The Flavians | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Flavians | Roman Architecture | Second edition


The Flavians | Roman Architecture | Second edition

A new chapter in Roman architectural history opens with the accession of Vespasian in December ad 69, the year of the four emperors. His career had been a distinguished one. He commanded a legion in the invasion of Britain in ad 43, was consul suffectus (stand-in consul) for two months at the end of ad 51, governor of Africa in the ad 50s and sent by Nero to suppress the revolt in Judaea as a result of which he gained supreme power.

His successes were somewhat surprising in view of his modest background. The son of a tax collector of equestrian rank who hailed from Reate (Rieti), a provincial town north of Rome, he was a plain, unaffected man, in contrast to the aristocratic Julio-Claudians who had preceded him. He became popular with both his troops and the Roman people and was an efficient administrator.

When he became emperor he lived simply, preferring the Gardens of Sallust to the Domus Aurea (Dio, 65.10.4). He ordered that the gates were to remain open and no guard was to be posted. One of his first tasks was to set Rome’s finances in order and this meant raising taxes. He retained his popularity in spite of this but could not escape a reputation for stinginess.

His portraits show him as a square-shouldered, stocky man who, according to Suetonius, always looked constipated, an expression well captured in his private portraits (Suet., Vesp. 20). His public ones on the other hand show him as the new sculptural ideal, the sound, mature, middle-aged man.

The Flavians | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Roman Empire he inherited was torn by rebellion. A major uprising in Gaul required two legions to suppress. The revolt in Judaea resulted in the destruction of the Jewish temple. When Vespasian finally arrived in Rome in ad 70 he faced further problems.

The great fire of ad 64 had caused widespread damage and, as Tacitus notes (Ann. 15.43), the business of carting away mountains of rubble to the Ostian marshes occupied a good part of Vespasian’s reign. He also had to rebuild the Capitoline temple which had been burnt down by the supporters of Vitellius in ad 69.

The new temple was built on exactly the same plan as the old, although the columns are shown in coins as Corinthian. The rebuilding of the Capitolium in Rome may have inspired the people of Brixia (Brescia), who built a magnificent new Capitolium a few years later in ad 73.

It replaced a Republican sanctuary built in the early first century bc which consisted of four temples each with a separate staircase leading up to it. The walls were decorated with rich Second Style paintings, several of which survive. The new Capitolium has three cellae joined together behind a Corinthian portico which projects forward in front of the central cella to form a hexastyle porch.

The relationship between the six columns of the portico and the smaller flanking columns may be compared to the Temple of Peace described in the text that follows. The theatre of Marcellus may also have been damaged in the conflagration of ad 69.

At any rate, it appears that Vespasian dedicated a new scene building for it and celebrated its reopening with great festivities and formal dinners, to encourage the victualing trade, as Suetonius dryly notes (Vesp. 19). According to the Marble Plan the new scene building was rectilinear, possibly suggesting that it followed the layout of the original theatre, which was begun relatively early in the reign of Augustus at a time when many contemporary theatres, such as that at Ostia, still had a rectilinear scaenae frons.

Vespasian soon showed himself a conscientious man, committed to restoring both Rome’s finances and its buildings. He also turned out to be a master propagandist, issuing coins in honour of his victories and the peace which he had brought, encouraging historians to write favourably about his reign and extolling the Flavian dynasty by means of a constant stream of architectural and sculptural marvels. However, he upset the senate by his insistence that his sons, Titus and Domitian, should succeed him.

It was Vespasian’s policy to carefully promote both his sons and simultaneously to distance himself from Nero and his extravagant ways. One of Vespasian’s early acts of piety was to complete the Temple of Claudius, which, according to Suetonius, had been begun by Agrippina, Nero’s mother and the fourth wife of Claudius (Suet., Vesp. 9). However, it had been almost entirely demolished by her son after he murdered his mother in ad 59.

By completing the temple Vespasian reaffirmed himself as the legitimate heir of the Julio-Claudians while distancing himself from the last of that dynasty. The temple, whose layout is known from the Marble Plan of Rome, stood on a platform measuring 175 × 205 metres and faced west towards the Palatine (Figure 5.5).

Another early project was the enormous Templum Pacis (Temple of Peace), considered one of the three most beautiful buildings in the world by Pliny (Nat.Hist. 36.24.102). It was built from booty (ex manubiis) between ad 71 and 75 to commemorate the victory in Judaea.

A space was left between it and the Fora of Julius Caesar and of Augustus for the Argiletum, a narrow street, and for the underlying branches of the Cloaca Maxima, later filled by the Forum of Nerva (Figure 3.2). The complex could not extend any further in the other direction because of the Velia, a spur of land which once linked the Palatine with the Esquiline (cut away in 1933 to make way for the road now known as the Via dei Fori Imperiali).

The land on which the Temple of Peace was built was vacant at the time of Vespasian because Nero had replaced the old meat market which stood there with a large new one (the macellum magnum) on the Caelian hill. The excavations of 1998–2000 have revealed parts of the Templum of Peace.

It consisted of a rectangular enclosure, measuring 110 × 105 metres, surrounded by colonnades of pink Egyptian granite with shafts 8.48 metres high and bases, capitals and entablatures of white marble. The roofs had tiles and antefixes of Carrara marble. In the middle of the SE side stood the temple itself, with the six pink granite columns of its façade, 14.78 metres (50 Roman feet) high, built flush with the flanking colonnades.

The cult statue of Peace, probably seated, stood in the shallow apse at the back of the temple on a 3-metre-high base of brick veneered with marble. In the halls flanking the Temple of Peace were placed many of the treasures brought from Jerusalem, including the silver trumpets and the seven-branched candlestick (Josephus, BJ. 7.5.7).

Sculptures by Myron, Pheidias, Leochares and Polyclitus, and paintings by Nicomachus, including those brought to Rome by Nero to decorate his Golden House, were displayed there. In addition, there was a library (Gellius, Attic Nights 16.8.2). The enclosure itself was an open space, with three enormous rectangular brick structures, 4.7 metres wide × 83 metres long at each side.

Lead piping and marble gutters running along the sides suggest that they were fountain basins, 1.00–1.50 metres high. The basins, combined with evidence that rose bushes were grown in pots along the marble gutters, suggest that the enclosure was a kind of botanical park.

This complex, which possesses all the richness and fluidity which was becoming a characteristic of Flavian architecture, is sometimes compared to the meat market (macellum) of Puteoli, also Flavian, which has the four columns of its apsed shrine built flush with the smaller columns of its four-sided portico.

