Roman Conquest of Italy


Roman Temples: Temple of Quirinus

Archaic Shrine of Quirinus

Adapted from the page Forum Romanum by the Khan Academy

Archaic Shrine of Quirinus on the Quirinal

According to Varro (ca. 45 BC):

  1. “The Quirinal Hill was so named because the fanum (shrine) of Quirinus was there; others say that its name is derived from the Quirites, who came with Tatius from Cures to the vicinity of Rome, because they established their camp [on this hill].  ... [In archaic sacred itinerary known as the] sacra Argeorum, ... it is written:

  2. Collis Quirinalis (Quirinal Hill): third [of the 27 Argeorum sacraria], just east of the aedes of Quirinus; ...’”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 5: 51-2, translated by Roland Kent, at p. 49).

Festus, in his epitome of the lexicon of the grammarian M. Verrius Flaccus (late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD) similarly placed an ancient shrine of Quirinus on the Quirinal:

  1. Porta Quirinalis is so-called, either because it opened onto the Quirnal Hill, or because it was close to the sacellum of Quirinus”, (‘De verborum significatione’, 303 L, my translation) 

  2. “What is now called the Quirinal Hill was once named ‘Agonus’, before Sabines, mostly coming from Cures, came here after the treaty had been struck between Romulus and Tatius.  From this, the ... name [Quirinal] was chosen (although some think that [the hill was given this name] because a templum of Quirinus was built there”, (‘De verborum significatione’, 304 L, from the translation by Emmanuele Curti (referenced below, at p.90).

Thus, both Varro and Verrius Flaccus located an archaic fanum/ aedes/ sacellum/ templum of Quirinus on the Quirinal.  Dionysius of Halicarnassus (ca. 7 BC) described how the Quirinal and its archaic cult site dedicated to Quirinus came to be so closely associated in Roman tradition with Titus Tatius and the Sabines:

  1. “... immediately enlarged the city by adding to it two other hills, the Quirinal, ... and the Caelian.  ... [Romulus and Tatius] each had his particular place of residence:

  2. Romulus occupied the Palatine, ...[the site of his original settlement, and the adjacent] Caelian ... ; and

  3. Tatius occupied the Capitol, which he had already seized, and the Quirinal”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 50: 1-3).

According to Varro: 

  1. “... the ‘Annals’ record that Tatius vowed arae (altars) to Ops, Flora, Vediovis and Saturn, Sun, Moon, Vulcan and Summanus, and likewise to Larunda, Terminus, Quirinus, Vertumnus, the Lares, Diana and Lucina”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 5: 74, translated by Roland Kent, at p. 71).

Dionysius produced a shorter list: Romulus and Tatius:

  1. “... built shrines also and consecrated altars to those gods to whom they had addressed their vows during their battles:

  2. Romulus to Jupiter Stator, near the Porta Mugonia, as it is called, which leads to the Palatine hill from the Sacred Way, because this god had heard his vows and had caused his army to stop in its flight and to renew the battle; and

  3. Tatius to Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon), Cronos (Saturn) Rhea (Ops), Hestia (Vesta), Hephaestus (Vulcan), Artemis (Diana), Enyalius (Quirinus), and to other gods whose names are difficult to be expressed in the Greek language; ...”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 50: 3).

Like other Greek authors (including Polybius, and Plutarch), Dionysius associated Roman Quirinus with νυάλιος (Enyalius), the son of Ares (Roman Mars).

Archaic Cult of Quirinus

Triad of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at pp. 489-90) observed:

  1. “There is some evidence that, [in the archaic period], Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus formed a triad of deities whose position was later usurped by the more familiar Capitoline triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.  The offices of flamen Dialis, flamen Martialis, and Flamen Quirinus all went back to before the Etruscan [kings of Rome].” 

The importance and archaic nature of these flamines maiores is evident from a number of sources:

  1. According to Livy (ca. 27 BC), Numa Pompilius, traditionally the second king of Rome:

  2. “... performed many priestly duties himself, especially those that now belong to the flamen Dialis.  However, ... since he did not wish the sacrificial duties of the kingly office to be neglected [by future kings[, he appointed a flamen [Dialis as Jupiter’s] perpetual priest, and provided him with a conspicuous dress and the royal curule chair.  To him he added two other flamines, one for Mars and the other for Quirinus”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 20: 1-2).

  3. According to Festus/ Verrius Flaccus:

  4. “The hierarchy of priests  ... is as follows: the rex [sacrorum] is considered to be the first; then comes the flamen Dialis; after him, the flamen Martialis; in fourth place, the flamen Quirinalis; and fifth, the pontifex maximus”, (‘De verborum significatione’, 198 L, my translation).

