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 p491  Templum Solis

Article on pp491‑493 of

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

Sol, templum (fanum, Vict.; ναός Ἡλίου, Anon.):* a temple built by Aurelian after his return from the east in 273, and famous for its magnificence (Hist. Aug. Aur. 1.3; 25.6; 39.2; Aur. Vict. Caes. 35.7; Zos. I.61). Among its treasures were many jewels and much gold (Hist. Aug. Aur. 39.6; Eutrop. IX.15), a silver statue of Aurelian (Hist. Aug. Tac. 9.2), jewelled robes (id. Aur. 28.5), and a painting of Aurelian and Ulpius Crinitus (id. Aur. 10.2; cf. Firm. 3.4). The Sol worshipped in this temple was probably a synthesis of several oriental Ba'alim (Rosch. IV.1147‑1148; cf. Watzinger and Wulzinger, Damaskus 38 (and Addenda 8*)). In connection with the temple was a porticus (Hist. Aug. Aur. 35.3),​a in which were stored the vina fiscalia (ib. 48.4: in porticibus templi Solis vina fiscalia ponuntur) that had been brought from the Ciconiae Nixae (q.v.), cf. CIL VI.1785 = 31931; cf. Porticus Gordiani). The last reference to it in antiquity is in the sixth century (Anon. de Antiq. Cpl. IV.66, ed. Banduri) when eight of the porphyry columns were sent to Constantinople for the church of S. Sophia (see in general HJ 453‑456; Rosch. IV.1146‑1149; Richter 263‑265).

This temple was in Region VII (Not.), and in campo Agrippae (Chron. 148: templum Solis et castra​1 in campo Agrippae dedicavit), but its exact site has occasioned much discussion. In the gardens of the Palazzo Colonna considerable remains of a great temple were standing in the sixteenth century, consisting principally of part of the cella wall of peperino and the north (right) corner of the façade and pediment. This was known as the Torre Mesa, Torre di Mecenate, and Frontispizio di Nerone; LR, fig. 166 from Du Pérac,º Vestigi, pl. 31 (1575). Part of  p492 these ruins were removed at the end of the fifteenth century, and more between 1549 and 1555, but the final destruction of the Torre itself was not effected until about 1630 (LS III.203‑205, and earlier references there given). Numerous drawings and plans of these ruins are extant, made by the architects and artists of the period, from Sangallo​2 (Barb. 63v., 65, 65v., 68v.) in the fifteenth century to Giovannoli (Ill. 47) and Donati in the early seventeenth century (for list see HJ 422, n79; LS loc. cit.; DuP 141);​3 the plans, however, by their differences in detail show that they have been arbitrarily filled in. The building stood on the edge of the hill, on the west side of the present Via della Consulta, and extended due east and west, with a great flight of steps leading from the platform at the rear of the cella to the plain some 20 metres below. This flight was curiously built, being divided into double narrow rows of steps on each side with a central space. The temple area was surrounded with a wall containing niches but not with the usual porticus. The cella was built of peperino lined with marble, and was surrounded by marble columns in front and on the sides. The shafts of these columns were 17.66, the capitals 2.47, and the entablature 4.83 metres in height. The corner of the pediment now lying in the Colonna gardens is the largest architectural fragment in Rome, its dimensions being 3.70 by 2.80 by 3.90 metres, and its weight 100 tons. This temple has been identified with that of Sol by some scholars, who would include its site in Region VII and interpret in campo Agrippae (v. sup.) very broadly, as for example by Lanciani (BC 1894, 297‑307; 1895, 94‑101) in opposition to those (Mitt. 1888, 98; RhM 1894, 393‑396; BC 1895, 39‑59; NS 1907, 680; 1908, 172, 231‑233; HJ 453‑456; cf. BC 1914, 374; Mem. L. 5.xvii.528‑532; D'Esp. Mon. II.172‑175; Fr. I.62‑64; Fiechter and Hülsen ap. Toeb. I.73‑84; RE III. A. 907‑912) who believe that this was the temple of Serapis (q.v.).

The latter point out that the plan corresponds with that of an Egyptian temple of the new kingdom, its essential parts being an almost square court with a portico, a broad shallow hall on its west side, and three rectangular cellae behind it. They note that the architectural detail is very similar to that of the Hadrianeum.

If we accept this view, the temple of Sol lay north of the campus Agrippae. Here, on the east side of the Corso between the Via S. Claudio and the Via Frattina, have been found tufa and peperino walls, granite columns and other architectural remains​4 (for those found under the church of S. Silvestro in Capite, see PT 62), and a drawing of Palladio, of the sixteenth century (BC 1894, pls. XII‑XIV), represents a building on this site which consists of two adjacent enclosures running north and south. One of these has apsidal ends and is 90.50 metres  p493 long and 42.70 wide; the other is rectangular and 126 metres long and 86.38 wide. These enclosures occupy the space from the Piazza S. Silvestro to the Via Borgognona, and are identified with porticus templi Solis (v. supra) (Toeb. 108‑112), while the temple itself is supposed to have extended further north, although no traces of any sort have been found north of the Via Frattina; cf. Pl. 476, 492.

The Authors' Notes:

1 The Castra Urbana (q.v.); cf. Forum Suarium.

2 His plan is the only one that is trustworthy.

3 Add Meded. Nederl. Hist. Inst. VII.1927, 89‑92.

4 It has recently been asserted that they cannot be later than about 230 A.D. (Zeitschr. f. Gesch. d. Archit. VIII. (1924), 73). The two porphyry columns in the Vatican library with two pairs of emperors embra­cing were certainly in the choir chapel of Sixtus IV in S. Peter's, and, according to Albertini, De Mirabilibus (1515), 84, came from the thermae of Domitian, which he, like his contemporaries, placed near S. Silvestro in Capite (ib. 21v.v: cf. BC 1894, 296, 297).

Thayer's Note:

a The porticus in 35.3 rests on an emendation of the manuscript text, q.v.

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