Roman Republic

Rome in the Early Republic (509 - 241 BC)

Temples of Fortuna and Mater Matuta at Sant’ Omobono

Archeological area beside Sant’ Omobono (from Wikipedia)


The fasti Antiates Maiores (ca. 60 BC) record that two temples, one dedicated to Mater Matuta and the other to Fortuna, had their dies natalis on 11th June, the date of the annual festival of the Matralia.  Ovid (ca. 8 AD), in his poem on the Roman calendar:

  1. called the ‘good mothers’ of Rome to attend the Matralia on 11th June, and to:

  2. “... offer to the Theban goddess [Ino, the daughter of Cadmus of Thebes, whom he equated with Mater Matuta - see below] the yellow cakes that are her due.  Adjoining the bridges and the Circus Maximus is an open space of great renown, which takes its name from the statue of an ox [i.e., the Forum Boarium].  It is said that, on this day, Servius  [Tullius, traditionally Rome’s 6th king (578 - 535 BC)]... consecrated a temple to Mother Matuta there ... ”, (‘Fasti’, 6: 475-80, translated by James Frazer, referenced below, at p. 355); and

  3. in a later verse, exclaimed:

  4. “Fortuna: the same day, the same founder and the same place are yours.  But, who is that hiding with togas flung over him ?  It is generally identified as King Servius, but the reason for this is uncertain”, (‘Fasti’, 6: 569-72, translated by James Frazer, referenced below, at p. 363).

From this, we learn that, at least by the Augustan period, it was believed that Servius Tullius had dedicated two temples in the Forum Boarium:

  1. the temple of Mater Matuta, which was the locus of the Matralia; and

  2. the temple of Fortuna, which housed a statue covered by togas that was said to portray Servius himself.

The site of at least one of these archaic temples was discovered when the area surrounding the church of Sant’ Omobono was being cleared for development in 1937.  Another six excavation campaigns were carried out in the period to 1986, but but they were all limited in both time and extent and further hampered by the proximity of the site to the Tiber.  However, a concerted programme known as the Sant’ Omobono Project was launched in May 2009 by the Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali, the Università della Calabria and the University of Michigan, and this has given rise to a series of publications that:

  1. provide a new analysis of the results of the earlier campaigns as represented in the surviving records; and

  2. report on new excavations, which involve the sophisticated techniques that a site like this demands. 

Although much remains to be done, the work that the project team has reported to date is already allowing our understanding of the site to be refined.

Topography of the Site in the Archaic Period

Topographic reconstruction of the early archaic riverbank in the Forum Boarium

Adapted from Andrea Brock, Laura Motta and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below, at fig. 4, p. 11)

Andrea Brock, Laura Motta and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below) recently published the results of a coring survey of the Forum Boarium, in which they established the archaic topography of the area (which they summarised at p. 17 and illustrated in the figures reproduced above).  Their analysis revealed that the archaic temple under Sant’ Omobono had been build on a natural ledge below the Capitol, at 6.5  masl (meters above sea level).  Furthermore, this temple originally stood on:

  1. “... a 1.7 m high podium made from an unusually dense variety of tufo lionato  imported from the Anio region that would have been more resistant to water damage than local stone, [which] further lifted the temple’ s vulnerable superstructure to an elevation of 8.2 masl.  For comparison, ... the  first gravel surface of the nearby Forum Romanum [at the north eastern border of the Velabrum], where an archaic land-reclamation project filled the valley,... raised the ground level [there] to 8.6 masl.  These two elevations provide a strong indication of the height [that had been] perceived to be ‘safe’ [from flooding] in the early 6th century BC. ... [Furthermore], our investigations have documented pre-Republican flood deposits only as high as 7.4 masl, this being the upper limit of the land surface beneath the Sant’ Omobono sanctuary.   ... We suggest that, at the time that the harbour temple was built, a flood reaching more than 8 masl would have been an exceedingly rare event.  It [therefore] seems that Rome’ s  first monumental temple ... was erected in a position that was highly visible as well as offering relative safety from inundations.”

They made three other important observations (at pp. 14-5):

  1. “[This] low-lying shore would have been an ideal location for animals to drink at the river.  Indeed, ancient sources and generations of modern scholars have made etymological inferences about the origins of the Forum Boarium as a  cattle market.  Livestock that would have had difficulty traversing the steep terrain typical of other sections of riverbank would have been able to approach the river at this particular point with far greater ease.  Although we must be cautious not to extrapolate broadly from findings from a single core, a borehole drilled near the south-east corner of the Sant’ Omobono sanctuary exposed ... 40 cm of animal dung, suggesting that livestock were present in the archaic Forum Boarium.  It is difficult to know the scale of ... [the putative] cattle market, but the availability of suitable terrain [for grazing and watering] would certainly have influenced the way that livestock in early Rome were maintained and shepherded across the landscape”.

