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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan.‑Mar. 1927), p1‑18.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

 p1  The Church of SS. Cosma e Damiano in Rome

Black-and‑white images are from the original article, and in the public domain;
any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer.

Up to the seventeenth century, the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano consisted of two well preserved ancient buildings. Facing the Sacra Via was the curiously designed vestibule of fourth century brick-faced concrete, the central portion of which is still fairly well preserved (Fig. 1). Behind this stood a massive structure with walls of "opus quadratum" between seventeen and eighteen meters in height (Fig. 2). The area inclosed by these walls was roughly twenty meters in width and forty in length.

The vestibule on the Sacra Via has been, since the middle of last century, called the Temple of Divus Romulus. To the rectangular structure behind the vestibule there was given, some decades ago, the name "Templum sacrae urbis." Although these names have passed into all the guide books and manuals of Roman topography and are so firmly attached to the buildings in question that it would seem hopeless to attempt to eradicate them, both are certainly erroneous.​1 Although we do not know what names these structures bore in antiquity, it is quite certain that neither was ever a temple.

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Figure 1. — View of SS. Cosma e Damiano from the Palatine

The earliest date in the history of this group of buildings which can be fixed with certainly from documentary sources is that at which they were converted into a church. The Liber Pontificalis, in the life of Felix IV (526‑530), states: hic fecit basilicam sanctorum  p2 Cosmae et Damiani in urbe Roma, in loco qui appellatur via sacra, iuxta templum urbis Romae.​2 The templum urbis Romae mentioned in this passage is the Basilica of Maxentius. The way in which this name came to be given to the basilica is suggested by a passage of Aurelius Victor, the true explanation of which I now think is somewhat different from that given by me in my previous article. Aurelius Victor states that after the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at Saxa Rubra, cuncta opera quae magnifice construxerat [Maxentius], urbis fanum atque basilicam, Flauii meritis patres sacrauere.​3 The only buildings in the city which are known to have been erected by Maxentius were the basilica on the Sacra Via, afterwards called the Basilica of Constantine, and the Temple of Venus and Rome, which he rebuilt.​4 Therefore when Aurelius Victor says that all the buildings erected by Maxentius were re-dedicated by the Senate in honor of Constantine and specifically mentions the urbis fanum atque basilicam, he must be understood as referring to the Temple of Venus and Rome​5 and Basilica of Maxentius. In view of the great importance which the cult of the goddess Roma had assumed in this period, and in view of the especial devotion to her cult to which the coins of Maxentius bear abundant testimony,​6 it is not unlikely that the basilica was erected in honor of the goddess who personified the greatness of the city of which he styled himself the "preserver."​7 If the new basilica and the restored temple were conceived as a single project for the glorification of the goddess Roma, it is easy to see why the main entrance to the basilica was originally on the side facing the Temple of Venus and Rome and not, as would have been more natural, on the side toward the Sacra Via. If the Maxentian basilica was originally called the basilica urbis and dedicated to the goddess Roma, it is also easy to see how the name templum urbis Romae, by which the author of the Liber Pontificalis refers to the building, arose.

At a later date medieval fancy gave to the ruins of the great basilica the name "Temple of Romulus" and wove around it one of the most picturesque legends of medieval Rome. This legend may possibly have been derived from some feature of the building itself. The coins of Maxentius​8 suggest that the basilica was decorated in a conspicuous way with the group of Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf. Furthermore, the honors paid to Romulus, the deified son  p3 of Maxentius on the coins of this Emperor​9 imply that similar honors would have been paid to him in the buildings erected by his father. The basilica therefore probably contained a statue, or at least a commemorative inscription in which the name of Romulus would have been conspicuous.

In whatever way the legend originated, there can be no question but that, throughout the Middle Ages, the Basilica of Maxentius was known as the temple or palace of Romulus.​10 The legend grew until all the buildings in the neighborhood came to be called the Asylum, and in some of the medieval guide books, the ruins of the Temple of Peace behind SS. Cosma e Damiano were given the name of Palace of Romulus. In the Chronicle of Martin of Oppau (d. 1272), which was based on the Mirabilia, we find: in ecclesia sancti Cosme fuit templum Asilum. Item retro sanctum Cosman fuit templum Pacis. Item superius fuit templum Romuli.11