Stephen Oakley (as above) also observed:

  1. “The three gods were linked in several old rituals:

  2. [the devotio, or self-sacrifice of Roman commanders in order to secure victory];

  3. the fetial oath [used in the striking of treaties];

  4. the dedication of the spolia opima [spoils taken by Roman commanders from  enemy commanders]; and

  5. the Salian prayer.”

Taking these rituals in turn:

  1. According to Livy, in the devotio of P. Decius Mus at the Battle of Veseris in 340 BC, Decius begged for victory from:

  2. “... Janus, Jupiter, Mars pater, Quirinus, Bellona, Lares, divi Novensiles, di Indigites ... [and] di Manes ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 8: 9: 6),

  3. before devoting himself and the enemy army to the di Manes and to Tellus.

  4. Livy explained that the pater patratus of the fetial priests solemnised the foedus between Roma and the people of Alba in the reign of Tullus Hostilius, 3rd King of Rome (traditionally 672-42 BC) with an oath in which:

  5. “... the pater patratus [of the fetial priests] cries:

  6. ‘Hear, Jupiter; hear, pater patratus of the Alban people: hear  people of Alba: the Roman people will not be the first to depart from these terms, as they have been publicly rehearsed ... and clearly understood.  If, by public decision, they should... [do so] with malice aforethought, then, on that day, may you, Jupiter, strike the Roman people as I shall now strike this pig: and may you strike with greater force, since your power and your strength are greater’. 

  7. When he had said this, he struck a pig with saxo silice (a flint stone).  The Albans then pronounced their own forms and their own oath, by the mouth of their own dictator and priests”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 24: 8).

  8. According to Plutarch (1st century AD):

  9. “... it is said that Numa Pompilius, in his commentaries, makes mention of three kinds of ‘opima’,  prescribing that ...the first kind ... should be dedicated to Jupiter Feretrius, the second to Mars, and the third to Quirinus”, (‘Life of Marcellus’, 8: 5).

  10. According to Servius, in his commentary (4th century AD) on Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’:

  11. salios qui sunt in tutela Iouis Martis Quirini”, (ad Aen, 8: 633);

  12. “The [Salian priests] were ‘in charge of’ Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus”, (my translation).

  13. Quintilian (1st century AD) indicated the antiquity of the Salian rites when he referred to:

  14. “ ... the hymns of the Salii, which their own priests now hardly understand”, (‘Institutio Oratoria’, 1: 6: 39-41,translated by Donald Russell, at pp. 181-3)

Support for the existence of this archaic triad might be found in a passage in which Livy imagined Camillus’ speech after the Gallic sack of Rome, in which heargued against the proposition that the Romans should not move to Vei: Livy’s Camillus asked rhetorically:

  1. “Where else ... but in the Capitol can the couch of Jupiter be prepared on the day of his feast?  What need is there for me to speak about the perpetual fire of Vesta ... ? And you, Mars Gradivus and you Father Quirinus: what need is there for me to speak of your sacred shields?  Is it your wish, [Romans], that all these holy things, which are coeval with Rome itself, if not of even greater antiquity, should be abandoned and left on unhallowed soil?”, (‘History of Rome’, 5: 52: 7).

This collective testimony suggests that scholars from Polybius in the 2nd century BC to Servius in the 4th century AD were aware of archaic rituals and traditions in which Quirinus shared supreme divinity with Jupiter and Mars.

Nature of Archaic Quirinus

In a series of works in the 20th century, George Dumézil developed the hypothesis that the spread of Indo-European culture in prehistoric times, evidenced by the  survival of many Indo-European languages, brought with it associated social and religious characteristics, one of which was the tripartite nature of the supreme divine power.  Specifically, he suggested that, in archaic Rome Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus formed a triad of major deities that were associated with particular social groups:

  1. Jupiter with with priests and the realms of religious law;

  2. Mars with warriors and the waging of war; and

  3. Quirinus with civilians and the meeting of the material needs of society. 

This implies a model of the settlement of Rome based on a single culture known as Indo-European, as opposed to the dualistic model embedded in Roman tradition and discussed above, in which :

  1. Romulus founded the cult site of the Latin Jupiter (as Jupitor Stator) on the Palatine; and

  2. Tatius brought the cults of a number of Sabine gods, including that of Quirinus, to the Quirinal.

For Dumézil, the early Romans were not a mixture of Latins and Sabines; they were Proto-Indo Europeans.  Roger Woodward (referenced below) has more recently summarised and developed Dumézil’s hypothesis.  He pointed out (at p. 4) that, on this model:

  1. “... the third function deities manifest themselves as the so-called gods of Titus Tatius, ... whom Varro [cited above] enumerates ...”

Among these (although, interestingly, not first among them) is Quirinus, who thus becomes a god whose realm encompasses the material needs of the civilian population.

