Temple of the Dioscuri



Übersicht

  • Dioskurentempel in der Mittleren Republik (um 250 v.Chr.), topographischer Kontext
  • Dioskurentempel zu Beginn der Späten Republik (um 200 v.Chr.), topographischer Kontext
  • Dioskurentempel in der Späten Republik (um 100 v.Chr.), topographischer Kontext
  • Dioskurentempel in augusteischer Zeit (um 14 n.Chr.), topographischer Kontext
  • Dioskurentempel in severischer Zeit (um 210 n.Chr.), topographischer Kontext
  • Früh-Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (um 200 v.Chr.)
  • Früh-Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (um 200 v.Chr.)
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteraltempel
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteros sine postico
  • Augusteischer Dioskurentempel des Tiberius (6 n.Chr.)
  • Hoch-/Spätkaiserzeitlicher Dioskurentempel (Wende 2.-3. Jh. n.Chr.?)

Constructed: dedicated in 484 B.C.

Alterations: several modifications and rebuilding phases during the early 2nd century B.C., in 117 B.C. and 6 A.D. as well as under the rule of the Severi

Function: cult building, prestigious dedication, space for political decision-making, speaker's platform

Historical Context: Late Republic I Late Republic II Augustus II Flavian Antonine Severan Tetrarchic


The temple honouring the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux counts among the oldest monumental cult buildings on the Forum. During the long period of its existence spanning from the 5th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. the temple’s development went back and forth: During the different epochs of the Republic and Imperial Period there were continual attempts to expand the temple’s functions or to exploit it for ideological purposes. Accordingly, the building was altered and reshaped numerous times. In general, the Temple of the Dioscuri is a remarkable example of the diverse purposes (by no means confined to religion alone) which sacral buildings could serve on the Forum Romanum.

History

It was erected in the early 5th century B.C., when the Forum was shaped into the public and political centre of the young Republic. A magnificent temple on the Forum was dedicated to the Dioscuri in gratitude for their help during the battle at the sea Regilius (see below). As a victory monument it symbolised the military power of the Roman city state and served as a structure with with the Roman elite (patricians) could identify with (one should also recall that the Dioscuri were the tutelary deities of the cavalry). In subsequent centuries the temple always played a central role in the happenings on the Forum. Thereby the temple’s functions were extended and altered several times: In the late Republic the temple developed more and more into a space for political decision making, because the Senate held their meetings in its cella and used its podium as a speaker’s platform. Thus, the temple increasingly turned into a political issue and later evolved into one of the central areas of the Forum where the rioting during the 1st century B.C. took place. Freed from its original aristocratic connotations, the temple served – in conscious opposition to the area of the Curia and the Comitium which was controlled by the Senate – as a stage on which politicians sought to gain the support of the people (plebs). At the beginning of the Imperial Period the political connotations of the temple were very weak – instead the cult building of the Dioscuri was increasingly used as a space of Imperial representation. Thereby the Dioscuri were accentuated in their role as brothers and the sons of Zeus, which provided Emperors (Caligula) and princes (Tiberius) with the possibility to establish ideological connections between themselves and the Disoscuri. In addition to this usurpation of the temple by the Imperial family also pragmatic interests were tied up with the temple: It also served as a office of weights and measures and as a treasury for the money of private individuals as well as of members of the Imperial dynasty. The small chambers (Tabernae) at the side of the podium provided a work space for different kinds of professions – e.g. a dentist worked in the first taberna on the west side.

Architecture

During its presence on the Forum from the 5th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. the Temple of the Dioscuri dominated the east half of the Forum with its impressive architecture. The temple was modified and rebuilt on numerous occasions and this contributed to its growing architectural splendour. All these structural alterations mirror the central significance that the temple had for each respective epoch; it is telling that these modifications occurred in time periods when the Forum was being fundamentally reshaped and adapted to accommodate new kinds of usage and representation. The first modifications were made to temple in the early 2nd century B.C. and this contributed to its transformation into a place of political decision making – at a time in which the space for the political gathering at the Comitium was extended to the entire space of the Forum area and the Forum was becoming increasingly politicised. In the late 2nd century B.C. (in 117 B.C., see below) the whole architectural complex was rebuilt from the ground up in the form of a towering and grandiose temple. This procedure was part of a more general development, in which private benefactors (Euergetes) fiercely competed against one another to monumentalise the buildings located on the edges of the Forum. During the Augustan era (in 6 A.D., see below), when the physiognomy of the Forum was reshaped once again by the first Emperor of Rome, who sought to exploit it for the purpose of representing the Imperial dynasty, the temple was restored again, resulting in a prestigious and towering marble structure, with which Tiberius was supposed to commend himself to the people as the new heir to Augustus (for the individual phases, see below).

