Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn. To it belong the eight unfluted granite columns with the lofty foundation of travertine blocks. Next to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus the temple of Saturn is the oldest sanctuary dedicated after the fall of the kingdom. The Consul T. Larcius dedicated it December 17 B- C. 498; but according to tradition an altar dedicated by Hercules stood originally on the same spot. The dedicatory festival, the Saturnalia, became one of the greatest and most popular festivals of old Rome, and when it ceased in Christian times it left a great heritage to Christmas. In B. C. 42 the temple was restored by Lucius Munatius Plancus, with the booty captured from the inhabitants of the Alps (it was in their country that he had founded the Colonia Augusta Kax-racorum, the modern Basel). From the early times of the republic the temple served as a state treasury (aerarium Salurn-i), and even after the fall of paganism it was still used for this practical purpose. In the fifteenth century, so the humanist Poggio tells us, a part of the walls of the cella was still standing; they were not torn down until 1440, when the Romans wanted the stones for new buildings. buildings. The temple, which in the sixteenth century was buried deep in debris, was excavated partially in 1811, and more completely 1834-1837. In all probability the great substructures of travertine, which contained the vaults for the treasure of the state, belong to the building as restored by Plancus. When at the beginning of the civil war Caesar took possession of the treasury, he found in it 15,000 bars of gold, 30,000 bars of silver, and 30 million sesterces (about seven and half million francs) in coin. In later time the superstructure of the temple was again restored; according to the inscription on the architrave: SENA-TVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS INCEND1O CON-SVMPTVM RESTITVIT – it had been destroyed by fire. Judging by the character of the letters in this inscription the restoration can hardly have occurred before the fourth century A. D. The columns of the vestibule are of grey granite, the columns at the side of red granite (about 4 ft. 3 in. in diameter, and about 36 ft. high); the bases are not uniform, and the whole structure makes the impression of a hasty and careless piece of work at a late period. The vestibule \vus approached by a flight of steps, the ground-plan of which has been preserved on a fragment of the Forma Urbis. The entrance to the ‘ treasury’ was probably on the south side, i. e. toward the ‘ Con-solazione ‘; in the middle ages there was situated on this spot the little church of 6″. Salvator de Stalera, with the relief described in the Mirabilia and said to represent the paying off of the army. In front of the facade under the steps are found remains of old constructions constructions of tufa (drains etc.): some of these have been wrongly identified as the remains of the altar of Saturn attributed to Hercules.

Hulsen, Christian. The Roman Forum, its history and its monuments. Rome: Loescher; New York, G. E. Stechert, 1906.

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AUTHOR(S) AND LAST UPDATE
Stephanie Sepúlveda & John William Bailly  10 April 2018

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