A similar relationship between the larger columns marking an important room from the smaller columns each side can be seen in several Pompeian paintings of villas.

The slightly larger, 111.6 × 118.8 metres, Cigognier temple at Aventicum (Avenches, Switzerland), is similar, although the temple is octastyle and projects a little from the flanking colonnades. It was built after Vespasian had raised the town to the status of colony, probably in the early Trajanic period.

Vespasian’s greatest project was Rome’s first large-scale amphitheatre, the Flavian amphitheatre, usually called simply ‘amphitheatrum’ until the 11th century, when it took the name Colosseum from the nearby Colossus of Nero (Figure 7.1). The site was another masterstroke of imperial propaganda.

The lake of Nero’s Golden House was drained and the massive structure was erected on the underlying solid, compact clay which could easily bear its great weight (Martial, de Spect. 2). By building his amphitheatre on that spot Vespasian was signalling that he was replacing the tyrant’s palace with a place of popular entertainment.

Its predecessors seem small-scale affairs compared with the new amphitheatre. Rome’s first amphitheatre, that of Statilius Taurus (29 bc), seems to have been privately financed and built largely of wood. Its purpose was largely political; it was used for the funeral games of Agrippa in 7 bc and for the inauguration of the Temple of Mars Ultor (2 bc). Caligula put on minor spectacles there, but then decided to build his own amphitheatre.

This was left unfinished, later abandoned by Claudius, and finally destroyed in the great fire of ad 64. In ad 57 Nero built an amphitheatre entirely of wood and completed it in a single year, which suggests that it was not a large building.

Measuring 187.75 × 155.60 metres, with a capacity of about 50,000, the Colosseum, even in its present ruined state, is an astonishing sight. It rests on foundations 13 metres deep and, like the Theatre of Marcellus, was built upon alternately annular and radial concrete

Figure 7.1  Rome, Colosseum, ad 75–80.

barrel-vaults which gave access to, as well as supporting, the seating (Figure 7.2). Travertine was extensively used, particularly on the façade and for load bearing. The outer façade, 48.5 metres in total height, was articulated by half columns and pilasters on four storeys, none of them structural (Figure 7.1).

At ground level were 80 arched entrances flanked by Doric half-columns, forming bays on average 6.87 metres wide. This pattern was repeated on the two storeys above, but with Ionic and Corinthian half-columns respectively. It seems that large statues were placed in the arches of the second and third storeys to judge by a relief from the Tomb of the Haterii and various archaeological discoveries.

The top storey, with tall Corinthian pilasters resting on a high base, was a blind wall with no arched openings. Instead there were 40 small rectangular windows, measuring 1.30 × 0.90 metres, in alternate bays just above the cornice of the Corinthian order below.

These were probably to light the steep staircases leading up to the topmost seats, although they may also have supported scaffolding during construction of the building. The bronze shields attributed to Domitian were probably hung in the blank spaces above the windows of these bays.

In the alternating bays there were 40 larger windows, 2.57 × 1.72 metres, set higher up the wall. Just above the level of these windows were three brackets per bay on which the masts for the vela (the awnings which shaded the spectators) rested, a total of 240 for the whole circumference.

The masts slotted through corresponding holes in the cornice above. As nothing more than the brackets and holes survive there is some dispute about how the awnings were supported. On the one hand, Pliny specifically mentions ropes carrying the vela of Nero’s amphitheatre (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 19.6.24), but according to Graefe’s theory1 they were supported by wooden spars in the

Figure 7.2  Rome, Colosseum: sectional view. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970], figure 93.)

manner of a ship’s rigging. This is what is shown in a fresco of the amphitheatre at Pompeii and perhaps what Propertius meant when he describes the ‘vela full of folds hanging over the auditorium’ (Propertius, 4.1.15). However, as Graefe’s spars could not have been longer than c. 10–15 metres the knights would have been left ‘under the open sky’ (Calp., Ecl. 7.26).

Around the building is a paved area, 17.60 metres wide, at the edge of which were set 160 large stone bollards, 1.75 metres high and 3.40 metres apart, of which five still survive on the east side (Figure 7.3). The vela may have been controlled at ground level by ropes secured to these bollards, probably by means of winches which have left their fixing holes in the sides of the bollards.

Only two of the three brackets in each bay were actually fitted with masts, but this is unsurprising because many of the corbels near the top of the postscaenium wall of the theatre at Orange were purely decorative. According to another theory, the bollards were part of a system of barriers for crowd control.2 Whichever way the vela were supported the noise must have been deafening on a windy day.

When the wind was too great the vela had to be taken down (Martial, Epigr. 14.29.1–2). An inscription from Ephesus indicates that the vela of the theatre were torn to pieces by a high wind and had to be repaired.3

The arena, 79.35 × 47.20 metres, was surrounded by a podium wall, c. 4.4 metres high. Domitian, who completed the building, was probably responsible for the labyrinth of passageways beneath it. Comparisons with the Flavian amphitheatre at Puteoli (Figure 7.4) and the Hadrianic amphitheatre at Capua suggest that the animals were brought in by means of underground passages beneath the short ends of the arena.

At Puteoli the animals were firstly driven along a 55-centimetre-wide passage; the doors of the cages were manipulated by handlers so that the animals went into the correct ones; then the doors were shut (Figure 7.5). Each cell had two levels with a rectangular opening between them. Inside each cell was a cage with tackle at the top for hauling it up to the upper level.

The projecting brackets halfway up (Figures 7.4 and 7.5) carried the wooden beams of an intermediate floor. In the back of the upper part of each cell was a small room where the handlers could safely control the

Figure 7.3  Rome, Colosseum, bollards to which the winches for the vela were attached.

Figure 7.4  Puteoli (Pozzuoli), amphitheatre, animal cages under the arena.

Figure 7.5  Rome, Colosseum: reconstruction of the animal cages under the arena. (After G. Cozzo, Ingegneria romana, Rome 1928).

tackle for hoisting the cages to the upper part of the cell. The system was a very neat one because the handlers could move about in perfect safety on the upper level while the animals were down below. Then at a given signal the handlers took up position in the small rooms at the back of each cell and hauled the animal cages up.

The animal, freed once the cage reached the upper level, could escape only by running into the narrow passageway of the intermediate floor, then up a ramp, through the trapdoor and into the light of the arena above. Because the arena floors of the amphitheatres at Pozzuoli and Capua were of masonry, unlike that of the Colosseum, which must have been of wood, the trapdoors through which the animals appeared in the arena can clearly be seen.

