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The Date of Dedication of the Temple of Mars Ultor*

  • C. J. Simpson (a1)


For many years now scholars have considered the date of dedication of the temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus as a matter beyond dispute. This date, 1 August 2 B.C., is based principally on the evidence supplied by Augustus, Velleius Paterculus and Dio, and has been accepted as an established historical fact at least from the time of Th.Mommsen's discussion in 1893. Nevertheless, certain problems arise from an acceptance of this date; problems, that is, which have a direct bearing on the use of the Res Gestae of Augustus and the Fasti of Ovid as valid historical sources.

The year in which the temple was dedicated in the Forum of Augustus has been established beyond all doubt. Velleius Paterculus (11, 100, 2) states that the temple was dedicated during the consulship of Augustus and L. Caninius Gallus, who, as we know from other sources, was suffect consul in 2 B.C. Also Augustus assigns to this year—his thirteenth consulship—the first celebration of Ludi Martiales at Rome. Furthermore, it may be accepted that Ludi Martiales were produced in subsequent years on the anniversary of the dedication of this temple.



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1 CIL I2 p. 318.

2 See PIR 2 C 390; cf. Degrassi, A., I Fasti Consolari dell'Impero Romano (1952), p. 5, where the date of the consulship of L. Caninius Gallus is evidently based on the accepted date for the dedication of die temple of Mars Ultor in 2 B.C.

3 Res Gestae 22, 2 (see below p. 92.).

4 cf. Dio LV, 10; LX, 5, 3. Also Regner, RE Supp. VII, 1643 f. and above n. 3.

5 Dio LX, 5, 3: ἐν γὰρ δὴ τῇ τοῦ Αὐγούστου νουμηνίᾳ, ἠγωνίζοντο μὲν ἵπποι, … ὁ τοῦ Ἄρεως ναὸς ἐν ταύτῃ καθιέρωτο καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐτησίοις ἀγῶσιν ἐτετίμητο.

6 Fer. Cum.: CIL I2, p. 229; F. Maff.: CIL I2, p. 224; Philocalus: CIL I2, p. 263. These sources are collected, conveniently enough, in Ehrenberg, V. and Jones, A. H. M., Documents illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius2 (1955), 48: Cum. ‘[eo die aedes Martis dedicatast. supplica]tio Molibus Martis’. Mqf. ‘lud. Mart, in circ. Phil. Martialici’. For the Feriale Duranum, see Fink, R. O., Hoey, A. S. and Snyder, W. F., ‘The Feriale Duranum’, YCS VII (1940), 120 f.: ‘iiii idus maias ob circenses ma[rtiales] marti pạ [tri ult]ori ṭạ[u]ṛuṃ’; also The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report V, Part I: The Parchments and Papyri (1959), 199.

7 See especially Fasti v, 550–2, (below p. 92).

8 Dio LIV, 8, 3: ἀμέλει καὶ θυαίας ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς καὶ νεὼν Ἄρεως Τιμωροῦ ἐν τῷ Καπιτωλίῳ, κατὰ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ Φερετρίου ζήλωμα, πρὸς τὴν τῶν σημείων ἀνάθεσιν καὶ ψηφισθῆναι ἐκέλευσε καὶ ἐποίησε … See Mommsen, loc. cit. (n. 1).

9 See, for example, Mattingly, H., BMC I, Augustus to Vitellius (1923), p. 58, 65 f., 114.

10 cf., for example, Marbach, RE XIV, 1924 f.

11 cf., for example, A. Degrassi, Inscr. Ital. XIII. 2, 456 f., 490; Marbach, loc. cit. (n. 10); Heinen, H., Klio XI (1911), 139, 169, n. 1; Platner, S. B. and Ashby, T., A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1927), 329 f.; Fink, et al., loc. cit. (n. 6); Scholz, U. W., Studien zum altitalischen und altrömischen Marskult und Marsmythos (1970), 23; Zanker, P., Forum Augustum. Das Bildprogramm (1968), 22 f. Gardthausen, V., Augustus und seine Zeit II. 2 (1896), 476 f., suggested that the games produced on 12 May commemorated the actual return to Rome of the lost signa; cf., most recently, Barnes, T. D., JRS LXIV (1974), 21.

12 Ehrenberg and Jones, op. cit. (n. 6), 20.

13 Having accepted Mommsen's suggestion, two of the most authoritative writers on Roman religion have decided that Ovid was confused. See Wissowa, G., Religion und Kultus der Römer2 (1912), 146, n. 8 and Latte, K., Römische Religionsgeschichte (1960) 302 f., n. 7. Cf. also Frazer, J. G., Ovid's Fasti, (Loeb, 1931), 300; Pighi, G. B., ‘Le “dee invitte” del tempio Marte Ultore,’ Att. Acad. Sc. Ist. Bologna LIX (19701971), 39 f., especially 45, n. 10.

