Temple of Caesar

The Temple of Caesar, also often referred to as the Temple of Divus Iulius, is a historic edifice in Rome, Italy. The Latin idiom of the temple is called the Aedes Divi Iuli; Italian: Tempio del Divo Giulio. 

Likewise, it is also known as the Temple of the Deified Julius Caesar, delubrum, heroon, or Temple of the Comet Star. 

The Temple is situated in Via della Salara Vecchia, just beyond the Regia and the Temple of Vesta.

It is also about 12 to 15 minutes away from the Mausoleum of Augustus and on Campus Martius.  

Historical references indicate that a comet arrived in the skies over Rome a few months after Caesar’s death.

The comet was luminous enough to be seen throughout the day, appearing an hour before sunset for seven days. 

The comet’s arrival coincided with funeral festivities sponsored by Octavian on behalf of the killed dictator. 

Public opinion (helped along, commonly assumed, by Octavian and the Caesarian party) interpreted this apparition as confirmation that Caesar had ascended into the sky alongside the gods. 

Eventually, the comet was dubbed the sidus Iulium, or “Caesar’s Comet” in English. The comet swiftly became an essential feature of the deified Caesar’s iconography.

Initially, the Temple was intended to be a heroon for Julius Caesar’s assassination

However, during Augustus’ expansion of the Forum, the Temple evolved into the principal building for self-identity of the nascent Julian dynasty and the first Emperor of Rome.

Was Caesar’s body burned?

Julius Caesar was publicly cremated in the Roman Forum. According to legend, the crowd threw robes, branches, jewels, and other possessions into the burning funeral pyre as they grieved. As the people advanced upon the conspirators, the flames were soared out of control, nearly burning down the Forum.

Was Rome destroyed following Caesar’s death?

Caesar’s death triggered a long series of civil wars that resulted in the Roman Republic’s demise and the formation of the Roman Empire.

Who Built the Temple of Caesar? History and Narrative 

Statue of Octavian
Statue of Octavian

After the senators venerated Julius Caesar posthumously, the triumvirs Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus decreed the Temple in 42 BC. However, it was finished by Octavian alone. 

On 18 August 29 BC, he allotted the prostyle temple (the order of which is unknown) to Caesar, his adoptive father.

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He conducted this as part of the triple triumph commemorating his victory over Antony and Cleopatra

The Temple is located on the east side of the Roman Forum’s central plaza, between the Regia and the Temple of Castor and Pollux. 

Similarly, it is also located adjacent to the Basilica Aemilia, on the spot of Caesar’s cremation.

The ancient reports of Caesar’s cremation following his death in 44 BC are somewhat muddled. According to Suetonius, Caesar’s allies arranged a traditional funeral for the Campus Martius.

But the final cremation occurred in the Forum following a passionate speech by Mark Antony. 

Caesar’s body was carried to the Forum by his political allies and deposited in front of the Regia, Caesar’s private headquarters as Pontifex Maximus. 

The Regia was also typically the abode of Rome’s kings. Caesar’s choice of location could also represent a widespread acceptance of his “royal” stature as a Dictator perpetuo. 

A funeral in the city’s ceremonial core was rare and politically charged. Caesar’s sudden pyre recalled the 52 BC burning of populist firebrand Publius Clodius Pulcher in the Cura Hostilia. 

The public’s enthusiasm also constructed an informal monument on the Forum’s east side, opposite the Regia. This served as the location of vows and sacrifices. 

At least two monuments appear to have existed at various times. The consuls dismantled one within six weeks of Caesar’s death. Another was restored in the summer of 44 BC.

By autumn of that year, the location had become the corporeal epicenter of the Caesarian movement.

In November, Octavian even launched a public rally of Caesar’s veterans and officially swore his adherence to Caesar’s memory.

He had his hand stretched towards the column where the statue was crowned, which now marks the location of the pyre.

By the latter half of 43 BC, Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus had formed the Second Triumvirate with Caesarian support. In 42, the new regime legally deified Caesar.

A tribal council edict also mandated the construction of a temple in his honor. This was seen as a dramatic display of populist sovereignty. 

The hunt for Caesar’s assassins, on the other hand, was a more pressing concern, and work moved slowly, if at all. 

It is possible that Octavian’s triumvirate allies did not share his excitement for the Caesarian religion, which supplied him with a solid political base. 

Likewise, it is possible that construction did not begin in earnest until 32 or 31 BC.

The Temple was not solemnly consecrated until 29 years after Octavian defeated his former companion Antony and took undisputed control of the Roman world. 

The Elaborate Roman Architecture of the Temple of Caesar  

Temple of Caesar by the computer generated model maker
Temple of Caesar by the computer-generated model maker

The Temple of Caesar was constructed in a tiny section of the Forum (not much space was left).

The front, elevated on a podium substructure, included six columns that gave the Temple a towering appearance. 

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It was richly adorned with marble. Octavian created a semicircular recess in the front to accommodate the Senate’s altar, which held Caesar’s ashes. Raised orator platforms for public addresses encircled the recess.