“However, the Iron Age finds of recent decades in Latium have rehabilitated the assumption of a mixed settlement of Rome in the early period; this also supports the thesis of the topographic roots of the different cults in the separate regions of Rome

of the settlement of Rome predominated (cf. [2. 1306, 1309-1312]): In the early period of Rome the Latini from the Palatine and 'Romulus' introduced their gods, among whom Iuppiter held the highest rank, while the Sabini from the Quirinal, the 'Hill of Q.', brought theirs, including Q.; moreover, according to the literary tradition, Numa Pompilius stemmed from Cures, from the name of which some ancient etymologists derived Q. This model leaves the question of Mars, the legendary father of Romulus, open. For some historians, Mars was the Latin, Q. the Sabine god, while Iuppiter stood above the whole.

Although some scholars (for example, Arnaldo Momigliano and Mary Beard el al., both referenced below) have taken issue with this hypothesis, it remains influential: for example,


The fasti Praenestini designate the 25th April 25 as the festival of Robigus.  According to James Frazer (referenced below. at p. 421), a note that was probably added by M. Verrius Flaccus recordeg that:

  1. “The festival of Robigus takes place at the 5th milestone on the Claudian Way, lest robigo (mildew) should harm the corn.  A sacrifice is offered and games are held by runners, both men and boys.”

Ovid, who had happened upon the celebrations as he was returning from Nomentum to Rome recorded the prayer recited by the flamen Quirinalis (at ‘Fasti’, 4: 910, see below).  Although Ovid would have exercised some poetic licence, the prayer itself might well have been archaic: according to Pliny the Elder, in the regal period:

  1. “... there were three set periods for gathering in the produce of the earth, and it was in honour of these periods that [the ancients Romans] instituted the festive days, known as the Robigalia, the Floralia, and the Vinalia.  Numa established the Robigalia in the 40th year of his reign, and they are still celebrated on [the 25th April], as it is at this period that mildew is likely to strike”, (‘Natural History’, 18: 69)

The Christian critic Tertullian, citing a lost work by Suetonius, recorded that:

  1. “... Numa Pompilius instituted games for Mars and Robigo (for they also invented a goddess of mildew!)”, (‘De Spectaculis’, 5, search on ‘Robigo’).

"Scaly Robigo, god of rust, spare Ceres' grain; let silky blades quiver on the soil's skin. Let growing crops be nourished by a friendly sky and stars, until they ripen for the scythe...Spare us, I pray keep scabrous hands from the harvest. Harm no crops. The power to harm is enough" (Fasti, IV.911ff).

A similar prayer is given by Cato in his treatise on agriculture, "Father Mars, I pray and beseech thee that thou be gracious and merciful to me, my house, and my household...and that thou permit my harvests, my grain, my vineyards, and my plantations to flourish and to come to good issue, preserve in health my shepherds and my flocks, and give good health and strength to me, my house, and my household" (De Agricultura, CXLI).

Here, like Robigo, the god is evoked to avert harm because he has the capacity to create it.


August 21

Tertullian, again citing a lost work by Suetonius, recorded that:

  1. “... the Romans claimed that Romulus instituted the Consualia, arguing that he instituted them for Consus, the god (they say) of counsel, by which they mean the particular counsel that Romulus should capture the Sabine girls to be wives for his soldiers.  ...  There is still an underground altar dedicated to that Consus at the first turning-point in the Circus,, with this inscription:

  2. ‘Mighty are Consus in counsel, Mars in war, Lares in [corrupt word]”

  3. Sacrifice is offered on it by the sacerdotes publici on the 7th of July, and by the flamen Quirinalis and the virgines (presumably the Vestal Virgins) on the 21st of August”, (‘De Spectaculis’, 5, search on ‘Consualia’).

  4. by the Flamen of Quirinus and the Vestal Virgins. Later on, the same Romulus instituted games for Jupiter Feretrius on the Tarpeian, which, Pisoc has told us, were called Tarpeian and Capitoline games. After him ;

the Larentalia of December 23.

because of Quirinus’s association with Romulus

and his flamen’s involvement in the Consualia and Larentalia, these two festivals

were explained with reference to Romulus’s life: the former was associated

with the rape of the Sabine women, and the latter was supposedly

established by Romulus to honor his dead foster mother, Acca Larentia.

In any

case, Roman antiquarians and historians, for whatever reason, regarded

Quirinus as the deified Romulus, and by deriving his name from quiris, an

alleged Sabine word meaning “spear,” they considered him to be a war god

similar to Mars.

Quirinus and Mars

Denarius (RRC 268/1b) issued in Rome by N. Fabius Pictor in 126 BC

Obverse: Roma

Reverse: PICTOR/ N·FABI/ QVIRIN (on shield)

Seated figure of an armed man (probably Q. Fabius Pictor) holding apex (priest’s hat} and spear

Livy (‘History of Rome’, 37: 51: 1-5) recorded that, in 189 BC, the pontifex maximus prevented the praetor-designate for Sardinia , Q. Fabius Pictor, from leaving for his province because of his existing office of flamen Quirinalis. Michael Crawford (referenced below, at p. 292) suggested that this flamem was depicted on the obverse of this coin, and that the issuer, N. Fabius Pictor was presumably his grandson.  Ernst Badian (referenced below, at p. 58) argued that the praetor:

  1. “... was attired in the arma Quirini [mentioned by Flaccus/ Festus].”