  2. “Second, there is new justification for the notion of a ford at this gently sloping shore ... , [albeit that], contrary to earlier speculation, a crossing point would not necessarily have relied on slack water created by the Tiber island; it is actually possible that the island did not even exist in this era. ... The available geoarchaeological evidence [for a ford at this point], while not definitive, is nonetheless strongly suggestive of the conditions necessary for a ford.   Moreover, rivers tend to become deeper as they approach the sea, so is it possible that the first available ford for travellers coming up from the coast was at the site of Rome.  Such a crossing point would have served as a vital nexus for regional transhumance routes and funnelled the movement of people and livestock between Etruria and Latium”.

  3. “Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the natural topography created conditions suitable for a year-round harbour at the lowest point of the valley.  Drawing on ethnographic comparisons in conjunction with archaeological and literary evidence from across the Mediterranean, it is apparent that prehistoric harbours did not require infrastructural investment, ... [since] many seafaring boats were sufficiently lightweight and flat-bottomed to be hauled ashore by a team of men.   Importantly, such flat hulls could navigate the shallower waters of a river and even be propelled upstream by rowing, towing and/or push-pole. ... Although previous reconstructions of the Forum Boarium valley with a swamp or a high riverbank have led to the conclusion that the site was not suitable as a landing for boats, these notions can now be ruled out: the low shore where the Velabrum met the Tiber would in fact have been an ideal landing for boats, permitting the loading and unloading of cargo as well as the performance of maintenance”.

In short, the temple overlooked a coastal site that was ideally placed for riverine and agricultural commerce and would have been frequented by merchants and seamen from across Italy and beyond.   Moreover, as Andrea Brock and her colleagues also noted (at p. 15), there is proof of these putative activities: the excavations of 1937 that had led to the discovery of the remains of the archaic temple under Sant’ Omobono had:

  1. “... also produced an impressive ceramic assemblage of Bronze Age, imported Greek, and Early Iron Age Etruscan wares, ... mixed in secondary contexts at the ...  sanctuary.  Drawing on these archaeological discoveries, ... scholars began writing of a commercial port that stretched back to the prehistoric era.  The presence of orientalising Greek pottery, in particular, led to the conclusion that foreign trade via Rome’ s harbour began already in the 8th century.

They concluded (at p. 17) that this  archaic temple looked down on:

  1. “... a critically important liminal zone in Rome, where locals could interact with foreigners and neighbours.”

Archaic Temple(s)

Adapted from the plan in the site of the Sant’ Omobono Project

Archaic temple and altar in red

A and B = twin Republican temples, altars and circular monument

As we have seen, Ovid claimed that Servius Tullius (traditionally 578 - 535 BC) dedicated temples to both Mater Matuta and Fortuna on the same site (the Forum Boarium) and on the same day (11th June).  However, the remains of only one temple that belongs to this period have been discovered so far (marked in red on the plan above).

Archaic Temple Under S. Omobono: First Phase

Reconstruction of the original temple under Sant’ Omobono

by Anna Mura Sommella (referenced below, 2000, at Fig. 1, p. 9)

Remains, probably from the original temple pediment, exhibited in the Musei Capitolini 

Daniel Diffendale, Paolo Brocato, Nicola Terrenato and Andrea Brock (referenced below, hereafter Daniel Diffendale et al.) reported on the main phases of human occupation and construction at the site,  on the basis of the first 6 years of work (in 2009-15) by the Sant’ Omobono Project.  They gave a detailed description (at pp. 11-2) of the physical evidence for this archaic temple, which came from predominantly from the remains of its roughly square podium.  This podium, about a quarter of which has been reached by excavation since 1937, would have measured some 10x10 meters and was approached from the south by a frontal staircase some 2 meters wide, which comprised seven steps, of which the lowest and an imprint of the one above it survive.  They noted (at p. 13) that the foundations of the altar that stood in front of the temple survive, and that these:

  1. ... suggest that it faced east, in common with the later, Republican altars at the site [see below]”.

They also observed (again at p. 13) that relatively few of the architectural terracottas that have been found at the site can be attributed to the decoration of the first-phase temple:

  1. “These include:

  2. plaques in relief representing heraldically-opposed semi-crouching felines, possibly flanking a central Gorgon figure, which would have filled a closed pediment (a Greek element that is otherwise unknown in Italic temple architecture); [and]

  3. revetment plaques bear felines in relief processing up the pediment rafters, which, together with the remains of pedimental revetments, attest a roof slope of 21°.25.”

