Early Temples of the Forum Romanum: Temples of the Roman Republic

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published on 18 January 2012

The temple was an important physical and ceremonial structure in any Roman city. Originally a gathering place (a templum), the temple evolved into a place for people to gather, to worship gods and deified emperors, and to perform ceremonial sacrifices and rites. The temples of the Forum Romanum, particularly from the period of the Roman Republic (509 – 27 B.C.), are among some of the most important and grandest in the city.

Temple of Saturn – The oldest temple in the Forum Romanum, the first of the three versions of this temple was built in 498 B.C. It was dedicated to Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, a chief of the Roman Pantheon (equivalent to Cronus, the leader of the Greek Titans), and an early mythical king of Rome. The first version of the temple was taken down in 42 B.C., and rebuilt by aedile L. Munatius Plancus. This temple perished in a fire in A.D. 283. Under Emperor Diocletian, the temple was built again. The Ionic temple housed a statue of Saturn, and was the starting point of the annual Saturnalia.

Temple of Castor and Pollux – This was a temple dedicated to the dioscouri Castor and Pollux, who had helped the Romans win a battle against the Latins in 496 B.C. As the legend tells it, the two men were seen watering their horses at a spring in the Forum Romanum after the battle. A temple was built at this location by Roman dictator Aulus Postumius Albinus, and it was completed in 484 B.C. The temple went through several restorations; in 117 B.C. it was enlarged by L. Cecilius Dalmaticus to celebrate victory over the Dalmations, Gaius Verres restored it in 73 B.C., and Tiberius restored the temple in A.D. 106 after a fire had destroyed it in 14 B.C.

The peripteral temple with Corinthian columns was originally a Senate meeting location. During the Imperial era, the temple served as the office of weights and measures and the reserve for the State treasury. Very little remains of the temple today.

Temple of Concordia – This temple was built by the people of Rome. To celebrate the attainment of concord (harmony and agreement) between the Patricians and the Plebeians, this temple was constructed in 367 B.C. it underwent restoration in 121 B.C., and then in A.D. 10 under Tiberius. He tore it down, along with the basilica Opimia, and rebuilt a larger temple in their places. The building was often used by the Senate and for trials.

Atrium Vestae – This was the House of the Vestal Virgins. Here lived the priestesses of the cult of Vesta, who guarded the sacred hearth fires within the Temple of Vesta. The original temple was built in the 6th century B.C., and the Vestal Virgins occupied this area until A.D. 394, when the cult was outlawed. Afterward, the building was used for Imperial offices.

Temple of Vesta - Originally built in the Forum Romanum in the 3rd century B.C., this temple was restored in A.D. 191 by the wife of Septimius Severus. It was a most important sanctuary of Rome, dedicated to Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, and over whose cult the Vestal Virgins presided. All incarnations of the temple featured a circular cella, where the sacred hearth was and the eternal fire burned. Theodosius closed the temple in A.D. 394, when paganism was banned in favor of Christianity.



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