Temple of Divus Julius


“But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there.”
Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Christian Hulsen. The Roman Forum, its history and its monuments, 1906.

The Temple of Divus Julius. On the east side of the Forum is a large concrete core, in the front of which has been cut a semi-circular niche, at present partly covered by a wooden roof. It belongs to the temple of Caesar. When on March isth, B. C. 44, the dictator Caesar was killed in the Curia of Pompey, his followers carried his body to the Forum; and there Antony delivered that famous speech by means of which he excited the populace to a passionate enthusiasm for him who had been slain. From the tribunal of the praetor chairs, tables and boardings were fetched, and in front of the Regia an extemporized funeral-pyre was built, upon which the body was burned. The ashes were placed in the family burial-place of the Julii in the Campus Martius, and on tin spot in the Forum where the body had been burned a column was erected bearing the inscription: “To the father of his country” (parenli palriae], and in front of it a sacrificial altar was placed. To be sure this monument lasted but a short time: the consul Dolabella, a few weeks later, took away both the column and the altar, and laid a new pavement. But in B. C. 42 the triumvirs (Octavian, Antony, Lepidus) decided to build on the same spot a temple in honour of Caesar, who had been placed among the gods. gods. The temple appears on a coin of Octavian which was minted between B. C. 37 and 34: on it may be distinguished the statue of Caesar with the augur’s rod (lituus), the comet in the pediment (see below), and in front of the portico a round altar. But the civil wars which followed delayed the actual dedication, and it was not until August i8th B. C. 29 that the temple was dedicated by Augustus. In remembrance of the events at Caesar’s funeral, possibly also in remembrance of Caesar’s own project to transfer the Rostra to the lower end of the Forum, the facade of the temple was very peculiarly formed: in front of the pronaos a platform was built which could serve as a Rostra, and which like the old Rostra was decorated with the beaks of ships, in this case trophies of the fleet of Cleopatra which had been defeated at Actium. The later history of the temple is very little known: the Rostra (rostra ad Divi Juli) are mentioned in connection with the funeral ceremonies of members of the imperial family. An address of Hadrian to the populace in front of the temple of Caesar is represented on the coins which are here reproduced. In the reign of Septimius Severus the temple was injured by fire, possibly at the same time as the Regia and the temple of Vesta, but was restored: it survived the fall of paganism, but its ultimate fate is unknown. The concrete core of the substructure has been pre- Fig. 86. Tcraplum Divi Juli. served: the architectural fragments ot marble were carried off by the plundering excavations of the xvi. century. The semi-circular niche, with its back wall of blocks of brown tufa, which is let into the middle of the facade, is the part best preserved. In 1898 the base of a large, probably round, altar was discovered in this niche. In late antiquity the niche itself was closed by a wall of blocks of grey-green tufa roughly joined together; probably this was done in Christian times, when the desire was felt to preserve the building as a monument of the first emperor and at the same time to prevent its use for pagan worship. On the right side and the left near the niche the facade was continued by two pieces of straight wall on which the beaks of the ships were fastened. On both sides narrow staircases led up to the platform (the Rostra), and from there a flight of a few steps led to the vestibule, which had six columns with composite capitals. In the cella stood the statue of Divus Julius, and over his forehead the cornet which had appeared shortly before his death. The fragments of architecture which have been found belong mostly to the restoration of Severus and are of careless workmanship. The cella is rather shallow in proportion to its width, but the explanation for this, as well as for the curious position of the altar in the middle of the facade, is to be found in the fact that a very limited area was at the disposal of the architect.

Hulsen, Christian. The Roman Forum, its history and its monuments. Rome: Loescher; New York, G. E. Stechert, 1906.

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AUTHOR(S) AND LAST UPDATE Stephanie Sepúlveda &John William Bailly  10 April 2018

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