Roman Republic

Livy recorded that, in 294 BC, the consul L. Postumius Megellus:

  1. “.... dedicated aedes Victoriae, the building of which he had provided for when curule aedile, out of the money arising from fines [that he had exacted during his term of office]” (‘History of Rome’, 10: 33: 9).

The only firm date for Megellus’ temple is that of its dedication in 294 BC, and two of the surviving calendar-based fasti record its dies natalis as 1st August: 

  1. fasti Antiates Maiores: Spei Victor(is) II (To Spes; to the two Victories)

  2. fasti Praenestini: Victoriae Victoriae / virgini in Palatio Spei in/ foro Holitorio (To Victory; To Victoria Virgo on the Palatine: to Spes in the Forum Holitorium)

Thus, Megellus’ temple stood on the Palatine and shared its dies natalis with another temple there that was dedicated to Victoria Virgo: the latter was a shrine that was built beside it in 194 BC (probably at the spot labelled ‘small temple’ above), which was dedicated by Cato the Elder in the following year.

L. Postumius Megellus

It is usually assumed that Megellus served as aedile shortly before his first term as consul in 305 BC.  Penelope Davies (referenced below, 2017, at p. 44) suggested that he might well have been one of the pioneers of what was then a new the strategy of using the post of aedile to court popularity by applying money raised through fines for the public good.  She noted that, although he was a patrician (and thus, in normal circumstances, would expect to achieve higher office without recourse to strategies such as this), he was potentially disadvantaged because:

  1. “... his family was burdened by the ignominy [that had been] incurred by Sp. Postumius Albinus, the commander whose army had been forced under the yoke [by the Samnites] at the Caudine Forks [in 321 BC].”

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at pp. 571-3) summarised Megellus’ subsequent career.  The sources suggest that he sought triumphs at the end of each of three terms as consul, but it it seems that he only succeeded once:

  1. He served as consul for the first time in 305 BC.  Livy (‘History of Rome’, 9: 44: 14) credited Megellus and his consular colleague Ti. Minucius Augurinus with a victory over the Samnites at Bovianum that finally ended the Second Samnite War and recorded that they were both awarded triumphs.  However, Livy also noted that some of his sources stated that Minucius was killed at an early stage in this engagement, and that it was M. Fulvius Curvus Paetinus (who replaced him as suffect consul), who captured Bovianum (‘History of Rome’, 9: 44: 15).  The ‘fasti Triumphales’ record that it was M. Fulvius Curvus Paetinus who triumphed as consul over the Samnites in 305 BC.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p. 577 and note 5) argued that:

  2. “Since there is no obvious motive for the invention of a suffect consulate and a triumph for Fulvius, we should accept the tradition that he took Bovianum.  If so, then Livy erred in saying that both consuls triumphed.”

  3. He is next recorded as propraetor during the Battle of Sentinum and, as noted above, became consul for the second time in the following year (294 BC).  Illness caused him to spend a period of time in Rome, after which, on 1st August, before his departure for Samnium, he dedicated his Temple of Victoria on the Palatine.  At the end of his year of office, he controversially insisted on celebrating a triumph, despite fierce opposition.  Thus, the ‘fasti Triumphales’ recorded that he celebrated a triumph over the Samnites and Etruscans on 27th March 293 BC.

  4. Even more controversially, as interrex in 292 BC, he forced his own election as senior consul for 291 BC, claimed Samnium as his province, faced prosecution for putting his army to work on his own land, and tried (this time apparently unsuccessfully) to claim a second triumph.  He was prosecuted for his misdemeanours in 290 BC.

Vowing and Location of the Temple

As noted above, Livy recorded that Megellus had applied the fines that he had imposed as aedile for the construction of this temple.  However, Adam Ziolkowski (referenced below, at pp. 174-6) argued that:

  1. the size of this temple would be unusual for an aedilician project financed from fines; and

  2. its dedication to the goddess of victory pointed instead to a project financed by a triumphant general. 

He therefore suggested that Megellus vowed the temple as consul, following his victory at Bovianum in 305 BC, but that, because this was undocumented, Livy or his sources assumed that it was an aedilican project, financed by fines.  Anna Clark (referenced below, at p. 57-8) similarly suggested that the temple :

  1. “... might have been realised in part from manubiae [booty] from the victory of 305 BC. ... It is possible that the aedileship may have been undertaken [after the vow had been made], primarily to have the temple built.”

Penelope Davies (referenced below, 2017, at p. 44) accepted Livy’s testimony that Megellus had financed the temple from the fines that he collected as aedile, and argued that he had probably held this post before his first term as consul in 305 BC.  However, she pointed out that:

  1. “Livy does not say that he vowed this temple as aedile: he may have done so as praetor or consul [presumably for the first time], resorting to fines collected previously.”