Although, as is shown by the passage just cited, tradition continued to locate correctly the Temple of Peace down to the thirteenth century, the scholars of the Revival of Learning transferred the name "Temple of Peace" to the ruins of the Basilica of Maxentius and gave the name "Temple of Romulus" to the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano, not however to the vestibule on the Sacra Via, but to the massive stone walls of the church proper. The earliest document in which the church is called a Temple of Romulus appears  p4 to be the description of the city written by Poggio about the year 1450.12

The building which was converted into a church of SS. Cosma e Damiano was and continued to be until the seventeenth century one of the most imposing remains of ancient Rome. A versifier of about the year 1500 thus describes the church:

Et ecci un templo a medici sacrato

Horribil molto grosso dun gran masso

Che Cosmo e Damiano elle chiamato.​13

The drawings and sketches of the building found in the old guide books and in the note books of the Renaissance artists are too numerous to be discussed in detail.​14 Although the walls inclosing the church were, up to the time of their destruction, among the most impressive and beautiful in the city, no inscriptions or genuine traditions which would explain their origin and nature survived the downfall of classical civilization. For this reason they have always been a puzzle to Roman antiquarians. The building in which the church was dedicated has been given a great variety of names. By the topographers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was called a temple of Romulus, of Romulus and Remus, of Remus, of Quirinus, the Asylum, the Aerarium, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Latona, the Temple of Venus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Augustus, and the Templum Urbis Romae.15

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Figure 4. — The Entrance to the Precinct of the Penates

The name "Temple of Romulus" was originally applied only to the rectangular building of "opus quadratum" which inclosed the church proper. It was not until the seventeenth century that any one thought of calling the vestibule a temple of Romulus,​16 while the theory that this building was a heroön erected by Maxentius in memory of his deified son seems to have originated with Canina,17  p5 although he himself raised a serious objection to this theory.​18 The name "Templum Sacrae Urbis" which has passed into all the guide books and manuals of topography was coined by Lanciani, although Martinello calls the vestibule a "templum urbis Romae," and Panvinio gave the name "templum urbis" to the part of the building which is behind the apse of the church. Miss Van Deman has recently advanced the theory that the tufa wall which is still preserved in the rear of the building (Fig. 4), was a part of the Temple  p6 of the Penates. In what follows, I shall venture to put forward one more theory (which is really a modification of that proposed by Miss Van Deman) that the tufa walls just mentioned originally inclosed the precinct in which stood the Temple of the Penates.19

On my return to Rome in 1923, I found that my friend Monsignore Biasiotti had discovered in the Vatican archives some previously unknown documents which threw a good deal of new light on the history of the building. When he proposed that we join forces and make a new study of the church, I was very glad to do so. Together we spent nearly a year in re-examining and carefully measure and every accessible part of the building. Through the kindness of Professor Bartoli of the Forum administration we were able to gain access to some parts of ancient structure which had previously been seen by no one in modern times. As a result of this new study, it is now possible to trace in considerable detail the history of the  p7 ancient buildings composing the church and to arrive at a fairly satisfactory explanation of their origin.

The most important facts which have been determined in regard to the history of the ancient buildings composing the church may be briefly summarized as follows. The fine tufa wall of which a considerable portion is still preserved (Plates I and II, 1st period, Figs. 3 and 4), belonged to a precinct wall erected by the Emperor Augustus to inclose the area in which stood the Temple of the Penates. To the original area inclosed by the wall of Augustus, an area which had been slightly reduced in size by Nero (Plates I and II, 2nd period), there was added in the time of the Flavians a somewhat larger area which was inclosed by walls of peperino and travertine (Plate II, 3rd period). The entire area may at that time have been made a part of the so‑called Forum of Peace by the removal of the northeast wall of the original Augustan precinct. In the time of the Severi a slight alteration of the southwest end of the structure was made (Plates I and II, 4th period). Still later, and probably not till the time of Diocletian, there was built the existing wall to which the Marble Plan  p8 of the city was attached (Plates I and II, 5th period, Fig. 6). In the fourth century, probably after the time of Constantine, there was added a vestibule built upon the foundations of the Porticus of Nero and giving access from the Sacra Via to the area which up to this time had been open to the sky but was now roofed over and converted into a spacious hall (Plate I, 6th period). This hall was dedicated as a church by Pope Felix IV about the year 526. Thus it stood, with slight alterations, until the time of Clement VIII who, in 1602, restored the church and added the massive walls which divide the lateral portions of the nave into chapels (Plate I, 8th period). In the pontificate of Urban VIII (ca. 1630), the peperino walls of the Flavian period were destroyed and the stone carried away to be used in building the Barberini palace. Urban VIII then rebuilt the church in its present form (Plate I, 9th period) and at the same time raised the level of the floor to correspond with the level of the Forum at that period. This in brief is the history of the structure which will now be described in greater detail.

