Part 2: Caesar's Home

Located around the center of the Roman Forum area ruins is the Regia. Stand on the Via Sacra with the south side of the Regia before you. In front of you is the #27: Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and behind you is the House of the Vestal Virgins (Atrium Vestae) and the Temple of Vesta. ( Photos 1, photo 3, photo 4 ). Directly in front of you is the "Shrine of Mars", a room in the SW (left-bottom) corner of the Regia (all that remains is just the floor). ( Photo 8 ) It's a rectangular area made from stone blocks (some missing). It has a circular grassy mound on it (beneath this mound is a stone circle-2.53 m diameter), this was probably the altar (or hearth?) that held the "Sacred Spears of Mars".

It's the evening of March 14, 44 BC, a violent thunderstorm rages (?) that night. It's looked upon as an ill omen. Julius Caesar enters the "Shrine of Mars". In four days he leaves for war with Parthia (Iran and surrounding areas) but tomorrow after the Senate meeting his friend Marcus Aemilius Lepidus "Master of the Horse" (Commander of the Cavalry) will leave (?) for Parthia also. They will also dine together that night. It's written that while Julius Caesar was in the Shrine that night the "Sacred Spears" started to vibrate/rattle/move on their own. Legend has it that they only do this when something terrible is about to happen. It is not the first omen or warning Julius Caesar has received and it will not be his last! [I wonder if Julius Caesar was there with his friend Lepidus to ask the God Mars for his help/blessing in their upcoming war? Generals would go into the Shrine and rattle the Spears (for luck, blessing, prayer) before they would depart for war. Also I wonder if the violent thunderstorm recorded (?) that night was raging at that moment? Could the sonic boom from a nearby lightening strike have caused the Spears to vibrate? Was this omen just a myth? Or could it have actually happened? It's been said (?) that the Spears might have been *delicately* balanced somehow, like an ancient seismograph.] Now look to your right ( Photo 2 ) and you will see a small grove of trees that appear in the photos below.

Use the first of these photos which still works:

Look at the photo and identify the Temple of Romulus to the right of center, along the top edge. Right below that temple in the photo is the Via Sacra. Two of the photos show people standing on that road. But I'd like you to find the flat green rectangular modern roof just slightly below the Via Sacra in the photo. Its right edge is below the door to the Temple of Romulus, and its left edge is about half way to the #27: Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. There is a group of trees to the left of the modern roof. Imagine yourself + standing in that group of trees ***. OK, you can't actually enter that tree area but you can look into it and imagine yourself inside it. So here you are **+* looking to the right --> to that modern-roofed-over structure [x=x] and then past it to where you see the ruins end at a vertical wall || in the extreme right of the photo. # and T will be ruins I want you to focus on, between the three points you already know about (trees, modern roof, vertical wall section: **+*#--[x=x]T||

The remains are all brick but one thing stands out which isn't brick and that is a whiteish/gray travertine stylobate which is the # above. A stylobate is usually a stepped platform that columns sit upon ==o==o== . In this case the first step has a groove cut lengthwise in it, this is a rain channel/gutter allowing rain water to run-off. This means it was exposed to the outside elements. The second step is the actual stylobate and in this case it supported a vertical half-column as it has a base cut out of it for a vertical half-column. Like a P vs an ---o---. A half-column is one that is built into a wall, which projects from the wall by about half its diameter. This tells us that an actual half-column once butted against a wall that we know was exposed to the outside. Why? As it was only decorative and not functional? The most logical explanation for that, plus based on the remains' exact location that is in line with the covered structure (which I'll mention next), tells us that it was once one of two half-columns with likely some type of pediment on top that framed an impressive doorway into the Domus Publica. It would look something like this This stylobate dates to the dictator Sulla who lived in Julius Caesar's lifetime, Sulla almost had the teenage Julius Caesar killed who skipped the country and Vestals intervened on his behalf.

