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Roman temples

Грачева А.Д.

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An important place in Roman architecture was occupied by religious buildings, and first of all temples. In the first centuries of the republic, the layout and arrangement of Roman temples was similar to that of archaic cities such as Poseidonia and Selinunt (Italy), it consisted in building from 2 to 4 temples located parallel to each other at a fairly close distance, thereby creating a single temple complex, although externally each religious building could have different architectural orders and differ in plan. But all the same, they gave the impression of a single connected group.

Here is an example of a similar temple complex located in Rome: on the sacred site of Largo Argentina there is a temple complex consisting of 4 temples, the mention of which has not come down to us in any known written source. Modern historians can not determine their historical names, so they call these temples in capital letters: A, B, C, D. It should be noted that only the foundations of all 4 temples have been preserved, but it can be determined from them that the temples were facing east and the stairs were only on the same eastern side. Here it is appropriate to add that, according to the ancient tradition, the steps on the facade should be set so that the number of them all was odd; for if the first step is ascended from the right foot, then it is necessary to enter the upper step of the temple. (Vitruv., III, 4). The oldest of these four buildings on Largo Argentina were temples C and B. Temple C, dating back to the 3rd century BC, has a simple style , only with the addition of porticos on the sides. The podium is very high and crowned with a simple, strict profile (Kaufman S. A., Nikolaev I. S., Tsires A. G., Blavatsky V. D. Universal History of Architecture.Tom. II. Book 2). The neighboring temple in Moscow originally had a circular layout with a staircase in front of the entrance. Here we can observe the difference between Roman temples and Greek ones (Greek round temples had a staircase around the entire temple). A four-columned portico was later added to the temple's front, which emphasizes the main axis of the building. This scheme will later form the basis for the construction of the Pantheon, created already in the imperial period.

The sacred site of Largo Argentina. III century BC Rome. Modern look
The sacred site of Largo Argentina. III century BC Rome. Modern look
The sacred site of Largo Argentina. III century BC Rome. Modern look

Another well-known example of such a complex can be seen in Tivoli (ancient Tibur is 30 km away). from Rome). This complex consists of two temples located at a distance of four meters from each other. To whom these cult buildings are dedicated, it is impossible to say for sure: the round temple is called both the Temple of the goddess of the hearth Vesta, and the temple of Hercules or the Sibyl. This small structure stands on a high podium; the circular cella is surrounded by 18 Corinthian columns of light, slender proportions. The temple is extremely beautifully placed among the rocks and many cascades. Elements of the architectural decoration of the temple in Tibur (frieze, cassettes of the ceiling) indicate the study of monuments of Hellenistic architecture.(Universal History of Arts, Vol. 1. The Art of the Ancient World/Ed. Chegodaeva A.V., P. 302.). The second temple in Tivoli is a pseudo-peripter (a pseudo-peripter is a building with a colonnade on the facade, and on the other sides it is equipped only with semi-columns, i.e. columns half protruding from the wall). This temple has one deep portico, the side walls of which protrude forward, thereby reducing the depth of the portico. The building has only one access - from the front side. The building has two types of columns: some of them are free-standing and surround the pseudo-peripter, while others protrude from the plane of the temple wall by 1/4 of the diameter. Order of the temple in Tivoli Ionic.

The temple complex in Tivoli. Temple of the goddess Vesta. First century BC Tivoli. Modern look
The temple complex in Tivoli. Temple of the goddess Vesta. First century BC Tivoli. Modern look
The temple complex in Tivoli. Temples of Hercules or Sibyl and the temple of Vesta. First century BC Tivoli. Modern look

The temple complex of Jupiter in Terracina is located next to the acropolis, or rather lies at its base. The site of the temple is interesting because one part of it is cut out of the rock, and the other rests on arched substructures. The size of the site is 50x60 m, and its edges are parallel to the walls of the acropolis, which is located above. The temple itself is a pseudo-peripter and has a size of 34x20m on the podium. The axis of the temple and portico are directed to the cardinal directions and at an angle of 45 to the sides of the temple platform. From this temple complex, only substructures and some parts of the buildings themselves have survived to our time.

