#27: Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Ok, now walk over to the other side (north) of the Regia |``**```| and stand in front of that large temple with the columned porch still intact, shown here. But as you walk over check out the east side of the Regia where the front entrance= was [``**```]=. This entrance had a porch (likely very elaborate) that was probably added after the 36 BC rebuilding when the rebuilt Regia was somewhat fire-proofed. See the two upright structures of brick and marble, on the right one the marble is cracked/split which was caused by fire and very likely either Nero's 64 AD or Commodus' Fire in 191 AD.

Now walk over to the Temple but check out the side (north) of the Regia. See the two long marble and travertine Steps, they are from the seventh - eighth Century AD when someone build a Medieval house in the Regia. See the brick pier with a column that column is believed to have been a later repair in that pier which was part of a quadrifrontal arch (four passages) that was built in 121 BC (Fabian Arch) that spanned the Via Sacra? Cicero once in jest remarked about a man known for his height; "He bumps his head against the Fabian Arch". If not that Arch it was another one built here as below ground support bases have been found.

Also notice some elevated street paving stones, you are standing on a Via that dates to Augustus (about 1 AD) those paving stones show where the street level had risen to by the second Century AD.

Look at the temple and see the elevated (about 6 m / 20 feet above) green bronze door, that was how high the ground level had risen when the Forum was excavated in the latter half of the 1800's.

Remember Emperor Caracalla and his killing spree of 20,000 of anyone even remotely acquainted with his brother Geta that he murdered? Well a man named Valerius Patruinus who was the Co-Prefect of the Praetorian Guard and was a colleague of a couple of guys (Papinian and Laetus) who favored Geta, so a friend of a friend so to speak. Bad choice of friends for him, Caracalla's hit-squad soldiers caught up with him (probably didn't even know it was coming) and murdered him right in front of this Temple.

Also today we, myself included, throw around the name Via Sacra (Sacred Way) for most street sections in the Roman Forum. But the Via Sacra was actually only the one street that went from the Regia to the entrance to the Palatine Hill (by the Arch of Titus). Originally just a dirt path from the Palatine where the first Romans lived to the Regia / Palace / Temple of Vesta area.


This was originally just the 'Temple of Faustina' that Emperor Antoninus Pius built (141 AD) for his late beloved wife. She died just two years into his 23 year reign. After his death the Senate renamed it the 'Temple of Antoninus and Faustina'.

Emperor Antoninus was a really nice guy so if it wasn't for this temple surviving we would have sadly never heard much about him. Nice guys finish last historically, I mean we all know about Caligula and Nero because they were meanies :-) . Any Emperor who rules the World can get all the beautiful girls (or young men) he wants to and any Roman man can have sex outside of marriage as it's considered normal male behavior and only a woman can commit adultery. But Emperor Antoninus is very faithful who Loves and adores his wife. He once wrote in a letter to someone about his wife "I would rather live with her on Gyara [an island of exile] than without her in the Palace".

Antoninus placed a large seated statue of his wife within her Temple and when he died they placed a statue of him right beside her. They remained together for over two centuries until the Christians dragged their Pagan statues out of the Temple. They were smashed and thrown off of the Temple's porch and lay broken on the ground below. Time eventually covered over the broken statues and they lay buried there for about 1500 years. They were discovered during the excavations and are now displayed on the Temple's porch, the most intact one that you see is the seated Faustina with the fragments of Antoninus laying around her. So together again as they were in Life. Love stories are very rare in the Roman Forum but this was one of them :-) .

Now look at the architrave on top of the columns. The original inscription was to Faustina alone and it read: DIVAE FAUSTINAE EX S C ("To Deified Faustinae, by decree of the Senate").

When Antoninus died and was deified 20 years later the Frieze above Faustina's inscription was chiseled off and this was added: DIVO ANTONINO ET, making the entire inscription read DIVO ANTONINO ET / DIVAE FAUSTINAE EX S C ("To the Divine Antoninus and to the Divine Faustina by decree of the Senate"), photo here.

The side Frieze is pretty well preserved and was beautifully sculpted so check it out. Only the bottom three steps are original with game boards etched into them, the steps above that are a modern brick reconstruction.

The altar is original but its marble facing was long ago looted and this would be where the religious animal sacrifices were carried out.

Legend claims this temple is where St Lawrence had been sentenced to death in 258 AD. He was martyred over a fire on a gridiron and even told the executioner (or the Emperor present) that he was done on that side and needed to be flipped-over.

In the seventh or eighth Century the first church was built within the temple (San Lorenzo in Miranda) and in 1602 the Baroque facade was built.

Ok now, my pet peeve :-) . In guidebooks, audio guides and tour guides they often claim that the deep grooves at the top of the columns were made by Renaissance workers *trying* to pull down the columns. Wrong! Those boys had no problems in taking columns from all over Rome to be reused especially in churches, if they wanted them they would be gone now. And a rope isn't going to cut deep grooves into a hard marble column just by pulling on it! But if a rope is tied to the column to support something heavy and after years of the wind and weather gently moving it, it will wear in a groove and as the rope is replaced over the years it's placed in the same grooved notch. You can see this in London's Westminster Abbey where ropes were tied to the interior columns to support staging for seating, if I recall correctly. The weight and movement of people over the years caused the rope's slight movement to cut into these columns.

So in 1429 or 1430, Pope Martin V gave the church to the Collegio degli Speziali (College of Chemists and Herbalists or the 'Guild of Apothacaries' {druggists}), at the time officially known as the Universitas Aromatorium. And they built a heavy wooden roof tied to the columns surrounding the temple's porch. Also this is my take, if you look at the sides of the columns you will see an up/down line of small holes, I've seen this before and I'm very certain these were for supporting wooden walls placed between the columns. So with a roof and walls this porch is now a separate enclosed building from the church. And the roof/column theory is the only one that makes any logical sense. The column toppling theory was just a *guess* by one early archaeologist which caught on as fact and became an urban legend.

Also on the columns are inscriptions and drawings (graffiti), some are early Christian from the fourth Century but I've had no luck seeing them even with binoculars.

For more information and photos, please see Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina in A Tourist in Rome.

Next: #28: Via Sacra, and Sites (Sepulcretum, Slave Bedrooms, Shops, Caesar's Wake)
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