Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter Three

“Very Costly Temples”: The Campus Martius and Republican Temple Construction

A Second-Century Rivalry

Despite having been elected consul a few days earlier on February 18, 188 B.C.E., Marcus Aemilius Lepidus was very displeased.1 The day after his selection along with co-consul Gaius Flaminius, six praetors were chosen, and now the Senate would decide to which region of the expanding empire each would be sent. War was brewing with the Ligurians in the northern part of the Italian Peninsula, and the Senate decreed that the two consuls should proceed in that direction to keep the peace. Lepidus objected, arguing to the Senate that “it was improper that both consuls should be shut up in the valleys of the Ligurians while Marcus Fulvius [Nobilior] and Gnaeus Manlius for two years now [as consuls], the one in Europe, the other in Asia, were lording it as if they were the successors to Philip [of Macedon] and Antiochus [the Great].”2 Lepidus had a particular grudge against Fulvius, who had managed to thwart his efforts to become consul two years earlier.3 The sole activities of the former consuls, Lepidus claimed, were threatening tribes against whom no war had been declared and enriching themselves by “selling peace for a price.”4 Either send the newly elected consuls to Europe and Asia to replace Fulvius and Manlius, he pleaded to the Senate, or bring those soldiers home. Unfortunately for Lepidus, the Senate chose the latter course. With their term starting on the New Year on March 1, 187 B.C.E., Aemilius Lepidus and his co-consul Flaminius were ordered north to battle the Ligurians.5

Rather than going to the pleasant cities of Asia for an easy tour of duty assured by the “feebleness of the enemy and the wealth of its kings,”6 Lepidus found himself situated in a hilly and rough landscape of northern Italy with narrow, winding roads where the lightly armored Ligurians hid, ready to ambush his men.7 As Livy noted, “This enemy was born, as it were, to keep alive the military discipline of the Romans during the intervals between their great wars.”8 Lepidus's Ligurian campaign was anything but a great war. The posting was grim, set in a poor area with few pickings for plunder. Even the traditional civilian camp followers stayed home.9 Lepidus passed the time by burning farms and villages and goading small groups of Ligurians to leave their mountainous redoubt and meet his men in the open. Ultimately, the enemy obliged. During the engagement, Lepidus reportedly made a vow to the goddess Diana that, if she led him to victory, he would build a temple in her honor.10 Having been favored with a win, albeit against a relatively small force, Lepidus crossed the Apennines to take on the Ligurian tribes on the other side.11 Finding another pocket of resistance, he vowed another temple, this time to the queen of the heavens, Juno Regina. Again, he received divine favor and routed the enemy.12

The two goddesses to whom Lepidus prayed for victory and promised temples in return shared mythological characteristics. Derived from Greek deities, Juno and Diana had been worshiped on the Italian Peninsula for centuries by the time of M. Aemilius Lepidus's prayers, and they were seen as protectors of soldiers as well as promoters of fertility.13 Each had been honored with her first Roman temple on the Aventine Hill.14 Additionally, Juno's first temple also had been built after a battlefield vow, and, as we shall see, Lepidus's act of battlefield piety followed two centuries of Roman tradition.15

With two victories under his belt and two temples to erect, Lepidus headed back to Rome. He had reason to move quickly. Word had been received that his old nemesis, Fulvius Nobilior, had just returned to the capital from Aetolia and was pressing for the award of a triumphal parade, an extraordinary honor granted only by the Senate and only for significant victories.16 Lepidus anticipated such a move and had his agents in the Senate assert that it was improper for a triumph to be awarded before the current consul could return and weigh in on the issue.17 The Senate rebuffed the effort, and the celebration was scheduled for January. Rightfully fearful that Lepidus would press the attack once in Rome, Fulvius Nobilior pushed forward the date to December 23, 187 B.C.E., and thus was able to parade through Rome's streets with a remarkable triumph before Lepidus could get back to the city. Later the next year, Fulvius continued the festivities with ten days of entertainment with actors and athletic competition. Like the triumphal procession, these events were another tribute awarded for major wartime success.18

Temporarily outwitted by his rival's ephemeral honors, Lepidus nevertheless was able to memorialize his victories over the Ligurians with permanent shrines. This was accomplished by the construction of the vowed temples of Diana and Juno Regina. The two temples were dedicated on December 23, 179 B.C.E., a year in which, ironically, he served as co-censor with Fulvius Nobilior and on the eighth anniversary of Fulvius's earlier triumph.19 The two temples were placed along the edge of the Circus Flaminius, a location that, as we shall see, was likely along the triumphal parade route. The Severan Marble Plan, a third-century C.E. stone map of the city, reveals that the temple to Juno Regina was situated along the southeast side, but the precise location of the one to Diana has not been determined (Figure 7, and Plan 2, Inset B).20 In what may have been an attempt at self-promotion at the expense of his rival, Lepidus not only dedicated both temples on the same day in December but, on the previous day, dedicated a temple vowed in battle by a deceased relative.21

7. Detail, Vat. Lat. 3439 f.23r. Temple of Juno Regina after the Severan Marble Plan (sixteenth century). (Photo: with permission of Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, with all rights reserved)

