Rome Reborn

Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities

Rome Reborn

Additional source material

  • Ancient Library Sources (from Peter Aicher, Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, vol. 1, Bolchazy-Carducci: 2004) [Works cited]

    36. The Temple of Castor and Pollux. Commentary.

    As its three landmark columns testify, the Temple of Castor was one of the most imposing monuments in the Forum, looming over it on a large podium that was itself twenty feet tall. Built shortly after Rome became a Republic, the temple's origins reflects a spreading of the Dioscuri cult up the Italian peninsula (a cult in which the semidivine twins were worshipped as sudden saviors of men in peril, as befits their epiphany at Lake Regillus). It also reflects Rome's increasing dominance among other Latin communities in the Roman Campagna. The battle against the Latin coalition at Lake Regillus (near Frascati, but now dried up) in 496 BC was an important stage in the expansion of Rome's control. Since the Dioscuri are often associated with horses, it is natural that in Rome their cult at this temple became especially associated with the Equites, the cavalry-class of Roman citizens.

    The podium (long spoiled of its cut-stone walls) provided not only the foundation for the temple architecture, but formed a large raised platform out in front of the columns, ascended originally by stairs on each side rather than in the front. This platform fronting the Forum provided another speaker's rostra and increased the space available for meetings of Senate and juries. In addition, the podium below was divided into numerous chambers for various activities and offices, especially those needing the protection of its thick walls. Some of the chambers served as money vaults, regarded as more secure than the Temple of Mars the Avenger, according to Juvenal [36.11]. Here too were kept the weights that formed the standard not only for the intense trading and banking business of the Roman Forum, but as the central standard for the weights of other cities as well; the inscriptions below were found on a set of weights in Aquileia.

    Both the written and the archaeological record testify to the major restorations of the temple. Even the work under Verres may not have been as insignificant as Cicero's hostile speech suggests, since there are signs that the building was subject to settling in this low area near springs. The standing columns in Luna marble are from the rebuilding by Tiberius, perhaps hoping to style himself and his late brother Drusus (both of them victorious in border-wars) as imperial brothers with a divine ancestry (Ovid's “two brothers” in 36.8), analogous to the Dioscuri.

    36. The Temple of Castor and Pollux. Sources.


    [After turning the tide of battle against the Latins, the Roman army was victorious.] During this battle, it is said, two horsemen appeared to the Roman commander Postumius and the men fighting around him. In beauty and size far outstripping the mortal norm and just beginning to grow a beard, the two led a charge of the Roman cavalry. Using their spears, they drove all the Latins they met into flight.

    After the Latins retreated and the Romans sacked their camp (which occurred in the late afternoon), they say that there appeared in the Roman Forum, at just about the same time, two young men, striking in their size and beauty and likewise in early manhood, dressed in battle gear and with the look of battle still fresh in their faces, leading horses that were drenched in sweat. After they watered and washed down their horses at the spring which wells up into a small but deep pool next to the Temple of Vesta, they told the crowd, which had gathered around them and were eager for news of the battle, how the battle had gone and that the Romans had won. Then the two left the Forum and were not seen again, despite an intensive search by the official left in charge of the city. The next day, when the officials in town received letters from the field describing the battle and in particular the epiphany of the heavenly spirits, they concluded that they had seen a vision of the same gods at the spring, identifying them (as seems reasonable) as apparitions of the Dioscuri twins, Castor and Pollux.

    There are many memorials in Rome to this strange and marvelous epiphany. They include the Temple to Castor and Pollux that the city built in the Roman Forum on the site where the apparitions appeared, and the fountain next to it likewise named after the two deities and considered sacred to this day … . But the most spectacular observance occurs after the sacrifice at this temple, when all those who own a horse for military service ride in procession, grouped in rows by tribe and century … . The horsemen, as many as five thousand of them, ride through the Forum and past the Temple of Castor and Pollux, wearing whatever insignia their commanders have awarded them for bravery in battle. This parade is a stunning expression of the power of Roman rule.

    Dionysius, Early Rome 6.13.1-4


    [In 499 BC the Roman army at Lake Regillus began to bend the battle line of the Latins.] Then the dictator Postumius, neglecting neither divine nor human help, is said to have vowed a temple to Castor … .