In this passage, according to Festus:

  1. Persillum vocant sacerdotes rudiculum picatum, quo unguine flamen Portunalis arma Quirini unguet”, (‘De verborum significatione’, 238 L)

  2. Persillum is the name that priests give to the spatula coated with pitch with which the flamen Portunalis smears the arms of Quirinus’ (my translation).

Badian (as above) observed that, by the time of Flaccus,  no-one knew why the the flamen Portunalis had this task:

  1. “It is to be presumed that this was in preparation for their solemn use at the Quirinalia [see below], a festival about which we know nothing.  [If so, this] would suggest that it was one of the ritual duties of the flamen Quirinalis to attire himself with the arma Quirini on that occasion, and that this is what Fabius is doing [on the reverse of the coin].”

If Badian’s hypothesis is correct, then, in 126 BC, Quirinus was regarded as a god of war.  We have seen above that Livy (‘History of Rome’, 5: 52: 7) referred to the sacred shields of Mars Gradivus and Quirinus among the holy things that were perhaps older that Rome itself.  Furthermore, Dionysius (Roman Antiquities’, 2: 50: 3) expressed ‘Quirinus’, to whom, according to Varro, Tatius had dedicated an altar, as Ἐνυάλιος (Enyalius), the son of Ares (Roman Mars): since he can hardly have imagined that Tatius had dedicated an altar to Romulus/ Quirinus, son of Mars while Romulus was still alive, this passage might also allude to a pre-Romulean cult of Quirinus associated in some way with Mars. 

This is supported by the record of Festus/Paullus in which, at least according to one etymology, Quirinus was the name pf a deity that carried a spear:

  1. Curis is ‘spear’ in Sabine.  Therefore Romulus is called Quirinus, because he [too ?] carried a spear; and Romans are called Quirites after Quirinus.  Some think [instead] that he is named after Cures, which was a particularly wealthy city of the Sabines, (‘De verborum significatione’, 43 L,  translated by Annie Burman, referenced below, at p. 93).

Servius, in his commentary on Virgils ‘Aeneid’, seems to have been aware of such a tradition when claimed that:

  1. Mars enim cum saevit Gradivus dicitur, cum tranquillus est Quirinus. denique in urbe duo eius templa sunt:

  2. unum Quirini intra urbem, quasi custodis et tranquilli;

  3. aliud in Appia via extra urbem prope portam, quasi bellatoris, id est Gradivi”, (ad Aen, 1: 292)

  4. “When Mars rages, he is called Gradivus: when he is tranquil, he is called Quirinus. He has two temples in Rome:

  5. one within the city, to Quirinus, as guardian of peace; and

  6. one on via Appia, outside of the city, near the gate, to Gradivus as warrior”, (my translation)

Ovid returned to this apotheosis in his entry for 17th February, which was the day of the Quirinalia, which:

  1. “... is dedicated to Quirinus, who is so-called (he was Romulus before), perhaps:

  2. because the ancient Sabines called a spear curis and, by his weapon the warlike god [Romulus] won his place among the stars; or

  3. because the Quirites, [both latin and Sabine], gave their own name to their king [Romulus]; or

  4. because he united [the Sabines of] Cures to Rome.

Although Ovid maintained Varro’s Sabine etymologies, Quirinus himself is no longer a Sabine deity: he is now the deified form of the Latin/ Roman Romulus”, (‘Fasti’, 2: 475-80, translated by James Frazer, referenced below, at p. 91).

It is possible that both Dionysius and his compatriot Plutarch thought that this was preciselty why the deified Romulus was equated with Quirinus:

  1. According to Dionyius:

  2. “Concerning the city of Cures, from which Tatius and his followers came, ... we have received the following account [from Varro].  In the territory of Reate, when the Aborigines were in possession of it, a certain maiden of that country, who was of the highest birth, went into the temple of Enyalius, [the Greek son of Ares] to dance.  The Sabines and, following them, the Romans, give Enyalius the name of Quirinus, without being able to affirm for certain whether he is Mars or some other god who enjoys the same honours as Mars:

  3. some think that both these names are used of one and the same god, who presides over martial combat; while

  4. others think that the names are applied to two different gods of war.

