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The Temple of Apollo Palatinus ('Palatine Apollo'), sometimes called the Temple of Actian Apollo, was a temple to the god Apollo in Rome, constructed on the Palatine Hill on the initiative of Augustus between 36 and 28 BCE. It was the first temple to Apollo within the city's ceremonial boundaries and the second of four temples constructed by Augustus. According to tradition, the site for the temple was chosen when it was struck by lightning, which was interpreted as a divine portent. Augustan writers situated the temple next to Augustus's personal residence, which has been controversially identified as the structure known as the domus Augusti.
The temple was closely linked with the victories of Augustus's forces at the battles of Naulochus and Actium, and played an important role in Augustan propaganda and political ideology, in which it represented the restoration of Rome's "golden age" and served as a signifier of Augustus's pietas (devotion to religious and political duty). It was used for the worship of Apollo and his sister Diana, as well as to store the prophetic Sibylline Books. The temple's precinct was used for diplomatic functions as well as for meetings of the Roman Senate, and contained the Portico of the Danaids, which included libraries of Greek and Latin literature considered among the most important in Rome.
The temple was frequently mentioned and praised in Augustan poetry, particularly by Tibullus, Virgil and Horace, whose Carmen Saeculare was first performed at the temple on 3 June 17 BCE during the Secular Games. Many of these works commented on the temple's lavish artistic decoration and statuary, which included three cult statues and other works by noted Greek artists of the archaic period and the fourth century BCE.
The temple was damaged in the Great Fire of Rome of 64 CE, but restored under the emperor Domitian (r. 81–96 CE) before its final destruction in 363 CE. It has been excavated and partially restored in various phases since the 1860s, though only partial remains survive and their documentation is incomplete. Modern assessments of the temple have variously treated it as an extravagant, Hellenising break with Roman tradition and as a conservative attempt to reassert the architectural and political values of the Roman Republic. It has been described by the archaeologist John Ward-Perkins as "one of the earliest and finest of the Augustan temples".
The worship of Apollo in Rome began in the fifth century BCE. According to Roman tradition, the first temple to Apollo was vowed in 433 BCE in return for the god's intercession during a plague. This temple was originally known as the Temple of Apollo Medicus and later, after Gaius Sosius, who restored it around 32 BCE, as the Temple of Apollo Sosianus. It was situated in the Campus Martius, outside the ceremonial boundary (pomerium) of Rome, since Apollo, whose worship originated in the Greek world. was considered a "foreign" deity and so unsuitable for a temple within the city.
After securing control over the Roman state through his civil war against Mark Antony, Octavian (known as "Augustus" from 27 BCE) made a political and ideological priority of the embellishment and restoration of Rome's built space. According to his biographer Suetonius, he claimed to have "found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble". The construction and restoration of temples was a major part of this programme: in 28 BCE, Augustus claimed to have restored eighty-two of them. The archaeologist Susan Walker has described Rome under Augustus as a "moral museum", by which public architecture and artwork, particularly the display of Greek sculpture, was used as part of Augustus' ideological project.
The Temple of Apollo Palatinus was among the earliest of a series of monuments constructed by Augustus around the city of Rome, and his first major architectural project undertaken independently in Rome. Other Augustan monuments of the same period included the Mausoleum of Augustus (28 BCE), the Solarium Augusti (10–9 BCE) and the Ara Pacis (9 BCE). Apollo was a favourite god of Augustus. Two laurel trees, symbolic both of Apollo and of victory, stood by the side of his house's front door, highlighting the connection between Augustus, Apollo and his victory over Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium. According to a story related by Suetonius, who reports having read it in the Greek author Asclepias of Mendes, Augustus considered himself the son of Apollo, and Apollo as the patron deity of his family. Previously most significant as a residential area for the Roman elite, Augustus's developments made the Palatine Hill, in the words of the classicist Ulrich Schmitzer, Rome's "new seat of political and religious power".
