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Temple of Hercules Musarum

Temple of Hercules Musarum

This was a temple of Hercules and the Muses, erected by M. Fulvius Nobilior in the Circus Flaminius after his capture of Ambracia in 189 B.C., and probably after his triumph in 187 B.C. Its festival was held each year on June 30. The temple was round (like many temples of Hercules) and contained many statues, including Hercules playing the lyre and the nine Muses. It was restored in 29 B.C. Cicero aptly said that the temple illustrated how a victorious general could also honor the arts of peace.

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]

    100. Temple of Hercules, Defender of the Muses (Aedes Hercules Musarum). Commentary.

    Nothing remains of this temple to Hercules, but fragments of the Marble Plan locate it on the west side of the Porticus of Octavia, surrounded by a porticus of its own, and an image on an ancient coin suggests that the temple was round. The sources, however, provide us with a glimpse into the temple's significance for the Romans as an architectural and public expression of the link between military power and the arts, and more personally, between commanders and poets. The symbiotic relationship described in the panegyric [100.2] reflects the particular circumstances of the temple's founder, Fulvius Nobilior, who in league with the great Roman poet Ennius forged a new, more Hellenistic model of poetic patronage, conveniently patterned by Hercules as patron of the Muses. Ennius was not only on Nobilior's staff to Ambracia but wrote a poem celebrating the campaign. This relationship, however, persisted as the paradigm into Cicero's time, who devoted a good portion of his speech defending the poet Archias to a description of the services that a poet can provide his Roman Hercules. Cicero's mention [100.1] of the temple in support of his defense of poetry is an excellent example of how the topography of Rome and its monuments were repositories of communal memory that could be exploited to give expression and authority to ideas and arguments.

    100. Temple of Hercules, Defender of the Muses (Aedes Hercules Musarum). Sources.


    [Gentlemen of the jury: great generals from Rome's past knew the importance of poetry.] Even the famous Fulvius Nobilior, who waged war in northern Greece [in 189 BC] with the poet Ennius on his staff, did not hesitate to consecrate the spoils of the war to the Muses. Therefore it is fitting that, in a city where generals of Rome, while still practically in battle gear, saw fit to honor the names of poets and temples of the Muses, Roman jurors today [in 62 BC] should not shrink from offering respect to the Muses and protection to their poets.

    Cicero, In Defense of Archias 27


    The famous Fulvius Nobilior built the Temple of Hercules, Friend of the Muses, in the Circus Flaminius, using funds at his disposal as censor. He did this not only because he was fond of literature and was a friend of Rome's greatest poet, Ennius, but because when campaigning in Greece he had learned of Hercules “Musagetes,” that is, of Hercules as a companion and leader of the Muses. As a result, he was the first Roman to consecrate nine statues of the Muses, brought to Rome from Ambracia in western Greece, under the guardianship of Hercules' powerful spirit—as is in reality the case, since the two domains ought to be mutually supportive of one another with the characteristic virtue of each: the tranquility of the Muses is safeguarded by the protection of Hercules, and the deeds of Hercules are given fame by the Muses.

    Latin Panegyrics 9.7.3

  • Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project
  • German Archaeological Institute
  • Flickr images
  • Wikipedia

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