Fulvius, though, was not going to be outdone. Less than fifty meters to the northwest of Lepidus's temple of Juno Regina on the long north side of the Circus Flaminius, a temple containing nine bronze statues of Muses taken during Fulvius's Ambracian campaign as well as a statue of Hercules with a lyre was dedicated.22 The temple, shown later on the Severan Marble Plan as Hercules Musarum, was additionally embellished by Fulvius with a small bronze shrine, said to date to the time of King Numa, as well as a calendar (Figure 8, and Plan 2, No. 7). Because Numa was celebrated as the reformer of the calendar, the dedication may be seen as an honorary reference to Rome's second king.23 The ancient sources do not tell us if, like Lepidus, Fulvius vowed the temple during battle. It nonetheless has been convincingly argued that this was the case since the construction of the Temple of Hercules Musarum was underway, if not completed, at the time he was co-censor in 179 B.C.E.24

8. Detail, Vat. Lat. 3439 f.22r. Temple of Hercules Musarum after the Severan Marble Plan (sixteenth century). (Photo: with permission of Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, with all rights reserved)

Why were these temples of Hercules, Diana, and Juno Regina placed on the southern fringe of the Campus Martius in the Circus Flaminius and not somewhere else? No literary evidence offers an answer to this question or, indeed, illuminates the reasons for siting any republican temple within Rome.25 Nevertheless, the patterns of temple location, placed in their historical contexts, provide clues that allow reasonable conjecture on this issue and also inform the discussion of topographical development in general in the Campus Martius.

Constructing Temples in Republican Rome

There were three essential ways that proposals for the construction of temples were initiated during the republic. They could be vowed by generals in battle, suggested by the officials (aediles) charged with maintaining public buildings, or decreed by the Senate after consultation with the set of Greek oracles known as the Sibylline Books.26 Of the forty-eight temples built in Rome between the end of the sixth century and the middle of the first century B.C.E. whose method of foundation has been identified, more than half were the result of battlefield vows.27 The middle republic was the most prolific period for temples vowed by generals, with eleven vowed in a twenty-one-year span, between 201 and 180 B.C.E.28 With respect to those temples promised on the battlefield, there were three steps that tradition required to be completed. First came the vota nuncupata, or vow made by a magistrate.29 Second was the locatio, a term that had two possible aspects: site selection and award of the construction contract.30 The third element in temple building was the dedicatio, or dedication of the completed structure. Each step played an important role in the process and likely influenced temple placement in order to magnify the honor brought to the general, the state, and the god.

A variety of battlefield circumstances inspired such vows. Some were offered in hope of victory during the heat of battle, and divine benevolence required reciprocation.31 This was the case with the first vowed temple in the Campus Martius, the temple of the goddess Bellona, constructed just to the southeast of the area where the Circus Flaminius was later built (Plan 2, Inset C). In 296 B.C.E., while in the midst of a chaotic skirmish with the Etruscans and Samnites, the consul Appius Claudius Caecus reportedly raised his arms with his palms to the sky and cried, “Bellona, if today thou grant us the victory, then do I vow thee a temple.”32 This action appears to have inspired his men and promoted discipline up and down the lines: the enemy was routed. Another example of inspiring soldiers with a battlefield vow occurred in 197 B.C.E., when the consul Cornelius Cethegus vowed a temple to Juno “the Savior” (Juno Sospita), a protector of soldiers in battle, which was later built on the southwest edge of the Campus Martius in the Forum Holitorium (Plan 2, Inset D).33 As Livy notes, when Cethegus vowed to construct the temple “if the enemy should be routed and put to flight that day, the soldiers shouted out that they would bring about the fulfillment of the consul's vow and the attack on the enemy began.”34 Sometimes vows were made when the victory of the engagements were never really in doubt, such as those made to Diana and Juno Regina by Lepidus during his battles with the Ligurians. In other cases generals promised to raise a temple after the bloodshed had stopped, in thanks to a god for victory.35 In all events, the vow was a sacred act, and a general who was cavalier in his obedience to religious ritual risked dire consequences on the battlefield, including his own demise.36

Why a particular god was called on in the midst of battle is uncertain, but the choice could have consequences for temple location. For instance, some scholars have accepted the proposition that if a temple was built to honor a foreign cult, it had to be placed outside the pomerial line.37 If indeed this was the case, it is doubtful that a vowing general would be ignorant of the tradition and of its implications for site selection when considering the deity from whom to seek assistance.38 Applying an extrapomerial rule for temples vowed to foreign deities would not necessarily place them in the Campus Martius, only outside the city, but some gods identified as “foreign” had temples in the Campus Martius, including Apollo and Feronia.39 Apart from the possible limitations on the placement of temples of foreign deities, the first-century B.C.E. architect Vitruvius spelled out a few rules concerning temples of particular gods. As noted in Chapter 2, temples of Mars should be located outside the city where the god could “preserve the [citizens] from their enemies.”40 Temples of Vulcan, the god of fire and smitheries, should “be away from the city, which would consequently be freed from the danger of fire; the divinity presiding over that element being drawn away by the rites and sacrifices performing in his temple.”41 Temples of Hercules, “if there be neither amphitheatre nor gymnasium…should be near the circus.” Temples of Apollo should be placed near the theater, and those of Isis and Serapis should be honored in the marketplace.42 These rules conflating the religious and the practical were articulated in the late republic, and it is not known whether Vitruvius was summarizing traditional principles that would have been considered at the time the temples in the Campus Martius were vowed and constructed. The extent to which a vowing general consciously selected a deity in order to provide a reason for placing a temple in a particular location or made the choice for other reasons, and subsequently was confined by his decision, is unknown. It is possible that suggestions – subtle or otherwise – with respect to a temple vow, were made to the consul at the time of his election to office. As the Senate retained supreme authority in religious matters, the consul may have had guidance as to the god whose help he should beseech, providing collective advance influence over temple location.43