Whatever the precise differences between these three hypotheses, all of them:

  1. revolve around the surprising fact that Livy made no mention of the vowing of the temple; and

  2. have Megellus making (or probably making) this unrecorded vow as consul in 305 BC. 

It seems to me that this second suggestion is entirely likely, since he might well have vowed the temple in support of his case for a triumph, albeit that he seems to have been unsuccessful on this occasion.

Francesco Bianchini discovered two inscriptions on the Palatine in 1725 that provided evidence for the location of Megellus’ temple.  These inscriptions were on:

  1. a Republican cippus (CIL VI 31059):

  2. [Vict]oriai(!) / [...]cius C(ai) f(ilius)

  3. [p]r(aetor) s(enatus) c(onsulto) d(onum) d(at); and

  4. two fragments apparently from an Augustan architrave (CIL VI 31060):

  5. [Imp(erator) C]aes(ar) divi f(ilius)

  6. [aedem Vi]ctoria[e refecit]

Peter Wiseman (referenced below, 1981, at pp. 33-6) revisited this and other evidence for the temple’s location.  He summarised his paper as follows:

  1. “The evidence for the site of the temple of Victory on the Palatine at Rome [has been] re-examined [here in the light of]:

  2. -a passage in Dionysius of Halicarnassus [see below], which implies that the temple was topographically related to the Lupercal;

  3. -two inscriptions recorded in the 18th century [above], which were found near the western corner of the Palatine;

  4. -the Porta Roman(ul)a, which, according to Festus (318 L), was ‘infimo clivo Victoriae’; and

  5. -the Palatine hut [i.e. the so-called hut of Romulus], which was evidently next to the temple of Jupiter Victor [see below] in the precinct of Victory.

  6. By applying these indications to the archaeological remains, the two hitherto unidentified podia near the Magna Mater temple may be identified as those of the temples of Victory and [of] Jupiter Victory [see below]”

This identification of the site of Megellus’ temple is accepted by most scholars, including Penelope Davies (referenced below, 2012, at pp. 146-7) and Filippo Coarelli (referenced below, at pp. 226–8).  Coarelli noted (at p. 227) that:

  1. “The excavations of Patrizio Pensabene [on this site, which were published in a number of papers over the period 1980-2006] confirm this identification, revealing in addition: the large size of the temple; the notable quality of its decoration; and its construction in ca. 300 BC” (my translation).

Augustus and the Temple of Victoria

The temple was recorded in the so-called ‘Chronograph of 354 AD’ under Regio X as “Victoriam Germanianam”.  Peter Wiseman (referenced below, 2013, at p. 249) suggested the explanation for this:

  1. “... the first and most significant use of the name ‘Germanicus’ was precisely at the time when the regiones were created [i.e. ca. 7 BC].  By 9 BC, Augustus’ stepson Nero Drusus had conquered Germany and, as far as anyone knew at the time, it was an expansion of Empire as permanent and glorious as Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.  Drusus himself died at the moment of victory, but the Senate decreed to him and his offspring the honorific agnomenGermanicus’.  We know that Augustus rebuilt the temple of Victoria [as evidenced by the inscription mentioned above] and this was an obvious time for him to do it”.

Cult of Victoria

According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus:

  1. “On the top of the [Palatine Hill, the followers of Evander] set aside the precinct of Nike [Victory], and instituted sacrifices to her as well, lasting throughout the year, which the Romans performed even in my time [i.e. in 116- 27 BC]” (‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 32: 5).

Filippo Coarelli (referenced below, at p. 226) observed:

  1. “Naturally, an abstract cult [like that of the personification of victory] is inconceivable in Rome before the 4th century BC.  In fact, we know with certainty that we are dealing here with [Megellus’ temple]” (my translation). 

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 216, note 19) had earlier made a similar suggestion. 

Nevertheless, the goddess to whom Megellus dedicated his temple might not have been a new arrival in Rome: as Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 211) pointed out, she had:

  1. “... an early ancestress in Vica Pota, who, however, remained archaic and insignificant”. 

Charles Hoeing (referenced below, search on ‘Livy’) noted that, at least by the time that Asconius wrote his commentary  on Cicero’s speech ‘Against Piso’  (i.e. by ca. 54 AD), her ancient temple the foot of the Velia was also known as the Temple of Victoria.  It is impossible to say whether Vica Pota had already become Victoria in Megellus’ time. 