The Temple was accompanied by two arches, one commemorating the Battle of Actium and the other commemorating the Battle of Carrhae. 

Visitors could find a colossal statue of Julius Caesar with a star on his head inside the Temple. His adoring audience could see the statue from the Forum when the temple doors were open.

Restorers mostly preserved the Temple until the late 15th century, when its marble and stones were repurposed to build new churches and mansions. Only a portion of the platform’s cement core has been retained.

This Temple’s plan is absent from the Imperial Forma Urbis. The remaining remains of this area of the Roman Forum may be found on slabs V-11, VII-11, and VI-6. 

It also depicts plans for the Regia, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Fons and Lacus Iuturnae, the Basilica Iulia, and the Basilica Aemilia. 

The Temple, according to Vitruvius, was an example of a pycnostyle front porch, with six closely placed columns on the front.

However, the configuration of the columns is unknown, as it could be either prostyle or peripteral. 

The initial column order for this Temple is unknown. Archaeologists discovered remnants of Corinthian pilaster caps on the site. 

This indicates that the columns were either Ionic or composite, based on ancient coins depicting the Temple of Divus Iulius. 

Some academics believe the Temple featured an Ionic pronaos coupled with Corinthian pilasters on the cella walls, i.e., at the cella corners. 

However, other scholars believe the Temple was Corinthian, and the coin evidence to be inaccurate reproductions of Corinthian columns. 

The contrast between Corinthian and composite pillars is Renaissance, not Ancient Roman. Corinthian and composite were both orders in Ancient Rome. 

The composite style appears to have been more popular in civil constructions and Triumphal arch exteriors and considerably less prominent on temple exteriors because the Romans were exceptionally good at building structures.

Many Augustan Temples and Religious Buildings were Corinthian, such as the Temple of Mars Ultor, the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, and others. 

What was the Temple of Caesar made out of? Matters and Materials  

Etruscan tuff blocks from a tomb at Banditaccia
Etruscan tuff blocks from a tomb at Banditaccia

The inner parts of the temple building were made of tuff, a rock type formed from volcanic ash thrown from a vent during an eruption. 

The ash is lithified into a solid rock after ejection and deposition. Tuff is defined as rock that includes more than 75% ash, and tuffaceous is described as rock with 25% to 75% ash.

Because tuff is a relatively soft rock, it has been utilized for construction since antiquity.

Likewise, because it is widely used in Italy, the Romans utilized it extensively in construction. Inner atriums of the Temple are also made from opus caementicium

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The hydraulic-setting cement was the foundation of Roman concrete. It is long-lasting due to the inclusion of pozzolanic ash, which inhibits fractures from spreading.

The material was widely utilized by the middle of the first century, commonly brick-faced. 

Differences in aggregate allowed for alternative material configurations.

Further material innovations, known as the concrete revolution, also contributed to structurally complex structures such as the Pantheon dome, the world’s biggest and oldest unreinforced concrete dome. 

Roman concrete was typically covered with stone or brick, with stucco, fresco paintings, or flat slabs of exquisite colored marbles adorning the interiors. 

It differs significantly from current concrete because it is composed of rubble and a two-part concrete mixture system. 

Because the aggregates were often much more prominent than in modern concrete, frequently equating to rubble, it was placed rather than poured. 

Some Roman could be placed underwater, essential for building bridges and other waterside structures.

The walls of the temple podium and the cella were made from travertine. This type of terrestrial limestone forms around mineral springs and boiling springs.

Travertine has a fibrous or circumferential texture and comes in white, tan, cream, and rusty colors. 

The Ruins of the Temple of Caesar 

Remains of the temple
Remains of the temple

The ruins of the Temple of Caesar today are not simple to find in the beautiful rubble of the Roman Forum. It’s not clearly labeled.

One can stroll through Constantine’s massive Arch. Then proceed down the Via Sacra, the Forum’s main thoroughfare. 

A little metal roof and a portion of a stone wall can be found behind the Temple of Vesta and the Temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux columns. That’s where you’ll locate the Temple of Caesar’s ruins. 

The stone came from the base that supported the platforms of the orators. Under the roof, there appears to be a pile of pebbles and dirt.

That’s the shattered remnants of the Senate’s altar in front of the Temple, which held Caesar’s ashes.

Regardless of the grave’s condition ruin, an avid ruin enthusiast will be awestruck and rendered speechless by this history mark. 

One can feel connected to a timeless historical moment. After all, it is the tomb of Julius Caesar, the most famous Roman.

The altar ruin is also frequently covered in coins and flowers, especially during Rome’s reenactment of the Ides of March.

Conclusion 

Due to the removal of costly stones during the decades that followed. The semicircular structure and some of the altars can still be seen.

We know it must have been relatively imposing, because of depictions on certain Roman coins, with a steep stairway and six marble columns on the facade.

Perhaps even more endearing and admirable is that, after more than 2,000 years, visitors continue to commemorate the site with flowers and notes in Caesar’s honor. 

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