Roman Republic

Rome in the Early Republic (509 - 241 BC)

Temple of Salus on the Quirinal

Silver denarius issued in Rome by D. Junius Silanus in 91 BC (RRC 337/2)

Obverse: SALUS: Head of Salus, usually related to building of the Temple of Salus by

C. Junius Bubulcus Brutus (censor in 307 BC (see Michael Crawford, referenced below0 at p. 339)

Reverse: D.SILANUS: Victory in a biga

Livy (our only surviving narrative source) recorded the foundation of this temple in two separate passages:

  1. “In [306 BC], C. Junius Bubulcus Brutus, as censor, let the contract for the Temple of Salus which he had vowed as consul [in 317, 313 or 311 BC], during the [Second] Samnite War”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 43: 25).

  2. “[War with the Aequi in 302/1 BC] necessitated the appointment of a dictator, C. Junius Bubulcus ... He crushed the Aequi in the very first battle and, a week later, he returned to Rome in triumph and, as dictator, dedicated the Temple of Salus, which he had:

  3. vowed as consul; and

  4. put out for contract as censor”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 9).

The dies natalis of the temple was indicated as the 5th August in a number of the survving fasti, including:

  1. the pre-Julian fasti Antiates Maiores; and

  2. the fasti Vallenses (early 1st century AD), which also recorded the location of the temple that was dedicated on this day:

  3. Saluti in colle Quirinale sacricium publicum” (public sacrifices [are held on 5th August] at the Temple of Salus on the Quirinal).

Cicero recorded both the dies natalis and the location of this temple in a letter that he wrote to Atticus from Brundisium in 57 BC (shortly after his return from exile):

  1. “I landed at Brundisium on [5th] August.  My little Tullia was there to welcome me: it was her birthday and also (as it happens) the foundation day of both the colony of Brundisium and tuae vicinae Salutis (your neighbour, Salus - Atticus lived on the Quirinal) ...”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 73: 4, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, in Vol. I,  p. 287).

Cult of Salus

Varro recorded that, one of the archaic sacrifices of the Argei was made  on

  1. Collis Salutaris: fourth shrine, opposite the temple of Apollo, this side of the temple of Salus”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 5: 52’, translated by Roland Kent, referenced below, at p. 49).

As Howard Scullard (referenced below, at p. 170) observed:

  1. “Since part of the Quirinal was called collis Salutaris, an early cult of Salus had probably been established there.”

Anna Clark (referenced below, at pp. 52-3) suggested that the cult had originally been centred on:

  1. “... an open shrine [on the Quirianl, and very probably on the site of Brutus’ later temple.”

The subject of the Roman cult was the personification salus, a noun that has a variety of meanings associated with well-being: for example, Charlton Lewis and Charles Short give:

  1. “... health; welfare; prosperity; preservation; safety; deliverance [or salvation]; etc.”

This noun could be used for the well-being of individual or groups of people.  However, in the context of the name of a temple, the more natural meaning would relate to the well-being/ prosperity/reservation/ safety/ salvation of the State (usually expressed as Res Publica): Cicero, for example, used it in this way in the context of the resolution of the ‘conflict of the orders’ when:

  1. “... compromise was reached, ... [since this the only means of ensuring] civitatis salus (the salvation of the State”, (‘On the Laws’, translated by Clinton Keyes, referenced below, at p. 487).

As we have seen, Livy recorded on two occasions that Brutus had vowed this temple as consul.  However, Brutus served as consul three times (in 317, 313 or 311 BC) and Livy made no mention of the vowing of this temple in his account of the events of these consulships.   This means that we have to treat this information with caution, albeit that there is not reason to doubt the authenticity of Livy’s sources for the information that Brutus:

  1. let the contract for the temple as censor in 306 BC; and

  2. dedicated it as dictator in 302/1 BC.

C. Junius Bubulcus Brutus

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 271)observed that C. Junius Bubulcus Brutus was:

  1. “... the most honoured member of his family and the ancestor of the two Brutii who took part in the assassination of Caesar [in 44 BC].  He was:

  2. [consul for the 1st time in 317 BC, when he shared with his colleague command in Apulis and Lucania;

  3. consul for the 2nd time in 313 BC, when he probably captured various towns from the Samnites;

  4. dictator or master of horse in 312 BC;

  5. consul for the 3rd time in 311 BC, when he [engaged with the Samnites, probably vowed the Temple of Salus and (at least according to the Augustan fasti Triumphales) was awarded his first triumph];

  6. censor in 307 BC when he let the contract for the Temple of Salus, [which he had vowed in one of his three consulships - see below]; and

  7. dictator in 302/1 BC, when he defeated the Aequi, dedicated his temple and was awarded  a triumph [(at least according to the Augustan fasti Triumphales)].”

