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Bill Thayer

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Juppiter Feretrius

 p293  Article on pp293‑294 of

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

Iuppiter Feretrius, aedes (templum, Liv. I.10; Prop., Fest. 92; νεώς, Dionys., Cass. Dio): a temple, said to have been the first in Rome, on the Capitoline hill, erected and dedicated by Romulus to commemorate his winning of the spolia opima from Acron, king of the Caeninenses, and to serve as a repository for them (Liv. 10.5‑6; IV.20.3; Plut. Rom. 16; Dionys. II.34; Val. Max. III.2.3; Flor. I.1.11; Serv. Aen. VI.859; CIL I2283, Elog. 22 = X.809). Twice afterwards these spoils were said to have been won and placed in this temple — in 428 B.C. when A. Cornelius Cossus slew Lar Tolumnius, the king of Veii, and brought his spoils to Rome (Liv. IV.20; Fest. 189; Plut. Rom. 16; Serv. Aen. VI.859; Val. Max. III.2.4; Diodor. XII.80; Dionys. XII.5; Flor. I.12.9;º de vir. ill. 25), and in 221 by C. Claudius Marcellus, who killed Viridomarus, the Insubrian king (Liv. Ep. 20; Serv. Aen. VI.859; Prop. IV.10.45; Plut. Marc. 8; Rom. 16). This temple was probably within the later limits of the area Capitolina, and was said to have been enlarged by Ancus (Liv. I.33.8: amplificata), but was very small, for according to Dionysius (II.34) it measured not more than 15 feet on the longest sides. A denarius (Babelon, Claudia 11; BM Rep. I.567, 4206‑8) struck by P. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus (RE IV.1390) about 44 B.C., represents Marcellus, the conqueror of Viridomarus and Syracuse, standing on the high stylobate of a rectangular temple with the spolia opima in his hand. The columns support an entablature with plain pediment. This undoubtedly represents the actual structure before Augustus, but it had been sadly neglected and had even lost its roof. At the suggestion of Atticus, Augustus restored it, probably about 31 B.C. (Nep. Att. 20.3: ex quo accidit, cum aedes Iovis Feretri in Capitolio ab Romulo constituta vetustate atque incuria detecta prolaberetur, ut Attici admonitu Caesar eam reficiendam curaret; Mon. Anc. IV.5; Liv. IV.20.7). To Augustus it seems that the right of depositing spoils that should be regarded as spolia opima was then granted (Cass. Dio. XLIV.4.3).

Dionysius, writing almost certainly after Augustus' restoration, says (II.34): ἔτι γὰρ αὐτοῦ σῴζεται τὸ ἀρχαῖον ἴχνος, a statement that seems open to three interpretations, either that the dimensions of the  p294 restored temple were the same as those of the original (Gilb. III.399), or that the second was larger and enclosed the earlier (Jord. I.2.47), or that the lines of the earlier were simply marked on the floor of the later. The statement of Cassius Dio (LIV.8) that Augustus built on the Capitol a temple of Mars Ultor (q.v.) κατὰ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς Φερετρίου ζήλωμα, refers only to the use of the new temple, not to its form, for it was round (Altm. 50).

There is no mention of any statue of the god in this temple but only of a sceptre and flint (Fest. 92: ex cuius templo sumebant sceptrum per quod iurarent et lapidem silicem quo foedus ferirent, see below), an evidence of its early date. Within the temple was an altar (Prop. IV.10.48: hinc Feretri dictast ara superba Iovis), unless this passage may be interpreted as referring simply to the very first shrine.

Various explanations of the epithet feretrius were given by the ancients, who derived it from fero, feretrum, the frame on which the spolia were fixed, or from ferre pacem, or from ferire, either in the sense of striking in battle or striking a victim in making a treaty — foedus ferire (Liv. I.10.5; Prop. IV.10.46; Fest. 92; Dionys. II.34; Plut. Marc. 8, Rom. 16), or they regarded it as equivalent to ὑπερφερέτης (Dionys. loc. cit.: ὅτι πάντων ὑπερέχει). It is probably connected with ferire, the stroke of ritual as illustrated in foedus ferire, of which the silex in the temple is evidence, and Iuppiter Feretrius was therefore equivalent to Iuppiter Lapis, the latter used as a specially solemn oatha — Cic. ep. VII.12.2; Gell. I.21.4 (Jord. I.2.47; Gilb. I.253‑254; II.225‑226; III.399; Rosch. II.670‑674; WR 117‑119, 551, 552; BC 1914, 84‑85; RE X.1128‑1129; RL 1907, 504‑516).

Thayer's Note:

a Opinions will differ; see J. S. Reid's interesting long discussion of the silex, Jupiter Feretrius, and Jupiter Lapis in "Notes on Roman Religion", JRS 2:49‑52.

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