The operation must have been conducted very quickly. In a well-managed show all 64 animals could appear in the arena practically simultaneously.

The scenery, which was such a conspicuous feature in the centre of the arena, could appear and disappear with equal efficiency. The secret lay in the vast sloping masonry supports which can still be seen in the wide gallery running through the middle of the arena. On these were built great hinged wooden platforms, pegmata, on which the scenery was mounted.

They were designed so that the hinged end was immediately below arena level. Also, the slope meant that the effort required to haul the platform up to arena level was not very great, especially with the aid of counter-weights. In this way a forest or desert could appear in the middle of the arena within minutes. All of these technical marvels must have greatly contributed to the overall splendour of the spectacle.

The games began with a magnificent procession (pompa) consisting of the officials, gladiators, show horses, musicians and functionaries carrying the ceremonial helmets worn by the gladiators. The games themselves consisted of gladiatorial combats and animal hunts (venationes).

Titus is said to have had 5,000 animals slaughtered in a single day at the opening of the Colosseum. Gladiators were sumptuously attired and armed, and idolised by their audience. Impresarios were always on the lookout for novelty, such as torch-light spectacles in the area in which both men and women participated (Suet., Dom. 4.1).

At ground level the 80 arched entrances of the façade each led to a predetermined sector of seating. Of these entrances 76 have numbers above the arches, the only inscriptions belonging to the Flavian period of the amphitheatre.

The porta triumphalis, where the procession entered at the beginning of the spectacle, and opposite, the porta libitinensis, where the bodies of dead gladiators were carried out, were unnumbered, as well as the central passage of the two grand triple entrances in the middle of the short sides of the building. These grand entrances opened into corridors whose vaults were decorated with stucco coffers.

The north entrance led to the Emperor’s box (pulvinar), while the south led to that of the consuls, the Vestals and the person presiding over the games. Nothing survives of the boxes themselves, only the magnificent thoroughfares which led up to them. As to the other entrances, the corridors and staircases, supplemented by wooden barriers, each led to a particular segment and level of the auditorium.

Reconstructions of the interior vary somewhat, but the latest reconstructions suggest that the best seats were those closest to the arena and had four broad steps where the thrones (bisellia) of the senators and other important personages were placed. Therefore the section of seating reconstructed in the 1930s is incorrect (Figure 7.6). Only those of the highest rank could have taken their seats in this area and there was space for about 900 of them (Figure 7.7).

A low wall separated the senatorial area from the seating reserved for the knights (ima cavea). This contained about 13 or 14 rows of marble seats which could accommodate about 9,000–10,000, assuming they were given 0.40 metre of space each. The media cavea, where members of the plebs who could afford white togas could sit, consisted of 20 rows of marble seats which could accommodate 18,000–19,000,

Figure 7.6  Rome, Colosseum, view of the seating.

again assuming 0.40 metre for each seat. A parapet wall, just over 6 metres high, formed a very emphatic division between these seats and the seats of plebeians wearing dark clothing, who sat in the sector high above (summa cavea). This contained nine rows of seats which could accommodate more than 11,000 depending upon how crowded they were.

Around the top of this seating ran a porticus of columns, behind which was space for further, wooden, seating. The maximum this sector could have contained without obscuring the large windows which ran around the topmost storey of the façade is about three rows, although nine rows are sometimes restored, thus obscuring the windows. These seats were probably occupied by slaves, about 4,000–13,000, of them, depending on how densely they were packed together and how many rows of seats are restored.

The materials needed to build this vast structure included 100,000 cubic metres of travertine and about 300 tonnes of iron which was required to clamp the blocks together. Several construction teams, perhaps of ten men each, as well as an army of masons, blacksmiths, bronze workers, sculptors and skilled craftsmen must have been engaged upon the building. It has been suggested that the Colosseum was built by captives from the Jewish war.

However, the structure of the building is so complex that an unskilled labour force would probably have been used only for heavy work, such as pulling and lifting, and transporting stone from the Tivoli quarries. It is calculated that up to 200 ox carts of stone entered the city on a daily basis during the period when the travertine parts were being built.

A more cogent problem is how such a gigantic building, probably not started until Vespasian returned from the Jewish war in ad 75, could have been inaugurated by Titus in ad 80. It is possible that various ingenious expedients were used to allow several teams of workmen to be employed

Figure 7.7  Rome, Colosseum: section

on the building at the same time.4 There was an advantage too in the mix of materials used in the Colosseum. Unlike masonry which can be quarried and worked at any time of the year, concrete is adversely affected by extremes of temperature, and in temperatures below 10°C the time taken for it to set increases and the strength obtained falls quite dramatically. The Romans could repair aqueducts only between the first of April and the first of November (Frontinus, de Aquis 2.123).


The Flavians Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition |

The Flavians Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition |


The inauguration of the building by Titus in ad 80 was accompanied by lavish games and a sea-battle held in the old naumachia, built by Augustus near the Tiber (Suet., Titus 7.3). Domitian, who succeeded Titus in ad 81, went on to add the cells and passageways under the arena. Of all the games held in the arena the largest recorded are those of Trajan in celebration of his Dacian victories in ad 107, which are said to have lasted 123 days.

The first restoration of the building belongs to the time of Antoninus Pius (SHA, Ant.Pius 8.2). The Colosseum was struck by lightning which caused a fire in ad 217 and it could not be used until it was reopened in ad 222–223. The repairs, by Elagabalus and Alexander Severus, are clearly evident today.5  It was again damaged by fire caused by lightning strikes in ad 250 or 252 and in ad 320.

Attempts were made to restore it during the fifth century ad. It was used for venationes by Theodoric until ad 523 (Cassiodorus, Var. 5.42). It was damaged by an earthquake in ad 827 during the pontificate of Leo IV. Documents of the 11th and 12th centuries refer to houses being built within its walls, which suggests that it was in ruins by that date.

It was fortified by the Frangipani family c. 1130 and held by them until the mid 13th century. Its present pock-marked appearance is due to medieval attempts to extract the iron clamps from the stones of the outer façade. It was frequently used as a quarry for building materials.

The quarrying process culminated in the demolition of about half of the outer wall by Pope Nicholas V (1447–1455), who removed 2,500 cartloads of stone to repair Old St. Peter’s. The façade eventually had to be consolidated and buttresses were built at the ends, a plainer one by R. Stern (1807) and another by G. Valadier (1827), who attempted to reproduce the arches of the façade.

