The Temple of Castor and Pollux

The Roman Forum

I went to the Forum on a bright and sunny day, thinking I would pass the time until I could get in the Colosseum. Little did I realize that the two-plus hour delay on entering the colosseum was for timed entry tickets, not general admission, even with my Roma Pass, and I would still have to wait in line for two hours to get in. It all worked out in the end – I enjoyed the Forum and wandered the periphery of the Colosseum and got some good shots of the exterior, and took a pass on going inside. Now that I know better I’ll go back the next time and get timed-entry tickets or book a tour in advance. Do NOT get suckered in by the tour guides touting skip-the-line access on the plaza around the Colosseum – the guides who give the tours are of questionable expertise and foreign language skill, so about the only plus you’ll get from going in with them is skipping the line.

This column is one of the few remaining columns of a loggia across from the Basilica Julia.

Solitary Column, Imperial Forum
Solitary Column, Imperial Forum

The temple of Vesta is a small circular structure, with a few columns and a fragment of a wall jutting up. This would have housed a flame kept burning by the Vestal virgins, women who pledged celibacy for some thirty years of service. They would have been too old to marry or have children by their retirement, but if they were able to wait that long, they were richly rewarded and retired to lives of considerable luxury and comfort. If they couldn’t wait, well… they and their defilers were sentenced to death.

The Temple of Vesta
The Temple of Vesta

I caught this school group in the Forum, one student presenting a topic about the place to his fellow students. I suspect it was a project for a history course. Made me wish I had gone to school somewhere in Europe that we would have taken field trips to the Forum, instead of to the American History museum to look at displays of Revolutionary War muskets.

A School Group at the Forum
A School Group at the Forum

Two of the major surviving structures of the Forum are visible in this view – the Temple of Romulus (now part of the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damiano) and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The temple of Romulus is the cylindrical structure in the foreground. Because of its early re-use as a Christian church, the temple of Romulus is, after the Pantheon, the best preserved Roman temple in the city. The Roman Senate structure is also quite well preserved, and the main Senate chamber retains is marble steps and the black marble slab that supposedly marks the tomb of Romulus.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustian and the Temple of Romulus
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the Temple of Romulus

A striking rarity are the doors of the temple of Romulus – they are the ORIGINAL bronze doors, over 2000 years old. Many other temple doors have been either removed and melted down for re-use or, as in the case of the doors of the Senate building, moved by Bernini to Saint John Lateran. You can really feel the patina of the ages when looking at these doors.

Ancient Bronze Door, Temple of Romulus
Ancient Bronze Door, Temple of Romulus

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was originally built in honor of Faustina, the wife of Emperor Antoninus. She was deified upon her death, and Antoninus had the temple erected in her memory. When he passed away, he too was deified and added to the temple’s namesakes. The colonnade survives in its current state of preservation due to the later conversion of the structure into a Christian church. You can see the former entrance to the church a whole story above the top of the steps – at the time of the conversion, the Forum had infilled to the level of the door.The columns also owe their survival to this infilling – you can see the diagonal gouges in the columns from where ropes or chains were wrapped around them in an attempt to pull them down. This may have been because of an anti-Pagan movement during the early Church, or it may have been by marble scavengers trying to get the columns for their stone.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Columns and steps, Temple of Antinous and Faustina
Columns and steps, Temple of Antinous and Faustina
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Most of the temples of the Forum are ruins – a few scant columns remain of them, or in some cases only foundations. The temple of Castor and Pollux is one survivor with a few columns to mark its location. Their losses are due to various anti-Pagan movements and repeated use of the Forum as a low-effort quarry for marble to be used in the palaces of popes and cardinals.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux
The Temple of Castor and Pollux

The original altar from the spring of Juturna was on display inside the temple of Romulus as part of a temporary exhibition when I was there. This side depicts the twins Castor and Pollux, who supposedly visited the spring to water their horses. The temple of Castor and Pollux is directly across from the spring. They have a replica in place at the spring itself.

The Altar of Castor and Pollux from the Lacus Juturnae
The Altar of Castor and Pollux from the Lacus Juturnae
Spring of Juturna, Roman Forum
Spring of Juturna, Roman Forum

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