Ruin

The remnants of the temple which are still visible at the present-day excavation site primarily are the remains of the Augustan building from 6 A.D. Three columns of the upper architecture are still standing on the eastern long side; what has survived from the podium is a massive core made of Opus Caementicium, once enveloped by ashlar walls composed of tuff and travertine, on which the actual supporting elements of the towering marble architecture rested. These walls as well as the majority of the actual upper architecture of the temple have not been preserved. However, if one examines the negative image of the walls in the podium carefully, then the layout and the structuring of the temple can be reconstructed. But the core of Caementicium not only provides us with important information about the appearance of the Augustan temple: It also contains significant traces of the three predecessor structures and this allows us to develop a pretty solid reconstruction of these structures (for images of the ruin at the present day, see below).

(SM)

Phase 1

  • Frührepublikanischer Dioskurentempel, topographischer Kontext (um 250 v.Chr.)
  • Frührepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (484 v.Chr.)
  • Frührepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (484 v.Chr.)
  • Frührepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (484 v.Chr.)


Early Republic

The beginnings of the temple can be traced back to the start of the early Republic and inevitably lead us to the actual founding monument of the new political system in Rome. After his downfall, Rome’s former tyrant, Tarquinius Superbus, allied himself with the Latins, one of the neighbouring tribes, so that he could wage war against Rome and regain his autocracy. However, the Romans beat the tyrants and the Latins in battle at the sea Regillus (in 499 or 496 B.C.). This victory signifies Rome’s real emancipation from regal rulership and had a profound ideological significance for the early Republic. According to legend two young men on horseback turned up during the battle to help the Romans; shortly afterwards both riders supposedly appeared in Rome on the Forum and watered their horses at the Spring of Juturna. These young men were recognised as the two Dioscuri – so that the dictator Postumius, who had commanded the Romans in battle, erected a temple at the exact spot where the Dioscuri had watered their horses. This temple was then dedicated in 484 B.C. by the son of Postumius.

This historical account of the genesis of the Temple of the Dioscuri stems from the literary sources and has been confirmed by the archaeological evidence: The remnants of the walls which are made of tuff and were preserved inside the podium (enveloped by the Caementicium cores from the structures in the Late Republican and Augustan phase respectively) indicate that the the first temple was constructed in the early Republic. Further evidence to this effect is provided by the fragments of the terracotta decoration of the temple’s roof. The physiognomy of the temple matches the prevalent architecture of the time, following the style of the Etruscan-Archaic temple. The building stood on a low podium with narrow steps ascending on the front side; the actual temple had a long entrance hall with 4 pillars at the front and a tripartite cella located inside. Together with the Temple of Saturn, which was erected around the same time at the southwest corner of the area, the Temple of the Dioscuri dominated the south-east corner as the biggest building on the Forum at the time.

Phase 2

  • Früh-Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel, topographischer Kontext (um 200 v.Chr.)
  • Früh-Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (um 200 v.Chr.)
  • Früh-Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (um 200 v.Chr.)
  • Früh-Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel (um 200 v.Chr.)


Late Republic I

In contrast to the first temple structure there are no references within the literary sources to subsequent alterations in the 2nd century B.C. The time at which the alterations were made and to what extent they actually changed the building can only be reconstructed on the basis of the archaeological remains. It is possible to date the alterations to the turn of the 3rd to the 2nd century B.C. in Rome, because of the material (opus caementicium) that was employed.

