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Bill Thayer

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 p506  Article on pp506‑508 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.


[image ALT: A close-up shot of a Roman wall, showing five courses of squared stone blocks, laid in alternate rows endwise (square sections) and lengthwise (rectangular blocks). It is part of the supporting wall of the Tabularium in Rome.]

Masonry on the E side of the Tabularium: a beautiful illustration of opus quadratum. Plants and the modern street pavement provide scale.

Tabularium: a repository for state archives, probably in large part those belonging to the aerarium in the neighbouring temple of Saturn, that was built by Q. Lutatius Catulus in 78 B.C. on the south-east slope of the Capitoline. Before its construction the ταμιεῖον ἀγορανόμων was used for the purpose of preserving the state records (see Atrium Publicum). It is not mentioned in literature, but its identification is based on two  p507 inscriptions, one copied by Signorili and Poggio (CIL I2.737 = VI.1314): Q · Lutatius · Q · f · Q · n · Catulus · cos· substructionem et tabularium · de · s · s · faciundum · coeravit · eidemque · probavit; and the other still partially preserved in one of the rooms of the building (CIL I2.736 = VI.1133 = 31597): Q · Lu]tatius · Q · f · Q · n · C[atulus · cos · de · s]en · sent · faciundu[m · coeravit ·] eidemque · prob[avit]. The second story seems to have been added, or at least rebuilt, about the end of the first century (see below), but nothing else is known of the history of the building until the reign of Boniface VIII (about 1300 A.D.), when the present tower at the north end was erected. Later, Michelangelo destroyed the entire upper and western part, and built the present Palazzo del Senatore directly upon the ancient structure (LS II.70).

This building, trapezoidal in shape, occupied all the space between the clivus Capitolinus on the south-west and the flight of steps (gradus Monetae?) which led up past the carcer to the arx on the north-east. On the forum side the foundation wall began on the level of the area Volcani, and the substructio (cf. inscription) consisted of this wall, 3.43 metres thick, with a series of six recesses out of which narrow windows open, and a corridor between it and the tufa rock of the hill itself. This corridor is now blocked at both ends and may always have been so. Above this corridor of the substructio is the corridor of the first story of the Tabularium proper, 5 metres wide and 10 high, extending the whole length of the building and originally open at both ends, but not connected with any other part. Its front was an arcade of the Doric order, with engaged columns of peperino. There were eleven arches, 7.50 metres in height and 3.54‑3.60 in width, all but one of which have been walled up. This arcade afforded the means of communication between the two portions of the Capitoline, and formed a striking architectural terminus for the forum. Its effect, however, was greatly marred by the erection of the temple of Vespasian and the porticus Deorum Consentium, and by the enlargement of the temple of Concord. All of the second story was removed by Michelangelo, but the few fragments that have been found indicate an arcade of the Corinthian order immediately above that of the first story. These fragments are apparently of the Flavian period, but it is impossible to say whether this story was an addition or restoration.

Behind the corridor of the first story are supporting walls and piers, and one large hall on a higher level than the corridor, which probably opened out on the Asylum. From this hall a long flight of sixty-six steps, partly cut in the rock, leads down to the ground through a fine arched doorway in the wall of the substructure. These steps have no connection with any other part of the building, and afforded direct access from the forum to the upper part of the Tabularium and the summit of the Capitoline. When the temple of Vespasian was built, its podium effectually blocked the entrance to this staircase. On the  p508 north-east side of the Tabularium were two stories of rooms fronting on the way up to the arx. Those of the first story opened into each other, and were connected by a stairway with the corridor of the substruction. Part of the wall of the south-west side is still standing, with a large rectangular niche opening on the clivus Capitolinus, which is now used as the entrance; while a small piece of the travertine plinth of the north-west façade is preserved in the cellars of the Palazzo del Senatore (JRS 1919, 192).

The masonry of the Tabularium shows the best republican workman­ship. It is wholly of opus quadratum, with blocks uniformly two Roman feet in height and width, and averaging four in length. They are laid in alternate courses of headers and stretchers (emplecton), with a thin layer of cement. The outer walls are of sperone (Gabine stone), the bases and capitals of the half-columns and the imposts of the arches of travertine, and the inner walls of Anio tufa; while most of the vaults are of concrete. The building was once used as a storehouse for salt and the inner walls have suffered much from corrosion. For a complete description of the Tabularium and its literature, see Delbrueck, Hellenistische Bauten in Latium, 1907, I.23‑46, pls. 3‑9; II. pl. 3;º also Middleton, Ancient Rome I2.372‑377; Jord. I.1.135‑154; LR 295‑298; LS II.70; D'Esp. Mon. I.125, 126; TF 49‑51; ZA 30‑33; Mem. L. 5.xvii.505; ASA 18, 19, 21.

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Page updated: 12 May 17