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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
The Roman Forum — Its History and Its Monuments

by Christian Hülsen

published by Ermanno Loescher & Co
Publishers to H. M. the Queen of Italy

Text, maps, and black-and‑white images
are in the public domain.
Color photos are © William P. Thayer.


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 p95  XV. The Monuments of Diocletian and Honorius

Not far from the Rostra Vandalica in the direction of the Niger Lapis is a square base of white marble covered on all four sides with reliefs: on one side are trophies and representations of Victoria, and between them a shield with the inscription: Caesarum decennalia feliciter; on the second side the animals slain in the solemn state sacrifice of the Suovetaurilia (pig, sheep, steer) being led to the altar; on the third side the emperor (the head apparently intentionally destroyed) sacrificing to Roma and  p96 Mars; on the fourth side a procession of nine men clad in the toga. The base was found in 1547 in front of the church of S. Adriano:º on the same spot about 1490 a similar base, now lost, was found bearing the inscription Augustorum vicennalia feliciter. These bases supported colossal columns, and were probably erected in front of the Curia in A.D. 303 in celebration of the jubilee of the twentieth and tenth anniversaries respectivelyº of the reign of Diocletian and his fellow-rulers. It is very interesting to compare the representation of the sacrificial animals on this base of Diocletian with the corresponding representation on the balustrade of Trajan which is not far distant. The comparison shows the rapid decline of Roman sculpture in the course of not quite two hundred years.

See: CIL. VI, 1204. 1205. 31262. — Huelsen, R. M. 1903, 28.

Several blocks of marble near this monument of Diocletian belong to a monument from the time of Honorius and Arcadius which was excavated here in 1549. It is a large base for a quadriga, with a vainglorious inscription celebrating the conquest of the rebel Gildo in Africa (386‑398) by the emperor's great general Stilicho. This monument, in an almost perfect state of preservation, fell into the hands of the Farnese, who had it sawed up "for modern works of art". One piece with the beginning of the lines is in the Museum of Naples; in the Forum itself are only small fragments (for example a piece with the remains of the words: vindicata re]BELL[ione et Africae r]ESTI[tutione laetus). Lately two pieces of a metrical inscription have been excavated:

a]rmipotens Libycum defendit Honorius [orbem (?)

possibly a verse from the court poet Claudianus, who refers to the monument in his poem de sextoº consulatu Honorii.

See: CIL. VI, 1187. 31256 (= Dessau 794); Claudian. de sexto cons. Honorii 373. — Huelsen, R. M. 1895, 52‑58; Lanciani 261.

Farther to the right, at the edge of the excavation of the Lapis Niger, stands a tall marble block. According to the inscription (on the side toward the Curia) it formed part of a monument which was erected by the senate and the people in the reign of Honorius and Arcadius "in honour of the faithful and valiant army", on account of a victory over the Goths won under the command of a vir illustris. The name of the commanding general is purposely erased, but it must have been Stilicho: and the monument refers to the battle at Pollentia A.D. 403, where Stilicho drove back Radagaisus and his hordes, and once again saved throne and land for the emperor. Soon after this time Stilicho came into disfavour, and was treacherously murdered (A.D. 408) at the command of Honorius, and his name was erased from all public monuments. Two years later Rome was captured and plundered by Alaric and his Goths.— It is characteristic of the wretched means which in this late time were at the disposal of the authorities for the erection of even important monuments, that the inscription is engraved on the side of a block which had already been used once. Originally it was employed to support an equestrian statue, and the holes by which this was fastened may still be seen on what is at present the left side.

See: CIL. VI, 31987 (=Dessau 799). — Lanciani 261.

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Site updated: 19 Jan 04