The Colosseum is not just an architectural masterpiece, but in terms of planning, engineering and organisation it must rank as one of the most astonishing achievements of antiquity. Despite a long history of despoilment this enormous building is still in a remarkable state of preservation. The fact that it was inaugurated a scant five years after it was begun speaks for itself.

It also marks, along with the Flavian period itself, the full maturity of Roman architecture. Nor must we look at the building in isolation. When we consider that it sat in the middle of a complex of ancillary buildings, including the barracks for the sailors from Misenum in charge of the vela; the Ludus Magnus (gladiatorial training school) with its practice arena in the centre; three other gladiator training schools nearby; the public baths built by Titus; and a host of taverns, wine stalls and refreshment booths, one cannot but marvel at the creators of such a complex.

Vespasian was succeeded by his elder son, Titus, a handsome man who endeared himself to the people as one of Rome’s best-loved emperors (Suet., Titus 1.3). His brief reign (ad 79–81) was much troubled by events such as the eruption of Vesuvius in ad 79 and the terrible fire and plague of Rome in ad 80.

While Titus was still in Campania attending to the aftermath of the eruption of Vesuvius, the fire of ad 80 broke out in Rome. It created a swathe of destruction through the southern part of the Campus Martius, from the Pantheon to the Capitol, burning on its way the Baths of Agrippa, the Saepta Julia where votes were cast, the Diribitorium where votes were counted, the Serapeum and Iseum, the Theatre of Balbus and the Porticus of Octavia along with its library (Dio, 66.24.1–2).

It even swept up the side of the Capitol Hill, destroying the newly rebuilt Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. The same conflagration seems to have claimed the scene building of Pompey’s theatre. Titus began rebuilding almost immediately, beginning with the Baths of Agrippa (Martial, Epigr. 3.20.15; 3.36.6). He also found time to hastily build the baths which bear his name (Martial, de Spect. 2) in order to open them at the same time as the Colosseum in ad 80.

Little of the Baths of Titus now survive, but the plan is known from a Palladio drawing which depicts an entirely symmetrical building with the largest room, the frigidarium, shown as a basilical hall covered with a single cross vault (Figure 8.1). It had a semicircular apse in the middle of one long side and plunge baths in each of the four corners. At each side of the frigidarium was a palaestra consisting of an open space surrounded on all four sides by colonnades.

An axial succession of bathing rooms ran south from the frigidarium: a small tepidarium and a pair of caldaria both covered with cross-vaults. They projected into a large open exercise space to the south of the bathing block. If this plan is to be relied on, bath buildings had, by the time of the Flavians, come a long way from the Stabian baths at Pompeii and are only a short step away from the fully developed great thermae.

This dynamic scheme bears the stamp of the new architecture of the Neronian period. Indeed, the fact that the baths are exactly aligned to the Esquiline wing of the Domus Aurea and the speed of their completion has given rise to speculation that the Baths of Titus may simply be a remodelling of Nero’s baths.

Domitian, Vespasian’s younger son, who became emperor a few weeks before his 30th birthday (ad 81), soon gained popularity by improving the city’s amenities and spending freely on public entertainments (Suet., Dom. 4.1). A capable general he pursued a policy of consolidating previous gains and strengthening contested frontiers.

He was praised by the poet Martial (de Spect. 2) for these successes and the enormous building programme which he undertook, but after his death he was denounced by authors such as Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Dio Cassius and Tacitus, his vilification probably being an exaggeration to exalt Trajan.6  Unlike his father and elder brother he was never deified after his death; indeed his memory was damned.

By promoting capable provincials and outsiders into their ranks he had probably alienated the senate. He also behaved autocratically, insisting on being addressed as dominus et deus (lord and god). His reign began quietly enough with a campaign on morality, but he gradually became more and more tyrannical until between ad 93 and 96 he became paranoid and instituted a reign of terror.

He had the walls of the palace where he used to walk lined with translucent Cappadocian stone (phengites lapis) so that he could see the reflections of everything behind him (Suet., Dom. 14.4). Towards the end Domitian became more nervous every day. Finally he was assassinated in his palace just short of his 45th birthday, having reigned a little less than 15 years (Suet., Dom. 17).

Domitian became emperor at a time when urban renewal was urgent. In some cases this involved completing works already begun by Vespasian and Titus. In others the most pressing need was to make good the damage caused not only by the fire of ad 80, but also by that of ad 64 (ILS 4914). Another important priority was to honour his deified father and brother.

Then there were new buildings to commemorate Domitian’s own reign. This added up to quite a list, but fortunately Domitian with his ‘craze for building’ (Plutarch, Publicola 15) was the man to do it. He is thought to have completed the Colosseum by building the fourth storey of the façade with its bronze shields (Anon., Chron. 354) and by adding the complex of animal cells underneath the arena.

However, a coin of Titus dated to ad 80 seems to show that the top storey and the shields were already in place. He also built four gladiator training schools: the ludus Magnus, the ludus Gallicus, the ludus Dacicus and the ludus Matutinus (mainly for training hunters for the venationes). The ludus Magnus has been partly excavated and consisted of an oval arena surrounded by seating for 3,000, set within a rectangular colonnaded enclosure.

An underground passage linked it to the Colosseum. Also close to the Colosseum he built the Meta Sudans, a monumental fountain whose shape was similar to the cones at the ends of the spina of a Roman circus. It consisted of a circular basin 15.90 metres in diameter with a large conical structure 17 metres high in the middle. It was demolished in 1936, but its substructures have since been excavated. A similar, but smaller fountain can be seen in the North African city of Cuicul (Djemila).

In ad 80 the most important temple in ancient Rome, that of Jupiter Capitolinus, again lay in ruins, destroyed in the fire of ad 80, less than 10 years after it had been rebuilt by Vespasian. Now it had to be rebuilt again. The new temple was particularly magnificent, with doors and roof tiles of gilded bronze and a chryselephantine seated statue of Jupiter in the cella. The work had probably been started by Titus, but was completed by Domitian who, as usual, put only his own name on the completed edifice (Suet., Dom. 5.1).

Pliny the Younger (Pan. 52.3) was extremely contemptuous of the richness of the precinct and its builder. Domitian also built the shrine of Jupiter Conservator on the spot where he took shelter when the Vitellians stormed the Capitol in ad 69 (Tacitus, Hist. 3.74.1). On the Arx he rebuilt the Temple of Juno Moneta, a very old temple vowed in 345 bc during the war against the Aurunci and occupying the site of the house of Manlius Capitolinus who had been thrown from the Tarpeian rock in 384 bc.

