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p482 Sepulcrum Romuli

Article on pp482‑484 of

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


Sepulchrum Romuli (1): the legendary sepulchre of Romulus in the comitium (Fest. 177: niger lapis in Comitio locum funestum significat, ut ali, Romuli morti destinatum, sed non usu ob1[venisse ut ibi sepeliretur, sed Fau]stulum nutri[cium eius, ut ali dicunt Hos]tilium avum Tu[lli Hostili Romanorum regis]). The schol. on Hor. Epod. xvi.13, 14, state variously p483that Romulus was buried in or pro rostris or post rostra; and in the former version two lions are mentioned as having stood by the tomb. Dion. Hal. I.87 says that, according to one story, the lion (he mentions only one) which lay by the rostra stood over the body of Faustulus; while in III.1 he says that the father of Tullus Hostilius was buried here, with a stele to celebrate his virtues.

The discovery in 1899 opposite the front of the curia Iulia, and orientated with it, of a pavement of black marble slabs — they are marmor Taenarium — about 4 metres long by 3 wide, lying on the same level as the Caesarian pavement of the comitium, was naturally brought into connection with the niger lapis; and investigations were undertaken beneath it. A group of very ancient monuments was found, the chronological sequence of which is as follows:

(1) an archaic inscribed four-sided cippus, the upper part of which has been broken off. It stands in a shallow hollow, cut for it in the surface of a pavement, but has been slightly displaced. It has given rise to much discussion; and the state of our knowledge with regard to the content of the text is summarised by Lommatzsch in CIL I2.1. 'It seems,' he says, 'that it is a law or laws as to certain rites to be performed by the king or perhaps by those in attendance on the king in the comitium. To attempt to define it further would be useless, as we do not even know how much of the cippus is lost.' As to the date, he fixes it about 500 B.C., as being slightly later than the fibula of Praeneste (ib. 3).a Cf. also AJP 1907, 249‑272, 373‑400. The freshness of the surface may be explained by the fact that it was covered with stucco.

(2) a conical column of tufa dating from the fifth century.

(3) the so‑called sacellum — consisting of (a) a rectangular foundation of one course of tufa blocks, on which rest two bases, each 2.66 metres long and 1.31 broad; these support pedestals of tufa with curved profiles, probably to be reconstructed similarly to the altar of Verminus (q.v.). These pedestals might very well have supported the statues of recumbent lions. Between them is a block of stone, on which the original niger lapis may have stood. (b) another small platform of tufa blocks directly behind, with no trace of any superstructure. For the orientation of the sacellum, see Rostra. It dates probably from the latter half of the fourth century B.C.

Between this group of monuments and the black marble pavement there lay (a) a stratum of river sand and gravel 0.55 metre thick, (b) a layer, 0.40 metre thick, of earth and ashes, in which various objects of pottery, terra cotta and bronze were found (including even fragments of the black marble pavement), dating, not (as was at first announced), from the sixth century B.C., but from the sixth to the first century B.C., and mixed together in the utmost confusion. A full report upon them has not yet been published; but if there really was no stratification, they cannot have formed a stips votiva.

p484 The original idea, that the destruction of these monuments dates from the fire of the Gauls, is therefore untenable; and it is doubtful whether the black marble pavement was laid by Sulla (so Van Deman in JRS 1922, 24), by Caesar2 (in which case it is doubtful whether niger lapis would be a correct term for it, and the absence of any mention in the literature of the empire of so striking a monument is as strange as the fact that it does not correspond at all, in extent or orientation, with the monuments beneath), or by Maxentius, who is known to have revived the cult of Romulus, and indeed set up close by a base with the inscription 'Marti invicto patri et aeternae urbis suae conditoribus.' The rough edging of white marble blocks (and, perhaps, the diminution of the size of the black marble pavement) would date from an even later period. See NS 899, 151‑169; 1900, 143‑146; CR 1899, 232‑233; 1900, 236; 1900, 85‑87; 1904, 140; 1905, 77; Mitt. 1902, 22‑31; 1905, 29‑46; HC 103‑109; Studniczka, OJ 1903, 129‑155; 1904, 239, 244; Petersen, Comitium, Rostra, Grab des Romulus (Rome 1904); Pinza, Comizio Romano nell' Età repubblicana, Rome 1905; Richter, BRT iv.5‑13; Pl. 241‑250; RE I. A. 1099‑1102; Suppl. IV.490, 491; JRS 1922, 7, 23‑25; TF 61‑66; DR 215‑229; ZA 72; HFP 2‑5.

Sepulchrum Romuli (2): see Meta Romuli.


The Authors' Notes:

1 The supplements are Müller's, but Lindsay (p185) points out that the correct reading is 'ob in' or 'ob im'.

2 An argument adduced in favour of this view is the fact that it lies precisely in line with the door of the Curia.


Thayer's Note:

a slightly later than the fibula of Praeneste: Since Platner and Ashby wrote, thanks to modern materials dating techniques, the famous Praenestine fibula has been conclusively proven a forgery.


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