That modern roof covers the Domus' Impluvium, located in the Atrium of the Domus Publica. This was a grand entrance room of any Domus. It was actually an open courtyard with rooms on the side like bedrooms and dining rooms but on the opposite end from the entrance was the Tablinum which was where the head of the house would conduct business or meet with guests. Back to the Impluvium, there was a roof over this Atrium/courtyard that sloped downward with a rectangular opening in the center. This allowed rainwater to fall into the impluvium, so in effect a small sunken pond in the atrium's center. Below that was a cistern which stored this rain water but now with the aqueducts it was no longer needed and became more of a decorative feature in the atrium and could now even have a fountain filling it.

And beyond the Atrium was a room with a mosaic floor named the Tablinum. In a rich person's domus the father (head of the household) would store family records, have family statues/portraits or anything he wished to show-off to his guests. The effect was if you were socially beneath this person or wanted something, you enter the door, short corridor into beautiful large Atrium and at the opposite end you see the Master of the house awaiting you in the Tablinum. A view through the Atrium into the Tablinum would look something like this photo. In our case the Tablinum's back wall would be a semicircular apse. In the photo look for a partial section of a wall (vertical || in the photo) that marks the eastern limit of the Domus. In the photo it's to the right and past the intact roundish Temple of Romulus on the opposite side of the Via Sacra. The back of the Tablinum would have been at this wall.

Finally imagine rooms above and below that long narrow section in the photo (actually walking through it the rooms would be to the left and right). That is the known section of the Domus Publica with very likely some basement rooms (just across the street there you can see basement slave cells from a private Domus/house of the same era). And there was probably at least a second floor over this.

Now when Augustus gave the Vestals the Domus Publica (12 BC) they expanded their House all the way over to the right (the grassy area with the ponds in photo). So it's possible the right half of that section belonged to the Domus Publica or the Vestals perhaps just an open space like a garden? Anyway something was there and after the 12 BC fire the Vestals had that section along with the Domus Publica and expanded.


Now then, when you actually get your 'boots on the ground' things look quite different. Hop the fences to get a good look at things, as in this photo. shows the real view of the stylobate, with the Atrium behind it. To the left of that half-column in the stylobate was the main entrance used by Julius Caesar and others to enter his home. The remaining section would be the lower right side only but with a circular half-column base and larger wall blocks. Note that this half-column base is part of a wall block and there is also a wall block next to it. So to the left of that half-column base would be the doorway into the Domus which is in line with the atrium as it should be.

Then through this entrance and into the Atrium where under the modern roof you can see the atrium's impluvium and then past that (bring a shovel) you can dig up the Tablinum where Julius Caesar entertained guests and those on official business.

But perhaps it would be better to just visualize this behind the fence and avoid the legal bills and jail time :-) .

As you walk toward the east on the Via Sacra you can compare the view against these photos which were taken from that road.

So just remember when there to stand across the street from the #27: Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, with your back to that temple, then turn 45° to the left toward that group of trees. Walk around until you can find the travertine half-column stylobate beyond the fence. When you can best line up that stylobate # with the modern roofed structure [x=x] behind it #[x=x] and stop there. You're now looking through the front door of Caesar's home. Think of the others who have also walked through that door to visit Julius Caesar... Marc Antony, Brutus and a young boy visiting his great-uncle who will one day inherit his Empire as Julius Caesar's adopted son and heir. In my opinion the archaeological evidence is overwhelming and rock solid for this as the main entrance door location into the Domus Publica. So an impressive wall and with the front door # into a short corridor -- with a service room on each side, into the beautiful Atrium [x=x] under the modern roof, with the Impluvium = in the center, and then the fancy impressive [T]ablinum #--[x=x][T] . With bedrooms, a dining room, etc off both long sides of the Atrium and likely a second story at the least. This Stylobate dates to the time of the Julius Caesar as does the rest of this excavated House of the Pontifex Maximus. I'm convinced that it is the main entrance to the Domus Publica and the doorway used by Julius Caesar when he left home on the fateful morning of his assassination.

Next: Part 3: The Morning
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