One of the denarii that his descendant, D. Junius Silanus, issued in 91 BC (illustrated above) probably commemorated Brutus’ temple and he battle in which he vowed it, by depicting;

  1. the bust of Salus on the obverse; and

  2. Victory riding a chariot over an enemy soldier on the reverse.

Penelope Davies (referenced below, at p. 42) observed:

  1. “When [Brutus] vowed a the temple to Salus, probably in his third consulship in 311 BC, he became the first known consular general to [make such a vow]. ... More than that, he was the first known plebeian to vow a temple in Rome ... ” 

It seems that Brutus’ innovation : according to Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at pp. 60-1), Livy recorded that the Temple of Salus was the first Republican temple to be vowed in battle, with a gap of more than a decade before three temples were vowed in battle in successive years during the Third Samnite War (298-290 BC):

  1. the Temple of Bellona, vowed by Ap. Claudius Caecus, as consul in 296 BC;

  2. the Temple of Jupiter Victor, vowed by Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus, as consul in 295 BC; and

  3. the Temple of Jupiter Stator, vowed by M. Atilius Regulus, as consul in 294 BC.

(See also the table by Eric Orlin, referenced below, at pp. 199-200, which indicates that Livy included all of the relevant temples that appear in our surviving sources).


It seems that Brutus scored another ‘first’ when he let the contract for his temple as censor in 306 BC: as Eric Orlin (referenced below, at p. 142 and note 101) pointed out;

  1. “... censors did not ordinarily let the contracts for the construction of new temples, [albeit that they often did so for other new public buildings , as well as for the restoration both temples and other public buildings].” 

Indeed, we know of only one other censorship in which one or both censors let a new temple contract: according to Livy, in 204 BC: 

  1. the censors, M. Livius Salinator and C. Claudius Nero let the contract for the construction of the Temple of Magna Mater, in accordance with instructions from the Senate (‘History of Rome’, 36: 36:4); and

  2. Livius also let the contract the Temple of Juventas in the Circus Maximus, which he had vowed after his victory over Hasdrubal on the Metaurus in 207 BC (‘History of Rome’, 36: 36: 5-6).

As Orlin pointed out (at p. 142), the case of the Temple of Magna Mater is easily explained: the decision to import the cult of Magna Mater and to build her a temple in Rome had been a collective one (taken after the consultation of the Sibylline Books), and it would therefore have been natural for the serving censors to commission her temple.  However, the case of the Temple of Juventas is noteworthy since:

  1. the contract for its construction was (as far as we know) the only other temple contract that was let by a censor for a temple that had been vowed by a consul; and

  2. in both of these cases, the same man vowed the temple and the censor who let the temple contract.

Orlin (as above) observed that:

  1. “... the personal connection [of theses two individuals] to the temple [in question] seems to have  provided the primary justification for letting the contract.”

However, that does not explain why only two censors are known to have let the construction contract for a new temple.  The surviving evidence does not allow a certain answer to this question but we might resort to speculation:

  1. In the case of Salinator, the reason might be found in his poor relationship with Nero; the two men had been reconciled in 207 BC after a long-standing feud and had then co-operated successfully as consuls, but, as Valerius Maximus recorded:

  2. “... how divided was their censorship! For, when they came to the review of the centuries of the equites, to which ... they themselves still belonged, ... Nero caused his colleague not only to be cited, but also to lose his horse, ...  and [Salinator] reacted by stigmatising Nero with the same severity ...”, (‘Memorable Doings and Sayings’, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, at p. 215).

  3. Livy recorded that, as censors, successfully attended to a number of tasks, including:

  4. “... the repair of public building with diligence and the most scrupulous exactness”, (‘History of Rome’, 29: 37; 2).

  5. However, he too described the:

  6. “... disgraceful contest [that] arose [between them], in which each endeavoured to blacken the character of the other, though not without detriment to his own, (‘History of Rome’, 29: 37; 11).

  7. It is thus at least possible that Nero (or perhaps one or more other of Salinator’s many enemies) obstructed the letting of the contract for his Temple of Juventas, in which case, he might well have decided to let the contract himself as censor.   (As we shall see, it remained undedicated for the next 16 years).