Domitian built a great deal in an already crowded Roman Forum. An early project was to complete the Temple of Vespasian (Figures 3.4 and 3.5). Although it may have been started under Titus it was mostly the work of Domitian, who seems to have dedicated it to Vespasian alone.7

Built in the confined space between the Temple of Concord and the Temple of Saturn, and facing the Temple of Deified Julius Caesar at the other end of the Forum (Figures 3.4 and 3.5), it was a prostyle temple, with a porch of 6 × 3 Corinthian columns of white marble, 14.19 metres high, supporting a very rich entablature almost exactly 3 metres high.

A section of the superb frieze and cornice can today be seen in the Tabularium. The frieze was decorated with reliefs of sacrificial instruments, paterae and bucrania (Figure 7.8). Features of Flavian ornament include the use of darts rather than tongues in the ovolo ornament, the tiny ‘spectacles’ between the dentils and the overall richness of the decoration.8

Because space was limited the back wall of the cella was built directly against the wall of the tabularium; the columns rested upon separate podia and the staircase, which does not survive, ran between them.9 The interior of the cella, 19 metres wide × 18 metres deep, had a double order of columns running around its walls and at the back a large podium for the cult statue, 6.85 metres wide × 5.75 metres deep.

At the other end of the Forum he built a triumphal arch, dedicated to deified Titus, as the inscription records (Figure 7.9). As the deification of Titus took place after ad 81 the Arch of Titus must have been built by Domitian, although it is not mentioned by name in a single ancient source. Measuring 14.04 metres wide (48 Roman feet) × 14.44 metres high, it was built of Pentelic marble up to the capitals and in Luna (Carrara) above.

The aperture is 5.28 metres wide (18 Roman feet) × 8.20 metres high (28 Roman feet). The pylons of the arch had fluted columns at each corner whose capitals were an early example of the Composite Order.10 The columns supported an architrave with three fascias, a frieze showing the triumphal procession of Vespasian and Titus, and a cornice. Between the columns were blind windows.

In the passageway were panels measuring 3.90 × 2.00 metres sculpted in high relief, showing (south) the procession carrying the spoils from Jerusalem and (north) Titus in his triumphal chariot being crowned by Victory. The vault was richly decorated with coffers and in the centre is a panel showing the apotheosis of Titus who is being carried to heaven on

Figure 7.8  Rome, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, frieze and cornice block, now in

Figure 7.9  Rome, Arch of Titus, built by Domitian shortly after the death of Titus in ad 81.

an eagle. In the spandrels were Victories resting on a globus and carrying vexilla (standards), tubas and palms. Only the attic and passageway of the arch, and of course its sculptures, are original. The pylons, faced in travertine to distinguish them from the original parts, are the work of G. Valadier (1821) and are considered an early example of scientific reconstruction. Domitian is said to have erected so many magnificent gates and arches surmounted by representations of chariots drawn by four horses and other triumphal ornaments in different quarters of the city, that a wag wrote on one of them the single Greek word, arkei (enough!) (Suet., Dom. 13).

Domitian is said to have built a warehouse for the sale of Arabian spices, the Horrea Piperataria, in the Forum in ad 94 (Anon., Chron. 354). It lay in the eastern part of the Forum and parts of it were uncovered under the Basilica Nova. Essentially it was the portico built by Nero as the monumental entrance to his palace transformed into a great bazaar.

It was burnt along with the Temple of Peace and the Temple of Vesta in the great fire of ad 191 (Dio, 72.24.1). In the centre of the Forum stood a gigantic bronze equestrian statue of Domitian voted by the senate in ad 91 in honour of his victories in Germany and Dacia.

Statius wrote a whole poem lauding it and wishing that it would last as long as the light shines on Rome (Statius, Silvae 1.1). However it was probably destroyed soon after the death of Domitian. Pliny the Younger in his Panegyricus (52.4) describes Domitianic statues as ‘those innumerable golden images’.

Domitian’s rebuilding was particularly intense in the Campus Martius, damaged by the fire of ad 80 which swept away much of what Augustus had built. One project was to rebuild the scene building of the Theatre of Pompey, a victim of the conflagration (Dio, 66.24.2).

The new scaenae frons is shown on the Marble plan with its two lateral doorways (hospitalia) enclosed in semicircular niches and the central one (valvae regiae) in a big rectangular one. This arrangement is a reversal of the design which had been used up to that time, of using a curved or semicircular niche for the valvae regiae and rectangular ones for the hospitalia.

It is usually assumed that the new scaenae frons is an otherwise undocumented Severan rebuilding, but it may be noted that a scaled-down version of the new design appears in the theatres at Benevento and Taormina, both dating to the early second century ad. Therefore, although excavations have shown that the actual columns were a Severan replacement, it can be argued that the design of the scaenae frons shown in the Marble Plan is Domitianic.11

He repaired many other buildings which had sustained damage in the fire, including the Pantheon and the Porticus of Octavia, both of which were subsequently rebuilt, obliterating the Domitianic phase. To the east of the Pantheon the Saepta Julia, a large rectangular colonnaded enclosure where citizens gathered to cast their votes, was also damaged in the fire of ad 80 (Dio, 66.24). After it was restored by Domitian it became a market and a place for loungers (Statius, Silv. 4.5.2; Martial, Epigr. 10.80.4).

He rebuilt the Iseum and Serapeum, which had existed next to the Saepta Julia ever since it was built or rebuilt by Caligula (Juvenal, Sat. 2.6.528). It is also shown on the Marble Plan of Rome.12  The rebuilding was particularly splendid and included obelisks in honour of the gods who had saved him in the civil war of ad 69.

Little survives above ground but it can be reconstructed on the basis of the Marble Plan as a long rectangular enclosure measuring 220 × 70 metres lying parallel to the Saepta Julia. In its east side a triple entrance arch, possibly the arcus ad Isis shown in the relief of the Haterii, led into a colonnaded square with a circular fountain basin in the middle. In front of it is perhaps the base on which stood the obelisk, now in Piazza Navona, made to the order of Domitian in Aswan.

The northern part of the complex was a large open area flanked by an alternation of small obelisks and sphinxes where the Temple of Isis, shown on a coin of Vespasian, probably stood. The small obelisk carried by Bernini’s elephant, in front of S. Maria sopra Minerva, is one of a pair brought from Sais to the Iseum by Diocletian. The southern part of the complex consisted of a semicircular area surrounded by colonnades with an apsidal Temple of Serapis in the middle.