These terracotta fragments are exhibited in the Musei Capitolini, as illustrated above.  They cautioned (at p. 12) that the evidence for the other components of the temple is quite limited, despite the fact that ‘reconstructions’ of it that sometimes appear in the literature, where it : 

  1. ... is usually reconstructed as a ‘distyle in antis’ Tuscan type, with closed alae  [wings] flanking a single central cella, but evidence for most of these features is limited:  limited; not even the columns are structurally necessary.  Part of a foundation for the cella was documented [by one of the earlier excavators], but it is not possible to say whether this was flanked by closed rooms or open passages [with columns].”

In relation to the dating of the original temple, Daniel Diffendale et al. (referenced below, at pp. 13-4) observed that:

  1. The latest datable ceramics...  in deposits immediately underlying the temple foundations give a terminus post quem within the first quarter of the 6th century BC, while the profile of the podium moulding finds parallels in early to mid-6th century tombs at Caere. The subject and arrangement of the sculptures from the [original temple pediemnt] parallel the pedimental sculpture of the Temple of Artemis on Corfu, dated ca. 580 BC.  These dates are consonant with the earliest Greek pottery ... deposited in association with the temple.  The construction of the first-phase Archaic temple, then, can be comfortably dated to ca. 585-575 BC; it remained standing until the 2nd half of the same century, when it was reconstructed or refurbished [see below].  At that time, some of its architectural terracottas were placed within the reconstruction of the [contemporary] altar.”

As noted above, Ovid believed that Servius Tullius had dedicated two temples on this site (one to Mater Matuta and the other to Fortuna) on the same day.  However, as Paolo Brocato and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below, at p. 105) observed, no evidence for a second contemporary temple on the site exists.  They pointed out that, given the limited area of the site that has been excavated to date, the presence of a second archaic temple here cannot be ruled out:

  1. “The most likely area [for such a structure] would be between the twin [Republican] temples, where, however, the presence of later structures and of a cistern [see below] makes any extensive excavation impossible. 

Votive Object

Ivory lion plaque (early 6th century BC), now in the Musei Capitolini

This ivory lion plaque (early 6th century BC), which was found among the votive deposits on the site, bears one of the earliest Etruscan inscriptions from Rome.  It is interpreted as a tessera hospitalis (token of mutual hospitality) and its inscription on the back commemorates Araz Silqetenas Spurianas.  The name Arath Spuriana is inscribed above the frescoes on back wall of the Tomb of the Bulls (ca. 525 BC) at Tarquinia (see John Oleson, referenced below, at p. 192, not 19 and Fig. 3).  On this basis, Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante (referenced below at p. 31) characterised the man commemorated on the lion as:

  1. “... a noble from Tarquinia, [who was]a resident of Rome at the moment of the traditional installation of the Etruscan dynasty [there].”

Archaic Temple under Sant’ Omobono: Second Phase

Daniel Diffendale et al. (referenced below, at pp. 14-6) observed that:

  1. “At some time in the 2nd half of the 6th century BC, the [original] podium was remodelled, ... [and] new moulding ... seems to have been added ... [Recent analysis suggests] that the [original] moulding blocks (if they were ever present) must have been removed before the collapse of the temple superstructure, [which] implies that the second-phase podium moulding was not a load-bearing element.  The foundations of the cella proper also seem to have been rebuilt, and a torus block from the first phase was deposited as fill between the exterior of the podium and the W cella wall. ...  The reconstruction of the cella foundations suggests that the E–W width of the cella itself, and hence the central axis of the temple, remained the same as in the first phase.  Basing any more detailed reconstructions on the exiguous remains becomes extremely risky.”

Paolo Brocato and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below, at p. 101) similarly observed that, while scholars frequently assert that a second phase of construction involved:

  1. “... a massive reworking of the whole [of the original] podium in the course of the 6th century BC, ... the evidence for this is more limited than is generally realised, and many doubts remain about the actual nature and extent of the modification.” 

Roof System of Phase II

Remains, probably from the re-modelled temple, exhibited in the Musei Capitolini 

Left: remains, probably from the roof of the re-modelled temple, in the Musei Capitolini

Right reconstruction by Nancy Winter  (referenced below, 2018,  as Fig 6, p. 199), drawn by Renate Sponer-Za

Left: Remains, probably from the roof of the re-modelled temple,

as reconstructed by  Anna Mura Sommella  (referenced below, 2017 as Fig 5, p. 111) and drawn by Patricia Lulof

(Female head to the right from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; other remains in the Musei Capitolini)

One aspect of the remodelling of the archaic temple is reasonably well-attested: as Daniel Diffendale el al. (referenced below, at p. 16) pointed out, at some point, it received a new terracotta roof-system that:

  1. “... was a hybrid system of Corinthian pan-tiles painted with red and black hourglass patterns and semi-cylindrical cover-tiles, with a slope of 18°.44.  The ends of the eaves were protected by simas [upturned edges] with female heads and lion-head water spouts.  The roof also included: 

  2. an acroterial figural group at three-quarters life-size, generally identified as Hercules and Minerva [illustrated above and discussed below];

  3. at least two winged sphinx corner acroteria;

  4. at least four acroterial volutes; ... [and]

  5. revetment plaques of the Veii–Rome–Velletri ... type along the pediment [illustrated above and discussed below]. 

