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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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 p80  VIII. The Umbilicus Urbis Romae

The cone-shaped structure of brick at the north end of the Hemicyclium (see plan p73 and p77) marks the ideal centre of the city of Rome. Similar monuments marking the center either of a city or of the whole earth existed in Greek and Hellenistic cities, for example at Delphi, Athens, Antioch; their name was Omphalos (navel). The description of the regions of city from the time of Constantine mentions the 'Umbilicus Urbis Romae' as standing near the temple of Concord; and the Anonymus of Einsiedeln in the eighth century speaks of it as near the Church of SS. Sergio e Bacco: the brick remains agree with both these references. The core of brick, consisting of three sections, one above another, was probably covered on the outside with white and coloured marble; we do not know how the top was finished off (by a statue or a column?).

See: Notitia reg. VIII; Anonymus Einsiedlensis presso Jordan II, 655; Lanciani 282.

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Site updated: 14 Jan 02