The dedication of temples by generals following military victories was an established part of Roman political culture in the Middle Republic (c. 200 – c. 100 BCE), but had largely fallen out of fashion by 100 BCE. Octavian's vow to dedicate the temple followed the victory of his admiral Marcus Agrippa over Sextus Pompeius at the Battle of Naulochus on 3 September 36 BCE:[a] Octavian probably announced the temple's construction in November, during a speech to the Roman senate and people. Octavian began buying land in the area of the future temple in 36 BCE, an area already considered particularly sacred and among Rome's most fashionable residential districts. The precise location of the temple was determined when a bolt of lightning struck part of Octavian's property; on the advice of the haruspices, specialist priests who interpreted divine portents, this was considered to be an indication of a god's desire for a temple, and as urging the construction of a temple to Apollo within the city. Octavian declared that portion of his property to be public land, and initiated the construction of the temple.
The temple was dedicated on 9 October, 28 BCE. This followed Octavian's victory over the forces of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, which was linked in Octavian's propaganda with the intercession of Apollo; in thanks for his victory, Octavian constructed a new sanctuary of Apollo at the site of his camp at Actium, and restored the god's existing sanctuary at the entrance to the Ambracian Gulf, where the battle had taken place. It was the second of four temples built in Rome by Augustus, following the Temple of Caesar (dedicated in 29 BCE) and preceding the Temple of Jupiter Tonans on the Capitoline Hill (dedicated in 22) and that of Mars Ultor, dedicated in 2 BCE in Augustus's newly-built forum.
The temple was formally dedicated to Apollo, but considered to be dedicated both to Apollo and to his sister Diana, who was closely associated with Augustus's victory at Naulochus. Roman temples were often dedicated to gods under particular epithets, which could relate to the builder or location of the temple as well as to a specific aspect of the god in question. While the temple's official name was the Temple of Actian Apollo (using the epithet Actius), it was also informally known by the same god's epithets Actiacus, Navalis, Palati – all of which referred to Apollo's connection with the Battle of Actium – and Rhamnusius, which referred to Apollo's sanctuary at Rhamnous in Attica.
Bricks found in the temple,[b] as well as the adjacent buildings, bore the stamp of Cossutius, a brick-maker employed by Gaius Asinius Pollio, a politician and literary patron of the early Augustan era. Immediately adjacent to the temple,[c] the Portico of the Danaids included two libraries of Greek and Latin literature, known collectively as the Library of Palatine Apollo and considered among the most important libraries in Rome. The portico was used by Augustus to hold meetings of the Roman Senate, particularly during his convalescence from illness in 23 BCE,[d] and to receive official guests and foreign ambassadors. The surviving sources are contradictory as to the opening of the libraries; they may have been opened at the same time as the temple, or at another point before 23 BCE.
The temple's precinct was used infrequently for senate meetings by Augustus's successors: his immediate successor Tiberius held one there in 16 CE, while at least one more under Claudius (r. 41–54 CE) is attested and was intended, in the judgement of Thompson, as "a symbolic assertion of the imperial power". According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Claudius's wife Agrippina the Younger had a secret door installed in the room used for the senate meetings, leading to a hiding-place from which she could listen in them, though Thompson considers this account less as factual and more as symbolic of Agrippina's influence over the senate.
The temple was damaged in the Great Fire of Rome of 64 CE, but restored under the emperor Domitian (r. 81–96 CE). It was destroyed in a fire on 18 March 363, during the fourth-century persecutions of non-Christians in the Roman Empire. The Portico of the Danaids, probably also destroyed in 64, may never have been rebuilt.[e] The existing remains of the temple's two libraries date to reconstructions made in the Domitianic period, which rebuilt the structures on higher ground. According to the French archaeologist Pierre Gros, the sanctuary served as a model for later complexes dedicated to the imperial cult in the western Roman empire.