After a general returned to Rome, the locatio would commence. There is significant debate as to whether the Senate had to ratify the vow made by the magistrate before the temple could be built, with one scholar arguing that a temple could not become part of the state religion, effectively blocking assistance for its construction, if the Senate did not approve of the vow.44 This issue is problematic, as we have but one known example where a temple vow was submitted for ratification to the Senate (which did, in fact, approve it) and one example where the Senate rejected a magistrate's vow (but it was for games, not a temple).45 If the Senate did play a role in approval of vowed temples, consensus between general and the Senate must have been very high.46

Implicated in the question of the Senate's role in approving the construction of the temple is the source of the funds to build these costly structures. Most scholars believe that temples vowed in battle were financed with the general's retained war booty ormanubiae.47 While it was expected that most captured wealth would be turned over to the state treasury, a part, the manubiae, could be kept by a general for his own use, whether that be for personal aggrandizement or expenditure on his soldiers, officers, and even friends.48 Beginning in the fourth century B.C.E., manubiae were used for the public good as well, being expended on such diversions as games and spectacles, but primarily financing the construction of buildings, which were almost always temples.49 By one count, from the fourth century B.C.E. to the beginning of the Second Punic War in 218 B.C.E., 80 percent of Rome's temple construction was financed with the magistrates’ manubiae.50 Numerous battles during this period provided both the opportunities for generals to vow temples and the captured booty with which to finance them,51 creating what has been described as the golden age of temple construction by generals.52 Although it has been argued that war booty empowered a general to build a temple where he saw fit, the Senate is known to have played a role in at least some such projects, and it likely could not be ignored with impunity.53

The final stage in the construction process was the dedicatio, a ceremony that often took place some years after the vowing of the temple. The dedicatio had to be performed by someone with proper legal authority. Often the consul who vowed the structure would dedicate it while serving as censor.54 Although the Senate could play a role through the appointment of special officials known as duumviri aedi dedicandae to perform dedications, most often vowed temples were dedicated by the magistrate who had promised the structure on the battlefield or by close kin. Of seventeen temples where both the person vowing and the one dedicating are known, twelve were dedicated by the vowers or by their kinsmen.55 That was the case with respect to M. Aemilius Lepidus, who dedicated three temples in 179 B.C.E., two vowed personally and a third that had been vowed by his deceased relative. The Temple of Hercules Musarum built by Fulvius Nobilior likely adds another to the list. While vowing a temple helped secure a general's place in history, the dedication, often accompanied by games and great ceremony, brought immediate glory. Lepidus, for instance, obtained funds from the Senate to help finance games in connection with the dedications, holding them over five days – three for Juno and two for Diana.56

Of the approximately eighty temples constructed in republican Rome, about twenty were built in the Campus Martius, but most in the Field of Mars were not erected until the period of the Punic Wars. The first, the Temple of Apollo Medicus, dedicated in 431B.C.E. following an outbreak of plague, sat alone on the edge of the later-built Circus Flaminius for 137 years until a second, the Temple of Bellona, was placed next to it.57 The only other known “structure” in the Campus Martius during this period was the Villa Publica and, perhaps, the Altar to Mars, but as the Villa Publica was likely nothing more than a cleared area at that date, the Apollo Medicus temple is the first major architectural structure known to have occupied the Field of Mars.

When the Temple of Bellona was vowed and erected, the central Campus Martius was used primarily for the census and for collecting and training troops for battle. Between the time of its construction at the beginning of the third century B.C.E. and the advent of the wars with the Carthaginians three decades later, twelve temples were promised in battle and subsequently built in Rome, but none in the Campus Martius.58 With the First Punic War, however, came a perceptible shift favoring greater construction of temples on the edge of and, indeed, in the heart of the Field of Mars. Of approximately thirty-one temples identified with vow dates during the period of the three Punic Wars, about half are believed to have been located in the campus.59 Three nodes (areas of concentration) of temple construction developed there during this period: the Forum Holitorium and the Circus Flaminius on the southern end, and the area we now call the Largo Argentina in the central Campus Martius.

The Forum Holitorium is of uncertain date and the structures that were erected prior to the Punic Wars are unknown, although one ancient writer claimed it was Rome's earliest vegetable market.60 In 260 B.C.E., however, the first of three temples promised to the gods during the period of the Punic Wars was vowed and later built there.61 Dedicated to Janus and vowed by the consul C. Duilius, this first temple honored the victory over the Carthaginian fleet off the coast of Sicily.62 Fast on the heels of the construction of that temple came another. Vowed to Spes, the goddess of hope, it was placed in the Forum Holitorium in line with that of Janus, but at a sufficient distance to allow for a later temple to be erected between them.63 Although its date of completion is unknown, the Temple of Spes was in existence by 218 B.C.E., when Livy records that it was struck by lightning.64 In 194 B.C.E., construction of the Temple of Juno Sospita filled the gap between the temples of Janus and Spes.65 Its foundations are thought to be within the Church of S. Nicola in Carcere with the remains of the Temple of Janus to the north and that of Spes to the south (Figure 9, and Plan 2, Inset D).66