  8. In the case of Brutus, it is at least possible that the letting of the contract for the temple that he had vowed because the making of a vow by a consul (and a plebeian at that) was unprecedented, in which case he might well have decided to let the contract himself as censor.

Interestingly, Livy recorded the foundation of these two temples in very similar ways:

  1. in the case of the Temple of Salus, he failed to mention the vow in his accounts of Brutus’ consulships (although, in his account of Brutus letting of the temple contract, he recorded that Brutus had previously vowed it as consul in an unspecified year); and

  2. in the case of the Temple of Juventas, he failed to mention the vow in his accounts of Salinator’s consulships of 219 and 207 BC (although, in his account of Salinator’s letting of the temple contract, he recorded that Salinator had previously vowed it during his second consulship).

This suggests that he inserted the information about the foundation of the temples after his narrative account had been completed, and that (for whatever reason) failed to incorporate it into this earlier account.  The result in a series of colourless, factual paragraphs with very little historical context:

  1. “In [306 BC], C. Junius Bubulcus Brutus, as censor, let the contract for the temple of Salus which he had vowed as consul during the Samnite war”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 43: 25).

  2. “[War with the Aequi in 302/1 BC] necessitated the appointment of a dictator, C. Junius Bubulcus ... He crushed the Aequi in the very first battle and, a week later, he returned to Rome in triumph and, as dictator, dedicated the temple of Salus, which he had:

  3. vowed as consul; and

  4. put out for contract as censor”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 1: 9).

  5. “[In 191 BC], C. Licinius Lucullus dedicated the temple of Juventas in the Circus Maximus.  M. Livius had:

  6. vowed it on the day on which he destroyed Hasdrubal and his army [as consul in 207 BC] and

  7. signed the contract for its construction in [204 BC], when he was censor”, (‘History of Rome’, 36: 36: 5-6).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1997, at p. 61) observed, the information that Livy provided in contexts such as this:

  1. “... is precisely the kind of information that one would expect to find in records kept by priests ...”

Brutus’ Foundation of the Temple

However, as Daniele Miano (referenced below, at p. 142) pointed out:

  1. “... the only episode [relating to Brutus as consul] that Livy relates in any detail concerns his] victory over the Samnites [ in 311 BC, when he] and his army managed to quickly react after an ambush at a gorge.  This would be a plausible context for such a vow, ...  although we cannot know whether the vow took place in this circumstance.”

Livy (at ‘History of Rome’, 9: 31: 1-16) recorded that, after Brutus:

  1. recaptured Cluviae and avenged the Samnites’ earlier murder of a Roman garrison there by executing all of the male Samnite survivors; and then

  2. captured Bovianum, which he characterised as the wealthy capital of the Pentrian Samnites, and distributed the whole of the substantial booty among his soldiers.

It was at this point that some Samnites who posed as innocent peasants who had contrived to be captured by Brutus alerted him to the:

  1. “... enormous flocks that had been brought together in an inaccessible mountain meadow.  [Brutus took the bait and entered what we later find was a mountain pass in order to] seize the booty.  However, a great Samnite army had secretly blocked the exit from the pass and, when they saw that the Romans had entered it, they ... suddenly fell upon them. ... [The army did what it had been trained to do in such circumstances, and Brutus, having ridden] to the place where the fighting was most critical, leapt down from his horse, and called on Jupiter and Mars and the other gods to witness thathe had come there seeking no glory for himself, but only booty for his soldiers.  [He then exhorted his men to remember how many times they had defeated the Samnites and urged them on to another victory].  Fired by these words, ... the soldiers advanced on the enemy line that stood above them.  [When the Romans succeeded in reaching the higher ground], the  Samnites fled ... [and were] caught  ... in a trap of their own devising.  Very few were able to escape: about 20,000 men were killed and the victorious Romans ... [seized] the booty of cattle that the [Samnites] had thrown in their way”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 31: 7-16).