The semicircular shape is reminiscent of the ‘Serapeum’ in Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli. The 6-metre-high obelisk of Ramses II from the Temple of Ra at Heliopolis, now in the middle of the nearby Piazza della Rotonda, stood in front of this temple.

Domitian also transformed part of the old Villa Publica, where generals awaiting a triumph and foreign ambassadors were lodged, into the Templum or Porticus Divorum, an elegant precinct measuring 77 × 194 metres built in honour of his deified father and brother (Chron. a. 354, 146). It is shown on the Marble Plan13  with columns running round three sides and a triple entrance porch preceded by three steps on the north side.

Immediately inside the enclosure to right and left are two small tetrastyle temples, presumably of Vespasian and Titus. North of the Divorum he built the Temple of Minerva Chalcidica, which is shown on the Marble Plan as a circular building, 30 metres in diameter. Minerva was Domitian’s preferred deity, prominent in the Sabine region where the Flavians originated. In the Forum of Nerva, built by Domitian, there was also a Temple of Minerva, who protected the Flavian family

Further west he built the stadium and odeum (Suet., Dom. 5). The stadium was for athletic and musical contests of the Greek type and was erected for his Capitoline Games of ad 86. It was built west of the Baths of Nero, probably in a place where Caesar in 46 bc and Augustus in 28 bc had constructed temporary stadia.

Its shape was similar to that of a circus with long parallel sides and a sphendone at the end, but because it was for foot racing and athletic games it lacked the spina (the strip which divided the track into two) and carceres (starting gates). It was also considerably shorter than a circus, measuring only 265 × 106 metres, although it could seat 15,000.

The substructures, of brick-faced concrete with a façade of travertine, were incorporated into the buildings around Piazza Navona, and the piazza corresponds exactly to the shape of the track. The façade consisted of two storeys of arched openings flanked by pilasters, Ionic below and Corinthian above. Remains of the main northern entrance were revealed when the houses on the north side of Piazza Navona were demolished in 1936.

They consist of an outer ambulacrum and a series of radially planned rooms with staircases between, their vaults supporting the media cavea; a central ambulacrum with further radial rooms and staircases with vaults supporting the ima cavea; closer to the track was an inner ambulacrum and the podium wall.

The building was an elegant one, highly praised by later authors (Ammianus Marcellinus, 16.10.4) and adorned with copies of famous Greek statues, including the Apollo Liceus of Praxiteles and the Hermes tying his Sandal of Lysippus. The Pasquino, a famous statuary group showing Patroclus and Menelaus, was also found in Piazza Navona. The stadium later became a haunt of prostitutes, as did the Circus Maximus and the theatre (SHA, Elag. 26.3).

The Odeum, built immediately south of the Stadium, was used for musical recitals and is the largest concert hall ever built, larger than a great many Roman theatres. It had a semicircular cavea, 100 metres in diameter, facing east. Its curve dictated the shape of the façade of Palazzo Massimo on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Excavations in 1936–1937 revealed parts of its rectilinear façade.

Its scaenae frons had two storeys of Corinthian columns, one of which has been recomposed to a height of 8.60 metres and stands in Piazza de’ Massimi. In the western part of the Campus Martius near the Tiber Domitian built an artificial lake for staging sea-battles (naumachia) with seats around it (Suet., Dom. 4.2). Stone from it was later used by Trajan to repair the Circus Maximus which had been damaged by fire.

The Flavians also made some repairs and additions to the Circus Maximus after the fire of ad 80. Domitian was active in the northern Campus Martius too. According to coin evidence he raised the pavement level around the Ara Pacis about 1.60 metres (after ad 86), perhaps because the northern part of the Campus Martius was subject to flooding.

The horologium was reproduced at this new level because the gnomon may have settled and it was no longer reliable by the later first century ad (Pliny, Nat.Hist. 36.15.73). There were several floods in the area, including the great flood of ad 69 which blocked the Via Lata (Tacitus, Hist. 1.86; Suet., Otho 8.3; Plutarch, Otho 4.5).

The masterpiece of Domitian’s reign was the Augustiana or Augustana, the palace on the Palatine hill designed by the architect Rabirius (Figure 7.10). This enormous complex, which occupies most of the SE part of the Palatine hill, came to be known as the Palatium, a name later given to any residence of the Emperor (Dio, 53.16.5).

Begun early in Domitian’s reign and completed by ad 92, contemporary writers marvelled at it (Martial, Epigr. 7.56) and spoke of its great height (Martial, Epigr. 8.36). In about 1550 the Farnese gardens were built on the hill covering most of the palace and today the highest section of walling to survive is a corner of the basilica, 16.25 metres high, little more than half the height of the adjacent audience chamber.

The material used for the palace was brick-faced concrete with regular courses of bipedales (bricks measuring c. 0.59 × 0.59 × 0.40 metre high). The palace was built on two levels, achieved by massive excavation and earth moving, with the result that earlier buildings, such as the House of the Griffins and portions of the Domus Transitoria, were filled in and covered over.

On the upper level was the official reception wing and many of the private rooms. The private wing also included the lower level, comprising a suite of

Figure 7.10  Rome, Flavian Palace, inaugurated in ad 92: general plan of the upper level and the hippodrome.

rooms opening off a peristyle (Figure 7.11) and the ‘hippodrome’. Further to the NE is the recently identified Adoneum.


The Flavians Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Flavians Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The official wing is approached by a road leading up from the Forum and through the socalled Arch of Domitian. At the top of the rise is the area palatina, or forecourt of the palace, dominated by a colonnade of Carystian grey/green (cipollino) columns, one of which has been re-erected (1 in Figure 7.10).

Behind the colonnade were three rooms: (2) the so-called lararium (family shrine) which may have housed the imperial guard; (4) an apsed room with a double order of columns running close to the two side walls, often called the basilica, which may have functioned as the place where the emperor addressed his counsellors; and (3) the aula regia, an enormous reception hall, measuring 31.44 × 38 metres.

The walls were sheathed in marble and articulated by columns of pavonazzetto supporting projecting entablatures. On the longer sides there were six columns; between the end pairs were doorways and between the central four were three shallow niches, framed by pairs of Phrygian purple columns.

They contained statues of green Egyptian basanite, two of which survive and are now in the Museum of Parma. On the NE side there were four columns; between the side ones were niches like those described in the preceding, but somewhat wider; between the central pair was the entry door. On the SW side between the side columns were two doors into the peristyle; between the central pair was a broad shallow apse for the enthroned emperor.