  5. Be that as it may, this maiden ... ran into the inner sanctuary of the god; after which, being with child by this divinity, as everybody believed, she brought forth a son named Modius Fabidius, who, when he arrived at manhood, had not a human but a divine form and was renowned above all others for his warlike deeds.  And, conceiving a desire to found a city on his own account, he gathered together a great number of people of the neighbourhood and in a very short time built the city called Cures: he gave it this name, as some say, from the divinity whose son he was reputed to be, or, as others state, from a spear, since the Sabines call spears cures”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 48: 2)

  6. According to Plutarch, there was no consensus among the Roman authorities about the meaning of:

  7. “... the surname of Quirinus bestowed on Romulus:

  8. some give it the meaning of Mars;

  9. others that of Citizen, because the citizens were called Quirites; and

  10. others say that the ancients called the spear-head (or the whole spear) ‘quiris’ and gave:

  11. -the epithet Quiritis to the Juno whose statue leans upon a spear {Juno Curitis]; and

  12. -the name Mars to a spear consecrated in the Regia;

  13. and that they gave a spear as a prize to those who performed great exploits in war, so that Romulus was therefore called Quirinus, as a martial or spear-wielding god.

  14. However that may be, a temple in his honour is built on the hill that was called Quirinalis after him”, (‘Life of Romulus’, 28: 1-2)

  15. According to St Augustine, who probably relied for the underlying facts on a now-lost work by Varro (perhaps his ‘Antiquitates Rerum Humanarum et Divinarum’), the Romans:

  16. “... have esteemed [Romulus] more highly than many gods because they can call him their own, although their secret doctrine can only allow him the rank of a demigod [see below].  They allotted a flamen to him: that is to say, a priest of a class so highly esteemed in their religion: ... Flamines were appointed for only three of their gods: the flamen Dialis for Jupiter, the flamen Martialis for Mars, and the flamen Quirinalis for Romulus (for, when ... his fellow citizens had given Romulus a seat among the gods, they gave him this new name, Quirinus). ... They have assigned the same priesthood to serve him as to serve Jove; and,they gave Mars (the reputed father of Romulus) the same honour for Romulus' sake, rather than to honour Mars”, (City of God’, 2: 15).

  1. In an imagined debate with Atticus, Cicero asked his friend whether he accepted:

  2. “... the ‘fact’ that Romulus, after his death, while wandering about near the place where your house now stands [i.e., on the Quirinal]:

  3. met Proculus Julius;

  4. told him that he [Romulus] was [now] a god and was called Quirinus; and

  5. ordered that a temple be dedicated to him on that spot”, (‘On the Laws’, 1: 3, translate by Clinton Keyes, at p. 299).

  6. He provided more detail in another passage:

  7. “... such was Romulus’ conspicuous ability that men believed, on the authority of that homini agresti (farmer), Proculus Julius, something that they had not believed about any other mortal for many generations: we are told that this Proculus, at the instigation of the senators (who wanted to free themselves from all suspicion in regard to Romulus' death) stated before a public assembly that he had seen Romulus on the hill now called the Quirinal; and that Romulus had ordered him to ask the people to build him a shrine on that hill, as he was now a god and was called Quirinus”, (‘On the Republic’, 2: 20).

Peter Wiseman (referenced below, at pp. 127-8) suggested that Varro’s version of many aspects of the legend of the foundation of Rome, including those relating to the cult of Quirinus and thus the death of Romulus, was coloured by the fact of his own Sabine origins.


Timothy Cornell (referenced below, 1986, at p. 244) observed that:

  1. “...  those Romans of Cicero's day  ... who had any sort of education probably obtained their first and most lasting impressions [of their own history] from Ennius' ‘Annals.”

This was certainly true of Cicero himself, who observed that:

  1. “... our own Ennius  ...  wrote that, in about the 350th year after Rome was founded [i.e. in ca. 400 BC] , in the month of June (the day was then the 5th),  the moon and night obscured the shining sun.   Based on this date, which was recorded by [both] Ennius and in the ‘Annales Maximi’, the dates of previous eclipses of the sun have been reckoned, all the way back to that which occurred on Nones of Quinctilis [7th July] in the reign of Romulus.  For, even though, during the darkness of that eclipse, Nature carried Romulus away to man's inevitable end, yet the story is that his his merit led to his translation to Heaven”, (‘On the Republic’, 1: 16).  

Two surviving passages by Cicero constitute our earliest surviving evidence for the tradition that a man called Proculus Julius brought the news of Romulus’ apotheosis to Rome:

The second of the passages above is the earliest surviving evidence of the tradition that, before Proculus Julius reached Rome, many people suspected that the senators had murdered Romulus: Cicero seems here to characterise Proculus’ testimony as a fable invented at their behest in order to allay suspicion.  Two other surviving passages suggest that Cicero was generally sceptical about the deification of mortals: 

  1. “Human experience and general custom have allowed men to deify distinguished benefactors ... This is the origin of Hercules, of Castor and Pollux, of Aesculapius ... This is also the origin of Romulus, who is believed by some to be the same as Quirinus.  Since their souls survived and enjoyed eternal life, these benefactors were deemed to be gods, who are both supremely good and immortal”, (‘On the Gods’, 2: 62).

