#19: Temple of Julius Caesar

Ok, you've left the Vicus Tuscus now walk back over to the #17.9 Late Imperial Rostra. Now with the Roman Forum Square at your back and looking East that is the 'Temple of Divi Juli (Divine Julius)', shown here, and it marks the spot where Julius Caesar was cremated by the Mob on March 18, 44 BC.

It seems this area was once just a continuation of the Roman Forum Square, so an open space with very likely statues and such and possibly an outdoor Tribunal for trials. This would just be a small elevated platform where the Judge(s) would be seated.

On March 18, 44 BC, three days after the assassination, during Julius Caesar's outdoor funeral, Marc Antony gives his famous eulogy speech that fires up the massive Mob from the Rostra of Caesar at the opposite end of the Forum. The Mob storms the Rostra of Caesar and takes possession of Julius Caesar's funeral bier (a very elaborate decorated litter) and decides to build a funeral pyre and honorably cremate Julius Caesar in the Roman Forum in front of the Regia which is a building where his office is as Pontifex Maximus (Head Priest). The Mob loots nearby buildings for wooden chairs, desks, etc and piles them up and puts Julius Caesar's bier on top and cremates it.

A short time later an Altar and 20 feet Column of Numidian Yellow inscribed with PARENTI PATRIAE (To The Founder Of The Nation) is erected on the cremation spot. But this is soon destroyed by the anti-Caesar Faction. In 42 BC Mark Antony, Octavian (Augustus) and Lepidus all co-Rulers of the Empire decreed a Temple shall be built on that location. The Temple is finally built and dedicated in 29 BC, two years after Octavian became Emperor Augustus, the sole ruler of the Empire.

You are now standing on a short street that connected the Via Sacra which runs on each side of the Roman Forum Square. Emperor Augustus put in this street || when he built this Temple. [Forum]||[T] The Romans like to have a marked-off area in front of temples as a sacred boundary when possible and it could just be say a pavement, fence or a stone curb (like the one if front of you). The people had access to this area but the everyday foot traffic would use the street when passing by.

Notice alongside this street in the middle of this boundary there is an about 3 m rectangular statue base. It is the base for some unknown equestrian statue, it could be original to this site but it could also have been erected decades or centuries later.

Ok, step into this boundary area and have a seat :-) . This long wall-like structure in front of you has a semi-circular recess in the center under a tin roof where the remains of the concrete core of a round Altar is located, the majority belief is that it marks the location of Julius Caesar's cremation bonfire. Here's a photo. Now it is a fact that this is THE location of that funeral pyre. Is was definitely at that end of the Roman Forum Square and *deliberately* built in front of the Regia, the building behind this structure. Was that Altar later erected with this structure exactly where that funeral pyre was? There's a very good chance it was based on the limited space and the need to keep the flames away from the Regia.

The wall structure is a modern (about 100 years) reconstruction as are most of the two steps and the molding on the second step. The steps and molding along the base are modern cement reconstructions (on the left) but there are original pieces of molding and steps incorporated into the reconstruction and very easy to spot (center and right). The rough tufa wall section in front of the recess is original as is the round concrete altar base behind the wall and most/all of the stone blocks that make up the semi-circular recess are also. There are original decorative marble remains displayed on top of the wall and alongside both sides of the Temple (on the left side - fragment remains of the temple's coffered ceiling).

Ok let's try to picture this original structure. First they made a large (27+ m) concrete rectangular above ground base/foundation with rooms in it }++] (3.5 m rostra front, 5.5 m elevated temple area rear). The rooms make voids in the concrete core so a lot less concrete is required, and they're used as office and storage rooms, which is common in elevated temples. On the left and right side of this concrete "base" they built a columned portico. Romans love porticos; they are a shelter from the rain and sun and make a building more beautiful looking. And in this case more floor space atop the structure which is the business part of this building with a Temple and Rostra. So at the front on this elevated structure we have the ground level Altar} and above that the 'Rostra ad Divi Juli' and behind that the steps to the elevated Temple. ROSTRA`}:: STEPS`||| TEMPLE`X }::|||X]

So using your imagination (and perhaps 'google images' beforehand as there are many drawings of this intact Temple structure) picture this. The round concrete Altar in the recess would definitely have been beautifully marble faced with decorative designs and/or inscriptions. And coin images show that fire was burning within it, with the flames raising above it. I assume this was done for ceremonies and/or sacrifices and not an eternal flame type thing as it is an outside altar.