 p9  The plan shown in Plate I20 differs from that published by me in 1913 only in being more complete and more exact. It shows the actual state of the building, indicating by various kinds of cross-hatching as much as is now to be seen of the ancient walls. In the existing structure it is possible to distinguish at least sixteen different periods of construction without taking into account the minor repairs and alterations which have been made from time to time. It has not been thought worth while to attempt to show or describe all the restoration and changes which the structure has undergone, but only to show the principal stages by which the building arrived at its present form. The plan on Plate II shows as much of the original structure as it has been possible to reconstruct from a study of the existing remains and from the descriptions and drawings of the building made before the time of Urban VIII.21

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Figure 3. — Via ad Carinas

All that now remains of the first period of this complicated group of buildings consists of parts of two parallel walls of Anio tufa, 90 cm in thickness and originally 17.50 m in height and 23 m in length. The best preserved of these walls is that on the southeast side in which there is a beautiful archway flanked by well cut blocks of travertine (Figs. 3, 4). The blocks of tufa used in the construction of this wall vary greatly in length and considerably in height, but average about 60 cm in height. The wall has been restored at least twice, once in antiquity in the upper part with blocks of peperino about 75 cm in height and once in some fairly recent period with blocks of tufa. The blocks of peperino which now form the eastern end of the wall were piled up where they now are in modern times and are held in place by a buttress which was erected by Senator Lanciani at the time of the excavations (Fig. 3). The travertine blocks of the archway are laid in lime and are held together by iron dowel pins and are clamped to the tufa blocks by hook clamps, but there is no evidence of the use of dowels or clamps of any kind between the tufa blocks. The wall is rusticated, or more correctly, the blocks were left unfinished, which indicates that this opening could not have been closed by a door, but was merely a passageway into the area surrounded by a wall.

On the northwest side of this area there is a wall of the same materials exactly parallel to the one just described. It is of similar construction  p10 but differs in some details. The surface of this wall, both inside and out, was originally unfinished but was smoothed off at a later period. In this wall there was a doorway, corresponding in position to the arch on the southeast side, but somewhat narrower. The blocks of travertine by which it is flanked are more regular in size, about 60 cm in height and alternating 1.50 and 2.00 m in length. Probably because this door was narrower than the one onto the street leading to the Carinae, the blocks of travertine by which it is flanked, having less weight to support, are of the normal thickness of the wall (90 cm). The upper part of this wall was, like the one on the opposite side, restored in antiquity with peperino, but much more extensively. Whereas there is only one complete course of peperino on the top of the southeast wall, all but the lower seven or eight meters of the northwest wall consist of peperino.

Both of these tufa walls rested on foundations of travertine. At the north corner of the structure, at the end of the wall just described, a hole was dug, by the kindness of Professor Bartoli, exposing the foundation. Below ground the ends of the travertine blocks were found to be unfinished, which indicates that the wall originally ended at a point exactly in line with the later brick wall to which the marble plan was attached. The ends of the blocks above ground are dressed, probably to receive a marble facing at the time when the Forum of Peace was built.

Although it would require extensive excavation to determine whether there is any evidence of transverse walls on the two shorter sides of this area, the existence of such walls can be safely assumed, if for no other reason, because it is hardly conceivable that walls of the height of those just described and only 90 cm thick could have stood for any length of time without lateral supports. We have therefore a rectangular area, 18.15 × 21.20 m, surrounded by tufa walls 17.50 m in height. The principal entrance to this area was through the archway on the street to the Carinae. The fact that the walls inclosing this area were left unfinished inside as well as outside, that the main entrance was not closed by a door, the width of the area (near 60 feet), the absence of windows on the side facing the street to the Carinae and, so far as can be determined, on the northwest side also, indicate that this was not a building covered by a roof, but a precinct wall surrounding the area in which stood some small and very sacred building.