  6. The same mould was used for the face of ‘Minerva’, the sphinxes and the antefixes.  Although the ‘Hercules and Minerva’ are usually reconstructed as standing at the front of the temple’s central ridge, the fragments of the group were all found northwest of the temple, ... [near] one of the structure’s back corners.”

Anna Mura Sommella  (referenced below, 2017, at p. 107) reported that the temporary transfer of the female head illustrated above from the the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen to the Musei Capitolini:

  1. allowed it to be securely associated with other terracotta fragments from the site at Sant’ Omobono; and

  2. supported the hypothesis that all of these fragments belonged to a second group made up of two figures, one male and the other female, standing side by side reflecting the group formed by Hercules and Minerva illustrated above.

She argued (at p. 108) that the probable presence of a reclining panther in this composition allows the male figure to be identified as Dionysus and suggested tat the female figure was Ariadne.

Nancy Winter (referenced below, at pp. 198-200) observed that this roof, as re-modelled:

  1. “... conforms to a decorative system [that is] known as the Veii-Rome-Velletri system because 14 terracotta roofs from these [three] sites and from sites nearby them carried decoration made from the same series of moulds: [these decorations consisted] of:

  2. figural revetment plaques with scenes of chariot processions, chariot races and horse races; and

  3. lateral simas with feline-head water spouts, with cut-out openings at the sides for antefixes with female head.

  4. The Sant’ Omobono roof preserves best an impressive group of Herakles and Athena, standing c. 1.20 m tall, mounted on an elaborately decorated base and placed at the apex of the roof,  between two immense volute acroteria decorated with a painted scale pattern.  Similar pairs of Herakles and Athena statues and volute acroteria have also been found in more fragmentary conditio:

  5. at Veii, Cerveteri and Pyrgi in Etruria; and

  6. at Velletri, Satricum and Caprifico di Torrecchia in Latium.

  7. A second acroterial group and elaborately decorated base from Sant’ Omobono have recently been reconstructed from fragments, depicting a draped male figure and a female figure wearing the Etruscan pointed hat called a tutulus and pointed Etruscan boots known as calcei ripandi.  The male figure has his left arm around the female figure, his hand on her left shoulder, and the female holds a staff.  The feline attached to the base would appear to identify the male figure as Dionysos, but the identity of the female figure is less certain:

  8. [Anna] Mura Sommella has suggested Ariadne [see above]; but

  9. [Patricia] Lulof prefers Ino-Leukothea or Semele, Dionysos’s aunt [reference needed].

  10. A similar statuary group preserving a male hand on a female shoulder comes from Cerveteri, although in mirror image to that from Sant’ Omobono.

Daniel Diffendale el al. (referenced below, at pp. 16-9) observed that:

  1. “ Dating this second roof is another difficult business.  Relatively secure is a terminus ante quem of the late 6th century BC, [which is] provided by the latest datable pottery in the destruction deposits of the temple. A deposit of votive materials resting against the north face of the podium, previously held to provide either a terminus ante quem  for the first phase or a terminus post quem for the second, should probably be understood as a secondary dump following the destruction of the second phase [see below], and so cannot be put to chronological use.  ... The [Veii–Rome–Velletri] decorative system as a whole has been dated to ca. 530 BCon the basis of stylistic comparanda with Etruscan Black Figure vase-painting of the Pontic Group, tomb-paintings, sculpture, and bronze-laminated furniture.  Some have also drawn a connection between the temples decorated with V-R-V roofs and the career of Tarquinius Superbus (traditionally 534-509 BC).   A slightly later modification, probably only partial, of the terracotta system on the Sant’ Omobono temple is indicated by three fragments of revetment plaques of the ‘Rome–Caprifico’ type, a variant of the V-R-V system, [which was]  probably executed by the same workshop and dated to ca. 520 BC.

Paolo Brocato and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below, at p. 105) observed that the new revetment of the podium can probably be dated to:

  1. “... around 540 BC ... , which fits well with that of the second phase of terracottas.  It is thus probable that the modification of the podium was accompanied by a rebuilding of the roof, which was covered at this point with tiles made of impasto chiaro sabbioso. ... The renovation marked by [this] second phase ... is clearly a component of the overall restructuring of archaic Rome. ... Dressed in new, fancier ornaments of stone and terracotta, the temple ... [would have been]  even more effective in welcoming travellers to a city that, at this point, [had] completed the first major development stage of its long evolution and growth.”