9. South wall of the Church of S. Nicola in Carcere with the imbedded columns of the Temple of Juno Sospita. (Photo: Paul Jacobs)

Within a decade of the construction of the Temple of Janus in the Forum Holitorium, foundation blocks were laid in the heart of the Campus Martius, in the area of the modern Largo Argentina, for temples of other gods. Although the podiums and columns of several temples came to light there in the early twentieth century, debate still rages over the identity of each; hence, they are usually described as temples A through D (Figure 10; Plan 2, Inset A; and Plan 3, Inset A). A temple raised to honor Juturna, goddess of fountains and springs, is thought to have been built in approximately 242 B.C.E. in the Largo Argentina. Both temples A and C have been proposed for its location.67 After the destruction in 241 B.C.E. of the Etrurian city of Falerii, about fifty kilometers north of Rome, the cult of Juno Curitis was brought to Rome, and a temple in her honor was built in the area of the Largo Argentina. Temples A and C, too, have been offered as the remains of her shrine.68 Additionally, they have been suggested as the location for a temple to the fertility goddess, Feronia.69 Another candidate for the temples found in the Largo Argentina is that dedicated to the Lares Permarini (Lares of the Sea), the result of a vow in 190 B.C.E. made by L. Aemilius Regillus while engaged in a decisive naval battle against the ships of Antiochus the Great.70 As noted previously, it was dedicated eleven years later in 179 B.C.E. by his relative, M. Aemilius Lepidus, who had a lengthy inscription carved over the door detailing the enemy's defeat.71 Two sites have been proposed for its construction: Temple D in the Largo Argentina and a small temple about 150 meters to the east across from the later-built Theater of Balbus.72

10. East side of temples in the Largo Argentina. (Photo: Paul Jacobs)

The third location, the Circus Flaminius, became the most concentrated area for republican temples in the Campus Martius. A public square created by C. Flaminius Nepos when he was censor in 221 B.C.E., the circus was located within an area previously known as the “Flaminian Field” (prata flaminia) that Livy tells us was used as early as the fifth century B.C.E. for public gatherings such as plebian councils.73 Despite the use of the term “circus,” the Circus Flaminius had neither architectural elements nor permanent seating, and the appellation confused even ancient writers.74 Its long axis went from southeast to northwest, following the line of the river and that of two earlier temples (of Apollo Medicus and Bellona) beyond the southeast side. Lacking a clear architectural structure, the space was defined by the buildings that enclosed it, with the first known structure being, perhaps, a temple erected by Flaminius himself (Plan 2, No. 10), dedicated to Hercules Magnus Custos (Hercules the Great Guardian).75 The circumstances of the founding of the temple of Hercules, as well as its name, remain a mystery, in large part because the books of Livy's history dealing with this time period are missing.76 The precise location and details of the temple are also unknown, although it may have been sited on the western end of the Circus Flaminius.77 Soon after the circus's establishment and the completion by Flaminius of his temple of Hercules Magnus Custos, a temple of the sea god Neptune was possibly constructed in the area. It was raised as early as 206 B.C.E. as Cassius Dio notes that one of the portents for that year was the profuse sweating of the doors and altar of such a temple.78 A gold coin issued a century and a half later depicts a temple that may represent a reconstructed version of the earlier shrine to the sea god (Plate III).79

Plate III Aureus of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus (ca. 41 B.C.E.). Reverse: Temple of Neptune?

Details about the next three temples built in the Circus Flaminius – of Diana, Juno Regina, and Hercules Musarum – are more certain, putting three and possibly five temples on the perimeter of the open space by the end of the first third of the second centuryB.C.E. There was, however, room for more. By 146 B.C.E., a temple of Juno's consort, Jupiter Stator, was located next to hers, the result, perhaps, of a vow by the praetor Q. Caecilius Metellus, who erected a portico that year following his successes during the Fourth Macedonian War (150–148 B.C.E.) and at least partially enclosing the two temples.80 Somewhere between the three temples in the Forum Holitorium and those in the Circus Flaminius, a temple of Pietas was dedicated in 181 B.C.E. (Plan 2, No. 8). Theidentification of its precise location remains in debate. Pliny claimed it stood where the Theater of Marcellus was later built, at the southeast corner of the circus, and this corresponds with Cassius Dio, who wrote that Julius Caesar tore down the temple in 44B.C.E. to make way for the theater, an act claimed to be very unpopular with the Roman people.81 The Temple of Pietas had been vowed by the consul M. Acilius Glabrio as he fought and then defeated the forces of Antiochus III the Great at the Battle of Thermopylae in 191B.C.E., bringing back a sizable amount of plunder.82 His son, who was serving as duumvir, dedicated the temple in 181 B.C.E. and honored his father by placing beside it a large, gilded statue of the elder Glabrio, the first of its kind in Rome.83

