#21.1: Arch of Augustus

Ok now, from in front of the Temple of Castor and Pollux turn left (east) and walk over to the corner of the temple (note the worn step in the Via). See where the Via Sacra goes between two (modern) short brick bases with marble fragments on top (remains of this arch) and the Via bows up between them like a speed-bump.

This is all that remains of the center passageway of the three arched 'Arch of Augustus' (Arcus Augusti) or 'Actium Arch' which was the first triple arch in Rome. Also it wasn't square structure like the other triple arches (Severus and Constantine) |`|T|`| the side arches were lower n|T|n. (Note the two metal plates in front of the left brick base, a modern excavation of two of the Pozzi Rituali found in this area) The arch was built at the same time (29 BC) as the 'Temple of Julius Caesar' and butted against the temple's portico.

A photo of the remains of the arch is shown here; they're on either side of the paving stones in the foreground. A close-up is in this photo.

This arch replaced one that Augustus had just built here to celebrate the defeat of Sextus Pompey in 36 BC at the sea 'Battle of Naulochus' during the Civil Wars when he (Augustus) was allied with Marc Antony and Lepidus. This newer arch was part of a propaganda campaign to remove the record of the unpopular Civil War and replace it with one of the war against the evil 'Queen of Egypt' (Cleopatra) and the traitor Marc Antony. So in 31 BC Augustus whips Cleopatra and Marc Antony's fleet at Actium and two years later built this arch to commemorate his victory. The wider central passageway would allow wheeled traffic (Triumphs and commercial) to be able to pass through and the passageways on each side would be for pedestrian traffic only.

Note the right (south) passageway exited almost right into the Temple of Castor and Pollux's later (third century) staircase addition. Also there was a short side street Via that ran alongside the Temple.

On top of this arch was a quadriga (chariot drawn by four horses) statue, probably shiny bronze and statues on each of the lower side arches. On the interior of the arch was the Fasti (marble tablets listing the consuls and generals who had been awarded Triumphal processions). The remains of the Fasti are now displayed in the Museo dei Conservatori (Capitoline Muesum, in the small room that displays the bronze she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus).

The central archway was vaulted and the side passages had flat ceilings and a roof ^T^ The center archway was decorated with reliefs as a fragment of 'Victoria' was discovered here. In 1546 an inscription about 8 feet across was found here recording Augustus' 29 BC dedication.

On the other side of the right brick pier there are six blocks of grooved travertine which seems to belong to a circular structure. This has been wrongly identified as "The" Puteal Scribonianum or Puteal Libonis. Romans believe that lightning strikes come from the gods and are therefore sacred. And it seems that there was a famous ground strike in the Forum that they enclosed (named above) with a round stone curb with an decorated marble structure because it resembled a well or 'Puteus' it was called a 'Puteal'. But this is far too large for a Puteal, and also that groove is very commonly seen as an exposed rainwater drainage channel at the base row of stones for an outside wall =u. Plus it invades into the central passageway's Via and the side passageway. Just an odd place to build something in front of a beautiful Arch if it was done in ancient times? So they have no idea what this was or why and when these blocks were placed there?

Now between Julius Caesar and his adopted son and heir they have basically surrounded the Roman Forum with their stuff :-) which is great public relations for Augustus as planned. The Rostra, Curia Julia, Portico of Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the Parthian Arch which connects the Portico to the Temple of Julius Caesar with the Arch of Augustus on the other side and finally the Basilica Julia.

For more information and photos, please see Arch of Augustus in A Tourist in Rome.

Next: #21.2: Church of Santa Maria Antiqua, Oratory of the Forty Martyrs, Aedicula of Juturna, Spring of Juturna
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