Destruction of the Archaic Temple under Sant’ Omobono

Daniel Diffendale et al. (referenced below, at pp. 20-1) observed that:

  1. “ The Archaic temple went out of use at the end of the 6th  century BC.  Black discolouration encountered during excavation has been interpreted as evidence of destruction by fire, but this may be a misinterpretation of natural concretions.  The latest datable materials in these deposits are fragments of Attic Black Figure of the late 6th century BC.  Votive materials were dumped against the back wall of the podium at some point before the superstructure collapsed. ... The presence of residual impasto bruno  sherds that predate the construction of the temple, however, suggests [that this was] a secondary deposition.  On stratigraphic considerations, the deposit seems to have been dumped before the mudbrick superstructure collapsed or was levelled.  Although the material generally does not postdate the 3rd quarter of the 6th century BC, some of the bucchero could date as late as ca. 500 BC].”

Topography of the Site in the Archaic Period

Topographic reconstruction of the mid-republican riverbank in the Forum Boarium

Adapted from Andrea Brock, Laura Motta and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below, at fig. 8, p. 21)

Andrea Brock, Laura Motta and Nicola Terrenato (referenced below, at pp. 17-8) observed that the results of their coring survey of the Forum Boarium indicated that:

  1. “ Over the course of the 6th century BC, Rome’s fluvial system became unstable, and the river valley began a significant transformation. ...  Regardless of the precise reasons for the river’ s movement, the hydrological and topographic changes in the Forum Boarium valley are apparent.  ... As the area filled with fluvial sediments, the ground level was raised and extended westward over time: a high, wide riverbank emerged in the valley between the Capitoline and Aventine Hills.”

They noted (at pp. 25-6) that:

  1. “... fluvial sediment was deposited [between the Capitoline and Aventine Hills] at least into the 3rd century BC; only then, it seems, was the area extensively paved or built up.  Although this area along the river had certainly been a major hub of activity since the beginning of sedentary habitation at the site, the significant degree of landscape change and land inflation in the river valley suggests that human activities must have been ephemeral or supported with limited built infrastructure (with the exception of the Sant’ Omobono sanctuary) until the3rd century BC.  Both the archaeological and literary records confirm that the Romans made major investments in the Forum Boarium in the mid-Republic, reinforcing the riverbank and limiting further changes to the fluvial topography.  Excavations at the Temple of Portunus [marked on the plan above] and the [nearby] Round Temple have revealed that both structures rest atop embankment walls, which were constructed sometime between the late 4th and early 2nd centuries BC.  This broadly reflects the western edge of the siltation and the newly established position of the riverbank.  The course of the Tiber river as it flowed through Rome became relatively static thereafter.”

Republican Temples of Fortuna and Mater Matuta

Adapted from the plan in the site of the Sant’ Omobono Project

Archaic temple and altar in red

A and B = twin Republican temples, altars and circular monument 

Daniel Diffendale et al. (referenced below) established the chronology of the development of the site after the destruction of the Archaic temple:

  1. “ At some point following (probably soon after) [its destruction ..., an elongated platform... , the function of which is uncertain, was set [on a west-east axis] along what is now the southern edge of the site. ...  It may have been built as a first retaining wall for the [subsequent] construction of the large podium [see below].  Since] it survives in precisely the area where the later [West and East] altars would be placed, ...  [it] could have supported altars for the ritual needs of the cult following the destruction of the earlier monument, though this remains speculative”, (p. 21-2).

  2. “Following the construction of [this elongated platform], but probably not long thereafter, still in the decade on either side of 500  BC, the area north of it and west of the Archaic temple saw a massive transformation.  A large square podium (hereafter Republican podium), measuring some 47 m per side, was raised some 3-5 m in height (the underlying topography varies in elevation ...).  ... The east foundations of this [podium] were cut into the clay levelling fill, sealing the remains of the Archaic temple; its lowest courses here lie directly on the first-phase podium.  The two structures differ in orientation by ca. 18°, with the Republican podium, oriented closer to true north, [and the northeastern] corner of the Archaic podium projects beyond the eastern limits of the Republican podium”, (p. 22-3).

  3. “Constructed integrally with the Republican podium were foundations for two south-facing temple cellae, probably identical in plan. 

  4. The eastern cella  ... lies beneath the later church of Sant’Omobono, for which reason little can be said about its earliest phases; but

  5. the  western cella ... has been the subject of investigation by our project between 2011 and 2015, offering much more information on its construction phases.”