For the date of this structure, we have the following evidence. The street along the southeast side (Fig. 3) rises by a gentle slope from the Augustan level of the Sacra Via and is therefore presumably of the Augustan period. The travertine foundation of the tufa wall on this side is just covered by the ground at the level of the street. The tufa walls cannot be later than the time of Nero as will be shown  p11 below. As the technique of the stone work corresponds to that of the Augustan epoch, it seems fairly certain that the precinct was the work of Augustus. Since the orientation of the structure corresponds closely to that of the Senate House and the temple of Mars Ultor, it would seem to have been a part of the Julio-Augustan plan for the rebuilding of the area north of the Forum.

In the Res gestae diui Augusti is the statement: aedes deum Penatium in uelia feci.​22 Since all the indications as to the date of the precinct wall just described point to the time of Augustus, and since all the statements of the ancient writers regarding the location of the temple of the Penates​23 indicates that it was in this region, it seems a reasonable supposition that the Temple of the Penates stood in this area. The most important evidence regarding the location of the Temple of the Penates is given by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (I.67)º who says: "There is at Rome, not far from the Forum, on the street which makes a short-cut to the Carinae, in a very shady place, a little temple which Romans call the Temple of the Penates." The general sense of this passage is clear enough and all the topographers since the seventeenth century have agreed in locating the temple somewhere in the neighborhood of SS. Cosma e Damiano. However, there is one word in this passage which was incorrectly translated by Nibby in a way that has misled all subsequent topographers who apparently did not take the trouble to verify the citation. The phrase which I have translated "in a very shady place" is: ὑπεροχῇ σκοτεινός. This has usually been translated, "by the eminence." The passage was interpreted to mean that the Temple of the Penates stood in a place which was rendered shady by some hill or by the surrounding buildings. Taken in this way, the passage is very difficult from the point of view of both grammar and topography. The grammatical difficulties have led at least one editor to the familiar expedient of suggesting that the text is corrupt. But if the word ὑπεροχῇ be taken as an adverb meaning "very," both the grammatical and topographical difficulties of the passage disappear and it becomes possible to find a location for the temple which exactly fits the description of Dionysius. In fact, the words of Dionysius apply perfectly to the area surrounded by the tufa wall of Augustus which has just been described.

The Temple of the Penates was one of the most ancient and sacred shrines of the city. In restoring the temple it would have been natural for Augustus to have surrounded it with a massive wall, both to protect it against fires and to isolate it from the squalid buildings by which this quarter of the city was filled until the time of Nero.

 p12  The outer surface of the lower blocks of travertine of the archway on the street to the Carinae are dressed (Fig. 4), which indicates that the entrance was flanked by bases about 2.50 m square which supported statues or columns.

On the outside of the archway, on the left hand side, there is a part of a brick-faced concrete foundation of Neronian technique 1.60 × 1.90 m square. On the east corner of this foundation there is a curious projecting angle (Plate I and Fig. 4), which can only be explained by supposing that there was a wall which ran at right angles to the tufa wall (Plate II). Where this wall abutted against the travertine block of the archway, they have been dressed to a height of about nine meters (Fig. 4). This dressed surface is 90 cm wide. It would seem that Nero erected an arch across the street at this point (Plate II). There are also along the street to the Carinae some remains of shop walls of Neronian brick-faced concrete which were built against the Augustan tufa wall, but which have a slightly different orientation (Plate I).

Inside the precinct and at a distance of 2.41 m from the tufa wall, there is a wall of brick-faced concrete of Neronian technique which apparently ran the entire length of the precinct, reducing its width from 18.15 m to 15.74 m. The intervening space is partially filled, and may originally have been entirely filled, by a mass of concrete which can have had no other purpose than that of buttressing the tufa wall. The mortar of this concrete is very light and friable and the caementa consist almost entirely of scoriated tufa from the Fidenae quarries.

One can do little more than speculate as to the exact date of the Neronian concrete work just described. However, the only hypothesis which seems to permit of an explanation of the subsequent history of the building is that after the great fire, Nero began but never finished a restoration of the Temple of the Penates. A passage in Tacitus's​24 account of Nero's fire has usually been interpreted as referring only to the Temple of Vesta and the images of the penates which were there preserved. It seems more likely that the passage refers to the Temple of the Penates. At any rate, this temple lay directly in the path of the fire and must have been burned. Since there is no reference to the temple of the Penates in any later document, it would seem likely that in the great fire the temple was destroyed and never rebuilt.