  2. “...  even in Greece they worship a number of deified mortals ... ; and with our own people, Romulus and many others, who are believed to have been admitted to celestial citizenship in recent times, by a sort of extension of the franchise!  Well, those are the superstitions of the unlearned ...”, (‘On the Gods’, 3: 39).

Thus, at least by ca. 45 BC, the Romans considered that the temple of Quirinus on the Quirinal Hill had been founded shortly after the death of Romulus and dedicated to him as the newly-ascended god, Quirinus.  Cicero’s view that the ancient cult site dedicated to Quirinus was located on the Quirinal is reflected by the speculations of early etymologists:

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in a work published in 7 BC, recorded that Numa, the second King of Rome (traditionally 715-672 BC):

  1. “... ordered that Romulus himself, as someone who had shown a greatness beyond mortal nature, should be honoured, under the name of Quirinus, by the erection of a temple and by sacrifices throughout the year”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 56: 1-7).

Early History of the Temple of Quirinus

Livy recorded a meeting of the Senate in the temple of Quirinus in 435 BC: while the Romans were preoccupied with an epidemic [in the city], armies from Veii and Fidenae:

  1. “... crossed the [river] Anio and displayed their standards not far from the Colline gate.  The alarm was as great in Rome as in the country districts.  [One of the consuls, Caius Iullius Iullus] disposed his troops on the rampart and the walls, while [the other, Lucius Verginius Tricostus] convened the Senate in the temple of Quirinus.  They decreed that Quintus Servilius [Priscus] should be nominated dictator”, (History of Rome’, 4: 21: 7-10).  

Pliny the Elder recorded that:

  1. “... at the delubrum (shrine) of Quirinus (or, in other words, of Romulus himself) one of the most ancient [shrines] in Rome, there were formerly two myrtle trees that grew for a long period just in front of the temple; one of these was called the patrician tree, the other the plebeian.  For many years, the patrician myrtle was the [more flourishing] tree ... [However, it] began to fail just at the period of the Marsic War [of 90 BC], when the power of the Senate was so greatly weakened: and, little by little, this once majestic tree sank into a state of utter exhaustion and sterility”, (‘Natural History’, 15: 36).

Unfortunately, neither Livy nor Pliny identified the location of the temple to which he referred.  It is usually assumed that it was on the Quirinal, but Emmanuele Curti (referenced below, at pp. 88-9) suggested that the archaic temple on the Quirinal might have been part of the traditions surrounding King Numa that were developed in the early 3rd century BC.  If so, then the area of the Forum containing the ‘sacellum’ later covered by the lapis niger:

  1. “... may have been the only sacred area connected to Quirinus during the archaic [period] ...This discussion, although tentative, would suggest that the first ever temple of Quirinus on the Quirnal was the one from the [early] 3rd century BC [see below]”, (quotation from p. 89).

Emmanuele Curti (referenced below, at p. 83) pointed out that:

  1. “... a whole new series of buildings [were] erected [on the Quirinal] between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd centuries BC.  The first impression is that the Quirinal underwent a substantial rebuilding and reorganisation of space: among the new constructions, there are the temples of:

  2. Salus [dedicated in 302 BC];

  3. Jupiter Victor [dedicated in 295 BC]; ... and

  4. the new temple of Quirinus [dedicated in 293 BC]. ...

  5. This sudden growth is even more intriguing if we consider that the Quirinal is the only area within the pomerium, apart from the Forum, with such a noticeable intervention during the mid-republican period.”

He suggested (at p. 85) that the Quirinal had become:

  1. “... a new ‘residential area’, [at a time when] Rome [was] growing and [needed] to construct new urban space for the community [and, in particular], for those emerging social groups, like the new [plebeian nobility that had] fought so much in these years to disassemble the archaic structure of the Roman republic.”

Matthew Robinson (referenced below, at p. 601 and notes 3 and 4) observed that:

  1. “... we know:

  2. from the extant fasti that [the Quirinalia] was a ‘large letter festival’. and that it fell on the 17th February; [and]

  3. from the literary sources, ... that the day was sacred to Quirinus, and that some unspecified rites to the god were performed ...”

Livy recorded that, after his victories at Aquilonia and Saepinium over the Samnites in 293 BC, towards the end of the Third Samnite War, the consul L. Papirius Cursor:

  1. “... dedicated the temple of Quirinus.  I do not find in any ancient author that it was he who vowed this temple in the crisis of a battle, and certainly he could not have completed it in so short a time; it was vowed by his [homonymous] father when dictator, and the son dedicated it when consul, and adorned it with the spoils of the enemy”, (‘‘History of Rome’’, 10: 46: 6-7).