Although the walls today survive to a height of only 8.90 metres the ground plan suggests that it may have been designed as a cube with a ceiling height of around 32 metres. This would allow for an upper zone containing windows. There is some dispute as to how the

Figure 7.11  Rome, Flavian Palace: plan of the lower level.

room was roofed, some advocating a barrel-vault, and others a beamed ceiling with coffers. To span a ceiling on such a scale would require beams at least 26 metres long, by no means impossible, as the theatrum tectum at Pompeii shows. A less likely reconstruction, based on a sestertius of ad 95–96, has the hall divided into three zones, the top one being a colonnade which rises like a temple above the adjacent two rooms. The columns support a beamed roof, but the spaces between the columns are open, leaving the room exposed to the elements.

The rooms on the NW side of the peristyle are animated by tangential curves which produce eight semicircular rooms, four small and four larger with a rectangular exedra in the middle of the curve, presumably for a couch (5).

These two sets of rooms, separated by an octagonal vestibule, fit perfectly into rectilinear outer walls. They may have been bedrooms, although they may have been waiting rooms for those entering through the octagonal vestibule which is in line with the front door of the ‘House of Livia.’ The peristyle courtyard, 50 × 56 metres, was enclosed in colonnades with an elaborate fountain in the middle.

On the SW side was the banqueting hall (6), which may have been called the Coenatio Jovis (SHA, Pertinax, 11.6). It measured 29.05 × 31.64 metres × c. 30 metres high and, like the aula regia, was probably roofed with wooden beams.

The room was described in ad 93–94 by Statius, in a poem in which he thanked Domitian for inviting him to a banquet there, as a magnificent, lofty room supported by 100 columns sheathed in coloured marbles which came from all over the empire (Silvae 4.2.18–31).

It is thought that this suggests that the walls were lined with two orders of columns and above them an order of pilasters framing the windows: the lowest Numidian yellow, the middle Phrygian purple and the top pink-grey from Chios or Carystos (cipollino).

A screen of huge grey granite columns formed the entrance to the room and flanking it on each side were oval nymphaea whose waters could be seen and heard by the diners through large windows. One of these fountains has been reconstructed in brick, but originally it would have been encrusted in coloured marbles and surrounded by a colonnade of yellow Numidian marble, perhaps two storeys high.

The room must have been very draughty in winter and it is not surprising that in about ad 120 at the time of Hadrian a hypocaust was installed to heat the floor. It was replaced by the present floor in the fourth century ad, which in turn collapsed in an undulating pattern over the remains of the hypocaust beneath.

On the floor the spaces between the columns were inlaid with brightly coloured marble. A wide border of Numidian yellow, pink Chian and grey granite surrounded the main field, which was composed of grey granite roundels in Numidian yellow squares alternating with Phrygian purple rectangles framed in Lucullan black.

A broad, shallow apse at the end marks the place where the emperor reclined. It is floored in a pattern of roundels, squares and lozenges in porphyry, framed by dark green Laconian stone, Phrygian purple, Numidian yellow and Chian pink.

The stone is recycled and the floor probably dates to the fifth century ad. The private part of the palace to the SE is preceded by two enormous peristyles (7 and 8). The pool in the SW one has an island in the middle, which once contained a small temple, perhaps of Minerva, approached by a bridge.

To the SW of them is a symmetrically arranged group of small rooms, reminiscent of the bedroom suites of the Domus Aurea, but more sophisticated in their arrangement. As in the Domus Aurea they face in opposite directions, three towards the lower level peristyle and three towards the upper level peristyle. There is a staircase NW of these rooms leading down to the rooms around the lower level peristyle (Figure 7.11).

Three ample light-wells (1, 2 and 3), two with reflecting pools light the way through to a triclinium (4) which extends as far as the columns of the peristyle from which it draws its light. On the NE side of the peristyle are three rooms, the outer ones octagonal (5 and 7) and covered with domical vaults of the kind found in the Domus Aurea, their walls containing alternately rectangular and semicircular niches.

The central room (6) is square and cross-vaulted with semicircular niches on the side walls and a rectangular niche in the back wall. On the SW side of the peristyle is a large rectangular room which opens onto a long curved gallery, probably colonnaded, facing the Circus Maximus (8).

The gallery links the two wings of the palace which project each side of it. On the upper level, at the sides of the rectangular room are two small sets of rooms each facing a semicircular open courtyard (Figure 7.10). Also on the upper level, there are small curvilinear rooms between the lowerlevel peristyle and the hippodrome.

To the east of the lower peristyle, and also on the lower level although no longer communicating with it, is the ‘hippodrome’, an open space (160 × 50 metres) with a curved SW end and carceres in the form of five small rooms at the NE end (9 on Figure 7.10, and Figure 7.12). The carceres were covered with coffered barrel-vaults, decorated with polychrome and gilt glass mosaic.14 Around the curved end and the two long sides of the open space ran an arcade of brick-faced concrete piers veneered in marble.

Behind was a continuous barrel vault with sunken coffers which supported an upper corridor corresponding to the upper level of the palace. At the curved end where the back wall has survived to the full height of the second storey there are doorways and, higher up the wall, beam slots for a wooden ceiling, suggesting that the roof of the upper corridor was supported on columns.

It was thus possible to walk around the upper level and look down on the open space below. There was a large semicircular exedra more than 30 metres in diameter in the middle of the SE long side (not shown on plan), covered with a semidome. The floor of the exedra, which was at the same level as the upper part of the palace, was supported by the vaults of three rooms which opened directly into the lower part of the ‘hippodrome’. The function

Figure 7.12  Rome, Flavian Palace, the hippodrome
Figure 7.12  Rome, Flavian Palace, the hippodrome

of the exedra was perhaps a summer dining room (triclinium aestivum) of a similar type to the Serapeum of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli where the diners reclined on a vast curved couch (stibadium) under the semidome.

A ‘hippodrome’ or ‘circus’ was an architectural feature of some large villas, although it was not used for actual chariot racing. In Pliny the Younger’s Tuscan villa there was a ‘promenade (gestatio) in the shape of a circus’, which was planted with plane trees, box, and clipped small shrubs. He tells us that the curve was planted with cypress trees and there were roses in the sunny open part (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 5.6.17, 32–4).

Domitian began building a new approach to the Domus Tiberiana from the Forum, replacing Caligula’s Domus Gai (Figure 3.5). The entrance was from the Vicus Tuscus to the NW, through a porch of which a single round-headed niche survives, into a great hall or vestibule, measuring 31 × 24 metres. Its SE wall even today is preserved to a height of 26 metres, but little survives of its NW wall which may never have been finished.