Major religious complexes include the complex built in Praeneste, the main sanctuary of which is the Temple of Fortune. This building was reconstructed several times in ancient times. The temple itself was built in the pre-Mullanic period and consisted of three parts: a sacred grotto, after which there was a narrow terrace, at the end of which there was a small sanctuary. During the Sulla period, the building underwent some changes: the sacred grotto was decorated with mosaics with a marine theme, the terrace of the temple was expanded, and so that its front part was carried out on substructures, and the back was cut out of the rock. In the sanctuary itself, a large absidial hall (22.18 x 14.01 m) appeared with the main axis perpendicular to the entrance axis. The entrance itself was at the beginning of the portico, and it was possible to get to the entrance along the edge of the terrace from the west. This cult complex towered 5.6 m above the forum, which was located nearby. The complex is built on a rocky terrain, but from the north, the sheer cliff face was hidden behind a two-story decorative facade of a narrow corridor and an arched portico above it. The lower floor of the facade consisted of three-quarter columns, which ended with windows with platbands at the top and decorated with decorative boards between them. The fluted trunks of the columns located above rested on the attic base, but without its lower part, i.e. without a plinth and standing directly on the paving. The columns themselves were decorated with Italo-Corinthian capitals. Above this wall is built a series of arches set on rectangular pillars. At the end of the description of this facade, it should be noted that in the spans of these arches there were metal ornaments and statues, which apparently had a bright coloring. If we talk about the interior of the sanctuary, then, as mentioned earlier, it was built with an absidial hall (Absida-a projection of the building, semicircular, covered with a semicircle or closed under the vault) with a diameter of 6.87 m., and also like the two-story facade, it is carved into the rock. The walls of the hall from the inside are divided into 3 parts: the lowest part-the podium was used by visitors for offerings, the middle belt of the wall was decorated with Ionic half-columns and pilasters located at equal distances from each other, windows were placed in the upper part of the wall. It should be noted that this sanctuary was very popular and was quite rich, which led it to the third reconstruction, or rather to expansion. Many temples, porticos, and staircases appeared both up and down the mountainside. The entire architectural ensemble was completed by the theater, its outline was repeated in the semicircular portico, which was already rebuilt in the 2nd century AD into a rotunda. The materials used for the construction of such a large-scale complex were very diverse. The complex itself is built of concrete with incert (Incert is the facing of concrete surfaces by means of artificial or natural stone of irregular shapes) from small stone cones. The ceilings in the absidial hall were made of wood, the platbands and capitals , the bases of the columns were made of travertine. Arches, corners of walls, trunks of columns are made of tuff. Despite the fact that the difference in material is large, it did not "catch the eye" because the building was lined with a thin layer of limestone knock. In conclusion, with this cult complex in mind, it should be noted that some innovations have appeared in Roman architecture. First, it is a semi-circular absis, previously found in Etruscan tombs and Stabian thermae, but in none of these cases was it so large. Secondly, the presence of a transverse, strongly pronounced axis in the main hall, as well as placing an order in the middle zone of the wall. The church is made in the Italo-Corinthian order.

The temple complex of Jupiter in Terracina. I century BC Terracina. Modern look
A religious complex in Praeneste. Temple of Fortune. I century BC Palestrina. Modern look
A religious complex in Praeneste. Temple of Fortune. I century BC Palestrina. Reconstruction.

The last temple complex, which will now be discussed, is probably one of the most famous: two temples on the Bull Forum (Forum Boarium) near the Tiber. One of these temples, often called the Temple of Fortuna Virilis, is an Italian pseudo-peripter, the other is round in shape and is called the Temple of Vesta. Both temples are connected only by the principles of free scenic planning. The first temple (the temple of Fortuna Virilis), built in the Ionic order, has a portico in front of it with a staircase between the ledges of the podium. At the top of the travertine-lined podium is a beautifully designed, thin profile. It should be noted that the portico of this temple did not have internal columns.

The profile under the orthostats of the vertical wall is simpler and completely different from the upper one in nature. Above the upper profile of the podium are two more steps. Of these, the lower one corresponds to the vertical plane of the orthostats; on the upper stage, which is a stylobate, the attic bases of the columns stand with their square plinths; the bases have a small extension compared to their height. The flutes end at the top and bottom in semicircles that closely match both the base and the capitals.; this is their difference from the flutes of the previous period, which usually end horizontally and leave a smooth neck under the capital. The capitals themselves are two-phase, in their corners the outer corner is extended diagonally. From the facade, the volute was limited to a single vertical plane. Large ovas (or ionics - an ornament of egg-shaped bulges alternating with leaves and arrows) (Sokolov G. I. The Art of Ancient Greece) received calm, balanced forms. which are completely subordinated to the small palm trees in the corners near the currencies. Abacus (The upper element of the column capitals, pilasters: it has the shape of a square slab with straight or concave edges) from the heel and shelf almost does not protrude beyond the fust. Volutes are pressed to the fust, so that the centers of the eyes lie apart from each other at a distance of the upper diameter of the column (Kaufman S. A., Nikolaev I. S., Tsires A. G., Blavatsky V. D. Universal History of Architecture).

This temple has a highly developed entablature. Its architrave, consisting of three fascias, was completed with a strong heel and shelf, and above the middle fascia it was decorated with a string of beads. On the frieze is a relief of garlands, which is supported by alternating figures and candelabra. As for the cornice, it approaches the inclined line at an angle of 45 degrees and in height it is equal to the frieze and architrave. If we talk about the building material from which the temple is built, it is tuff and travertine, lined with a thin layer of knock. The round temple has the shape of a round peripter with 20 slender Corinthian columns, 19 of which we can still see today. During the Republic, the temple was placed on a podium, the height of which was equal to human growth. Later, steps appeared around the building. Unlike the neighboring temple of Fortuna Virilis, here we can observe the use of a new building material - Parian marble, from which the columns and wall blocks are made.

In conclusion, both of these temples are quite well preserved. The temple of Fortuna Virilis was not rebuilt in later times and has survived to this day in its original form. The round temple was less fortunate, although as mentioned above, 19 of the 20 columns were preserved, the ceiling of the cella along with the entablature of the portico disappeared. Currently, the building is covered from above with a low cone-shaped roof.

Bull forum. The Temple of Fortuna Virilis. I century BC Rome. Modern look
Bull forum. Temple of Vesta. I century BC Rome. Modern look
Bull forum. The Temple of Fortuna Virilis and the Temple of Vesta. I century BC Rome. Modern look


1. Vitruvius. Ten books about architecture / translated from Latin by F. A. Petrovsky, Moscow: Librocom, 2012

2. Universal History of Arts, Vol. 1. Art of the ancient world/Ed. Chegodaeva A.V., Moscow, 1956

3. Kaufman S. A., Nikolaev I. S., Tsires A. G., Blavatsky V. D. Universal history of architecture.Volume II. Book 2. M, 1948

4. Sokolov G. I. Iskusstvo Drevnoi Greke [The Art of Ancient Greece].Moscow, 1980