The temple was the second in Rome dedicated to Apollo; its position on the Palatine Hill made it the first within the Roman pomerium. It was prominently visible from the Circus Maximus to the south of the Palatine. It was adjacent to the older Temple of Cybele, which had been dedicated in 191 BCE, and the ancient stairway known as the Scalae Caci ('Stairs of Cacus').
The Temple of Apollo Palatinus was immediately south-east of a late Republican house, constructed during the late Roman Republic (c. 133–33 BCE). In the 1950s, this house was designated by one of its excavators, Gianfilippo Carettoni , as the domus Augusti ('House of Augustus'), on the grounds of Carettoni's belief that it had been Augustus's personal residence. Following Carettoni's excavations, the temple and the house were believed to have been connected by a ramp, though this theory was disproven by later excavations. The status of the so-called domus Augusti and its relationship to both Augustus and the Temple of Apollo Palatinus is controversial. Excavations from the early twenty-first century indicate that the house was largely destroyed, while still under construction, to facilitate the building of the temple; they also found that the house was considerably larger than Carettoni believed, which meant that his identification of it as Augustus's personal residence contradicted the testimony of Roman biographers that the emperor's Palatine house had been noted for its modesty.
According to Roman authors, the temple's sanctuary also included the Roma Quadrata ('Square Rome'), a monument to the foundation of the city by Romulus; a four-columned shrine known as the Tetrasylum; and the Auguratorium, a monument to the taking of the auspices by Romulus during the foundation of Rome, which may have been an alternative name for the Roma Quadrata.
Scholars are divided on the interpretation of the temple's architecture. The British archaeologist John Ward-Perkins has described its architecture and embellishment, particularly its use of proportions common in Hellenistic architecture and its sculptural programme, as "a lively architectural experiment", which he contrasts with the conservatism of other Augustan restorations, such as that of the Temple of Cybele, which largely reused material from the existing structure. On the other hand, the Austrian archaeologist Stephan Zinkdescribes the temple as "an imposing revival of Republican architectural traditions", pointing to its use of wide intercolumniation unusual in contemporary architecture but common in older Roman and Etruscan temples.
The temple's precinct – the Area Apollonis – was built on a raised platform, approximately 9 metres (30 ft) above the terrace below and generally considered to have measured approximately 70 by 90 metres (230 by 300 ft), which included a retaining wall with blocks of tufa. This platform was constructed on top of the remains of older buildings on the site, which were demolished and their courtyards filled in. The entrance to the precinct was through a triumphal arch, known as the Arcus Octavii, in honour of Augustus's father, Gaius Octavius.
The temple's pronaos had six columns across its front. According to the Roman architectural writer Vitruvius, the intercolumniation of the pronaos was diastyle (that is, the gap between each pair of columns was three times a column's width). Columnal capitals in the Corinthian order have been found among the temple's remains; the columns which supported them are reconstructed to have reached 14 metres (46 ft) in height and have supplied evidence of fluting. Apart from the drums of the columns, all surviving fragments of the temple have furnished evidence of painted polychromy: parts of the column capitals were likely gilded, while other parts of the temple were painted in yellow ochre and red, blue, brown and green pigments. The podium of the temple was constructed using materials and techniques common during the Late Republican period, using ashlar blocks of tufa and travertine (known to the Romans as opus quadratum), under the walls and columns of the temple's cella, surrounding a core of concrete (known to the Romans as opus caementicium). According to reconstructions made by the Italian archaeologist Guiseppe Lugli, the temple had overall dimensions of 22.4 by 38.8 metres (73 by 127 ft), with a cella 26 metres (85 ft) long and a pronaos 12.8 metres (42 ft) in length.
The temple is generally believed to have faced south, though older reconstructions conceived of it as facing north and some contemporary hypotheses, such as that of the British archaeologist Amanda Claridge, have argued for a north-facing temple on the grounds that the diastyle architecture mentioned by Vitruvius would not have fitted in the available space to the south.