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Figure 5. — Imprint left by the Cornice of the Ancient Wall
(Detail of Figure 3)

The next period in the history of this group of buildings belongs to the epoch of the Flavians. When the Temple of Peace was built, a fire wall of peperino was erected on the southeast side of the area in which it stood. This wall was a prolongation of the original tufa wall of Augustus (Plate II). The line of this wall, its exact height,  p13 and the size of the blocks of which it was built can be determined from the imprint of the blocks which is to be seen in the surface of the projecting spur on the north corner of the Basilica of Maxentius.​25 The fire wall of the Forum of Peace was in perfect alignment with the tufa wall of Augustus and resembled it in every particular except in the difference of material and the size of the blocks. This wall was surmounted by a cornice, the imprint of which may be clearly seen in the above mentioned concrete spur of the Basilica of Maxentius (Figs. 3, 5). The peperino blocks which have been piled up at the end of the tufa wall must have come from the fire wall of the Forum of Peace.

Of the same period were the massive walls of peperino and travertine by which the original precinct of the Penates was prolonged toward the Sacra Via and more than doubled in area (Plate II). Of these walls we have numerous descriptions and drawings, but the only part of them which now remains is a small section at the north corner of the area added by the Flavians. Though these walls have everywhere else disappeared, the space which they filled can be accurately determined by the examination of the walls built against them in the restoration of the church by Clement VIII (Plate I). There are a number of sixteenth century prints which show these walls still standing, the most accurate of which is that of Alo Giovannoli (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. — Print by Alo Giovannoli (1615)

The area inclosed by the peperino walls of the Flavian period was somewhat wider than that of the Augustan precinct (Plate II). Although the wall on the southeast side followed the Augustan line, the wall on the northwest side was set out on a new line outside that of the Augustan area. This deviation of the northwest wall from the line of the Augustan wall was due to the desire of the builders to make the resulting interior area symmetrical. As may be seen in the plan (Plate II), the northeast wall of the Flavian period is set out by an amount which exactly offsets the width of the space occupied by the Neronian work inside the Augustan precinct. This is sufficient evidence to prove that when the Flavian walls were erected, the southwest wall of the original Augustan precinct was removed and that the area inclosed by the Flavian walls was an enlargement of the Augustan precinct.

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Figure 7. — Travertine Foundation

In the round vestibule, on the north side, there is a medieval stairway which descends to a chapel, the floor of which is 1.42 m below the original level of the vestibule (Plate I, Fig. 7). The brickwork of the chapel and a well preserved fresco in a niche to the right of one descending from the vestibule are certainly of the early Middle Ages and may be of the same period as the conversion of the building into a church by Felix IV. The original entrance to the chapel was from  p14 the church proper, but at some time in the Middle Ages, the present entrance was cut through the foundations of the vestibule (Fig. 7).

At the foot of the stairway leading down from the vestibule to this chapel, a shallow excavation which Professor Bartoli was kind enough to have made at the request of Monsignore Biasiotti and myself, brought to light at 16.30 m above sea level a part of the original pavement of the chapel, consisting of carefully dressed blocks of travertine, obviously in situ. The excavation was continued until all of the pavement that was not buried under solid walls had been exposed. This pavement was found to belong to the foundation of some earlier structure. Only one of the blocks of travertine in question could be entirely uncovered. This block was found to taper slightly, as may be seen in the accompanying photograph (Fig. 7). On the upper surface of the travertine block which is partially uncovered on the right, there was found the edge of a dressed surface, nearly, but quite parallel to the edge of the block. (This line cannot be seen in  p15 the photograph.) Very careful measurements of the exposed block and of the line of the dressed surface just mentioned were taken. When laid off on a large scale drawing it was found that all these lines came to a focus at approximately the same point, from which it was possible to compute the radius of the structure. Its center was found to fall nearly on the axis of the Flavian structure described above.

The problem therefore arises as to whether this foundation belongs to a round building which was destroyed when the Flavian addition to the original precinct was made. Until further excavations are made it will not be possible to give a positive answer to this question. When this foundation was first discovered, both Monsignore Biasiotti and I adopted the theory that it belonged to a circular edifice earlier than the Flavian structure.​26 However, it seems to me most probable that the foundation is itself a part of the Flavian structure (Plate II).

