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p62 Temple of Augustus

Article on pp62‑65 of

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

Augustus, Divus, templum: * (Αὐγουστεῖον or ἡρῷον, Cass. Dio): a temple of the deified Augustus, built by Tiberius (Cass. Dio LVII.10.2), or by Tiberius and Livia (ib. LVI.46.3; the assignment to Livia alone by Pliny (NH XII.94) is of course an error. According to Suetonius, Tiberius did not finish the temple, and it was completed by Caligula (Tib. 47: quae sola susceperat Augusti templum restitutionemque Pompeiani theatri imperfecta post tot annos reliquit; Cal. 21: opera sub Tiberio semiperfecta templum Augusti theatrumque Pompeii absolvit). Tacitus, however, says that Tiberius finished the temple, but for some reason did not dedicate it ( Ann. VI.45: struxit templum Augusto et scaenam Pompeiani theatri, eaque perfecta contemptu ambitionis an per senectutem haud dedicavit), agreeing in this with Dio (locc. citt). In this temple were statues of Augustus (see below), of Livia, set up by Claudius (Cass. Dio LX.5), and probably of other emperors who were deified (see below). It was destroyed by fire at some time before 79 A.D. (Plin. loc. cit.): in Palatii templo quod fecerat divo Augusto coniunx Augusta . . . guttae editae annis omnibus in grana durabantur donec id delubrum incendio consumptum est), but restored, probably by Domitian, who seems to have constructed in connection with it a shrine of his patron goddess, Minerva (Mart. IV.53.1‑2: hunc quem saepe vides intra penetralia nostrae Pallados et templi limina, Cosme, novi), regularly referred to in diplomata honestae missionis after 90 A.D. which were fixa in muro post templum divi Augusti ad Minervam (CIL III pp859, 861, Suppl. p2035;1 see Templum Minervae, and Richmond in Essays and Studies presented to William Ridgeway, Cambridge, 1914, 207‑210). A considerable restoration was carried out by Antoninus Pius, whose coins (Cohen 1‑12, 618, 797‑810; cf. HC fig. 100) show an octastyle building with Corinthian capitals, and two statues, presumably of Augustus and Livia, in the cella. The last reference to the temple is on a diploma of 248 p63(CIL III p900, No. lvii), and it is not mentioned in the Regionary Catalogue. We are told of one painting in the temple, that of Hyacinthus by Nicias of Athens, which was placed there by Tiberius (Plin. NH XXXV.131).

Everywhere in Latin literature this temple is called templum Augusti or divi Augusti, except in Martial (IV.53.2) and Suetonius (Tib.74), where it is templum novum, a name which was evidently given to the building at once, for it occurs in the Acta Arvalia from 36 A.D. on (CIL VI.32346, 10; 2041, 5; 2042a, 28; 2051, 14), as well as the variant templum divi Augusti novum (2028e, 12; 2044c, 5; 32345; also VI.8704). Once we find templum divi Augusti et divae Augustae (VI.4222). In 69 A.D. an aedes Caesarum was struck by lightning (Suet. Galba 1: tacta de caelo Caesarum aede capita omnibus simul statuis deciderunt, Augusti etiam sceptrum e manibus excussum est), and may perhaps be identified with this temple of Augustus (HJ 80). In connection with the temple Tiberius seems to have erected a library, Bibliotheca Templi Novi or Templi Augusti (q.v.). Over this temple Caligula built his famous bridge to connect the Palatine and Capitoline hills (Suet. Cal. 22: super templum divi Augusti ponte transmisso Palatium Capitoliumque coniunxit), and its location is thereby indicated as somewhere on the north-west side of the Palatine, below the domus Tiberiana.

Of the construction of the original temple before the restoration by Antoninus, we know nothing from ancient sources other than coins. It has generally been supposed that a bronze coin of Caligula (37‑40 A.D., Cohen, Cal. 9‑11; HC fig. 99) represents it, and was struck to commemorate its completion or dedication. This coin represents an Ionic hexastyle structure, decorated with sculptures on the roof, within the pediment, and in front, and with garlands. Recently, however, this identification has been attacked by Richmond (op. cit. 198‑203) who maintains that the temple of Caligula's coin is that of Apollo Palatinus (q.v.), while the temple of Augustus is represented on bronze coins of Tiberius of 34‑36 A.D. (Cohen, Tib. 68‑70). These show a hexastyle structure of the Corinthian order, with sculpture above the pediment, statues of Hercules and Mercury on pedestals beside the steps, a statue of Augustus in the cella, and around the back of the building a high curved wall-the murus post templum Augusti of the diplomata (see above).

Still more recently it has been maintained that the temple of Concord is represented on the coins of Tiberius, while that of Augustus is shown on those of Caligula (BM Imp. I. pp. cxxxviii, cxlvi; Tib. 116, 132‑134; Cal. 41‑43, 58, 69).

