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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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 p180  XXXI. The Regia

Practically nothing remains of the Regia except the foundations, some of which belong to a building from Republican times and some to one from the early empire.

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Fig. 102. Ground-plan of the Regia.

According to Roman tradition, Numa Pompilius lived at the beginning of the Sacra Via and gave his own royal residence (regia) to the chief-priest (pontifex maximus) as a dwelling-place. In historical times however the Regia was not the actual residence  p181 of the chief-priest but merely his office. Here were preserved the archives containing the data collected each year by the pontifex maximus, relating to the magistrates, the events of war, prodigies, calamities, etc. (out of these yearly tables was developed the earliest Roman historical work, the annales maximi). Besides this the Regia contained several small chapels (sacraria), notably one belonging to Mars in which the sacred spears of the god and the shields (ancilia) of the Salii were preserved. Another chapel was sacred to Ops, the goddess of the harvest, and was considered so holy that no one was allowed to enter it except the pontifex maximus and the Vestal virgins. In B.C. 148 and again in B.C. 36 the Regia was injured by fire, but Domitius Calvinus, the conqueror of Spain, restored it again in magnificent fashion: it was at this time that the outside of the walls was decorated with the list of  p182 the highest magistrates and the triumphs from Romulus to Caesar (fasti consulares et triumphales, generally referred to as the fasti Capitolini on account of their preservation at present in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline) — a form of decoration which indicated the character of the building as an archive. In the reign of Commodus the Regia was again injured by fire, but it was restored again by Septimius Severus. The building seems to have survived the fall of Rome, but was partly destroyed in the 8th century (see above p130 f.). The ruins were partially excavated in 1546, without however being identified as the Regia;  p183 but the more recent excavations (1886, 1889, 1901) have settled the question of its site and architecture.

On the left side of the road is first (near i, fig. 102) a small room with a good pavement of black and white marble. Built into a mediaeval wall in this room an architrave was found with the inscription:


The first half of this inscription was discovered in 1546; and the whole of it reads: in] honorem domus Augustae kalatores pontificium et flaminum. Accordingly the suggestion has been made that the subordinate officials of the priests had their office here at the corner of the Regia. The beautiful architectural fragments which lie here at present are worthy of notice, — pieces of entablature, capitals of columns and of pillars etc.: they belong to the restoration by Calvinus (B.C. 36).

A few steps to the left lie the foundations of the Regia of the republic. A room with a pavement of tufa slabs (d fig. 102) has in the centre a round substructure of grey tufa (the top layer is a modern restoration). It has been suggested, but without proper proof, that this was the Sacrarium Martis. It is equally improbable that a subterranean cistern (near f fig. 102) is the sanctuary of Ops. Farther on are to be seen the remains of the building of the empire. Of the south wall, which Calvinus decorated with the fasti consulares et triumphales, very little remains in situ; of the entablature however which crowned this south wall numerous fragments are lying about. This entablature belonged to the restoration by Septimius Severus. The remains of a wall, which are still standing upright, and also the tablets of the fasti themselves, shew that Calvinus's building was  p184 very small, but very costly, being built entirely of blocks of marble. Remains of a pavement of white marble, the threshold of a door (c fig. 102). etc. have been preserved.

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Fig. 103. The wall of the Regia with the Fasti.

In the early middle ages (VII‑VIII centuries) the entire north façade of the Regia, opposite the temple of Faustina, was transformed into part of a noble private residence, similar to the one which was built in the neighbouring Basilica Aemilia: to this building belong columns of cipollino with the ugly bases of red granite, and  p185 the walls built partly of brick and partly of blocks of marble.— The Regia of the republican period extended probably considerably farther toward the east. To this republican building are ascribed remains of tufa and travertine of all sorts which have been found under the foundations of the tabernae, between the house of the Vestals and the Sacra Via (near z fig. 113).

Vedi: Ovid. trist. III, 1, 28; Festus 278. 279; Appian. bell. civ. II, 148; Plinius ep. IV, 11; Obsequens 19; FUR. fr. 21 Jordan; Cassius Dio fr. 6, 2. XLVIII, 42. LIV, 27; Servius Aen. VIII, 363; Solin. I, 21.

Jordan I, 2, 302‑303. 423‑428; Huelsen, Jahrbuch des Instituts 1889, 228‑253, CIL I2 p. 5 sg., R. M. 1902, 62‑66; Cantarelli, Riv. di filologia 1898, p. 209 sg.; Lanciani 221‑223; Vaglieri 40‑55; Boni, Atti del Congresso storico 518‑525.

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Page updated: 9 Aug 03