Rome Reborn

Institute for Advanced Techology in the Humanities

Rome Reborn

Temples A-B-C-D of Largo Argentina

Temples A-B-C-D of Largo Argentina

This sacred area contains four republican temples (labeled A to D, from north to south). The best preserved is Temple A, dating to the third century B.C., because it was once incorporated into a medieval church. Temple B is circular and was the last to be built, dating to 101 B.C. The first phase of Temple C dates to the third century B.C., but much of what is preserved dates after the fire of A.D. 80. D is the largest temple and still mostly unexcavated. B is the only shrine that can be securely identified: it was the Temple of Fortuna Huiusce Diei (Good Fortune on This Day). Remains of the colossal, 8-meter cult statue of Fortuna can be seen in the Montemartini Museum.

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]

    86. The Porticus Minuciae and the Four Republican Temples (Largo Argentina). Commentary.

    The porticoes of Minucia were used for the distribution of the grain doled out to the public. As Juvenal's “bread and circuses” quip suggests [128.16], this makes the porticoes the scene of a primary point of contact between the Roman citizen and his government. The connection Juvenal makes between entertainment, food-supply, and politics is confirmed in the passage by Tacitus describing public protests during a grain-shortage [86.3].

    In Augustus's time, 200,000 of the urban plebs received free grain, a number that is one indication that we should not think of the grain-dole as a preserve of the poorest Romans. It was in fact a sign of some status that one was on the dole (as suggested by the epitaph below, 86.2), rather than a necessity for most of the recipients, who at any rate had to buy grain from private dealers to supplement the amount they received for free from the state.

    The epitaph contains other interesting details: that recipients of free grain were assigned a specific day and a specific gate for the pickup of their grain, that such numbers evidently loomed large among a person's vital statistics, and that it could be given to dependents as well as adults.

    There were apparently two porticoes called Minucia, the Minucia Vetus (“old”) and the Minucia Frumentaria (“dealing in grain”), but since both sources and ruins are scanty, there is much disagreement over their location and differentiation. It is generally agreed, however, that one of them was the large colonnaded space between the Theater of Balbus and the Ballot Office, east of today's Largo Argentina and mentioned above in the commentary on the Theater of Balbus. If this was the Minucia Vetus, then the temple ruins on the Via delle Botteghe Oscure belong to the Temple of Lares Permarini, and the Minucia Frumentaria lay elsewhere; Richardson suggests a location along the Corso, where there are subterranean remains of a giant warehouse that stretched for 400m. Coarelli and others argue, however, that this structure north of the Via delle Botteghe Oscure is the later Minucia Frumentaria, and that the original distribution center was a colonnade just west of it which surrounded the four temples on display today at Largo Argentina, one of which would then be the Temple of Lares Permarini (spirits which presided over voyages at sea, vowed during a naval battle off Syria). The warehouses along the Corso, or others found nearby just to the east of the Saepta, may have been used at any rate as a storage area for the grain before its distribution in the Porticus Minucia.

    The identities of the four Republican temples are so provisional that it is customary to letter them A to D, north to south. What complicates matters is that there are references to numerous temples in the Campus Martius that have never been found, so that it is not simply a matter of lining up four ruins with a list of four possible temples. The round temple, B, has the securest identity of the four, probably being the round colonnaded temple Catulus vowed in battle to Fortuna Huiusce Diei [86.8] (“Fortune of This Very Day” literally; Fortuna especially was worshipped under many different cult titles, here apparently in her capacity to make or break one's fortune in a single day). If one of the four Republican temples is the Lares Permarini, it is probably D, since only it has the characteristics of a temple built in the early second century BC. Temple A is generally identified as that of Juturna, on the strength of Ovid's couplet (86.10; it is the closest temple of the four to the Baths of Agrippa, the major destination of the Aqua Virgo).

    One thing that is clear from the four temples and their display (which owes much to Mussolini, who wanted to shoot the officials arguing that this space had better uses) is how much the current surface of Campo Marzio has risen on the ruins of antiquity. Various levels of pavement around the four temples show how the process had begun even in antiquity, culminating in the travertine pavement of Domitian's time, after the great fire of AD 80.

  • Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project
  • Flickr images
  • Wikipedia

©2008 by the Rectors and Visitors of the University of Virginia. All rights reserved.