Zonaras also described this ambush, although he recorded that it led to disaster:

  1. “While Brutus was pillaging their territory, the Samnites conveyed their possessions into the Avernian woods (so called because on account of their denseness not even the birds fly into them) and ... stationed some flocks in front of their position without shepherds or guards.  They then secretly sent some fake deserters, who guided the Romans to the booty that apparently lay at their disposal.  But, when they had entered the wood, the Samnites surrounded them and slaughtered them until completely exhausted”, (‘Roman History’, 8: 1: 1 -search on ‘Junius’).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 403-4), who like Miano(above), believed that Brutus’  must have vowed the temple in 311 BC, reconciled the stark difference between he tradition followed by Livy and that followed by Zonaras by observing that:

  1. “... the  vow by [Brutus in 311 BC] of a temple to Salus, which Livy omits to record [in his account of the ambush] but which was was certainly fulfilled, probably guarantees that [he] was not defeated too heavily [pace Zonaras], or at least that he finished the campaign with his honour in tact.”

However, the fact remains that none of our surviving sources record the circumstances in which Brutus vowed this temple: for example, although Livy recorded that Brutus had called on ‘Jupiter, Mars and the other gods’ during the ambush of 311 BC, he did not record that these other gods included Salus.

Oakley then addressed (at p. 404) the additional problem that was presented by the fact that the Augustan  fasti Triumphales recorded that Brutus had triumphed over the Samnites in 311 BC by arguing that:

  1. “[We] cannot be certain whether or not [Brutus] triumphed [on this occasion] but, since:

  2. Zonaras records a defeat;

  3. Livy [did not record a] triumph; and

  4. the day of the triumph alleged by the fasti Triumphales [5th August 311 BC]  is the same day as the dedication of the temple [in 302/1 BC];

  5. it is perhaps best to reject [the triumph of 311 BC].”

For the purposes of the present discussion, we should note the compiler of the Augustan fasti followed a tradition in which Brutus:

vowed this temple in 311 BC, during his exhortation to his ambushed troop;

extricated his army from the ambush and then secured a victory for which he celebrated a triumph on 5th August; and

dedicated this temple as dictator in 302/1 BC, on the anniversary of this triumph.

It seems to me that Brutus more probably ‘remembered’ this vow only when he became censor in 306 BC: by this time, he had clearly overcome any doubts about his performance in his third consulship, which might have allowed him to attach his name to a temple that was already planned.

As Penelope Davies (referenced below, at p, 42) pointed out, Brutus is:

  1. “... the first known consular general to [have vowed] a temple.”

Thus, although (for reasons discussed below) it is often asserted that Brutus vowed this temple in 311 BC, this assertion is unsupported by hard (as opposed to circumstantial) evidence.  All we can take from Livy is that, if his claim that Brutus vowed this temple as consul is correct, then (according to Eric Orlin, referenced below, at pp. 199-200):

he was the first consul who was recorded in our surviving sources as having vowed a temple; and

although another four consuls are recorded as having vowed a temple that was dedicated in or before 293 BC:

the circumstances in which these four vows were made were all recorded by Livy; and

none of these four consuls is known to have dedicated the temple that he had vowed.

In other words, although Daniele Miano (referenced below, at p. 142), for example, argued that this temple:

“... should be considered as one of the victory temples vowed in battle that are so typical of mid-Republican Rome”;

we should bear in mind that this assertion is based on only circumstantial evidence (as discussed further below).

Location of the Temple

Probable locations on the Quirinal of the temples of Salus and Quirinus and of the house of T. Pomponius Atticus

Adapted from Digital Augustan Rome

Cicero  fasti above

Two surviving bilingual (Greek and Latin) inscriptions have also been used to support this location of the temple:

  1. CIL VI 0373 (from Palazzo Barberini on the Quirinal, now in the Musei Vaticani, dated to 200-50 BC):

  2. “From the people of Laodicea near the river Lycos; a statue [dedicated to] the Roman People, who were their salvation because of benefactions to them”, (translated by Eric Warmington, referenced below, at p. 143).

  3. CIL VI 0374 (first seen in Palazzo Barberini on the Quirinal, now in the Musei Vaticani, dated to ca. 85 - 81 BC, presumably related to the Ephesians’ liberation from Mithridates):

  4. “From the people of Ephesus; a statue [dedicated to] the Roman People because of their [i.e. the Ephesians’] salvation, in that they maintained their ancient freedom”, (translated by Eric Warmington, referenced below, at p. 143)

It is possible that :

  1. the statues evidenced by these inscriptions represented Salus;

  2. they were housed in her temple; and

  3. this temple stood near Palazzo Barberini on the Quirinal.

Other support for the location of the temple on the Quirinal comes from two letters that Cicero  wrote to Atticus in May 45 BC, in which he referred to Caesar as Atticus’ neighbour:

  1. “Clearly your house will go up in value with Caesar as a neighbour”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 289, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, in Vol. IV,  p. 17).