Literary Sources for the Temples of Mater Matuta and Fortuna

As we have seen, Ovid (ca. 8 AD) believed that Servius Tullius, traditionally Rome’s 6th king (578 - 535 BC), had dedicated two temples in the Forum Boarium:

  1. the temple of Mater Matuta, which was the locus of the Matralia; and

  2. the temple of Fortuna, which housed a statue covered by togas that was said to portray Servius himself.

Livy (ca. 25 BC) referred to two arches that L. Stertinius erected in 196 BC (which he financed using booty from Spain) which were:

  1. “... in the Forum Boarium, in front of the [Republican] temples of Fortuna and Mater Matuta”, (‘History of Rome, 33: 27: 4). 

It is unlikely that either Livy or Ovid had any knowledge of the destruction of at least one archaic temple on this site in ca. 500 BC, in which case, they probably believed that the surviving ‘twin’ temples in the Forum Boarium had originally been dedicated by Servius.

Livy made no mention of either temple in his account of Servius’ reign, but he did refer back to the temple of Mater Matuta in his account of the appointment of M. Furius Camillus to his first dictatorship, when he was given command of the campaign that led to the fall of the Etruscan city of Veii in 396 BC:

  1. “[When] everything was in readiness for the campaign, Camillus vowed, in pursuance of a senatorial decree:

  2. to celebrate the great games if he should capture Veii; and

  3. Matutae Matris refectam dedicaturum (to re-make and dedicate the temple of Mater Matuta), which had previously been dedicated by King Servius Tullius”, (‘History of Rome, 5: 19: 3). 

He subsequently recorded that, after his triumphant return to Rome, Camillus:

  1. “... let the contract for the temple of Juno Regina on the Aventine, and dedicated one to Mater Matuta; and having fulfilled these obligations to gods and men, he laid down the dictatorship, (‘History of Rome, 5: 23: 7). 

Plutarch (ca. 80 BC) also recorded that, immediately after his appointment, Camillus:

  1. “... made solemn vows to the gods that, if the war had a glorious ending, he would celebrate the great games in their honour and dedicate a temple to a goddess whom the Romans call Mater Matuta”, (‘Life of Camillus’, 5: 1). 

He also explained to his Greek readers that:

  1. “From the sacred rites used in the [Romans’] worship of [Mater Matuta at the Matralia], she might be held to be almost identical with Leucothea:

  2. the women bring a serving-maid into the sanctuary and beat her with rods before drive her out again;

  3. they embrace their nephews and nieces in preference to their own children; and

  4. their conduct at the sacrifice resembles that of:

  5. the nurses of Dionysus; or

  6. Ino, under the afflictions that were inflicted on  her by her husband's concubine, (‘Life of Camillus’, 5: 2).

Dionysius of Halicarnssus (ca. 7 BC), who did not record Servius’ dedication of the temple of Mater Matuta, did record that, just before his death, Servius:

  1. “...  built two temples to Fortuna, who seemed to have favoured him all his life:

  2. one in the market called the ‘Cattle Market’; and

  3. the other on the banks of the Tiber, to ... Fortuna Virilis (as she is called by the Romans even to this day)”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 4:27: 7).

The second of these temples was probably upstream, on Via Portuensis (which ran along the right bank of the Tiber to Portus), at either the 1st of the 6th milestone:

  1. Varro recorded that:

  2. “... King Servius Tullius ... dedicated a sanctuary to Fors Fortuna beside the Tiber, outside the City, in the month of June (‘On the Latin Language’, 6: 17, translated by Roland Kent, referenced below, at p. 191);

  3. Livy recorded that, in 293 BC, Sp. Carvillius Maximus devoted some of the spoils from his victory over the Samnites to:

  4. “... contracting for the building of a temple to Fors Fortuna, near the temple of that deity that King Servius Tullius had dedicated”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 46: 14);

  5. the fasti Amiternini and the fasti Esquiliini both record 24th June as the dies natalis of both of these extra-urban temples (Forti Fortunae trans Tiberim ad milliarium primum et sextum); and

  6. Ovid recorded that, on 24th June:

  7. “On Tiber’s bank, [Fors Fortuna] has her royal foundations.  Speed, [Romans], some of you on foot and some in the swift boat, and don’t be ashamed to return tipsy from your ramble. ... The common people worship this goddess because the founder of her temple is said to have been of their number and to have risen to the crown from humble rank.  Her worship is also appropriate for slaves, because Tullius, who instituted the neighbouring temples of the fickle goddess, was born of a slave woman”, (‘Fasti’, 6: 776-84, translated by James Frazer, referenced below, at p. 381).

It is possible that Servius was originally only associated with:

  1. a temple of Mater Matuta at the Forum Boarium; and

  2. one of the extra-urban temples of For Fortuna on the Tiber;

and that his association with the temple of Fortuna in the Forum Boarium was a later development of the tradition.

