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Temple of Bellona

Temple of Bellona

Bellona, whose holiday fell on June 3, was a war goddess and companion of Mars. Her temple was vowed by Appius Claudius Caecus in 296 B.C. after a victory over the Etruscans and Samnites. It remained closely associated with the Claudii. Like the neighboring temple of Apollo Sosianus just to the west, it was oriented toward the south. Its location outside the sacred boundary of the city made it a suitable place for the senate to meet returning generals, who had to lay down their arms before entering the city. Over a dozen senate meetings are recorded here at which triumphs were conferred on victorious generals.

Aedes Bellona

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 82-84.

(Templum, Liv. X.19; Fest. 33; Ov. Fast VI.205): the temple of Bellona, a goddess who probably represented that characteristic of Mars which was displayed in the fierceness of battle frenzy (WR 137-138; AR 1909, 70, 71). It was vowed by Appius Claudius Caecus in 296 B.C. (Liv. X.19.17; Plin. NH XXXV.12; Ov. Fast. VI.201-204; CIL I2 p192 (Elog. x.) = xi.1827), and dedicated a few years later on June 3rd (Ov. Fast. VI.201). No traces, architectural or epigraphic, of the temple have been found, and its site is not known with certainty; but it was in the campus Martius, in circo Flaminio (Fast. Ven. ad III non. Iun.; CIL I2p319; Mirabil. 23; BC 1914, 383-385), probably about half-way between the north-east corner of the circus Flaminius and the Petronia amnis. From it the senators heard the cries of the prisoners whom Sulla massacred in the Villa publica (Plut. Sulla 30; Sen. de clem. I.12.2; Cass. Dio, fr. 109.5), and from the open area in front of it one looked at the eastern end of the circus Flaminius (Ov. Fast. VI.205, 209). It was probably on the east side of the via Triumphalis and faced the east. For a suggestive but hardly convincing theory that this temple was at the west end of the circus Flaminius, in the Piazza Paganica, see BC 1918, 120-126). See Addenda to Hercules Custos, aedes.

The senate met in this temple on various occasions (SC de Bacch. CIL I.581 = x.104; Cic. in Verr. V.41; Plut. Sulla 7; Cass. Dio L.4), and most frequently, as the temple lay outside the pomerium, to receive victorious generals on their return to Rome, and to vote upon their claims for a triumph (Liv. XXVI.21; xxviii.9, 38; XXXI.47; XXXIII.22; XXXVI.39; XXXVIII.44; XXXIX.29; XLI.6; xlii.9, 21, 28; Sall. frg. v.26; cf. BC 1908, 138). Foreign ambassadors were also received here (Liv. XXX.21, 40; XXXIII.24; XLII.36). The temple is mentioned in the second and early third century (Plut. Cic. 13; Cass. Dio LXXI.33; Hist. Aug. Sev. 22; Placidus, p14 Deuerl. = CGL V.8.22, 50.8). Near It was a Senaculum (q.v.) or place of assembly for the senators (Fest. 347), and in front of it stood the Columna Bellica (q.v.). Besides the literature already cited, see RE III.254-255; viii.572-573; Rosch. I.775; HJ 552-554; JRS 1921, 32.

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Additional source material

  • Ancient Library Sources (from Peter Aicher, Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, vol. 1, Bolchazy-Carducci: 2004) [Works cited]

    74. The Forum of Augustus. Sources.


    [Statue inscription]

    Appius Claudius Caecus captured numerous fortified towns from the Samnites. He routed the armies of the Sabines and the Etruscans. He opposed peace with King Pyrrhus. When censor, he constructed the Appian Way and brought water to the city. He built the Temple of Bellona.

    Elogium (Degrassi, 13.3.79)

    104. Temple of Bellona. Commentary.

    Bellona was another ancient Italic deity of warfare. As the passage by Livy [104.2] may suggest by locating the temple's inceptive vow in the thick of ferocious fighting, Bellona was warfare in its most frenzied dimension, recognized and worshipped as the necessary but transgressive brutality of the battlefield. The temple was a common place for meetings of the Senate, especially when they deliberated over the awarding of triumphs and the declaration of war.

    In the demolitions of the 1930s that opened up the Forum Boarium area for Mussolini's “Road to the Sea,” the drab remains of a temple podium were uncovered on the east side of the Temple of Apollo, and this is now considered the best candidate for the Temple of Bellona. A location here accords well with the detail by Ovid [104.3] that there was a narrow line of sight from the temple to the end of the Circus—presumably the Circus Flaminius, which would in Ovid's day have been just visible between the Theater of Marcellus and the corner of the Porticus of Octavia.

    104. Temple of Bellona. Sources.


    The goddess of battle is called Bellona. A short column stands in front of her temple called the Columna Bellica, and it is customary to throw a spear over this column whenever the Romans declare war.

    Festus 30


    It is reported that during a critical part of battle against the Samnites [in 296 BC], the general Appius Claudius was seen in the front lines raising his hands as he uttered this prayer: “Bellona, if you grant us victory today, I vow to build you a temple.” … The Samnite camp was captured and plundered, and the massive amount of booty there was given over to the soldiers. 7,800 of the enemy were slain in this battle.

    Livy, History 10.19.17, 22


    From the temple, one small place gives a view of the Circus,

    And here there stands a little column of no little fame:

    From here, when war is declared, by custom a spear is hurled

    Against the king and people that Rome has decided to fight.

    Ovid, Fasti 6.205-208


    No tyrant was ever more thirsty for human blood than Sulla, who ordered 7,000 Roman citizens to be killed [for backing the opposing faction in a civil war], a deed which took place while he was presiding over the Senate in session nearby at the Temple of Bellona. When Sulla heard the screams of the men being butchered with swords, he said to the terrified senators: “Let us continue our business, Senators; a few traitors are being executed by my orders.”

    Seneca the Younger, On Clemency 1.12.2

  • Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project
  • German Archaeological Institute
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