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Bill Thayer

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Article on p151 of

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

Diribitorium: a building in the campus Martius in which the votes cast by the people, presumably in the Saepta, were counted by the diribitores, or election officials. It was begun by Agrippa, but opened and finished by Augustus in 7 B.C. (Cass. Dio LV.8). Its roof had the widest span of any building erected in Rome before 230 A.D., and was supported by beams of larch one hundred feet long and one and a half feet thick, of which one that had not been needed was kept in the Saepta as a curiosity (Cass. Dio, loc. cit.; Plin. NH XVI.201; XXXVI.102). Caligula placed benches in the Diribitorium and used it instead of the theatre when the sun was particularly hot (Cass. Dio LIX.7), and from its roof Claudius watched a great fire in the Aemiliana (Suet. Claud. 18).

Cassius Dio (LXVI.24) states that this building was burned in the great fire of 80 A.D., but also (LV.8) that in his day (early third century) it was standing unroofed (ἀχανής), because, after its wonderful roof of great beams had been destroyed, it could not be rebuilt. As it is impossible that such a building in this locality should not have been repaired after the fire of 80, we must suppose that it was a hall without a roof for one hundred and fifty years. We must also suppose that it was very near the Saepta to facilitate the counting of votes, but it is very difficult to find a location large enough for such a structure near the Saepta except on the south-west, under the church of the Gesu, where, however, no traces whatever of any ancient building have been found. For this reason, in spite of the fact that Saepta and Diribitorium are mentioned together as if they were separate buildings (Cassius Dio LVI.24), Hülsen has developed the theory that it was really the upper story of the Saepta. The masonry of the latter seems to be too massive for a one-storied structure, and the enormous beams would be admirably adapted for a hall like that which the Diribitorium is represented as being (BC 1893, 136‑142; HJ 562‑564). The mediaeval name Diburo belongs, however, to the Divorum Templum. See also Saepta Iulia.

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Page updated: 22 Oct 03