September 13: Optimus Maximus

2016/09/13 § Leave a comment

On this day in 509 BC the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus was dedicated in Rome.

Optimus Maximus indeed.  This was the temple in the center of the Republic, which was founded after the overthrow of the monarchy in 509.  This temple was at the center of things at the dawn of the Republic and remained the center of the Empire as it engulfed much of the known world, center of the cult dedicated to ultimo boss-god Jupiter and his squad, Juno and Minerva.  In addition to worship of this triad, Romans gathered here to see the new consuls take office annually, connecting the sacred site with temporal rule of Rome.  Square and measuring two hundred feet on the side, its tripartite cella was pushed to the back of the stylobate and preceded by three rows of columns and the roof was ornamented lavishly with terra cotta.  The temple burned in 83 BC and was rebuilt several times through the first century AD, but then left to wither away as the Empire itself fell to pieces.

During the Renaissance the hilltop, now known as the Campidoglio, was given the treatment by Michelangelo as the Capitoline was revived as the political center of Rome.  Now the site comprises the seat of the Italian government and some museums.  Under one of them, in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, massive remnants of the long-lost temple still stand.

Image: nineteenth-century engraving of Rome with the Temple rising on the Capitoline HIll (from this source)


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