The temple's building materials, such as Libyan ivory and so-called "Punic" columns, recalled Rome's military conquests and successes. Its primary material was Carrara marble from the Italian town of Luna, a material frequently used in Augustan building projects: Augustus is credited with originating its large-scale quarrying and exploitation. Fragments of marble flooring have been found during excavations of the site. The columns of the Portico of the Danaids were made from yellow giallo antico marble quarried in Numidia. This is the earliest known use of giallo antico in Rome.
The temple's architecture may have been designed to compete with that of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, which was constructed at approximately the same time. The Temple of Apollo Sosianus was restored by and named for Gaius Sosius, a former supporter of Octavian's enemy Mark Antony. Augustus later tried to reduce its prominence by constructing the Theatre of Marcellus to block the view of its façade, and rebuilt the adjacent Porticus Octaviae, named after his sister Octavia, whom Antony had abandoned in favour of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt.
The temple contained three cult statues: one of Apollo, one of his sister Diana, and one of their mother Latona. A further statue of Apollo was situated in front of the temple. The cult statues were the work of Greek sculptors of the fourth century BCE: that of Apollo was made by Scopas, and was taken from the Nemeseion sanctuary of Apollo at Rhamnus.[f] Two badly-weathered fragments of colossal statuary excavated at the temple – one from a head, excavated in the temple's foundations, and one from a foot – have been suggested as possible remains of the cult statue of Apollo. Depictions of the statue on Roman coinage suggest that its base was decorated with anchors and the prows of ships, linking it to the naval victory at Actium, while its hands held a lyre and a libation-bowl.
The cult statue of Latona was by Kephisdotos the Younger, the son of the Athenian sculptor Praxiteles, while that of Diana was originally sculpted by the Epidaurian artist Timotheos, but its head was remade by Avianus Evander, an Athenian artist who had been taken to Rome as a prisoner in the mid-first century BCE. Other statues in the temple included a representation of the chariot of the sun on the acroterion of the temple's ridge, a group at the corners of the altar of four oxen made by Myron, another fifth-century Athenian sculptor, and another set representing the daughters of Danaus.  The Roman polymath Pliny the Elder, writing in the second half of the first century CE, catalogued works of Bupalis and Athenis, two Chian sculptors of the archaic period (c. 800 – c. 480 BCE), on the temple's pediments. The inclusion of statues by noted Greek artists, especially of the fourth and fifth centuries BCE and the archaic period, was almost universal in the temples built or restored by Augustus in Rome. The temple also contained a series of engraved gemstones dedicated by Augustus's nephew Marcellus.
On the temple's doors, a scene depicting the killing of the children of Niobe by Apollo and Diana was rendered in ivory, while the other door depicted the defeat of the Celtic attack on the Oracle of Delphi, of which Apollo was the patron god, in 281 BCE. One of the marble jambs of the doors depicted a Delphic tripod flanked by griffins, with an acanthus, symbolic of Apollo in his capacity as a god of regeneration, springing from it. The cella was lit by a chandelier said to have been taken by Alexander the Great from the Greek city of Thebes.
The Portico of the Danaids included statues of the eponymous Danaids, the Egyptian sisters who killed their cousin-husbands on their wedding night in an act of impietas. This artwork may have been intended to evoke and condemn the memory of Cleopatra, who had similarly married and then had assassinated her brother, Ptolemy XIV. The statues of the Danaids were situated between the portico's columns, near a statue of Danaus with drawn sword and faced by equestrian statues of their bridegrooms and victims, the sons of Aegyptus. Parts of at least four of these statues, around 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) in height and in the style of herms, have been discovered: three in black nero antico marble and at least one in red rosso antico. A series of painted terracotta panels in the Campana style, found in the area of the temple, may have originally belonged to the Portico of the Danaids. The panels show mythical scenes including Perseus's defeat of Medusa, the caryatids and the contest between Hercules and Apollo for the Delphic tripod, as well as scenes where human beings worship sacred objects, such as one which may be a candelabra, a thymiaterion or a baetylus.