The Flavian precinct wall, at its south corner, extended as far as the Porticus of Nero (Plate II).​27 As the Porticus of Nero had a decidedly different orientation, the architect of the Flavian precinct was confronted with the alternative of leaving an empty triangular space between the Porticus and his own building or of utilizing as much as possible of this space without giving the interior of his structure a most awkward shape. The addition of a hemicycle on this end solved the problem.

This hypothesis is confirmed by the following facts which can be verified in the structure itself. The original peperino walls did not extend all the way across the southwest end of the structure. There was between the ends of the peperino wall on this side a gap of about fourteen meters (see the outline of the original walls in Plate I). The chord of the arc which could be computed from the travertine blocks described above coincides approximately with the gap between the ends of the peperino walls.

In the time of the Severi a slight alteration was made in the southwest end of the Flavian structure. In the upper part of the existing façade of the church, there may be seen a sustaining arch of good brickwork which seems to have rested on brick pillars about a meter square. Above this arch there is a brick wall, which appears to be of the epoch of the Severi. Under this sustaining arch, there is brickwork of the same period which, as I have shown in my reconstruction (Plate II), must have been supported by a colonnade.

It is extremely hazardous to venture a theory as to the purpose of the structure which has just been described. The theory put forward by me in 1913 that it was intended as a monumental entrance to  p16 the Forum of Peace will probably have to be abandoned. Two other explanations have occurred to me, between which, until further investigation or new excavations shall have thrown more light on the question, it will probably be impossible to decide. It may be that the Temple of the Penates was rebuilt after the fire of Nero and that the Flavian addition to the Augustan structure was an enlargement of the precinct of the Penates. There can be no serious objection to this theory except the fact that the Temple of the Penates is not mentioned by any author after Tacitus. The argument from silence in this case will have some weight for not only was the Temple of the Penates one of the most ancient and sacred shrines of Rome, but also the Flavian addition to the precinct would have rendered it one of the most conspicuous temples of the city. It would seem strange therefore that no mention of the temple is found in later authors and that no tradition preserved its name.28

The other alternative, and the one which seems most probable, is that the Temple of the Penates was never rebuilt after the fire of Nero and that the area in which it stood, enlarged by the Flavians, was connected with the Forum of Peace. In this case the massive walls erected by the Flavian Emperors around the added area must have been built for the protection and isolation of some small but important building connected with the Temple of Peace, possibly a library.

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Figure 6. — Wall to which the Marble Plan was Attached

The next question that arises in the history of the group of buildings composing the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano has to do with the wall of brick-faced concrete to which was attached the Marble Plan of the city (Fig. 6). This wall has generally been assigned to the period of Septimius Severus and Caracalla. However, a careful study of the brickwork of this wall reveals the fact that it is much inferior to that of any of the monuments which can with certainty be assigned to the time of the Severi. Another fact that had not been previously noted is that the lower part of the wall (to a height of about two meters) is of a different and apparently earlier technique than that of the upper part to which the marble plan was attached. The question of the date of the existing fragments of the Marble Plan needs to be entirely re-studied. It will probably be found that the Plan was originally erected by the Severi, that it together with the wall to which it was attached was damaged in the fire of Carinus, that  p17 it was taken down after this fire and to a large extent re-made. At any rate, it hung upon a wall which does not differ greatly in technique from the brickwork of Diocletian and is inferior to the best brickwork of the Aurelian wall.​29 Another fact which will need to be taken into consideration in studying the Marble Plan is that, so far as its probable size can be determined, it was of the same height as the existing wall, but two or three meters longer.30

At the same time that the existing wall to which the Marble Plan was attached was erected, a new arrangement was given to the interior of the space inclosed by the Augustan walls. Against the tufa wall on the northwest side was built a wall of brick-faced concrete 60 cm thick and about 10.50 m long, a wall which entirely blocked the door in the tufa wall. On the other side of the area and against the brick-faced concrete structure of the Neronian period, there was built a wall of the same length and thickness. The entrance from the Via ad Carinas, was reduced to a narrow passageway 60 cm in width, beyond which the wall of the fifth period continues on the foundations of the earlier Neronian wall.

At about the same period as the walls just described, or perhaps slightly later, the interior of the area was once more transformed. All that now remains of the work of this period is a diagonal wall which was later incorporated in the apse of the church. The brickwork of this diagonal wall appears to be pre-Constantinian. One is tempted to believe that the area had at one time a pentagonal tribune corresponding very closely to the later apse of the church.