The structure generally known as the temple of Augustus and the bibliotheca templi divi Augusti has recently been completely uncovered by the removal of the church of S. Maria Liberatrice (Ill. 9). It is a large rectangular construction of brick-faced concrete, with very lofty and massive walls, and belongs to the period of Domitian. That it forms p64a single structural unit is shown very clearly by the unbroken lines of bonding courses of tiles which run right through it. It consists of:

(a) A large rectangular hall, with its main façade towards the vicus Tuscus; in front of it was a vestibule 6 metres deep and 32 wide, with a large niche at each end. The front wall of this vestibule has collapsed, and we have only the six (originally eight) short cross walls that were built to support it by Hadrian. The hall behind was about 25 metres deep, and in its walls were rectangular and semicircular niches, arranged alternately; above them the walls rose straight, with several rows of relieving niches, and no trace at all of any intermediate floor. The light came from a large rectangular window in the upper part of each side wall (smaller windows seem to have been originally intended). How it was roofed is uncertain; if by a vault, it was the highest in antiquity, the key being 150 feet from the pavement (Rivoira, RA 110‑111). No fragments of the supposed vaulting have, however, been found.

(b) Two smaller halls behind the large hall, accessible by doors from the back of it,2 but arranged on an axis parallel to its width and having their main entrance on this axis, i.e. from the north-east, behind the lacus Iuturnae. The first of these halls measures about 21 metres by 20, and its walls are decorated with niches. The second was a peristyle, with four brick piers at the angles, with grey granite columns between them, surrounding the central open court. At its south-west end were three rectangular rooms (the apse in the central one does not even belong to the earliest period of its decoration as a church), and behind them a solid wall, which, with the triangular space on the south-west side of the front hall, served to conceal the divergence of orientation with the Horrea Agrippiana (q.v.). From each of these halls a door leads into the ramp ascending to the Palatine (see Domus Tiberiana).

The church of S. Maria Antiqua was built into the two smaller halls before the sixth century A.D., and was redecorated in part in or about 649, 705, 741, 757, and 772. It was partially abandoned after the earthquake of Leo IV in 847, and the church of S. Maria Nuova (S. Francesca Romana) was founded to replace it: though the presence of a huge pillar in the centre of the piscina of the peristyle of Caligula shows that a last effort was made to support the falling vaulting; and Wilpert assigns some of the paintings in the front hall to the tenth century. In the thirteenth century the small basilica of S. Maria libera nos a poenis inferni (S. Maria Liberatrice) was erected above the site of the older church.

In 1702 the upper part of the back wall of S. Maria Antiqua was brought to light, but covered up again; but the whole church has now been cleared (HCh 309; Rushforth in PBS I.1‑123; Mitt. 1902, 74‑82; p651905, 84‑94; CR 1901, 141‑142, 329; 1902, 95‑96, 284; HC 161‑180; Gruneisen, S. Marie Antique (Rome, 1911); Wilpert, Mosaiken und Malereien, text, passim, pls. 133‑135; 142‑146; 151‑158; 178‑187; 227‑228; Leclercq in Cabrol, Dict. V.2006‑2047; RE Suppl. IV.471‑473).

The original purpose of the whole group has not yet been determined. Against the identification with the templum divi Augusti we may note (a) that no traces attributable to the original temple have so far been found below the level of the building of Domitian, and that there is indeed no room for any such structure, (b) that what lies before us does not agree with the representation on the coins of Antoninus Pius, which would of course show the portico added to the building by Hadrian (AJA 1924, 397). And if the front hall cannot be the temple of Augustus, it is hard to see how the hall behind it can be called the temple of Minerva, or how S. Maria Antiqua can be identified with the bibliotheca, even if the suitability of its plan be admitted. On the other hand, it is difficult — we may say impossible — to find any other place for the temple of Augustus, which, as we have seen, was still in existence in 248 A.D.

The theory that the whole group may have taken the place of the great peristyle which Caligula erected as a vestibule to the imperial palace on the Palatine above, and have been an imperial reception hall, is rendered improbable by the inadequacy of the approaches from the front hall to those at the back (S. Maria Antiqua); see Domus Tiberiana. See Hülsen, cit. supra; CR 1902, 95; JRS 1919, 177; Boll. d' Arte, 1921, 356 sqq.; Jahrb. d. Inst. XXXVI.1‑36; AJA 1924, 368‑398; ZA 91‑95.


The Authors' Notes:

1 Cf. CIL V.4056, 4091.

2 In the westernmost of these passage ways some frescoes of the seventh or eighth centuries A.D. were found in 1885, and the passage itself was, as a result, wrongly attributed to that period (NS 1885, 156).


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