However, the hall itself was clearly intended to be opulently decorated to judge by the 15 statue niches around the walls. Adjoining it are two rooms, the NE one a hall smaller than the first and to the SW a peristyle of about the same size. The entrance to the group of rooms as a whole was from the NE, behind the Temple of Castor and Pollux, where a portico was added in the second century ad which extended around the west side too.

A steep ramp runs along the SE side of the complex, apparently climbing up to the Domus Tiberiana above. The buildings were never completed according to the original design as an opulent suite of reception rooms leading up from the Forum to the Domus Tiberiana. Instead walls were later built across the great hall to convert it into granaries (horrea). The other two rooms were turned into the church of St. Maria Antiqua in the sixth century ad.

It appears that there was an enormous garden, tentatively identified as the Adoneum or Garden of Adonis (Philostratus, Vita Apolloni Tyanae 7.32), belonging to the Flavian palace in the NE corner of the Palatine hill in an area known as ‘Vigna Barberini’ where Nero’s famous revolving room was found. Domitian levelled the entire area to create a vast level platform, measuring 110 × 150 metres.

To do this he had to build a series of massive substructures to the NE where the ground sloped most steeply. These substructures consisted of rows of barrel-vaulted chambers which were subdivided into rooms, at least 70 of them and perhaps double that number. The rooms are in some cases on four levels and must have resembled those under the so-called poikile at Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli. On this platform he built a vast garden with a curved end on the south side, surrounded by a two-storey colonnade and rows of rooms.

The Quirinal was the hill of the Sabines and Domitian revitalised the area behind the Forum. The shrine of the god Quirinus was on the Alta Semita near the Porta Quirinalis. Late in his reign, between ad 89 and 95, Domitian built a Temple of the Flavian family on the site of his father’s house where he was born (Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.9).

The temple is described as lofty and covered with marble and gold (Martial, Epigr. 9.1.8. and 9.21). It was part of a complex which included a mausoleum of the Flavians where the ashes of Vespasian and Titus were deposited, as well as those of Julia Titi and Domitian himself (Suet., Dom. 17). Its exact whereabouts are unknown although it was certainly on the Quirinal hill.

Domitian also revived the shrine of pudicitia plebeia (plebeian chastity) on the Vicus Longus near the temple and revitalised the area of the Quirinal behind. Domitian’s craze for building, already mentioned, extended to buildings outside Rome as well. His name is associated with many villas, but the one he built on the banks of lake Albanum near Castelgandolfo is the most extensive and important even though it is poorly preserved.

It contained a ‘hippodrome’, a small theatre, an enormous cryptoporticus, and two nymphaea, the late Republican Doric nymphaeum and 2 kilometres away the ‘Ninfeo Bergantino’, a natural cave transformed into a grotto whose layout and decoration owes a great deal to Tiberius’ grotto at Sperlonga.15

Inaugurated after his death, Domitian’s last building complex was named after his successor, the emperor Nerva (Suet., Dom. 5). Because of its narrowness it soon became known as the Forum Transitorium. Built in the narrow space between the Temple of Peace and the Forum Augustum (Figure 3.2), it had a high enclosing wall of peperino like the latter, although cut in somewhat larger blocks.

The area where it stood had been the Argiletum, a thoroughfare which ran from the Forum Romanum to the Subura and underneath ran the great sewer (cloaca maxima). The new forum was a very skilfully planned complex. Care was taken to avoid building on top of the channel of the sewer, which meant that for the Forum itself the space available was very restricted.

To create more space in what would otherwise have looked like the thoroughfare it became, the surrounding colonnades stood close to the walls and supported projecting sections of entablature, leaving an open space measuring 106 × 41 metres, comparable to the equivalent space in the Forum of Julius Caesar, which measured 105 × 44 metres.

The two surviving columns of the surrounding colonnades have shafts, 8.9 metres high, of pavonazzetto and capitals of white marble, above which runs a frieze with scenes of Minerva and the Nine Muses and the myth of Arachne (Figure 7.13).

The wall behind has an attic, 4.4 metres high, with a relief of Minerva, 2.65 metres high, producing an effect of great richness. There were probably similar reliefs between all the columns. The temple stood at the NE end of the Forum close to the entrance. It was built hard against the SE exedra of the Forum of Augustus which protruded into the very limited space available.

The exedra was concealed by a cross wall with a corresponding one on the other side of the temple. The temple itself was prostyle with a porch of 6 × 3 red granite columns. Internally a double order of pavonazzetto columns ran along each side of the cella. Only the

Figure 7.13  Rome, Forum of Nerva, dedicated in ad 97, part of the colonnade.

barrel-vaulted substructures of the temple survive today, the columns having been removed by Pope Paul V in 1606 to decorate a fountain on the Janiculum. At the far end of the forum was the temple of Janus Quadrifrons which housed a statue of Janus with four faces looking out onto four fora, presumably Romanum, Augustum,

Transitorium and Julium, or possibly one of them was the Temple of Peace (Martial, Epigr. 10.28.5–6). Little trace was found of the temple in the recent excavations. As the major access point to the political and religious centre of Rome the forum was given an appropriately dignified entrance on its NE side, a columnar porch with a curved end and straight sides.

The forum also gave access to the surrounding complexes, the Temple of Peace, the Forum of Augustus, the Basilica Paulli and the Forum of Julius Caesar. It was thus a central element in the whole complex of Fora, a major entrance to the Forum and a monumental replacement for the first part of the Argiletum.

The three Flavian Emperors, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, were builders on a grand scale, and between them, they transformed Rome in a way which surpassed even Augustus himself. To appreciate the extent of the rebuilding one has only to look at how thoroughly the centre of Rome had been rebuilt by the Flavians, particularly the two great additions to the Campus Martius, the largest odeum ever built and the stadium which survives to this day as the Piazza Navona.

But it is in the Forum area above all that with a sweep of the eye one can really appreciate how much that area had been transformed by the Flavians, particularly Domitian. In a circle around the Forum are the Baths of Titus, the Colosseum, the Imperial Palace on the Palatine, the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, the Forum of Nerva, and the Temple of Peace.

In the Forum itself, the Arch of Titus stands at one end and at the other the Temple of Deified Vespasian with, in the centre, the enormous equestrian statue of Domitian. Domitian also began cutting away the spur of hill NW of the Forum of Augustus, perhaps to build yet another forum. However, it was left to the emperor, Trajan, to build on that spot.



Leave a Comment