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p552 Templum Veneris et Romae

Article on pp552‑554 of

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

Black-and‑white images are from Platner; any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer

[image ALT: A large stone platform supporting a dozen columns. It is the temple of Venus and Rome, in the city of Rome.]
The Temple of Venus and Rome, seen from the E. (A view from the W is here.)
The tall tower is the belfry of the church of S. Francesca Romana (S. Maria Nova),
and the bronze horses on the white marble base belong to the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele.

Venus et Roma, templum: * (ναός, Cass. Dio cit.): the double temple on the Velia built by Hadrian (Chron. 146; Hieron. a. Abr. 2147), and dedicated to Venus Felix, the ancestress of the Roman people, and to the genius of the city, Roma aeterna. The association of these two divinities on a coin of C. Egnatius Maximus is noticed by Babelon (I.472; but cf. BM Rep. I. p399, n3). It was also called templum urbis Romae p553(Serv. Aen. II.227), templum urbis (Amm. Marcell. XVI.10.14; Hist. Aug. Hadr. 19; Cassiod. Chron.), urbis Venerisque templa (Prud. c. Sym. I.221), and possibly templum Veneris1 (Hist. Aug. trig. tyr. 32). The plans were drawn by Hadrian himself, and evoked sharp criticism from his Greek architect, Apollodorus, who is said to have been put to death in consequence (Cass. Dio LXIX.4). The temple was dedicated in 135 A.D. (Hieron. loc. cit.; cf. Athen. VIII.63, p361, who erroneously gives the day as the Parilia), but perhaps finished by Antoninus Pius (Cohen, Hadrian 1420‑1423, Pius 698‑703, 1074‑1076).

In accordance with Roman theory in such matters, it was necessary to build a separate cella for each goddess, in this case not side by side, but back to back, that of Venus facing east, and that of Roma west (Prud. loc. cit.: atque Urbis Venerisque pari se culmine tollunt templa). In 307 the temple was injured by fire and restored by Maxentius (Chron. 148; Aur. Vict. Caes. 40: urbis fanum Cf., however, Urbis Fanum); and the whole of the superstructure dates from his time, as was first pointed out by Nibby (Roma Antica II.738;2 cf. AJA 1912, 429). It was one of the monuments that aroused the special wonder of Constantius when he visited Rome in 356 (Amm. Marcell. XVI.10.14), and was probably the largest and most magnificent temple in the city. It is mentioned in the Notitia (Reg. IV), and somewhat later by Prudentius (loc. cit.), for the last time in antiquity. The history of its destruction is unknown, but in 847‑853 Leo IV built the church of S. Maria Nova in its ruins (HCh 352), and this is one of the chief arguments that it was the earthquake of his reign that wrought so much harm in and around the forum (LPD II.108, c20: terre motus in urbe Roma per indictionem factus est X (i.e. before 30th August, 847) ita ut omnia elementa concussa viderentur ab omnibus). This church was rebuilt in 1612 and is now called S. Francesca Romana. (Cf. p235).

The temple proper was built on an enormous podium of concrete faced with travertine, 145 metres long and 100 wide, on the north side of the Sacra via, between the Velia and the Colosseum, and on the line of the main axis of the latter, necessitating the removal of the Colossus Neronis (q.v.). Owing to the slope of the ground, the height of the podium at the east end is considerable, and chambers were constructed in it for the storage of the machinery and apparatus of the amphitheatre. On this podium was a peribolus formed of a colonnade consisting of an outer wall and a single row of enormous columns of grey Egyptian granite on the sides, and probably of a double row of columns only at the ends. This colonnade had projections like propylaea at the corners and at the middle of the long sides. See JRS 1919, 184, for Ligorio's plan of it (the genuineness of which is doubtful). At the west end of the podium a wide flight of steps led down to the paved area in front of the temple; but at the east end there were only two small flights. The temple proper was raised on a platform, seven steps high, in the centre of the p554peribolus. The two cellae ended in apses placed back to back; but as the side walls of the cellae were prolonged so as to meet, the external appearance was that of one long rectangular building.

This temple was decastyle, of the Corinthian order, and pseudodipteral (Cohen, Hadr. 1420‑3,3 Pius 698‑703, 1074‑6; BC 1903, 19), the columns of the peristyle being of white marble about 1.8 metres in diameter. The cellae were narrower than the façade, and each pronaos had only four columns between the antae. The building was constructed of brick-faced concrete, and entirely covered with marble. Within the cellae, on each side, were rows of porphyry columns supporting an entablature. In the apses were five niches, alternately square and semicircular, with columns and entablatures in front of them. In the central niche of each apse was the statue of the goddess herself — Venus in one and Roma in the other. Within the precincts of the temple were silver statues of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina, and an altar on which sacrifice was made by newly married couples (Cass. Dio LXXI.31), a statue of Minerva (Serv. Aen. II.227), and doubtless many more (Hist. Aug. trig. tyr. 32).

A single staircase, between the apses on the south side, led to the roof of the temple (NA 1910, 631‑638; RA 131‑132, 213‑215), which was covered with gilt tiles. A part of the west front of the temple, with its sculptured pediment, is represented on two fragments of a relief, now in the Lateran and Museo delle Terme (MD 3519; Benndorf-Schoene, Lateran 20; S. Sculp. 238‑240; Mitt. 1895, 248; PT 227‑228; see Pantheon),4 which shows that on this west pediment were reliefs of Mars visiting Rhea Silvia and of the she-wolf suckling the twins. Most of the west cella has been destroyed; the apse and part of the east cella still stand in ruins, with many fragments of the columns of peristyle and peribolus (see DAP 2.xv.368, and LS I. passim; II.220‑222, for particulars of building materials quarried on its site). This temple with its enormous peribolus falls into the same category of buildings as the imperial fora, of which it formed a virtual continuation (HJ 17‑20; Gilb. III.136; HC 243‑247; WR 293, 340; D'Esp. Mon. II.90‑95; Fr. II.88‑90; DR 185‑190; RE Suppl. IV.481‑484; Mem. L. 5.xvii.525; ASA 73, 74; HFP 51‑52; JRS 1925, 218, 219).

The Authors' Notes:

1 Ἀφροδίσιον (Cass. Dio LXXI.31).

2 ASA VII. should be corrected.

3 These coins show an isolated column with a statue (Hadrian and Sabina) on each side of the temple; and Thiersch maintains (Jahrb. d. Inst. 1913, 266‑267) that the prototype of this arrangement was the temple of Athena Alea at Tegea, which Hadrian is known to have visited just before the erection of the temple of Venus and Rome.

4 Cf. also PBS II.37, pl. 64b; IV.234, n7; HF 1146, 1412; SScR 225‑226. The figure of the Dea Roma in the relief of the Haterii may be an allusion to this temple (see Arcus Titi). For Gorgoneia which may belong to its decoration, see HF 11, 14, 30.

This relief is now considered to be Julio-Claudian.

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