With the close of the Third Punic War in 146 B.C.E., the golden age of temple construction during the republican era came to a close. Three specific areas for temples had been established in the Campus Martius. Two of them – the Forum Holitorium and the Circus Flaminius – were loosely linked by three temples: those of Apollo Medicus, Bellona, and Pietas. In the period from the final defeat of the Carthaginians to the advent of the empire, three more temples embellished the vicinity of the Circus Flaminius, and one was constructed in the area of the Largo Argentina, further concentrating republican religious structures in those two nodes of the Field of Mars. In 133 B.C.E., D. Junius Brutus Callaicus, who conquered western Iberia, used his war spoils to build in the area of the Circus Flaminius the Temple of Mars discussed in Chapter 2.84 Later, perhaps around the turn of the first century B.C.E., a temple of the twin horsemen Castor and Pollux was erected on the edge of the Circus Flaminius, again on the southwest side (Plate V).85

Plate V Plan of the Temple of Castor and Pollux from the Forma Urbis di Via Anica

In the early first century B.C.E., a round temple was squeezed between temples A and C in the Largo Argentina. Known by the letter B, it is the one temple in the area whose true identity garners the greatest consensus (Figure 11, and Plan 3, Inset A). It is recognized to be dedicated to Fortuna Huiusce Diei. Vowed by Q. Lutatius Catulus on July 30, 101 B.C.E., at the Battle of Vercellae in northern Italy, the aedes contained extraordinary art, including two draped figures and a colossal nude by the fifth-centuryB.C.E.Athenian master Phidias, and seven nudes by a contemporary, Pythagoras of Samos.86 The monumental head of Fortuna found on site has been attributed to Skopas Minor (Plate IV).

11. West side of the Temple of Fortuna Huiusce Diei (Temple B, Largo Argentina). (Photo: Paul Jacobs)

Plate IV Head from area of the Temple of Fortuna Huiusce Diei (ca. 101 B.C.E.) attributed to Skopas Minor

Several factors converged to create the blossoming of temples in the Campus Martius from the beginning of the Punic Wars into the first century B.C.E. First, an extraordinary influx of money and art treasures from foreign conquest provided the means to construct and embellish costly stone monuments. Second, it became fashionable for such resources to be deployed in the erection of temples in a way that had not been previously seen. It has been suggested that in the fourth century B.C.E. there were more fortifications built in Italy than temples, but by the second century B.C.E., almost three times more temples than fortifications were raised. Temples composed almost half of all public structures erected during the second century B.C.E.87 Third, as Rome was growing quickly, space within the city for construction projects would have become more precious, making extrapomerial development more attractive.88 Specifically, the Campus Martius was recognized as available for temple placement, likely because its use for military mustering was decreasing with longer service abroad. In just two decades between 194 and 173 B.C.E., seven temples were dedicated in the Campus Martius.89 The extraordinary associations of the Field of Mars with military preparation together with its ties to the foundation legends must have made it singularly attractive for the placement of temples resulting directly from military vows, much more than other available sites also outside the pomerium.

While these factors might justify the appeal of the Campus Martius, they do not fully explain the clustering of the temples in the southern Campus Martius from the Circus Flaminius to the Forum Holitorium and the distinct node further north, in the area of the Largo Argentina. Different elements may have influenced each location. With respect to the Circus Flaminius, it has been suggested that certain temples make appropriate companions, and it is possible that the placement of one temple would influence the location of others. Jupiter Stator was long associated with Juno Regina, and it was natural for its placement to be adjacent to that of his consort.90 It has also been argued that, as co-censors in 179 B.C.E., the once-rivals M. Aemilius Lepidus and M. Fulvius Nobilior were reconciled and that it was appropriate for the latter's temple to Hercules Musarum to be erected only meters from Lepidus's Juno Regina.91 This theory is wholly dependent, however, on the notion that M. Fulvius Nobilior did not begin construction of his temple until the year he was censor and after Senate approval, points that are controverted.92

Perhaps the one factor that made the Circus Flaminius and the Forum Holitorium so attractive to generals vowing temples in battle was the area's ties to the triumphal route. Extraordinarily important events of religious, military, and political significance, thetriumphales were not granted lightly. According to Plutarch, their origins date to the time of Romulus.93 As noted previously, 200 triumphs were recorded from the mid-eighth century B.C.E. to the end of the republic. The general parading through Rome's streets was, at least for a day, viewed as omnipotent, and for life he carried the title of vir triumphalis, a man of triumph.94 According to the early first-century C.E. writer Valerius Maximus, 5,000 enemy combatants had to be slain in order to qualify for a triumph, but this rule was not strictly enforced.95 There were relatively few triumphs awarded until the late third and early second centuries B.C.E.96 Only twenty-two triumphal parades occurred in the fifth century B.C.E., while during the middle republic one in every three consuls celebrated a triumph.97 Between the years 200 and 167 B.C.E., they averaged more than one a year.98 Generals who were granted triumphs sponsored eleven of sixteen temples built in the Campus Martius from the commencement of the Punic Wars to the final defeat of the Carthaginians.