This victory had been secured against a magnificently armed Samnite army, and:

  1. “There was such a vast quantity of [spoils] that, not only were the temple and the Forum adorned with them, but they were distributed amongst the allied peoples and the nearest colonies to decorate their public spaces and temples”, (‘‘History of Rome’’, 10: 46: 8).

Pliny the Elder recorded that:

  1. “The first sundial is said to have been erected among the Romans twelve years before the war with Pyrrhus, by L. Papirius Cursor, when dedicating the temple of Quirinus, which had been vowed by his father”, (‘Natural History’, 7: 60).

Caesarian Restoration

According to Cassius Dio, as Caesar sailed for Greece in 49 BC in pursuit of Sextus Pompeius and his army:

  1. ... at the very moment that he landed at Dyrrachium [on the coast of modern Albania], he learned that he would not obtain a prosperous outcome.  For [there had been a series of evil omens, including] a fire that consumed the temple of Quirinus  [in Rome]... ”, (Roman History’, 41: 14: 3).

Cassius Dio (among other sources) recorded that the Senate granted a series of quasi-royal privileges to Julius Caesar in 45 BC.  As Beatrice Poletti (referenced below, at p. 130) observed, at least three of these highlighted his familial link to Romulus:

  1. “... named [Caesar] father of his country ...”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 4);

  2. “ ... [mandated the setting up of a likeness of him] in the Temple of Quirinus with the inscription, ‘To the Invincible God’, and another on the Capitol beside the former kings of Rome”, (‘Roman History’, 43: 45: 3); and

  3. “... gave him the right to offer spolia opima, as they are called, at the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, as if he had slain some hostile general with his own hands”, (‘Roman History’, 44: 4: 3).

Cassius Dio also recorded an honour related to the ludi Circenses (chariot races at the circus, held during religious festivals):

  1. “.. the Senate ... decreed ... [first] that an ivory statue of [Caesar] and later that a whole chariot should appear in the procession at the  games in the Circus, together with the statues of the gods.  Another likeness they set up in the Temple of Quirinus with the inscription, ‘To the Invincible God’, and [yet] another on the Capitol beside the former kings of Rome”, (‘Roman History’, 43 :45: 2-3 ).

Cicero seems to have heard about the statue of Caesar’s statue in the Temple of Quirinus while he was: still at Tusculum awaiting for Caesar’s return:

  1. he referred to it in two letters to Atticus (whose house was on the Quirinal on 17th May

  2. “Clearly your house will go up in value with Caesar as a neighbour, (Letter to Atticus, 12: 48);

  3. “I put that in about your neighbour Caesar because I had learned of it from your letter.  I would rather that he shared temples with Quirinus [the deified Romulus, who, according to some sources, had been murdered] than with Salus [the god of safety]”, (Letter to Atticus, 12: 45); and

  4. on 26th May 45 BC, responding to what must have been a suggestion by Atticus that he should write a conciliatory letter to Caesar:

  5. “... don't you see that even that famous pupil of Aristotle [Alexander the Great], distinguished for the very best ability and the most perfect conduct, no sooner got the title of king than he became haughty, cruel, and ungovernable?  Well now, do you think that this god of the procession [i.e., Caesar], this messmate of Quirinus, is likely to be gratified by temperate letters such as I should write?”, (Letter to Atticus, 13: 28).


  1. “... Caesar ... could claim a close relation to Romulus on account of his Trojan genealogy and the role, in the Romulean legend, of his ancestor Julius Proculus, the patrician who supposedly witnessed Romulus’s apotheosis.”  

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 233) observed that the third of these was:

  1. “... an extraordinary decree, because[Caesar] had not killed an adversary in battle.  It was the greatest military distinction, awarded [before that time] only to Romulus [and to two other Roman commanders who had killed an enemy leader in single combat.  Caesar] was to be the fourth [to receive this distinction, although there is no surviving evidence that he did dedicate spoils in the temple].”

He also noted (at p. 232) that Caesar had allowed Marcus Claudius Marcellus (consul 51 BC) to return to Rome at the behest of both his cousin, Caius Claudius Marcellus (consul 49 BC) and Cicero.

Cassius Dio recorded that, before setting out from Rome for Gaul in 16 BC, Augustus:

  1. ... dedicated the temple of Quirinus, which he had rebuilt.  I mention this because he adorned it with 76 columns, which was the exact number of the years that he lived, and thus caused some to declare [obviously in retrospect] that he had chosen this number deliberately and not by mere chance”, (‘Roman History’, 54: 19: 4). 

According to Vitruvius, as rebuilt by Augustus, the temple, which he characterised as Doric, belonged to a type known as:

  1. The dipteros, [which] has eight columns in front and behind and ... double rows of columns around the sanctuary ... ”, (‘Ten Books of Architecture’, 3: 2: 7).