Stefan Weinstock (referenced below, at p. 247) suggested that:

  1. “It seems to bring order into a confusing evidence [for the apparently sudden popularity in Rome of victory cults] if we assume:

  2. -that the cults of Victoria, Jupiter Victor, Hercules Invictus, and the others were inspired ultimately by Alexander [the Great];

  3. -that invincible [Roman] generals liked to place themselves under the protection of such gods;

  4. -that Scipio [and later Republican generals] added much momentum [to this development] ...”.

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 328) largely agreed, although he placed more emphasis than Weinstock on the importance of these cults from an early date:

  1. “The idea of Victoria was almost certainly adopted at Rome under the influence of Alexander the Great. ... Weinstock did not think that, in the years around Sentinum, it had yet become the potent symbol [that it became] in later years.  However, one might differ: in the years after 311 BC, the Romans had regularly defeated the Samnites and Etruscans, as well as the Hernici, Aequi, Umbri, Marsi, Paeligni and Gauls.  Well might they  adopt Victoria as a symbol of their aggressive imperialism.”

What we do know is that, according to Zonaras (drawing on Cassius Dio), among the portents that terrified the Romans in 296 BC:

  1. “... in the Forum, a bronze statue of Victoria set upon a stone pedestal was found standing on the ground below, without any one having moved it; and, as it happened, it was facing in that direction from which the Gauls were already approaching.  However, a certain Manius, by birth an Etruscan, encouraged [the Romans] by declaring that Victoria, even if she had descended [from her pedestal], had at any rate gone forward [to meet the expected invasion] and, being now established more firmly on the ground, indicated to them [that this portended their] mastery in the war” (‘Roman History’, 8:28). 

Manius’ interpretation was vindicated by the Roman victory at Sentinum in the following year (as described on the main page). 

It is possible (indeed likely) that the statue of Victoria was in situ in the Forum at the time that Megellus vowed his temple.  However, it had clearly remained on its pedestal until shortly before the temple’s dedication.  Thus, there is no obvious link between the two events.  There is, however, the distinct impression that Victoria was enjoying particular prominence at this crucial stage in the war for Italian supremacy.

Peter Wiseman (referenced below, 1995a, at pp. 122-3) tentatively suggested that a pit under the altar in this temple (which had been robbed, but which still contained a cup dated to the 4th century) might have contained the remains of the victim of human sacrifice that had been carried out in 296 BC to propitiate the gods.  He related this putative human sacrifice to that of Remus, inferred by one of the versions of his death:

  1. According to Livy, Remus died in an altercation with Romulus about whether they should found their city on the Aventine (the choice of Remus) or on the Palatine (the choice of Romulus): 

  2. “Upon this, having met in an altercation, from the contest of angry feelings they [Romulus and Remus] turn to bloodshed; there Remus fell from a blow received in the crowd.  A more common account is that Remus, in derision of his brother, leaped over his new-built wall [around the Palatine] and was, for that reason, slain by Romulus in a passion; who, after sharply chiding him, added words to this effect: ‘So shall every one fare, who shall dare to leap over my fortifications’” (1:7).

  3. Dionysius of Halicarnas also recorded a variant of the tradition of Remus’ fatal leap over the wall:

  4. “Some, indeed, say that Remus yielded the leadership to Romulus, though not without resentment and anger at the fraud, but that after the wall was built, wishing to demonstrate the weakness of the fortification, he cried: ‘Well, as for this wall, one of your enemies could as easily cross it as I do’, and immediately leaped over it.  Thereupon Celer, one of the men standing on the wall, who was overseer of the work, said: ‘Well, as for this enemy, one of us could easily punish him’, and, striking him on the head with a mattock, he killed him then and there” (‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 87: 4). 

Wiseman suggested that the Romans might have been so terrified by the portents of 296 BC that they had resorted to human sacrifice to ensure the survival of the city, and further, that it is possibly in this context that this version of the foundation myth had been conceived.  However, as Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2007, at p. 247, note 1) observed:

  1. “It is unlikely that we shall ever have evidence either to confirm or to refute reconstructions of this kind.”

Gary Forsythe (referenced below, at p. 233), who developed Wiseman’s hypothesis, suggested that any victims sacrificed in relation to the portents of 296 BC would have been buried alive.  If so:

  1. “... we then should ask whose remains were deposited below the altar of Victory.  The most likely candidate for such an honour would have been P. Decius Mus ... It would have been perfectly logical for the Romans of the day to identify [his] self-sacrifice ... by devotio at Sentinum with the death of Remus. ... Through [this self-sacrifice, they] obtained a victory unparalleled thus far in their history ... [in] its implications for [their] security and power.  Incorporating Decius’ remains into the Temple of Victoria and the latter into the defensive wall of the Palatine, an area closely associated with Romulus and Remus, [would have been entirely appropriate].”