The wealth of foreign lands that supplied the source financing the construction of vowed temples and their ornamentation was first on conspicuous display during the victorious general's triumph. M. Fulvius Nobilior's triumphal parade in December 187B.C.E.celebrating his defeat of the Ambracians displayed golden crowns weighing 112 pounds as well as other gold objects weighing 243 pounds, 1,083 pounds of silver, 785 bronze statues, and 230 marble statues.99 The triumph twenty years later by Lucius AemiliusPaullus for his victory over Perseus of Macedon at Pydna required a full day to parade the looted statues and paintings displayed in 250 chariots.100 Perhaps the most extraordinary description of a triumph is that of the remarkable pageantry associated with the triumphal return to Rome of Pompey the Great after his defeat of Mithridates VI, the King of Pontus in northern Anatolia. This was Pompey's third awarded triumph, and he was now the conqueror of enemies on all of the known continents.101 Describing the spectacle that occurred at the end of September 61 B.C.E., the writer Appian noted that for two days Romans watched “two-horse carriages and litters laden with gold or with other ornaments of various kinds, also the couch of Darius…the throne and scepter of Mithridates Eupator himself, and his image, eight cubits high, made of solid gold, and 75,100,000 drachmas of silver coin; the number of wagons carrying arms was infinite, and the number of the beaks of ships. After these came the multitude of captives and pirates, none of them bound, but all arrayed in their native costumes.”102 Marching in the procession were 324 satraps, sons, and generals of the kings who had fought against Pompey followed by large tableaux of the battles. Aristobulus, the King of Judea, was brought in captivity from Jerusalem and walked in the procession followed by a team of African elephants pulling a chariot in which stood Pompey himself wearing the cloak of Alexander the Great.103 Although not all or even most triumphs had such conspicuous displays of war booty, those that did must have left a lasting impression on the spectators.104

Despite the colorful descriptions of the triumphal parades, the route taken by the general and his wagons of gold and silver is woefully incomplete. We know that they started outside of the city and to the north in the Campus Martius, but the precise location eludes modern determination. The best description of the gathering place for a triumph comes not from the republican period but from Josephus recounting the triumph in 71 C.E. of Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus celebrating the conquest of Jerusalem.105According to Josephus's account, the triumphatores spent the night in the central Campus Martius in or by the Temple of Isis, possibly in a building on the grounds of the Villa Publica (Figure 12), just east of the Saepta Julia and Pantheon, before moving on to the Portico of Octavia on the eastern side of the Circus Flaminius where official ceremonies commenced:106

All the soldiery marched out, while it was still night, in proper order and rank under their commanders, and they were stationed on guard not at the upper palace but near the Temple of Isis. For it was there that the emperor and prince were resting that night. At break of day Vespasian and Titus emerged, garlanded with laurel and dressed in the traditional purple costume, and went over to the Portico of Octavia. For it was here that the senate, the leading magistrates, and those of equestrian rank were awaiting their arrival. A platform had been erected in front of the colonnade, with thrones of ivory set on it. They went up to these and took their seats. Straightaway the troops broke into applause, bearing ample testimony one and all to their leaders’ valor. They were unarmed, in silken costume, garlanded with laurels. Acknowledging their applause, although the men wanted to continue, Vespasian gave the signal for silence.

When it was completely quiet everywhere, he rose, covered most of his head with his robe, and uttered the customary prayers. Titus prayed likewise. After the prayers, Vespasian briefly addressed the assembled company all together and then sent the soldiers off to the traditional breakfast provided by the emperors. He himself meanwhile went back to the gate that took its name from the fact triumphs always pass through it. Here he and Titus first had a bite to eat and then, putting on their triumphal dress and sacrificing to the gods whose statues are set up by the gate, they sent off the triumphal procession, riding out through the theaters so that the crowds had a better view.107

12. Pavilion in the Villa Publica (?). Reverse side of denarius of P. Fonteius Capito (ca. 59–55 B.C.E.). (Photo: Trustees of the British Museum)

Whether Vespasian and Titus followed a route different from that used by the many triumphatores before the advent of the empire is simply unknown, although it is generally thought today that the Circus Flaminius served as the initial collecting point for the beginning of the parade, at least after its development in 221 B.C.E.108 If initiated in the Circus Flaminius, the triumphal parade would have then moved past the temples of Apollo Medicus and Bellona and the temples in the Forum Holitorium, perhaps entering the city through the Porta Carmentalis.109 The procession may have then passed through the Circus Maximus, entering the Roman Forum from the south end and wending its way up the Capitoline to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.110

Livy's descriptions of the Senate's debates over awarding triumphs occurring in the nearby Temple of Bellona also lend weight to the theory that this area marked the seminal point for these processions.111 The Temple of Apollo next to that of Bellona was also used by the Senate to consider requests by generals for triumphal parades, including that of M. Fulvius Nobilior, an effort that, as we saw earlier, was opposed by the agents for his rival M. Aemilius Lepidus.112 The cumulative evidence indicates that those temples placed in the Circus Flaminius and along the line running from the temples of Bellona and Apollo to the Forum Holitorium stood within direct view of triumphal parades. It is not clear when the Circus Flaminius was first used for the formation of triumphal parades, but certainly the formalization of the public space by Flaminius must have encouraged that activity.113

In short, generals who vowed sacred structures during battle, deployed large amounts of war booty in their construction financing or ornamentation, and sought and achieved triumphs could further burnish their glory by placement of these temples along the triumphal route. Indeed, one general, Aulus Atilius Calatinus, placed temples in two spots along the triumphal route – one honoring Spes in the Forum Holitorium and another dedicated to Fides (goddess of trust) on the south side of the Capitoline, at the end of the triumphal route114 – allowing him to memorialize his name with two structures in prime locations. Atilius Calatinus's good works would have been clearly visible to future triumphatores as they marched past. Even to the extent that state funds and notmanubiaefinanced temple construction, the high degree of consensus that prevailed in these matters suggests that a general would not be denied the desirable opportunity to place his temple along the triumphal route. Although display of captured wealth in temples may have been of greater significance to a general than the temple itself,115 the fact that a temple was chosen to be vowed by generals who thereafter sought personal glory in triumph and, more often than not, participated in elaborate dedication ceremonies indicates an interest in a location that future triumphatores would have to pass. A small but telling piece of evidence for this proposition is that while Fulvius placed a bronze shield in his temple of Hercules, Lepidus had a Ligurian shield placed in the Temple of Juno Regina, a clear reminder to future passersby of their military victories.116