Even though the temple was not rebuilt from the ground up, its physiognomy changed considerably. The entrance hall of the temple was modernised according to the contemporary style: The number of pillars that stood at the front were increased to 6; at the same time the pillars at the front were moved backwards, resulting in a smaller entrance hall, because it only reached up to this row of pillars – in general, the appearance of the old Etruscan temple, with its long entrance hall and wide row of pillars, was lost. Probably the entire facade of the temple was modernised, resulting in a change in height and architectural style.

The fact that the entrance hall was shortened led to the extension of the podium area at the front so that an open space was created there for a tribunal which could then be used as a speaker’s platform (Rostra). The former set of steps at the front of the temple was replaced by other steps on the sides which ascended to the tribunal; from there a set of steps, located in the middle, led up to the actual level of the temple.

Phase 3

  • Spätrepublikanischer Dioskurentempel des Metellus, topograph. Kontext (um 100 v.Chr.)
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteraltempel
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteros sine postico
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteraltempel
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteros sine postico
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteraltempel
  • Spätrepublikan. Dioskurentempel des Metellus (117 v.Chr.), als Peripteros sine postico


Late Republic II: Temple of Metellus

While in the course of the 2nd century B.C. the leading politicians attempted to surpass each other with even more grandiose construction projects on the Forum – a historical context, in which the big basilicas were built and the architecture of the Forum was increasingly monumentalised -, the Temple of the Dioscuri, which had just been modified, was substantially restored. Literary sources report that the victorious general L. Caecilius Metellus ordered that the temple be built anew, from the ground up, financed through the spoils from his campaign against the Dalmatae. According to an examination of the archaeological remains this finally resulted in a temple, which adopted the modern architecture of the Hellenistic style, which was popular in Rome at the time.

In contrast to the predecessor structure the temple now possessed a towering architecture of extraordinary splendour. The podium, on which the actual temple was situated, was noticeably elevated, whereby the tribunal was preserved with both its steps ascending on the sides. The temple had pillars situated all they round (although it is unclear whether these pillars were also located at the back of the temple [peripteral style] or absent from the back of the temple in the popular contemporary style [Peripteros sine postico]). The number of pillars that were situated at the front were increased to 8. The three cellae were replaced with one big cella that had columns erected in front of its walls.

The specific architecture of Metellus’ Temple of the Dioscuri, which was characterised by its elevated position and easily controllable set of steps, explains why the building was used as a weapons stockpile and a kind of defensive refuge during the unrest in the 1st century B.C. (among other things Clodius, a spokesperson of the Populares and an enemy of Cicero, sought refuge here together with his supporters). However, the towering architecture of the monumental temple also had its disadvantages: Only a few decades after its erection the building had structural engineering problems, which were caused by the unstable terrain at the west side of the temple. An isolated effort was made by Verres in 74 B.C. to reinforce the temple in this area by replacing the pillars and strengthening the foundation – so the literary sources tell us.

Phase 4

  • Augusteischer Dioskurentempel des Tiberius, topographischer Kontext (14 n.Chr.)
  • Augusteischer Dioskurentempel des Tiberius (6 n.Chr.)
  • Augusteischer Dioskurentempel des Tiberius (6 n.Chr.)
  • Augusteischer Dioskurentempel des Tiberius (6 n.Chr.)


Augustan Temple

It is unclear why the Temple of the Dioscuri was rebuilt from the ground up under Augustus’ rule: Either the fire on the Forum in 14 B.C. must have severely damaged the temple or the structural engineering problems of the building increased to such an extent that the the temple simply had to be rebuilt. The overall conception of the newly constructed temple was very similar to Metellus’ temple: It also had 8 pillars standing on the front side, an open arrangement of pillars on the sides (but also at the back of the temple), a square cella with interior pillars located at the sides and a tribunal, which was located in front of the entrance hall with steps ascending on the sides. The crucial difference between this building and its predecessor was that the former was built with a much more stable structure and had a much more magnificent appearance due to the marble which was employed as the new building material.

The new temple was inaugurated in 6 A.D., a time period, when a lot of construction work was being done on the Forum. Tiberius, the person who financed the construction of the temple, presented himself as the successor to Augustus by inaugurating the temple and naming it after himself as well as his dead brother Drusus (according to the literary sources this was proclaimed on the foundation inscription of the temple). This emphasis on the two brothers underlines the ideological exploitation of the Dioscuri for the purposes of Imperial representation: A dialogue was established between the two real brothers from the divine family of Augustus and the two divine brothers Castor and Pollux.

