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Bill Thayer

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 p583  Volcanal

Article on pp583‑584 of

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

Volcanal: the cult-centre of Vulcan at the foot of the Capitoline at the north-west corner of the forum, consisting of an uncovered altar of the god, ascribed by tradition to Titus Tatius (Dionys. II.50.3; Varro V.74; cf. Fest. 238), and the space, probably enclosed, immediately around it. The term area Volcani, which was in common use, may have been synonymous with Volcanal, or perhaps have included some adjacent ground (Liv. IX.46.6; XXXIX.46; XL.19.2; Gell. IV.5.4; Fest. 238; see Graecostasis). This area, probably always a locus substructus, was about 5 metres higher than the comitium (Gell. IV.5.4; Dionys. II.50.2; Fest. 290), and from it the kings and magistrates of the early republic, before the rostra was built, addressed the people (Dionys. II.50.2; VI.67.2; XI.39.1 (Ἡφαίστου ἱερόν); VII.17.2 (τὸ Ἡφαιστεῖον)). On the Volcanal was a statue of Horatius Cocles, that had been moved from the comitium, a locus inferior (Gell. IV.5.4; Auct. de vir. ill. 11.2; Plut. Popl. 16); a bronze quadriga dedicated to Vulcan, and a statue of Romulus with a tablet containing a list of his exploits in Greek letters, both said to have been erected by Romulus (Dionys. II.54.2); and in Pliny's time a lotos tree, still growing and said to be as old as the city (NH XVI.236). The Volcanal is mentioned twice in connection with the prodigium of a shower of blood (Liv. XXXIX.46; XL.19.2). On 23rd August, the Volcanalia sacrifice was offered here to Vulcan (Fast. Arv. ad Kal. Aug., CIL I2 p215º), as is indicated by the entry in Fast. Ant. ap. NS 1921, 109, under this date M[aiae s]upr(a) comi(tium); cf. Gilb. I.248‑257 for the worship of Maia here; and we are told that live fish were also brought to the area Volcani to be offered up to the god (Fest. 238).

A pedestal dedicated to Vulcan by Augustus in 9 B.C. has been found near S. Adriano (CIL VI.457), showing that the cult lasted at least down to the early empire, although the Volcanal must have been diminished in size by the encroachment of surrounding buildings, and perhaps entirely covered at last (Jord. I.2.339‑341; Gilb. loc. cit.; Mitt. 1893, 87‑88). Just behind the arch of Severus some early tufa foundations have been found which probably belonged to the Volcanal, and traces of a sort of rock platform, 3.95 metres long by 2.80 wide, which had been covered with cement and painted red. Its upper surface is cut by various channels, and in front of it are the remains of a drain made of tufa slabs. This may possibly have been the ara itself. It shows signs of having been damaged and repaired. In the surface of this rock are cuttings, round and square, which have some resemblance to graves and are so regarded by some writers, e.g. Richter, BRT IV.15‑16, and Von Duhn (Italische Gräberkunde I.413 sqq.); the latter, in connection with the discoveries of early cremation tombs in the forum, which he discusses fully, maintains that the Volcanal was in the earliest days set aside as an area in which  p584 corpses were burnt. The tombs themselves he assigns to the Palatine, and makes the earliest of them contemporary with the later tombs of the Alban Hills. See CR 1902, 94; BC 1902, 25‑26, 125‑133; 1903, 159‑162; Mitt. 1902, 10; 1905, 7‑9; HC 82‑84; HFP 2, 22; Théd. 67‑71; DR 229‑233; RE Suppl. IV.494‑495.

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Page updated: 12 Oct 06