In the sixth period, the structure which I have been describing received the form which it preserved substantially unchanged until the seventeenth century. Under the heading "sixth period," are included three different additions to the original structure which are grouped together because of the difficulty of determining their relative order, to say nothing of their precise date. These additions are: an upper story of brick-faced concrete superimposed upon the peperino walls of the Flavian period; a vestibule facing the Sacra Via; and a semicircular apse. In this period the area was for the first time roofed over. Apparently it was in order to be able to provide windows for the edifice without unnecessarily disfiguring the magnificent façade on the street to the Carinae that the upper story of brickwork  p18 was added. On the side facing the Sacra Via there were in this superstructure five large windows which are still to be seen (Figs. 1, 2). On each side there were eleven windows in the same superstructure, but extending down for some distance into the tufa wall.31

With these alterations, the structure which had formerly inclosed an open area became a spacious and well lighted hall. To provide this hall with an entrance from the Sacra Via, there was added the vestibule which now goes by the name "Temple of Romulus." This vestibule has been so frequently restored that it is difficult to distinguish the original portions and to arrive at a definite conclusion as to its date. However, there seems to be no brickwork in the building which can be assigned to a pre-Constantinian date. That the building could not have been erected by Maxentius is shown by the fact that its façade is aligned with the Constantinian porch on the south side of the Basilica. The apse of the church is even later and was probably erected when the building was converted into a church by Felix IV.

The campanile which is seen in some of the old prints of the church was erected in the Middle Ages. No other radical changes in the structure of the building were made until the time of Clement VIII, when the interior was refashioned in the baroque style and the lateral chapels of the nave were added.​32 The massive walls of concrete between the chapels rise to the height of the roof and may have been necessary to buttress the peperino walls which by that time may have been in danger of falling, for according to contemporary accounts the church was in a deplorable state of ruin in the latter part of the sixteenth century. In the pontificate of Urban VIII (ca. 1630) the peperino walls were sold to Taddeo Barberini and were carted away to be used in the construction of the Barberini palace. With the money received in payment for this stone the monks began a restoration of the church which was completed in its present form and dedicated in 1632.

Philip Barrows Whitehead

University of Vermont


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Plate II

The Author's Notes:

1 Whitehead, Degli antichi edifici componenti la chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano al foro romano, Nuovo Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana, 1913, pp143‑165.

Biasiotti and Whitehead, La chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano al foro romano e gli edifici preesistenti, Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia di Archeologia, 1925, pp83‑122.

2 L. P., ed. Duchesne, I, p279.

3 Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus, XL.26.

4 Chronog. 354, ed. Mommsen, M. G. H., Chron. Min. I, p148. Maxentius. . . . Hoc imperatore templum Romae arsit et fabricatum est.

5 Cassiodori Chron., ed. Mommsen, M. G. H., Chron. Min. II, p142: Templum Romae et Veneris. . . quod nunc urbis appellatur.

6 Maurice, Numismatique Constantinienne, I, pp85‑88.

7 Op. cit. I p172. The first coin struck by Maxentius bore on the reverse the legend conservator vrbis svae with the figure of Roma seated, holding a scepter and a globe surmounted by a victory.

8 Maurice, op. cit., I, p307; pl. VII, 8.

9 Op. cit., I, p88.

10 For a full discussion of this legend, see my article in the Nuovo Bullettino for 1913.

11 Martini Oppaviensis Chron., M. G. H. SS., XXII, p401, cf. p400.

12 Urlichs, p237, cf. The Diary of Nicholaus Muffel (Michaelis, Röm. Mitt., III, p261): "vi è la chiesa ove giacciono santi Cosma e Damiano . . . ancora vi si vede un' antica muraglia che ha fatto parte del tempio di Romulo."

