Now walk up the Via a few yards until that small white partial temple is on your right and a ground level structure is on your left. That temple was the round Temple of Vesta where the Vestal Virgins kept a fire burning 24/7/365 and to the rear of that the *original* House of the Vestals. O[```````].
And the structure on the left is the REGIA a religious building [``]~O``````]. In front of you a short distance away are a cluster of trees. Within those trees was the front door_ of a rectangular Domus (House) facing you. [`_`]
So let's pick the date March 15, 44 BC because a few years later Augustus opens up this area to the public (not the buildings) and puts in the Via (street) you are now standing on. But in 44 all these structures are within a walled complex but the Temple of Vesta is visible to the outside World only not accessible to the general public. |--O----|
In the Domus lives the Pontifex Maximus (like a Pope) in charge of the Vestals (in 44 BC that is Julius Caesar) and the Regia is his religious office (like a Vatican). REGIA: 'Regia Domus' means Royal Palace.
At the lowest excavated level they have found a cluster of round eighth or ninth Century BC huts. Now remember this section was bordering a diseased marsh (pre-Roman Forum Square) but this whole area was used as a cemetery. I believe(?) these huts were ceremonial (Shrines?) and not human dwellings *IF* they pre-date the draining of the marsh? No one would live here but they could come during the daylight hours when the Malaria bearing mosquitoes weren't out. But if the huts post-date the draining of the marsh?
*Tradition* claims that the second King of Rome (Numa Pompilius 715-673 BC) built his Royal Palace here and excavations under this site show there was an Etruscan-style residence from *around* that time. Are these huts the first residence? And is the Etruscan-style residence a later building? A cup/bowl fragment excavated from this site was dated to 600's BC and had the word REX (KING) etched on it (Now in the 'Baths of Diocletian' museum, shown here). The Palace was much larger than this Regia area we see today and remains have been found as far up as the Temple of Romulus. Bottom line: No one lived here until the Roman Forum marsh was drained via an open ditch.
Tradition claims that Vestal Virgins were the King's daughters and he was in charge of them, if so Kings would have to have daughters so I guess the job was finally contracted out :-) . In 509 BC the Romans kick out the last King and become a Republic and a Pontifex Maximus moves into the Palace and takes-over the Vestal Virgins' religious cult and duties.
In the 500's the Regia is modified a few times and eventually gets the same floor plan we see today, likely by now it is a separate religious structure that was once part of the earlier King's Palace but now separate from the Pontifex's House Palace part that he took over (about 509 BC). It was possibly burned during the 390 BC Gaul invasion and also rebuilt again after the fires in 210 BC, 148 BC, 36 BC. After this 36 BC rebuilding which is what we see today they used solid marble floors and walls and other solid rock blocks and it later withstood Nero's 64 AD Fire and another in the 180's AD.
Ok now walk over to the Regia, those fragments at your feet belong to the Regia. If you look to your far left at that corner of the Regia you will see a small room with an inscription sitting on top (this room has pavement of black and white marble beneath the dirt and grass also). This inscription was found built into a mediaeval wall in this room. ORESPONTIFICVMETFLAMINVM That half of this inscription was found in 1546 but the whole thing read: in] honorem domus Augustae kalat[ores pontificium et flaminum]. Basically something like the 'Honorable Office for the Heralds and Attendants of the College of Pontiffs/Priests'. It's believed that lower officials (heralds, attendants, servants) of the Priests had their offices here at this end of the Regia? It's also believed that this office space extended out farther to a Via that marked the end of the Roman Forum Square and that this office space was removed to build the Temple of Julius Caesar.
A Via has been discovered beneath the Julius Caesar Temple [```||```] roughly at the same bearing as the Arch of Augustus. And Forum paving stones were found beneath the front half of the Julius Caesar Temple so the temple was built at the very end of an older longer Forum Square, over a short street and into the space of these offices. This also puts the Altar marking Julius Caesar's cremation site at a very practical place now for this event?
Ok back to the area in front of you, this is an odd shaped rectangular structure with the left side long and the right side shorter. A couple photos of the Regia are here and here. The right side had a porch and the front entrance which opened into courtyard but the section right in front of you had two rooms separated by a hallway room which opened into the courtyard and was the access to these rooms [``o``]||[``]. The room on the right was the 'Sanctuary of Ops Consiva'. Ops was the Goddess of the harvest and wife of Saturn, Consiva means 'she who sows'. It was considered so holy that no one was allowed to enter it except the Pontifex Maximus and the Vestal Virgins. When this complex was enclosed there was very possibly a doorway into that hallway on this side to allow the Vestals access without going through the front entrance?
But the really historical and cool room is the rectangular room on the left it belongs to Mars in which the sacred spears of the God and the shields (ancilia) of the Salii were preserved. It has a circular grassy mound on it (beneath this mound is a stone circle - 2.53 m diameter) this was the altar or hearth that held those Sacred Spears [``o``]. This room was the Shrine of Mars (Sacrarium Martis) in which was housed the Hastae (sacred spears/lancers consecrated to Mars) and the Ancilia (shields in a figure-eight like shape). This room is shown at the bottom of this photo. It's the grassy mound inside the square foundation stones.
The God Jupiter (father of Mars who in turn was the father of Romulus and Remus) sent down from heaven a Shield as a gift to Numa Pompilius (second King). Numa was so afraid that the Shield would be stolen, he had eleven perfect copies made. This way no one would know which one was the actual divine Shield. It's believed that the Shields hung on the walls in this Shrine and the Spears were either hung or somehow fastened to that circular altar/hearth within the Temple.
Before going to war the General leading the army went into the temple and rattled/shook the spears, while saying "Mars Vigila" (Mars Awaken). The God Mars would then lead the army to victory. BUT if the spears ever vibrated/shook/rattled/moved on their own it was a Bad Omen of something terrible about to happen to Rome. I've read that possibly that the spears were so *delicately balanced* that a very minor earthquake or rumble could vibrate them, like a primitive seismograph. OR perhaps even a very loud clap of thunder could get them to vibrate :-) .
History records: On the evening of March 14, 44 BC and a violent thunderstorm rages. Tomorrow is the 'Ides of March' and Julius Caesar's last day of life. Julius Caesar enters the 'Shrine of Mars' and I'm guessing but it's very possible his friend and General Marcus Aemilius Lepidus who is 'Master of the Horse' (Commander of the Cavalry) is with him. Two reasons: Lepidus is leaving for war in Parthia tomorrow (three days ahead of Julius Caesar) and would likely want to do the 'Mars Awaken / Rattle the Spears' ceremony before he leaves? And Lepidus and Caesar history records dine together that night.
But while Julius Caesar is in this Shrine the 'Sacred Spears' start to vibrate on their own! The ancient omen that something bad is about to befall Rome!!! Tomorrow Julius Caesar is murdered followed by years of Civil War. Is this just an ancient historical Legend? Or could the sonic boom from a nearby lightning strike during this violent thunderstorm have actually caused those spears to vibrate on their own... and the Legend is true?
For more information and photos, please see Regia in A Tourist in Rome.Next: #23: Vestal Virgins Info