14 cf. Degrassi, Inscr. Ital. XIII. 2, 490: ‘Miramur nec dedicationem templi nec ludos in ullis fastis adnotata esse.’

15 cf., for example, Mattingly, H. and Sydenham, E. A., RIC I, Augustus to Vitellius (1923), 46; Platner and Ashby, loc. cit. (n. 11).

16 For the date of this poem see Franke, C., Fasti Horatiani (1839), 223 f., cited by Fraenkel, E., Horace (1957), 449, n. I. Cf. also Horace, Car. III, 5 and Propertius III, 4, 6: ‘assuescunt Latio Partha tropaea Iovi.’

17 For example, Mattingly, op. cit. (n. 9), cxi.

18 The dedication took place at a later date, Dio LIV, 8, 4. The words used by Dio (LIV, 8, 3) suggest the formal decision to build a temple; cf., for example, Mon. Ancyr. XII, 2.

19 Crawford, M. H., Roman Republican Coinage (1974), I, P. 495; II, Pl LVII, 13.

20 Weinstock, S., Divus Julius (1971), 241 f., cf. JRS LI (1961), 215.

21 Crawford, op. cit. (n. 18), 11, 744 and Pl. LXIV, 8.

22 Ehrenberg and Jones, op. cit. (n. 6), 50.

23 cf., for example, the case of the Ara Fortunae Reducis whose constitution is recorded in the Fasti Amiternini: CIL I2, p. 245. See Hanell, K., ‘Das Opfer des Augustus an der Ara Pads‘, Opuscula Romana II (1960), 65 f., where it is argued that the date of constitution was the more significant anniversary; cf. Fishwick, D., Britannia III (1972), 176 f.

24 Kraus, Th., Festschrift Eugen v. Mercklin (1964), 66 f., showed that the figure of Mars represented on the coins of c. 19 B.C. should not be understood ‘als Abbild einer wirklichen Statue’ but ‘nur als Marsdarstellung’ (71), and tha t there is no numismatic evidence for a cult statue of Mars Ultor associated with any temple prior to the dedication of the temple in the Forum of Augustus. Also there is the slight possibility that Dio's statement (LIV, 8, 3) reflects the formal constitution of that temple dedicated in 2 B.C. See n. 18, above, and Fishwick, op. cit. (n. 23), 177, n. 81.

25 At least one other attempt has been made to remove the aedicula of Mars Ultor from the Capitol. Smith, H. R. W., Univ. Col. Publ. Class. Arch. 11. 4, (1951), 194 f., suggested that Dio misunderstood the evidence supplied by the calendars and by the coinage. This suggestion, although favoured by Volkmann, , Gnomon XXIV (1952), 361, was not thought to be convincing by Grant, CR N.S. 5 (1955), 187, or by Weinstock, , JRS LI (1961), 215. There is, on the other hand, no evidence to show that Dio himself believed that there was a temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus. Dio LV, 10 is taken from the index to LV, 1, 7 and may well represent the knowledge of the compiler of the index. Perhaps the temple of Jupiter which Dio confused with Mars Ultor was that erected a short while earlier to Jupiter Tonans.

26 Dio LX, 5, 4: ἕν τε οὖν τούτοις ἐμετρίαζε.

27 cf. Mommsen, CIL I, p. 302 f.; Fink, et al., op. cit. (n. 6), 124; Weinstock, , Divus Julius, 210 f.

28 cf. Suet., , Claud, 11, 2. For Gaius's celebration of the birthdays of Tiberius and Drusilla see Dio LIX, 24, 7.

29 See Henzen, AFA (1874), 57.

30 Dio LX, 5, 1.

31 If the suggestion made in this paper is accepted, namely that the temple of Mars Ultor was dedicated in the Forum of Augustus on 12 May, we are surely presented with a much clearer context for the dedication of the column in the Forum Traiani—perhaps to this same deity—on 12 May (cf. Fink, et al., op. cit. (n. 6), 123, nn. 508–12).

* An earlier version of this paper was read at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of Canada in June 1976. I am grateful for comments received at that time and am also much indebted to the Editorial Committee and to Professors A. M. Small and D. Fishwick of the University of Alberta for their helpful suggestions and criticism.

The Date of Dedication of the Temple of Mars Ultor*

  • C. J. Simpson (a1)


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