According to Livy, in 213 BC, Rome witnessed the outbreak of :

  1. “... a dreadful fire ... that continued for two nights and a day: every thing was burnt to the ground between the Salinae and the Porta Carmentalis, including the Aequimaelium, the Vicus Jugarius and the temples of Fortune and Mater Matuta”, (‘History of Rome’, 25: 7: 5-6).

Then, in 212 BC:

  1. “Five commissioners were chosen to undertake the repair of the walls and towers of the City, and two boards, each consisting of three members, were selected;

  2. one to inspect the contents of the temples and to make an inventory of the offerings; [and]

  3. the other to rebuild the temples of Fortune and Mater Matuta inside the Porta Carmentalis and the temple of Spes outside, all of which had been destroyed by fire in the previous year”, (‘History of Rome’, 24: 47: 15-6).

Date of the Republican Temples 

Daniel Diffendale et al. (referenced below, at pp. 23-4) observed that:

  1. “The work of [Antonio Maria Colini, one of the archeologists who worked on the excavations of 1937] and his collaborators places the construction of the Republican podium and twin temples in the decades around 500 BC.  [However, Filippo Coarelli, referenced below, at p. 216-7] would down-date this phase to the early 4th century BC, in order to make the archaeological evidence conform to literary sources that, while silent on any ... activity [in the early 5th century BC], report the building/rebuilding of the temple of Mater Matuta by Camillus following his successful siege of Veii in 396 BC [(as set out above).  Since] the latest datable material in: 

  2. the deposits associated with the Archaic temple ... ; and

  3. the fill of the overlying Republican podium;

  4. [all dates] to the late 6th century BC, ... Coarelli’s hypothesis seems unlikely, since it would require that no contemporary materials were deposited in either the area of the Archaic temple or the original location of the podium fill for over a century.  The fact that the shaft of the votive pit adjacent to the East altar of the Republican temples shares the alignment of the Archaic temple and altar, and communicates with the area immediately west of the Archaic altar, also militates against a long cultic hiatus.”

It therefore appears that the first phase in the construction of the twin temples dates to the decades around 500 BC. 

Developments at the Site Before the Fire of 213 BC

Reconstruction of the twin temples during the mid 3rd century BC

as deduced by Daniel Diffendale (referenced below, 2017, Fig. 96, at p. 208: my additions in red)

Forecourt Pavement

Daniel Diffendale (referenced below, 2017, at pp. 208-9) argued that the construction of the new podium in ca. 500 BC allowed for the:

  1. “... raising [of] the level of the sanctuary well above the elevation of the Archaic temple and above the likely line of minor floods of the Tiber.  The temples in this phase were distyle in antis, with two rows of columns, and with closed alae flanking central cellae.  At some point in the 4th or 3rd century BC, the forecourt of the Republican podium was paved with blocks of Tufo Lionato (the Anio block pavement).  This phase could possibly be connected with the ancient notices on the dedication of the temple of Mater Matuta by M. Furius Camillus in the early 4th century BC, but this is not at all certain.  Also during the 4th or 3rd century BC,  a large subterranean cistern was constructed between the twin temples, and a circular monument was set up on the Anio block pavement.”

Temple Re-Modelling and Porch Pavement

Daniel Diffendale et al. (referenced below, at pp. 28-9) observed that:

  1. “ A reconstruction of the twin temples is attested by a pavement ... that surrounds the western cella  on three sides and is preserved south of the eastern cella, forming the floor of the temples’ porches.  If the ... temples [originally] had closed alae (as seems likely), that was no longer true of the structures of which this ... pavement was a part, since it ran  continuously across the pars prior   ... Although much of the accessible stratigraphy was dug out ... in the 1930s, limited ceramic evidence excavated by our project suggests a broad terminus post quem of the 4th century BC for this porch pavement, and it must predate the fire of 213  BC.  This reconstruction postdates the first phase of the twin temples, as the pavement slabs:

  2. rest partially on the ... foundation blocks of the [temples]; and

  3. overlie the foundations of the [their original] alae walls.”

Daniel Diffendale (referenced below, 2017, at p. 209) argued that, based on his study of the preserved architecture at the site, this reconstruction dates to:

  1. “... some point in the late 4th or the 3rd century BC, ... [and] is attested by the Anio slab porch pavement, with which the two altars may be contemporary [see his Figure 96, above].  The temples in this phase were tetrastyle prostyle, with two rows of columns, the front of their lateral alae no longer being closed.  Accepting [the] hypothesis [of Filippo Coarelli (referenced below, at p. 214)] , we could attribute this phase to the agency of M. Fulvius Flaccus, following the sack of Volsinii in 264 BC, but this is far from certain.  Fulvius Flaccus did set up a pair of inscriptions commemorating his victory somewhere within the precinct [see below], but this is insufficient to attribute the reconstruction to him.”

