1902 Encyclopedia > Rome > Ancient Rome - Capitoline Hill

(Part 26)



Capitoline Hill

The Capitoline Hill, once called Mons Saturnius (Varro, L. L., v. 42), consists of two peaks, the Capitolium and the Arx, 12 with an intermediate valley (Asylum). The older name of the Capitolium was Mons Tarpeius (Varro, L.L., v. 41).

Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus

Livy (i. 10) mentions the founding of a shrine to Jupiter Feretrius on the Capitolium by Romulus ;13 this summit was afterwards occupied by the great triple temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, a triad of deities worshipped under the names of Tinia, Thalna, and Menrva in every Etruscan city. This great temple was (Liv., i. 38, 53) founded by Tarquin I., built by his son Tarquin II., and dedicated by M. Horatius Pulvillus, consul suffectus in 509 B.C.14 It was built in the Etruscan style, of peperino stuccoed and painted (Vitr., iii. 3), with wooden architraves, wide intercolumniations, and painted terra-cotta statues. " It was rebuilt many times ; the original temple lasted till it was burnt in 83 B.C. ; it was then re-founded in marble by Sulla, with Corinthian columns stolen from the temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens (Plin., xxxvi. 5), and was completed and dedicated by Q. Lut. Catulus, whose name appeared on the front. Augustus, in spite of his having carried out part of the work, did not introduce his name by the side of that of Catulus. It was again burnt by the Vitellian rioters in 70 A.D., and rebuilt by Vespasian in 71.16 Lastly, it was burnt in the three days' fire of Titus's reign and rebuilt with columns of Pentelic marble by Domitian ; the gilding alone of this last rebuilding is said to have cost 2 1/2 millions sterling (Plut., Publ., 15). There has been much controversy as to the site of this temple and that of Juno Moneta on the Arx ; but there is an overwhelming mass of evidence to show that the Capitolium is the peak where the Palazzo Catfarelli stands, and that the church of Ara Cceli occupies the Arx. Livy (xxxv. 21) mentions the fall of a mass of rock from the Capitolium into the Vicus Jugarius, which passes close under the Caffarelli summit, and is not near the opposite peak. Moreover, extensive substructions of tufa and peperino have been exposed on the eastern peak, the form of which appears to iit this nearly square triple temple, and in 1875 a fragment of a fluted column was found, of such great size that it could only have belonged to the temple of Jupiter. Its actual limits have not been clearly made out, and therefore the truth of Dionysius's description (iv. 61) cannot be proved. The temple is represented on many coins, both republican and imperial; these show that the central cella was that of Jupiter, that of Minerva on his right, and of Juno on his left. The door was covered with gold reliefs, which were stolen by Stilicho (c. 390 ; Zosim., v. 38), and the gilt bronze tiles (Plin., xxxiii. 18) on the roof were partly stripped off by Genseric in 455 (Procop., De Bell. Vand., i. 5), and the rest by Pope Honorius I. in 630 (Marliano, Topogr., ii. 1). Till 1348, when the steps up to Ara Cceli were built, there was no access to the Capitol from the back ; hence the three ascents to it mentioned by Livy (iii. 7, v. 26-28) and Tacitus (Hist., iii. 71-72) were all from the inside of the Servian circuit. Even on this inner side it was defended by a wall, the gates in which are called "Capitolii fores" by Tacitus. Part of the outer wall at the top of the tufa rock, wdiich is cut into a smooth cliff, is visible from the modern Vicolo della Iiupe Tarpeia ; this cliff is traditionally called the Tarpeian rock, but that must have been on the other side towards the Forum, from whence it was visible, as is clearly stated by Dionysius (vii. 35, viii. 78). Another piece of the ancient wall has recently been exposed, about half-way up the slope from the Forum to the Arx. It is built of soft yellow tufa blocks, five courses of which still remain in the existing fragment. The large temple of Juno Moneta ("the Adviser") on the Arx, built by Camillus in 384 B.C., was used as the mint; hence moneta= "money" (Liv., vi. 20).

A large number of other temples and smaller shrines stood on the Capitoline Hill, a word used broadly to include both the Capitolium and the Arx. Among these were the temple of Honos and Virtus, built by Marius, and the temple of Fides, founded by Numa, and rebuilt during the First Punic War. Both these were large enough to hold meetings of the Senate. The temple of Jupiter Tonans was built by Augustus (Suet., Aug., 29), near the great temple of Jupiter. Other shrines existed to Venus Victrix, Ops, Jupiter Custos, and Concord—the last under the Arx (Liv., xxii. 33)—and many others, as well as a triumphal arch in honour of Nero, and a crowd of statues and other works of art (see Plin., H.N., xxxiii. 4; xxxiv. 17, 18, 19; xxxv. 36, 45; xxxvi. 5, 8), so that the whole hill must have been a mass of architectural and artistic magnificence, the spoils of the whole Hellenic world.


