Temple of Caesar

Temple of Caesar, otherwise known as Temple of Divus Iulius, Temple of the Deified Julius Caesar, or the Temple of the Comet Star, is situated in Via della Salara Vecchia, just beyond two temples – Temple of Vesta and the Regia.

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Historical references indicate that a comet arrived in the skies over Rome a few months after Caesar’s death.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

Although the temple was finished under Octavian’s leadership, it was initially begun in 42 BC, under the command of three rulers, Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus.

On 18 August 29 BC, Octavian allotted the unique prostyle temple to Julius Caesar, to celebrate the victory over Cleopatra and Antony

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The Temple is located on the eastern portion of the Roman Forum’s central plaza, between the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Regia, and on the spot of Julius’s cremation at the Basilica Aemilia. 

Though the ancient reports of Caesar’s cremation beyond 44 BC are muddled. Suetonius considers that Caesar’s allies arranged a traditional funeral for the Campus Martius.

But the final cremation occurred in the Forum following a passionate speech delivered by Mark Antony. After which, Caesar’s body was carried and deposited near the Regia by Caesar’s political allies. 

A funeral in the city’s ceremonial core was rare and was charged with political issues. Caesar’s sudden pyre recollected the 52 BC incident that occurred in Cura Hostilia during Publius Clodius Pulcher’s burning. 

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

About two memorials appear to have existed at various times in 44 BC. The consuls dismantled one within a month of Caesar’s death and the other during the summer.

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

He had his hand stretched for the column where the statue was crowned, which now marks the pyre’s location.

Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus, around 43 BC, had formed the 2nd Triumvirate with the support of Caesarians. This new Triumvirate defied Caesar by 42 BC.

A tribal council edict also mandated the temple’s construction to honor Caesar with a dramatic display of populist sovereignty. 

However, on the other hand, the hunt for his assassins was a significant issue, leading to slow work.

Octavian’s triumvirate allies avoided showing excitement toward the Caesarian religion, supplying a solid political base. The construction of the temple did not begin until 31 BC.

The Temple of Caesar was not solemnly consecrated until 29 years after Octavian defeated his former companion Antony and took undisputed control of Ancient Rome. 

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. 

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.

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Restorers mostly preserved the Temple till the 15th century, after which the stones, artifacts, and marbles were repurposed to build mansions and churches. Only a portion of the platform’s cement core has been retained.

Though the Imperial Forma Urbis misses the overall plan of the Temple of Caesar, some remains of the Roman Forum can still be found on V-11, VI -6, and VII -11 slabs.

Besides Caesar’s temple, these slabs depict the plans for the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Regia, the Basilica Iulia, the Fons and Lacus Iuturnae, and the Basilica Aemilia. 

This temple’s architectural design is also confusing, as it could be an example of peripteral, pycnostyle, or prostyle. However, the placement of the columns at the front makes it more of a pycnostyle from the front porch.

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

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

Numerous academics make various assumptions regarding its architectural designs as some believe it to feature Ionic pronaos while others believe it to have Corinthian columns.

The contrast between composite pillars and Corinthian is Renaissance, not Ancient Roman, though they were both a part of orders in Ancient Rome. 

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

Numerous buildings were made for religious purposes, primarily the Augustan Temples, the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, and the Temple of Mars Ultor were the Corinthians.

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; 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

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.

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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, stucco, fresco paintings, or flat slabs of exquisite colored marbles adorning the interiors. 

It differs significantly from current concrete because it comprises 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.

The shattered remnants of the Senate’s altar in front of the Temple 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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