13 Antiquarie prospettiche Romane, pub. by G. Giove, Rome, 1876, p15.

14 Lanciani, Degli antichi componenti la chiesa dei Santi Cosma e Damiano, Bull. Com., 1882, Tav. III‑X. Bartoli, Monumenti Antichi di Roma nei Disegni degli Uffizi, I, 16, 52, 102; II, 215, 216, 261; III, 485; IV, 595; V, 749. Bartoli, Cento Vedute, Tav. IV‑XII. Hülsen, Il Libro di Giuliano da Sangallo, Tav. I, XVII, XXXVIII. Ashby, B. S. R., II, Pl. XXIII. De Rossi, Piante Icnografiche, Tav. IX. Hermanin, Die Stadt Rom im 15 und 16 Jahrh., Tav. IX. Buffalini, La pianta di Roma del 1551. Alexandri Donati, Roma Vetus ac Recens (1695), p169. Hülsen and Egger, Die Römischen Skizzenbücher von Marten Van Heemskerck, Vol. I, Fol. 9r. II, Fol. 91v. Ehrle, La pianta di Roma del 1577. Gamucci, Le Antichità della città di Roma (1569), pp32‑33. DuPerac, Vestigi dell' antichità di Roma (1621), Rohault de Fleury, Les Saints de la Messe et leurs Monuments.

15 Lanciani, Archivio S. R. S. P., XIX, p46, XXIV, p65. Martinello (1653), p93. Marlianus (1544), p43. Flavio Biondo, Roma rist. (1542), I, § 51, II, § 31. Andrea Fulvio (1543), p190. Cf. preceding note.

16 Ciampini, Vet. Mon. (1686), I, p5.

17 Edifici Antichi, I, pp124‑125.

18 La Via Appia, p77.

19 In the course of my work, Miss Van Deman most generously assisted me with her time and knowledge and furnished many valuable criticisms and suggestions.

20 I am under very great obligation to Mr. Gorham P. Stevens, Director of the American Academy in Rome, for much help in the interpretation of the remains of the ancient buildings and in the preparation of my drawings.

21 In the article referred to in a previous footnote, published in collaboration with Monsignore Biasiotti, will be found a number of plans and photographs not included in the present article, together with a full discussion of some points which will here be treated more briefly or passed over altogether.

22 For the meaning of the term uelia, see Rebert, The Velia: A Study in Historical Topography, T. A. P. A., vol. LVI, 1925, pp54‑69.

23 Jordan-Hülsen, I, II, pp416‑419; Gilbert, II, pp81 ff. De Ruggiero, pp138‑142.

24 Ann. XV.41, et delubrum Vestae cum Penatibus populi Romani exusta.

25 Incorrectly drawn on the Engineers' Plan.

26 Biasiotti and Whitehead, op. cit., fig. 22.

27 The plan of the Neronian porticus shown in my drawing is based on that of Miss Van Deman (A. J. A., 1923, Plate III) but slightly modified in accordance with my own measurements to show its true relation­ship to the Flavian walls.

28 Unless the name Temple of Castor and Pollux which was given to the building by Renaissance topographers has some significance. As the ancient decorations of the building survived its conversion into a church and were preserved down to the time of the Renaissance, and since the Penates were frequently represented in the same form as the Dioscuri, it may be that the name Temple of Castor and Pollux was suggested by some feature of the decoration. Furthermore, Saints Cosma and Damianus were popularly regarded as the successors of the Dioscuri and in a number of sanctuaries dedicated to them there are points of contact with the preexisting cult. (Delehaye, Leggende Agiografiche, 2nd Italian edition, p176.)

29 This was pointed out to me by Mr. Ian A. Richmond of the British School who has made a very careful study of the Aurelian wall.

30 The dimensions of the Marble Plan wall are variously given. Lanciani, Ruins and Excavations, p98, says: "the wall on the marble facing of which the plan of Rome was engraved measures 22 metres in length, 15 metres in height." Not. Scav., 1891, p124, "la lunghezza del muro ove era affissa la pianta marmorea, m. 17.85." Jordan, Forma Urbis Romae, p14, says that the wall to which the marble plan was attached was 23 meters long and 11 meters high praeter stylobatam. Others give different figures. As a matter of fact, that part of the wall which is still standing measures 18.15 m in length and from the shelf up (i.e. praeter stylobatam), it is 13.20 meters in height.

31 Biasiotti and Whitehead, op. cit., figs. 8 and 18.

32 Panciroli, Tesori Nascosti, 1625, p96: "e finalmente Clemente VIII il 1602, essendo caduta quella parte che fù fabbricata da Felice III (sic) dai fondamenti la ristorò e in più bella forma la ridusse." This is confirmed by an inscription of the year 1608 in situ in the first chapel on the left in the lower church.

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