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Bill Thayer

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 p280  Janus Quadrifrons

Article on p280 of

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

Black-and‑white images are from Platner;
any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer.

A photograph of a ruined but still solid stone building, in the shape of an arch, about three stories tall. And in fact it is divided into three horizontal registers: the lowest is bare solid stone, the upper two each have, on the side we see, three niches on each side of the central archway. All the niches are empty and the arch produces an impression of massive sobriety. It is an arch in Rome often called the Janus Quadrifrons; a monument discussed in detail on this webpage. (To our left and somewhat in the background, a six-story belfry, which belongs to the church of S. Giorgio in Velabro.)

The Arch of Janus Quadrifrons

(The belfry in the background belongs to the church of S. Giorgio in Velabro.)

Ianus Quadrifrons: the name ordinarily given to a four-way arch of marble, which stands directly over the cloaca Maxima, and probably marked the line of separation between the forum Boarium and the Velabrum. It consists of four piers connected by quadripartite vaulting, and is 12 metres square and 16 high. The arches themselves are 10.60 metres high and 5.70 wide. Round all four sides run two rows of niches for statues, forty-eight in all, of which sixteen are unfinished. The keystones of the arches were sculptured, and the figures of Minerva and Roma are still visible on the north and east sides. The structure is of late date, third or fourth century,​1 and may perhaps be identified with the arcus divi Constantini in Region XI (Not., om. Cur.;º DAP; Jord. I.2.471). For a detailed description of this arch, see PAS II.80; Toeb. I.131‑135; ZA 258‑261; for illustrations, Baumeister, Denkm. III. pl. LXXX.6, LXXXI.8; Canina, Edifizi, IV.253. Cf. ASA 119.

A photograph of a ruined but still solid stone building, seen close up, focusing on a row of three identical hemispherical niches the domes of which are elegantly fluted. In front of them, the top of a metal fences of sharp spikes. It is a close‑up view of an arch in Rome often called the Janus Quadrifrons; a monument discussed in detail on this webpage.

Close-up of one set of niches.

Hülsen points out (Toeb. cit.) that the superstructure, which was removed in 1827 as mediaeval, probably belonged to the attic (DuP. pl. 23, fig. 38 and pp74, 75); and reconstructs it with a pyramid on top.

Ianus Quadrifrons, templum: erected by Domitian in the forum Transitorium (Mart. X.28.3‑6, XI.4.5‑6; Serv. Aen. VII.607; Lydus, de mens. IV.1; Macrob. I.9.13), in which he placed the four-faced statue that was said to have been brought to Rome from Falerii in 214 B.C. The shrine was square with doors on each side, and the statue of the god was said to look out on four forums (Mart. loc. cit.), i.e. the fora Romanum, Augustum, Pacis, Transitorium. It is not known whether this four-faced statue from Falerii had anything to do with the Roman Janus or not, or whether it had been housed in a shrine before Domitian's time. It was standing in the sixth century (Lydus, loc. cit.; Jord. I.2.347, 450; WR 106; Rosch. II.25‑26; Mem. L. 3.xi.26‑32; Burchett, Janus in Roman Life and Cult, Menasha, Wis. 1918, 40).

The Authors' Note:

1 It is attributed to a period a little before Diocletian in Zeitschr. f. Gesch. d. Archit. VIII. (1924), 74, as against the attribution to the second third of the fourth century in Toeb.

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Page updated: 20 Feb 19