Although the triumphal route provided an appealing stretch of real estate for temples in the southern Campus Martius, there is little to support the proposition that it reached further north into the central area of the field.117 Nevertheless, there were other reasons a general looking for a temple site would find the central Campus Martius appealing. Since the fifth century B.C.E., the Villa Publica – near, if not adjacent to, the temples in the Largo Argentina – provided a gathering place for the census and military levies. The centuriate assemblies met to vote in the nearby Saepta. Military leaders seeking a space wherein to remind future crowds of citizens and soldiers of their victories and good deeds could hardly find a more fitting space.118 Vowed temples could also be useful campaign tools for generals or their kinsmen running in elections.119 Indeed, as the Circus Flaminius was not developed until 221 B.C.E., the area by the Villa Publica likely had early appeal to conquering generals laden with treasure from battles with the Carthaginians. Despite arguments that, for generals seeking temple placement in the public eye, the area around the Villa Publica with its infrequent centuriate assemblies would be less attractive than the crowded fora and circus, as many as four temples were placed in the area of the Largo Argentina before the construction of the first ones in the Circus Flaminius.120

Apart from the proximity to the Villa Publica, the temples in and near the Largo Argentina honored gods with relationships to one another, providing clues to site selection. For instance, as discussed in Chapter 6, a few temples of water deities – Juturna,Feronia, the Lares Permarini, and a temple of the Nymphs – were clustered together (Figure 13).121 The proximity of the Tiber and the alluvial nature of the topography of the central Campus Martius, in particular the low-lying waters of the Goat Marsh, made this area appealing for honoring that element. Alternatively, Catulus's selection of the Largo Argentina to honor Juturna after a naval victory may have been due to a desire to be within view of the Villa Publica, and the fulfillment of his vow then started a trend of clustering water-related temples in this area.122 Associations with Rome's foundation legends provide a plausible explanation for the presence of certain other temples in the area. Plutarch notes that the name for the deified Romulus, Quirinus, may come from the word for spear (quiris) and is tied etymologically to Juno Curitis who carries a spear and whose temple was located in the area of the Theater of Pompey.123 Vulcan's temple located in the Campus Martius was, according to Plutarch, used by Romulus to hold meetings with senators, although its construction actually occurred four centuries after the city's mythical founding.124 Juturna, in turn, was connected to the Vulcanalia, a festival that acknowledged the protective employment of water to combat the constant dangers of Vulcan's fire.125 In short, the legends of the gods and their celebration interweave to suggest tantalizing possibilities for the siting of vowed temples in the area of the Largo Argentina. The fact remains, however, that the Largo Argentina, CircusFlaminius, and Forum Holitorium were all in view of significant public gathering places associated with the military and so were all appropriate places to honor gods whose aid was invoked in battle. The sacred structures resonated the field's long history as a mustering ground.

13. Temple on the Via delle Botteghe Oscure (Temple of the Nymphs?). (Photo: Paul Jacobs)

The Temples and their Designs

Before the Punic Wars, temples constructed in the Campus Martius reflected traditional architectural elements used by the Etruscans and other tribes of the Italian Peninsula. Characterized by tall bases or podiums with two or four wide-spaced columns supporting a deep porch (pronaos) and accented with molded terracotta ornamentation, these so-called “Etrusco-Roman” temples included the earliest versions of temples A and C in the Largo Argentina.126 Both structures sat on high podiums of volcanic tufa, and both weretetrastyle (four columns fronting the pronaos). Temple A, with columns only in the front (prostyle), was much smaller than C, which also had five columns down each side (peripteral).127 At the southern edge of the Campus Martius, the fifth-century B.C.E. Temple of Apollo Medicus and the early third-century B.C.E. Temple of Bellona would have exhibited similar characteristics.128

The complicated alliances of the later Punic Wars led Rome's military to the east where victories allowed the generals to send back more than captured wealth and enemy soldiers; they also carried to Rome the architectural elements of the Greek mainland that began to be incorporated into temple design.129 There was no rapid conversion but rather a synthesis of the two styles. For instance, in the Forum Holitorium, the temples of Janus, Juno Sospita, and Spes combined the tall platforms and deep porches of older Roman architecture with the more numerous and closely placed columns characteristic of Greek temples.130 Each had six columns (hexastyle) across the pronaos with Juno Sospita and Spes displaying eleven columns down each side.131 With a combined total of eighteen columns across their fronts, the three temples suggested, according to one scholar, a “portico-like front to a common sacred area.”132 If so, it was hardly a uniform portico as the porches were of different heights and Janus and Juno Sospita had Ionic columns as might be found in Greece while Spes's columns were still in the Tuscan style.133