Gerhard  Koeppel (referenced below) described the context in which the relief depicted at the top of the page was discovered.   He also pointed out(at p. 15) that it depicted the front of a temple and that its pedimental structure:

“... commemorates an event in Rome’s legendary past: Romulus taking the auspices that give him the right to found the city  ... This identifies the temple as that of Quirinus, ... on the Quirinal Hill.  The priest in the lower portion, with his tight-fitting cap and projecting apex, is the flamen Quirinalis.

Peter Wiseman (referenced below, at pp. 146-9) discussed the iconography of the pediemnt scene in more detail.   The temple depicted in the relief seems have only four of the eight columns recorded by Vitruvius, probably for the purpose of simplification. 

Fragment from an entablature, probably from the Templum Gentis Flaviae (Museo Nazionale, Rome)

It probably depicts the facade of the temple of Quirinus after its Augustan restoration of 16 BC

Copyright ©1997, 2002 Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma

and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan  


Quirinalia dies, quo Quirino fiunt sacra: et stultorum feriac sunt appellata (‘De verborum significatione’, 304 L,

The Quirinalia is sacred to Quirinus, and is also known as the feast of fools. 

Quirina Tribus a Curensibus Sabinis appellationem videtur traxisse”, (‘De verborum significatione’, 304 L, 

The Quirina tribe seems to have taken its name from Cures

  1. According to Polybius (2nd century BC), when the Romans agreed their first treaty with Carthage in 509 BC:

  2. “... the Carthaginians swore by their ancestral gods and the Romans, following an old custom, by Jupiter Lapis [sic]: in the case of [the second treaty, of 348 BC, the Romans swore] by Mars and Quirinus”, (‘Histories’, 3: 22: 3);

Read more:

M. Crawford, “Roman Republican Coinage”, (2019) Cambridge

B. Poletti, “Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the 'Founders' of Rome: Depicting Characters in the Roman Antiquities”, (2018, thesis of the University of Alberta

A. C. Burman, “De Lingua Sabina: A Reappraisal of the Sabine Glosses”, (2017) thesis of King’s College, Cambridge

C. Lyes, “Rethinking the Lapis Niger”, Classics Students' Journal, 1 (2017) 45-63

D. Guarisco, “Ossa Quirini: Romulus' Mortality and Apotheosis between Caesar and Augustus”’ Gremium, 10 (2016) 7-16

A. D. Bartles, “Paving the Past: Late Republican Recollections in the Forum Romanum”, (2009) thesis of the University of Texas at Austin

A. Doubordieu, “Quirinus”, Brill’s New Pauly, Antiquity  (2006), consulted online on 6th October 2020

R. D. Woodward, “Indo-European Sacred Space: Vedic and Roman Cult”, (2006) Champaign, IL

N. Rudd (translator), “Horace: Odes and Epodes”, (2004) Harvard MA

M. Robinson, “Festivals, Fools and the Fasti: The Quirinalia and the Feriae Stultorum (Ovid, Fast. II 475-532)”, Aevum Antiquum N.S.3 (2003),  609-621

D. A. Russell (translator), “Quintilian: The Orator's Education, Volume I: Books 1-2s”, (2002) Harvard MA

E. Curti, “From Concordia to the Quirinal. Notes on Religion and Politics in Mid Republican/Hellenistic Rome”, in:

  1. E. Bispham and C. Smith (Eds), “Religion in Archaic and Republican Rome and Italy: Evidence and Experience”, (2000) Edinburgh. at pp. 77-91

F. Coarelli, “Sepulcrum Romuli”, in:

  1. E. M. Steinby (Ed.), “Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (Volume 4)”, (1999), at pp. 295-6

M. Beard el al. , “Religions of Rome”, (1998)

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume II: Books VII-vIII”, (1998) Oxford

T. J. Cornell, “Review of ‘The Annals of Q. Ennius by O. Skutsch [1985, Oxford]’, Journal of Roman Studies, 76 (1986) 244-250

E. Badian, “The House of the Servilii Gemini: A Study in the Misuse of Occam's Razor”, Papers of the British School at Rome, 52 (1984) 49-71

A. Momigliano, “Georges Dumézil and the Trifunctional Approach to Roman Civilization“, History and Theory, 23:3 (1984), pp. 312-30

G. Koeppel, Fragments from a Domitianic Monument in Ann Arbor and Rome”,Bulletin of the Museums of Art and Archaeology, the University of Michigan, 3 (1980) 15-29

J. K. Newman, “Ennius the Mystic (III)”, Greece & Rome, 14:1 (1967) 44-51

R. Kent (translator), “Varro: On the Latin Language, Volume I: Books 5-7.”, (1938) Harvard MA

J. Frazer (translator), “Ovid: Fasti”, (1931) Harvard MA

C. Keyes (translator), “Cicero: On the Republic.: On the Laws”, (1928) Harvard MA

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