  2. “I put that in about your neighbour Caesar because I had learned ... from your letter [that his statue had been placed in the temple of Quirinus].  I [am pleased that] he shares a temple with Quirinus, rather than with [your other neighbour], Salus”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 290, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, in Vol. IV,  p. 17).

As Elisha Ann Dumser observed (in this page of the directory of Digital Augustan Rome), none of these sites can be precisely located: those proposed for them in the map at the top of the page  should be taken as indicative rather than certain.

Cult of Salus

Daniele Miano (referenced below, at pp. 140-1)

“Victory temples were often (but not always) dedicated to deities with military meanings, such as Bellona (vow 296), Iuppiter Victor (vow 295), Victoria (dedication 294), Iuppiter Stator (vow 294), Quirinus (dedication 293), which makes it possible that the ‘safety’ referred to by the vow is one from extreme danger, especially if the temple was dedicated during the Samnite ambush at the gorge.

Aline Boyce (referenced below, at p. 79) pointed out, Salus, unlike Valetudo (the Roman equivalent of the Greek Hygieia, the female counterpart of Aesculapius and another goddess of health or well being):

  1. “... was a concept that was broader than [personal] good health, and was applicable to the condition of the ... Res Publica.”

Location of the Temple

The location of Brutus’ temple on the Quirinus seems to have marked the start of another trend that took hold: 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, although its location is disputed]; ... 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.”

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

“... 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.”

Frescoes by C. Fabius Pictor

Brutus’ temple seems to have been best-remembered for the fact that the artist Fabius Pictor had adorned it with frescoes:
  1. Valerius Maximus wondered:

  2. “... what was C. Fabius [Pictor], a citizen of the highest nobility, aiming at by inserting his name when he painted the walls in the temple of Salus, which C. Junius Bubulcus [Brutus]  had dedicated?  That was the only distinction lacking in his family, which abounded in consulates, priesthoods and triumphs!  However, [even though he was] devoted to a base pursuit, he did not wish that his labour (whatever its nature) should be shrouded in silence.  No doubt he was following the example of [the Greek sculptor] Phidias, who put his own likeness into the shield of [Athena in the Parthenon] ... ”, (‘Memorable Deeds and Sayings’, 8: 14: 6, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, at pp. 273-5).

  3. Pliny the Elder similarly recorded that:

  4. “Among the Romans,  ... [painting] soon became esteemed, for it was from it that the Fabii, a most illustrious family, derived their surname of ‘Pictor’: indeed, the first of the family who bore [this cognomen] painted the Temple of Salus in the year of 450 AUC [303 BC]; this work, which  lasted to our own times, was destroyed when the temple was burnt, in the reign of Claudius [(died 54 BC)]”, (‘Natural History’, 35: 7).

The frescoes from this temple no longer survive, but the slightly later fresco illustrated here (from Francesco Marcattili, referenced below, para. 10, fig. 2) probably gives some indication of its style: this later fresco from the necropolis on the Esquiline is now in the Musei Capitolini.

Read more: 

Miano D., From Saviours to Salvation: Salus in Republican Italy”, in:

  1. Bispham E. and Miano D. (editors), “Gods and Goddesses in Ancient Italy”, (2020)Oxford and New York, at pp. 136-7

Davies P., “Architecture Politics in Republican Rome”, (2017) Cambridge

Marcattili F., “Per un’ Archeologia dell’Aventino: i Culti della Media Repubblica”, Les Mélanges de l’École Française de Rome: Antiquité”, (2012) online

Oakley S., “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Vol. III: Book IX”, 2005 (Oxford)

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

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

Shackleton Bailey D. R. (translator), “Valerius Maximus: ‘Memorable Doings and Sayings’; Vol. II, Books 6-9”, (2000), Cambridge MA

Shackleton Bailey D. R. (translator), “Cicero: ‘Letters to Atticus’ (Volumes I-IV)”, (1999), Cambridge MA

Oakley S., “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Vol. I: Book VI”, 1997 (Oxford)

Orlin E., “Temples, Religion and Politics in the Roman Republic”, (1997) Leiden, New York, Cologne

Boyce A., “Salus and Valetudo”, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 14:1 (1959) 79-81

Warmington E. H. (translator), “Remains of Old Latin, Volume IV: Archaic Inscriptions”, (1940), Cambridge MA

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

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

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