In the Circus Flaminius, the Temple of Juno Regina erected by M. Aemilius Lepidus and the Temple of Jupiter Stator, built several decades later by Metellus, incorporated even more Hellenistic elements. Juno Regina had six tall, fluted columns with Ionic capitals across the front. Filled with beautiful Greek statuary, including a statue of Diana by Cephisodotus, son of the famed Praxiteles, as well as a marble statue of the god of medicine, Aesculapius, the temple reflected Roman appreciation of Greek design and decoration.134 Designed by a Greek architect, Hermodorus of Salamis, the Temple of Jupiter Stator was also hexastyle and peripteral with a narrow cella.135 More importantly, it was the first temple in Rome to have been built entirely of marble, a material later used in copious amounts during the imperial age.136 Hellenistic influence continued when Hermodorus designed another temple located on or near the Circus Flaminius, the Temple of Mars.137

New ideas were not exempt from alteration, however, as Vitruvius remarks on the recombination of elements in the design of the nearby Temple of Castor and Pollux, which bore a transverse cella and six-columned porch (Plate V).138 Another example of the synthesis of Roman aesthetic with Hellenistic architectural ideals is found in the rendering on the Marble Plan of the temple to Hercules Musarum, also along the Circus Flaminius. The Marble Plan shows the temple to Hercules Musarum to have been a Greek-style round temple (tholos) resting on a rectangular platform requiring an axial approach and bearing a staircase of five steps (see Figure 8).139 The last temple built in the Largo Argentina, Temple B (Fortuna Huiusce Diei), was also a tholos, surrounded by eighteen Corinthian columns and approached by stairs set on an axis that conformed to an earlier, traditional plan (see Figure 11).140

By the end of the third century B.C.E. and with the conclusion of the Second Punic War, Rome was filling with structures to meet a growing population. Edifices from this time still reflected the traditional Etrusco-Roman architectural styles criticized by Macedonian generals.141 Over time, however, many of the republican temples in the Campus Martius were altered in accordance with the increasingly popular Greek style. Temples A and C in the Largo Argentina began with Tuscan Doric columns but ended with those in the Corinthian style. In the case of Temple A, the base was increased in size, columns were increased in number along the front of the pronaos from four to six, and they were added along the sides and back where none had previously been.142Although the original temples in the Largo Argentina were built at different ground levels, during the late second century B.C.E. and again in the first century C.E., the ground level was raised to a uniform height, reducing the height of the temple platforms and providing a more Hellenistic portico-like appearance to the complex.143

In the area of the Circus Flaminius, the Temple of Apollo underwent a radical transformation during the late first century B.C.E. The Temple of Apollo Medicus as rebuilt by Fulvius Nobilior in 179 B.C.E. had four columns across the front and two on the side, but the triumviral general C. Sosius placed six Corinthian columns along the front, six engaged columns along the back of the cella, and a combination of ten full and engaged columns along each side.144 Three of its beautiful marble columns may be seen today, reerected on site (Plate VI), and remnants of its decorative elements from the cella are on view in Rome's Museo Centrale Montemartini (Figure 14). The name of the temple changed as well and became known as Apollo Sosianus. The temple of the goddess of war, Bellona, next to the Apollo aedes was rebuilt in marble and travertine with six Corinthian columns along the front and nine along the sides.145 The temples of Juno Regina and Jupiter Stator were refurbished with libraries in the late first century B.C.E. byAugustus's sister Octavia.146 (Compare Plan 2, Inset B, and Plan 3, Inset B.) When the porticoes surrounding the temples in the Circus Flaminius are considered in combination with the temples themselves, the sum reflects not only an assimilation of Hellenistic architectural aesthetic but also the development of a new, distinctly Roman style of the imperial age.147

14. Aedicula from the cella of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus (ca. 32 B.C.E.). (Photo: Paul Jacobs, published with permission of Roma, Musei Capitolini, Centrale Montemartini)

Plate VI Temple of Apollo Sosianus (ca. 29 B.C.E.), partial restoration


Although for centuries the Campus Martius remained relatively free of structures as the space within the pomerium began to fill, in the late third century to the mid-second century B.C.E. it witnessed a significant change. This period of the Punic Wars saw consuls and praetors leading Rome's legions in distant places and seeking divine intervention to assure victory. With temples vowed and the riches of conquered foreign kings at their disposal, and with no clear military imperative to leave the Campus Martius free of brick and stone, returning generals found the field north of Rome to be an attractive location for honoring the gods who brought them victory. Although the role of the Senate in the decision of temple site selection is debatable, certainly a consensus must have developed that the Field of Mars was now an appropriate place in which to erect these structures. Perhaps in some cases the gods honored in the Campus Martius were not to be worshiped within the walls, clarifying perhaps the decision for their temples’ extrapomerial location. More significant, however, must have been the fact that for a people almost continuously at war, temples vowed in battle were a natural fit for a space tied to both military activities and foundation myths. Clustered along the triumphalroute or within clear view of the location for civic events, the temples were not randomly placed but were situated with care to maximize the connection between the vowing general and the military significance of the Field of Mars. Filled with the spoils of war and over time incorporating the Hellenistic architectural traditions, which were appropriated as deliberately as foreign captives paraded in chains, these monuments helped to organize the Campus Martius for future uses while maintaining traditions supporting the military impulses behind foundation legends such as Romulus's apotheosis among his gathered troops.

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