This ideological exploitation of the Dioscuri climaxed under the reign of Emperor Caligula, who – as the literary sources tell us – converted the Temple of the Dioscuri into the Vestibulum of his Imperial palace on the Pallatine Hill. This must have led to the installation of a new passage at the back of the cella, which was afterwards connected to the complex on the Pallatine Hill. The Dioscuri, whose cult statues stood in the cella, were reinterpreted as the gatekeepers and tutelary deities of the ruler. These alterations, however, were reversed by the next Emperor Claudius. Traces of these architectural processes cannot be extracted from the archaeological remains.

Phase 5

  • Hoch-/Spätkaiserzeitlicher Dioskurentempel (um 210 n.Chr.)
  • Hoch-/Spätkaiserzeitlicher Dioskurentempel (spätestens Wende 2.-3. Jh. n.Chr.)
  • Hoch-/Spätkaiserzeitlicher Dioskurentempel (spätestens Wende 2.-3. Jh. n.Chr.)
  • Hoch-/Spätkaiserzeitlicher Dioskurentempel (spätestens Wende 2.-3. Jh. n.Chr.)


Temple of the Late Imperial Period

In the late Imperial Period, more specifically the 2nd and 3rd century A.D., the temple only underwent small individual restoration procedures. The biggest alteration that was made pertains to the set of steps at the front of the temple. A fragment of the Severan Marble Plan (Forma Urbis Romae) depicts the Temple of the Dioscuri with steps at the front. The archaeological evidence confirms that the speaker’s platform of the Augustan building was replaced with a wide set of steps on the front side. Because the marble plan can be dated back to the rule of the Severi, this architectural modification could not have occurred later than the turn from the 2nd to the 3rd century A.D. Most probably this alteration was part of larger construction measures that were carried out on the Forum under Septimius Severus and Caracalla.

Since the 4th century A.D. the Temple of the Dioscuri was increasingly damaged and finally abandoned. Whether the lack of restoration procedures was somehow related to the structural engineering problems that kept plaguing the building, is unclear. However, this is a plausible hypothesis, if one relates this to the fact that other temples on the Forum were still being restored in later stages of the 4th century in order to preserve the Forum’s architectural grandeur.

Phase 6

  • Dioskurentempel im Kontext der heutigen Ausgrabungsstätte
  • Dioskurentempel, heutiges Erscheinungsbild
  • Dioskurentempel, heutiges Erscheinungsbild
  • Dioskurentempel, heutiges Erscheinungsbild


Ruins

A more detailed discussion and scholarly reconstruction can be found in the wiki of the digital Forum Romanum (Lukas Bossert, Erika Holter, Mai Kuginuki, Ilyas Özsen)

 

Selected Bibliography

P. G. Bilde – B. Poulsen, The Temple of Castor and Pollux II. The Finds (Rom 2008).

Digital Roman Forum, Castor, aedes, http://dlib.etc.ucla.edu/projects/Forum/reconstructions/CastorAedes_1

I. Nielsen – B. Poulsen – C. Nylander (Hrsg.), The Temple of Castor and Pollux. I. The pre-Augustan temple phases with related decorative elements (Rom 1992).

I. Nielsen, Castor, aedes, templum , in: E.M. Steinby (Hrsg.), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae  I (Rom 1993) 242-245.

K.A. Nilson – P.G. Bilde – H. Dorey – S. Sande – J. Zahle (Hrsg.), The Temple of Castor and Pollux. III. The Augustan Temple (Rom 2008).

O. Richter, Der Castortempel am Forum Romanum, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Institus 13, 1898, 87-114.

S. Sande – J. Zahle, Der Tempel der Dioskuren auf dem Forum Romanum, in: Kaiser Augustus und die verlorene Republik. Eine Ausstellung im Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 7. Juni-14. August 1988 (Mainz 1988) 213-224.

B. Steinmann, R. Nawracala, M. Boss, Im Zentrum der Macht. Das Forum Romanum im Modell (Erlangen-Nürnberg 2011) 48-53.