The so-called Tabularium occupies the central part of the side towards the Forum ; it is set on the tufa rock, which is cut away to receive its lower story. It derives its name from an inscription found there in the 15th century, quoted by Poggio (see Gruter, Inscr., 170, 6); but that name was given to many buildings in Rome (Liv., iii. 55, xliii. 16), and there is no reason to suppose that this specially was known as the Tabularium (comp. Virg., Geor:, ii. 501). Catulus, who was also the dedicator of the great temple of Jupiter (Tac., Hist., iii. 72 ; Dion Cass., xliii. 14), was consul in 78 B.C., but part of this building is probably much earlier in date. Its outer walls are of peperino, its inner ones of tufa or concrete ; the Doric arcade has capitals and architrave of travertine. A road paved with basalt passes through the building along this arcade, entered at one end from the Clivus Capitolinus, and at the other probably from the Gradus Monetae, a flight of steps leading from the temple of Concord and the Forum up to the temple of Juno Moneta on the Arx (see Plate VIII.). The entrance from the Clivus Capitolinus is by a wide flat arch of peperino most beautifully jointed ; the other end wall has been mostly destroyed. The back of this building overlooked the Asylum or depression between the two peaks. From this higher level a long steep staircase of sixty-four steps descends towards the Forum ; the doorway at the foot of these stairs has a flat arch, with a circular relieving arch over it; it was completely blocked up by the temple of Vespasian (see fig. 1). This was probably the door where the Vitellian rioters broke into the Capitolium (Tac, Hist., iii. 71). Great damage was done to this building by the additions of Boniface VIII. and Nicholas V., as well as by its being used as a salt store, by which the walls w'ere much corroded.


12 These two peaks are clearly distinguished by Livy and Strabo.
13 This is the earliest temple mentioned in Roman history, though there was probably in Roma Quadrata the usual triply consecrated temple erected at the founding of the city. It was rebuilt by Augustus, as is recorded in the Mon. Ancyr.
14 See Plut., PuU., 15 ; 0.1. L., i. p. 487 ; Liv., ii. 8, iv. 51; Dionys., v. 35.
15 Plin., xxxv. 45 ; see Tac, Hist., iii. 72; Val. Max., v. 10.
16 Suet., Vit, 15, and Ves.,S; comp.Tac.,Hiat.,lv. 53. and Dion Cass., lxvi. 10.

Suet., Dom., 5; Dion Cass., lxvi. 24.
See Dureau, La roche Tarpienne, Paris, 1816; a graceful account of the legend of Tarpeia is given by Propertius, Elcg., iv. 4.
A structure of great sanctity, dating from prehistoric F.trnscan times, was the Auguraculum, an elevated platform upon the Arx, from which the signs in the heavens were observed by the augurs (see Festus, ed. Midler, p. IS). This was moved under the empire to the Palatine (see Notitia, <fcc), probably by Augustus.
5 What are probably its foundations have been found near the substructures of the great temple (Bull. Comm. Arch. Rom., 1875, iii. p. 165 sg.). It is mentioned in the list of the Man. Ancyr.
The whole of the frieze and cornice is missing; it is usually supposed that there was once another story above this entablature, but there is no evidence x>f that except Poggio's statement.
The whole of the frieze and cornice is missing; it is usually supposed that there was once another story above this entablature, but there is no evidence x>f that except Poggio's statement.
Mommsen (Ann. Inst., 1858, p. 211) comes to the conclusion that this building is the Aerarium Batumi, but that seems hardly possible, as there is tlie. clearest evidence that that ¡erarium was in or part of the temple of Saturn (so? ante, p. 817).
The Porta Pandana (lfever-open gate") was probably situated near the south-west angle of the Tabularium, where the road of the Clivus Capitolinus entered the circuit wall of the Capitoline Hill. See Righetti, Descriz. del Campidoglio, 1833; Azzurri, Antico Tabularlo, 1839 ; Supham, De Capitolio Romano, 1866; and Jordan, Ann. Inst., 1881.
See Mon. Ancyr. (quoted at p. 817, note 13, above); Plin., H.N., xxxv. 45, xxxvi. 24.

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