Now for some reason this wide open recess was later blocked-off by a wall of stone blocks (a good portion of it remains today)? And it seems more likely compared to the other options that Emperor Augustus ordered this done sometime between the temple's completion (29 BC) and his death (14 AD). Dio Cassius wrote of this: "...And they enacted that no one who took refuge in his shrine to secure immunity should be driven or dragged away from there -- a distinction which had never been granted even to any one of the gods, save to such as ever worshipped in the days of Romulus. Yet after men began to congregate in that region even this place had inviolability in name only, without the reality; for it was so fenced about that no one could any longer enter it at all."

This seems to be what he is talking about and many historians agree. Greek and Roman "Rights of Asylum" could be temples, shrines, altars, etc. But this was more in theory than in practice. If it was the actual temple just lock the doors like any other temple. If it was the Rostra part there seems to have been two narrow staircases in the portico sections, just put in a locked gate. Anyway for some reason during Pagan times this beautiful historical Altar was walled-off. "...after men began to congregate in that region..."???

Men "congregate" all over the Roman Forum hanging out playing 'board games' etched into the steps and pavements and just lounging around that's a well-known fact. There are even a couple of 'Hole Games' :::: on the steps to the right of the recess that these male lay-abouts played. So Why did that small recess have to be blocked-off because of them? Well you could walk completely around that Altar in the recess and when behind it be somewhat hidden from view. Were they using this revered spot as a bathroom, as the male saying goes "The World is our Urinal" :-) ? Or perhaps for sex after dark with straight or Gay prostitutes?

After Augustus beat Antony and Cleopatra's fleet at the 'Battle of Actium' in 31 BC he took the captured ship's bronze prows or rostra and mounted them on the wall on each side of the recess. You must have seen this sea battle in the movies :-) , it's where Cleopatra's ship flees the battle and Marc Antony leaves his men behind and goes after her. Ahhh... Love, and the fact that she had the treasury on her ships :-) . Now it seems likely that on each side of these visible remains where the porticos are missing is where the staircases were to access this elevated structure =[````U````]= And the Rostra would have some kind fencing along the front and around the recess which is shown in coin images. [X][X][X] And this would be where the speaker would stand to address the crowds. The most famous one from here was in 14 AD when Emperor Tiberius gave Emperor Augustus' funeral eulogy.

And behind this were steps to an elevated Temple with a colossal statue of Julius Caesar with a comet/star on his head. And when the temple's doors were open you could see the statue from the Forum Square. And inside the temple Augustus placed treasures from his war spoils and some priceless paintings of the day. Well Augustus was Caesar's adopted son, Caesar give him the Roman Empire so a temple and some war spoils was the least he could do :-) .

And the comet on Caesar's head plus there is also one on the temple's pediment, talk about Luck! Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) is an 18 year old kid and Marc Antony is a war veteran with an army and is not pleased that Caesar make Octavian his heir and adopted Son. The Senate possibly plans to just use him against Antony because Octavian has the loyalty of Caesar's troops and then later dump him perhaps by assassination. And Antony also wants him out of the way so he can take over the Empire.

Octavian was in Greece when Caesar was killed (March) and doesn't arrive in Rome until May as he's been doing some public relations work with his inherited troops. Octavian decides to hold Games in Julius Caesar's Honor during the month named after him, July. And during these Games (July 20-30) a Comet appears in the daylight sky before sunset. Well obviously the Gods are pleased as they sent a Comet in Caesar's Honor and he Must really be Divine! And Octavian starts calling himself 'Divi Filius' (Divine Son). Caesar's Divine, he adopted Octavian and the Comet is the A-OK from the Gods.

Now in front of this structure Pliny claims that there was a large equestrian statue of Julius Caesar and official documents were posted on its base. And the *translated* original (100+ years) excavation reports mentions that a large (equestrian size) "concrete" base was found in front of this recess dating to the time of Augustus' construction of this structure.

Now as you can see and might likely be sitting on :-) very large stone (marble?) blocks of which it seems some might be missing directly in front of this recess? These huge stone blocks didn't just fall out of the sky and they took a lot of work to make and place there plus the cost. But I have never heard/read of them ever being mentioned which is very odd. They are in the *exact* location in an area with very limited space where logically a large equestrian statue would only be placed?

I have to believe that this is the "concrete" base that the early excavators mentioned, and it was either an original minor mistake in their notes when archaeologists were excavating the entire Roman Forum, or a later mistranslation mistake when the massive excavation report was translated? Either way just imagine that there was a large equestrian statue of Julius Caesar facing the Roman Forum in front of this structure. They don't know what happened to the temple after the Christians took over, it was possibly converted into something or other but in the sixteenth Century, like most of the ancient buildings, it was looted for new Papal buildings materials (stone blocks, steps, columns, etc) and the marble was burned in the Lime kilns.

For more information and photos, please see Temple of Julius Caesar in A Tourist in Rome.

Next: #20: Temple of Castor and Pollux
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