It seems to me that one difficulty with this hypothesis is the fact that this putative honour given to Decius Mus went unrecorded by Livy, who otherwise gave a full account of the fate of his body, once victory had been assured:

  1. Fabius, after sending persons to search for the body of his colleague, had the spoils of the enemy collected into a heap, and burned them as an offering to Jupiter Victor.  The consul's body could not be found that day, being hidden under a heap of slaughtered Gauls:  it was discovered on the following day and brought to the camp, amidst abundance of tears shed by the soldiers.  Fabius, discarding all concern about any other business, solemnised the obsequies of his colleague in the most honourable manner, passing on him the high encomiums that he had justly merited” (10:29).

The natural time for the putative interment under the altar of Victory would have been soon thereafter, shortly before the temple’s dedication, in which case Livy would surely have mentioned it.  Nevertheless, it is dangerous to argue from silence, and it is also possible that the honour was conferred at a slightly later date (for which Livy’s record no longer survives).

Appearance of the Temple

Peter Wiseman (referenced below, 1995b, at p. 4)commented on the likely appearance of the temple, as ‘reconstructed’ by Patrizio Pensabene (above):

  1. “The temple of Victory at the western corner of the Palatine was begun in or about 307 BC, but not finished till 294 BC. Archaeological evidence now reveals why it took so long. 

  2. First, it was a very large and imposing building, even bigger than its later neighbour, the temple of Magna Mater. 

  3. Second, the building programme evidently involved more than just the temple itself: the side of the Palatine overlooking the Forum Bovarium was built up with great terracing walls in opus quadratum, and it is probable that the programme included a new monumental approach, the Clivus Victoriae.

  4. The effect must have been like the entrance to an acropolis, with a Victory temple at the gate.”

Penelope Davies (referenced below, 2012, at pp. 143-4), who also cited Pensabene, described it as:

  1. “... the first known temple [in Rome] with colonnades on three sides since the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus [on the Capitol].  More significantly, perhaps, it is also the first hexastyle temple since the Capitoline temple.”

She observed (at p 152-3) that Megellus presumably:

  1. “... intended his grand Temple of Victoria to put him on the political map.  Hexastyle, peripteral on three sides and all stone, it conveyed the majesty and monumentality of the Hellenistic world to the heart of Rome.  It also seems to have been the first temple of Rome after the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus to be sited for spectacular visibility: ... it was the Palatine mirror of the Capitoline temple.”

In her later book (referenced below, 2017, at p. 59) she asserted that its stunning site on the edge of the Palatine suggested:

  1. “...the Palatine equivalent of the Capitoline Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the Aventine Temple of Diana.”

Influence of Megellus’ Temple

Penelope Davies (referenced below, 2012, at p. 154) recorded that:

  1. “A sudden burst of temple vows associated with victory followed closely the construction of Postumius Megellus’ temple ...”

The resulting victory temples included five that were vowed during the Third Samnite War, three of which were associated with victory cults:

  1. a temple to Bellona Victrix in the Campus Martius, which Appius Claudius Caecus vowed in 296 BC during his successful attack on the Samnite camp in Etruria (as described on the main page);

  2. a temple to Jupiter Victor, which Fabius Maximus Rulianus vowed to ensure his victory at Sentinum (295 BC) after the death of his consular colleague, Decius Mus; and

  3. a temple to Jupiter Stator, vowed by, M. Atilius Regulus (Megellus’ fellow consul) during  a difficult engagement against the Samnites at Luceria in 294 BC.


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

Wiseman T. P., “The Palatine, from Evander to Elagabalus” (review of F, Coarelli (2012) below), Journal of Roman Studies, 103  (2013) 234-68

Coarelli F., “Palatium: Il Palatino dalle Origini all' Impero”, (2012) Rome

Davies P., “On the Introduction of Stone Entablatures in Republican Temples in Rome”, in:

  1. Thomas M. and Meyers G.(editors), “Monumentality in Etruscan and Early Roman Architecture”, (2012) Texas, pp. 139-65

Clark A., “Divine Qualities: Cult and Community in Republican Rome”, (2007) Oxford 

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

Oakley S., “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X: Vo.IV, Book X”, (2007) Oxford

Wiseman T. P. (1995a), "Remus: A Roman Myth", (1995) Cambridge 

Wiseman T. P. (1995b), "The God of the Lupercal", Journal of Roman Studies, 85 (1995) 1-22

Ziolkowski A., “Temples of Mid-Republican Rome”, (1992) London 

Wiseman T. P.,”Temple of Victory on the Palatine”, Antiquaries Journal, 61:1 (1981) 35-52

Hoeing C. “Vica Pota”, American Journal of Philology, 24: 3 (1903) 323-6

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Rome in the Early Republic (509 - 241 BC)

Temple of Victoria