Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.07.26

Hinard on Zarmakoupi on John W. Stamper, The Architecture of Roman Temples: The Republic to the Middle Empire.   Response to 2006.04.22

Response by François Hinard, Paris-Sorbonne (

This addendum is not intended to provide an alternative critique of Stamper's work to that of my colleague Mantha Zarmakoupi but rather to offer the brief glance of a historian concerning a book written by an architect and reviewed by an archaeologist, both of them with great talent: it does seems to me that this study by JWS, as rewarding as it is, fails to fulfil one of the objectives set out on the book's back cover: "He also traces Rome's temple architecture as it evolved over time and how it accommodated changing political and religious contexts, as well as the effects of new stylistic influences."

It is impossible to explain the political and religious changes taking place in this period if one begins by neglecting an essential detail: the accumulation of priestly offices by the young Caesar. Contrary to the author's belief, it was not the fact that he became pontifex while still a young man (p. 106) that was so novel (this was not the case, as can be seen if one examines the results of the study by G.J. Szemler, not cited by the author); it was the fact that he was appointed by several of the principal colleges (Rüpke, 2, no. 1012, who is not cited either), a practice that had only been witnessed previously in times of great troubles, essentially therefore during the war against Hannibal. This omnipresence within the priestly colleges had a purpose: the assertion of the absolute religious primacy of the figure of the young Caesar and thus of the privileged relationship with the gods that he claimed to exercise in the name of the entire civic community. This had obvious consequences for the construction and restoration of the temples.

Moreover, the non-chronological treatment of constructions or reconstructions, and their topographical classification, leads to the over-simplification of questions that deserve closer attention. How can one deal with the Apollo Palatinus, and then the Apollo Sosianus, without ever mentioning the Diana Cornificiana of the Aventine? The burst of building activity during this short period attests to a strong rivalry for enhanced standing between the respective worshippers of these two inseparable divinities, but Diana, possibly the more important of the two in the eyes of the Romans, hardly features in this book at all.

There remains one religious issue that appears crucial to me but which one never sees raised in studies about the construction of temples. It is known that a gens was responsible for the buildings constructed at the initiative of one of its members, and this applied over several generations. This was true regarding the dedication, once the individual responsible was no longer a magistrate or had died, but it was also true with respect to the upkeep and any eventual reconstructions. Indeed, in my view, if Caesar was able to appropriate the Basilica Sempronia, left without an heir upon the extinction of the Sempronii Gracchi, it was probably because he had bought it from L. Aemilius Paullus, who must have been designated to assume responsibility for it; and it was with the considerable sum paid by Caesar that Paullus undertook the rebuilding of the Basilica Fuluia Paulli. This responsibility for the temples, which usually corresponded to a vow, could not be usurped by another. There can thus be no doubt that if the reliefs in the Apollo in circo feature the martial exploits of the young Caesar rather than those of Sosius and if the dies natalis was made to fall on 23 September, it was because the young Caesar had bought the finishing work and dedication from Sosius. This was the sole reason why Caesar spared the life of this bitter enemy after the battle of Actium. That said, the fact that the temple continued to be called the Apollo Sosianus seems to indicate an underlying resistance to this sort of trading.

We're also denied the means of examining the political context if, from the outset, one commences the reign of Augustus from the very morrow of Caesar's death: Chapter 7 is particularly striking in this respect. JWS writes, in fact, that the reconstruction of the temple of Saturn at the Forum Romanum dates "from the early years of his reign" (109, cf. also 115). As far as I am aware, L. Munatius Plancus began the reconstruction of this temple following his triumph ex Hispania, on 29 December, 43 BC, just before the triumph of M. Aemilius Lepidus, the triumvir. In these conditions, how can one believe that Plancus, a loyal Caesarian, who was named consul in 42 and for a time adopted a frankly hostile policy towards Caesar's heir, Octavian (App. BC 5, 33, 131), was no more than an auxiliary to a figure who in this period was still far from having assured his hold on power? At the same time, one cannot speak of Saturn without also evoking the aurea aetas, since it was the good king Saturn who reigned over the golden age: therein was a very personal message from the consul to the civic community of Rome, suggesting that it lend him, Plancus, its support in order to ensure an end to civil strife.

In other words, our habit of referring globally to the Augustan era, the saeculum Augustum, has led us to underestimate the "ostentatious and anarchic" nature of the constructions of this era, despite this being highlighted by P. Gros in his thesis, because we seek an overarching unity. But this habit also robs us of the means of analysing the political and religious reality of this troubled period: the heir to the name of Caesar, despite having become triumvir, was still very unsure of being able to keep the power which had just been conferred upon him and had to contend with the ferocious ambitions of his adversaries and even those who were close to him (one thinks of L. Cornificius or L. Marcius Philippus), who, being older than him, could lay legitimate claim to part of the assassinated dictator's political legacy.

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