The portico's libraries included a statue of Augustus with the appearance of Apollo. A statue of a young man (ephebe) in black basalt has also been found in the temple, as well as fragments of a marble relief showing the prow of a ship and of a fresco showing Apollo with a lyre. A common building material in the temple's sculptures was Pentelic marble from Mount Pentelicus near Athens; a material frequently used in Athenian building projects of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE and particularly prized in Rome.
Walker has suggested that the sculptural decoration of the Temple of Apollo Palatinus served a complex ideological purpose: to elevate the standard of Rome's public art, to showcase the material wealth generated by the Roman Empire's expansion, and to promote Augustan moral values such as the value of Roman citizenship and of modesty in dress and personal behaviour. Between 161 and 169 CE, a further statue of the "Apollo Comaeus" ('Long-Haired Apollo') type was taken from the Persian city of Seleucia and installed in the temple by the Roman emperor Lucius Verus.
Main article: Roman temple
It is unclear whether the Temple of Apollo Palatinus was intended to supplant or complement the existing centre for Apollo's worship at the Temple of Apollo Sosianus. According to the classicist Bénédicte Delignon, the temple served to establish Apollo as the tutelary deity of Rome and as a representation of Augustus's symbolic refoundation of the city. In Augustus's political propaganda, it represented the restoration of Rome's "golden age", a key aspect of Augustan ideology, marked by the end of civil war and the reaffirmation of Roman pietas. The French classicist Gilles Sauron has interpreted many of the temple's artworks, including that of the Danaids and the scenes on the temple's doors, as emblematic of the divine punishment of impietas.
Assessments of the sanctuary's primary significance vary. Walker has described the temple as "Augustus's personal shrine", a view echoed by the archaeologist Paul Zanker, who considers that the adjacent house was that of Augustus, has suggested that the two buildings combined in a manner reminiscent of a Hellenistic palace-complex. Pointing to the prominence of the sanctuary's libraries, the German classical archaeologist Lilian Balensiefen has described the temple as a "literary sanctuary" in which Apollo was venerated in his capacity as a god of learning. The temple was also used for meetings of the senate.
From around 20 BCE, the temple was used to store the Sibylline Books, a series of prophetic writings believed to date from the time of Rome's semi-legendary king Tarquinius Superbus (c. 510 BCE), which Augustus moved there from the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. They were stored in gold cases in the base of the cult statue of Apollo.
The temple became a popular site for the dedication of votive offerings, particularly statues. According to Augustus's autobiography, the Res Gestae, he melted down approximately eighty silver statues of himself that had been offered there by Rome's citizens, sold the resulting metal and used the proceeds to purchase gold tripods in honour of Apollo.
In modern times, the temple has been described by Ward-Perkins as "one of the earliest and finest of the Augustan temples". It was noted by contemporaries as among Rome's most impressive monuments, and described by the historians Josephus and Velleius Paterculus in the 1st century CE as the greatest of Augustus's building projects. Suetonius similarly described it as among Augustus's most important architectural works, alongside the Forum of Augustus, the Temple of Mars Ultor and the Temple of Jupiter Tonans. Delignon has suggested that the proem of the Roman poet Virgil's Georgics, published in 29 BCE, may have alluded to the proposed or incipient construction of the temple.
The Roman poet Propertius attended the opening of the temple and wrote two elegies to celebrate it. The first of these (conventionally numbered 2.31) was written around the time of the temple's dedication and published in either 25 or 24 BCE. Propertius's contemporary Horace published an ode (1.31) in 23 BCE, ostensibly written on the day of the temple's dedication to celebrate Apollo. Around 20 BCE, the poet Tibullus wrote an elegy (2.5) commemorating the appointment of Marcus Valerius Messalinus as a priest of Apollo with responsibility for inspecting the Sibylline Books stored at the temple.
