Templum Gentis Flaviae
lost monument, formerly known only from ancient literary sources that
celebrated its size and splendor, was built by the emperor Domitian (AD
81-96) as a temple and tomb complex for members of his imperial family,
the Flavian dynasty.
A synthesis of archaeological
evidence and literary accounts, which record that Domitian erected the
Templum Gentis Flaviae on the site of his birthplace on the Quirinal
Hill, indicates that it stood near the present location of the Church
of Santa Susanna, where the modern Via XX Settembre follows the course
of an ancient Roman street named Alta Semita.
Messages in Stone
yet elegant sculptures of the Templum Gentis Flaviae provide unprecedented
insight into the decor and imagery that a first-century Roman emperor
with dynastic ambitions considered appropriate for the final resting place
of his imperial house. The marble decorations of the monument, however,
present an idealized image of ambitions that were never fulfilled. Shortly
after the Templum was completed Domitian was assassinated in AD
96, leaving no Flavian heir to the throne.
sculptures of the Templum Gentis Flaviae celebrate the Flavian
dynasty, its accomplishments, and the deification of members of the Flavian
family. The Templum advertises the military successes of the Flavian
emperors, as well as their miraculous transformation into gods after death.
It also draws parallels between the great ruling dynasties of the past
and the Flavian dynasty. For example, one fragment depicts scenes
from the legendary foundation of Rome, a myth that was also illustrated
in earlier monuments of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
here, the Pentelic marble sculptures of the Templum Gentis Flaviae
are attributed to a type of altar precinct, its entablature supported
by male figures (caryatids) who stand in front of palm trees, symbols
of the province of Judaea where the Flavian emperors conquered rebellious
Jerusalem and gained a glorious Roman triumph. Two panels of relief sculpture
depict scenes drawn from Roman state religion and imperial ceremony, a
sacrificial procession and a formal reception for the emperor Vespasian
as he returns to Rome.
three themes of visual propaganda--imperial apotheosis, equality between
emperors and deities, and military triumph over Judaea--were pioneered
in the Pentelic marble relief sculptures of the Arch
Copyright ©1997, 2002
Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Soprintendenza Archeologica
di Roma and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan.
All rights reserved.