    Livy, History 2.20.12


    The Temple of Castor was dedicated on July 15, in the consulship of C. Fabius and L. Aemilius [in 484 BC]. The temple had been vowed during the Latin War by Postumius when he was serving as dictator, but his son dedicated it after he was appointed to a Board of Two to see to the temple's completion [after his father's death].

    Livy, History 2.42.5


    [When Verres, one of the most corrupt politicians ever produced by Rome, was praetor,] he wanted the Temple of Castor and Pollux to be the most famous memorial of his corruption, something we would not just hear about occasionally but be able to see on a daily basis. He asked who was responsible for turning over the Temple of Castor in a state of good repair, and learned that it was the son of the late Junius, who was still a minor. He was also told that the statuary and gifts to the temple were all accounted for, and that the temple itself was in fine condition all around. For someone such as Verres, it seemed a shame if such a large and magnificent temple should go unused to make himself richer, especially at the expense of a minor.

    So Verres personally goes to inspect the temple. He sees that the ceiling is beautifully paneled everywhere and that everything else was maintained in good order. Verres turns and asks one of the dogs in his pack of followers what he could possibly do with the place, and is told: “Verres, there's nothing here for you to work on, unless you want to put the columns on the perpendicular.” “'On the perpendicular?'” this most incompetent of humans asks; “What does that mean?” They tell him that no column can be set exactly on the perpendicular. “By Hercules, that's what we'll do then: these columns must be realigned on the perpendicular!”

    All those columns that we see there, freshly whitened, were taken down with a scaffold-prop in their place, and then put back up using the very same stone as before. For this work, Verres, you accepted a bid of 560,000 sesterces. Furthermore, your contractor never even touched some of the columns, but simply scraped and re-coated them!

    Cicero, Against Verres 1.130-133, 145


    Metellus rebuilt the Temple of Castor and Pollux [in 117 BC]

    Asconius, on Cicero's Scaurus 24


    It came about that Caesar alone got credit for the works he and Bibulus financed together as aediles [in 65 BC]. Bibulus in fact stated openly that he suffered the same fate as Pollux: just as the temple in the Forum was built in honor of both of the twins but called simply the Temple of Castor, so were his and Caesar's good works called by Caesar's name alone.

    Suetonius, Julius Caesar 10.1


    With spoils [from the war in Germany] Tiberius rebuilt the Temple of Concord as well as the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and dedicated them in his own and his late brother Drusus's name [in AD 6].

    Suetonius, Tiberius 20


    January the twenty-seventh is the dedication date

    Of the temple built in honor of Leda's immortal twins:

    Close by the Pond of Juturna two brothers built this temple,

    Brothers from a house divine in honor of brothers divine.

    Ovid, Fasti 1.705-8


    Up until now I have been discussing Caligula [AD 37-41] in his capacity as an emperor; we must now consider him in his capacity as a monster.…

    Eventually Caligula began to claim for himself a divine majesty; … He extended a part of the Palatine palace all the way out to the Forum, transforming the Temple of Castor and Pollux into an entrance hall for the Palace. There in the temple he would often take his seat between the twin gods, presenting himself for worship to those who approached.

    Suetonius, Caligula 22.1-2


    Caligula went so far as to divide in two the Temple of the Dioscuri in the Roman Forum, making a passageway to the Palatine that went right between the two cult statues. As a result, he was fond of saying that he regarded the Dioscuri as his gate-keepers.

    Dio, History 59.28.5


    [I could show you entertainment superior to any stage]

    If you could watch the mortal dangers people risked

    To increase their holdings, stuff metal safes with money,

    And put more cash under Castor's watchful eye

    (preferred to Mars the Avenger's since he lost his own helmet

    And couldn't keep the thieves away from the deposits in his care).

    Juvenal, Satires 14.258-62


    [Inscriptions found on a set of weights in Milan (ancient Aquileia); each is a bronze circular vessel, shaped such that the smaller size fits inside the larger.]

    Weighed to the 10 lb. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 5 lb. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 3 lb. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 2 lb. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 1 lb. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 6 oz. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 4 oz. standard at the Temple of Castor

    Weighed to the 3 oz. standard at the Temple of Castor

    ILS 8636 = CIL 5.8119.4

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