The temple's political significance and association with Actium became universal themes of poetic responses to the monument from 16 BCE onwards, when Propertius published the second of his elegies on the temple (4.6). A common motif in these poetic works was the association between the Sibylline Books, now stored in the temple, and the works of the poets themselves. The newly intensified religious significance of the Palatine Hill also featured in its presentation in the eighth book of Virgil's Aeneid, composed between 29 and 19 BCE, in which the king Evander walks the hero Aeneas around the future site of the temple; later in Aeneid 8, the Battle of Actium is reconstructed as a theomachic contest on the Shield of Aeneas, and Augustus's triple triumph of 29 BCE is anachronistically imagined as having taken place at the temple. Many of the responses to the temple in Augustan poetry have been read as appropriating, subverting or challenging its political and ideological significance. Ovid, in the Ars Amatoria (published around 4 BCE), wrote of the temple as a particularly fruitful place to find pretty women. Later, in the Tristia (composed between 9 and 18 BCE), he included the temple in an imagined tour of the monuments of central Rome.
The temple played a significant role in the Secular Games, a religious and artistic festival revived by Augustus in 17 BCE. Horace wrote his Carmen Saeculare, a religious hymn, for the occasion: it received its first performance at the Temple of Apollo Palatinus on 3 June, sung by a choir of 27 boys and 27 girls and accompanied by sacrifices to Apollo and Diana. The temple's cult statue of Apollo was depicted on the Sorrento Base, a late-Augustan or early Tiberian (that is, c. 14 CE) statue plinth first identified as a depiction of it by the German architectural historian Christian Hülsen in 1894.
In modern times, only the cement core of the temple's podium, measuring 19.2 by 37.0 by 4.7 metres (63.0 by 121.4 by 15.4 ft), survives, as well as isolated architectural fragments including blocks from the cella. The Italian archaeologist Pietro Rosa made the first full excavations of the area of the temple in the nineteenth century. Rosa began working on the Palatine in 1861, in the employ of Napoleon III, the owner of the Farnese Gardens which included the site of the temple. in 1863, he discovered the Arcus Octavi to the north of the temple, followed by the concrete core of the temple's podium in 1865. In the same year, he consolidated the surviving fragments of the temple and built a staircase over them. In 1869 he discovered the surviving fragments of statuary in the Portico of the Danaids, and he carried out his final excavations in 1870. During Rosa's excavations, the site was opened to the public on Thursdays, though visitors had to obtain a permit from the French government, and Rosa often led tours himself.
Further excavations took place under Rosa's compatriot Alfonso Bartoli in 1937. In the 1950s, another Italian archaeologist, Giuseppe Lugli documented the surviving remains: this work was described in 2008 as the most detailed existing study of the temple's ruins, though it contains contradictions and ambiguities, particularly over the width of the column axis (that is, the distance between the centres of adjacent columns).
The area around the temple, including its sanctuary and the rest of the domus Augusti complex, was further excavated by Carettoni between 1956 and 1984. Until 1956, the temple was generally misidentified as the third-century BCE Temple of Jupiter Invictus (or Jupiter Victor), but the discovery beneath it of late-Republican-period houses (that is, dating from c. 100 – c. 30 BCE) ruled out this possibility.[g] The excavations of 1968 saw the excavation of the temple's pronaos as well as the beginning of the collection of the fragmentary terracotta plaques, which continued in 1969 and 1970. Carettoni's excavations were only partially published. The work of both Rosa and Carettoni involved extensive reconstruction, which was continued thereafter by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma .
Zink carried out excavations on the temple from 2006, primarily aimed at reconstructing the dimensions, measurements and form of the temple's façade. Between 2005 and 2009, Zink and the archaeological conservator Heinrich Piening documented the temple's surviving remains and drew up reconstructions of its original form. Between 2009 and 2013, Zink excavated an area south-west of the main temple, revealing a building dating to the archaic period (that is, c. 753 – c. 287 BCE) which he posited to have been a small shrine.