Circular Monument

Image from Daniel Diffendale (referenced below, 2017, Fig. 57, at p. 157)

Daniel Diffendale, in the description that he attached to on an image of this monument that he published on Flickr, described it as:

  1. “A stone base, built in peperino, for the display of 2-3 ft. tall bronze statues.”

Since these statues would have almost certainly represented votive offerings, the monument is often characterised as a donarium.  Daniel Diffendale (referenced below, 2016, at p. 153) described it as follows:

  1. “Around a core of gray granular tufo, the monument is faced with both base and crown moldings, each originally composed of seven blocks of lapis albanus; curiously, the monument was found with the southeastern block of each molding missing, leaving only six blocks per course. ... This monument the monument ... remains something of an unicum: while circular stone bases for the mounting of dedicated statues are common enough, the large, multi-piece circular design and decorative scheme are particularly curious.”


Inscribed fragments from Sant’ Omobono (from Daniel Diffendale, referenced below, 2016, Fig. 22, at p. 159)

Published as CIL VI 40895: M(arcos) Folṿ[io(s) Q(uinti) f(ilios), cos]ol [dede]d Volsi[niis] cap[tis]

M Fulvius, son of Quintus, consul, dedicated [it] after Volsinii had been captured

Mario Torelli (referenced below) proposed that they came from two identical inscriptions,

which he completed in this drawing

Daniel Diffendale (referenced below, 2016, at p. 159) observed that at least 26 fragments of worked lapis albanus were found with the dismantled blocks from the circular monument (above), nine of which were distinguished by the facts that:

  1. they were of similar dimensions and workmanship; and

  2. they all had fittings on their top surfaces for the attachment of small bronze statues.

Furthermore, six of these nine blocks carried inscriptions (as illustrated above).  he noted that Mario Torelli (referenced below) had separated the blocks into two distinct, though possibly identical, inscriptions and identified their dedicant as M. Fulvius Flaccus, who had the triumphed over Volsinii in 264 BC a reconstruction that has been widely accepted.

Three donaria (votive altars) that were found in 1961 on the site comprised:

  1. a large circular altar with holes that would have accommodated statues of some 3 feet high; and

  2. two flanking rectangular altars with holes that would have accommodated statues of some 2 feet high, both of which carried

Katherine Welch (referenced below, at p. 502) described the evolution of this site:

  1. “One of the kings [of Rome] ... had built a temple here ... Shortly after the founding of the Republic, this temple seems to have been intentionally demolished and covered with a massive earthen deposit, presumably as a symbolic gesture commemorating the expulsion of the kings.  A platform of tufa was later constructed over it, probably by Furius Camillus, who won Rome’s first victory over the Etruscans at Veii in  396 BC.  Two temples were built upon the platform:

  2. -one commissioned by Camillus [himself, which housed the statue of Juno that Camillus had ritually ‘called’ from Veii; and

  3. -the other [commissioned] by Fulvius Flaccus, who defeated Volsinii in 264 BC.  Flaccus’ temple precinct is notable for its display of scores of looted bronze statues, only 3 feet high (a common statuary size at the time).

  4. These temples, dedicated to Mater Matuta and Fortuna respectively, continued to adhere to traditional Etrusco-Italic architectural forms.”

Since Flaccus’ donaria were in the precinct of the Temple of Fortuna, and since Fortuna (like Minerva) was a Roman deity akin to Nortia, we may reasonably assume that some or all of the statues that they displayed were of Nortia , and that these were votive statues that Flaccus had looted from the temple in Vigna Grande and/or or the Tempio del Belvedere at Volsinii. 

Pliny the Elder recorded that:

  1. “... Metrodorus of Scepsis, who had his surname from his hatred of the [Romans], reproached us [i.e. the Romans] for having pillaged the city of Volsinii for the sake of the 2,000 statues that it contained” (‘Natural History’, 34:16).

The figure of 2,000 is likely to have been an exaggeration.  Nevertheless, Flaccus must have taken a large number of cult statues to Rome (in addition to that of Voltumna).

Read more:

Brock A. L., Motta L. and Terrenato N, “On the Banks of the Tiber: Opportunity and Transformation in Early Rome”, Journal of Roman Studies, 111 (2021) 1-30

Winter N., “Acroteria in Etruria and Central Italy, 640/630-500 BC”, in:

  1. Moustaka A. (editor), “Terracotta. Sculpture and Roofs: New Discoveries and New Perspectives”, (2018) Athens, at pp. 195-207

Brocato P. and Terrenato N., “The Archaic Temple of S. Omobono: New Discoveries and Old Problems”, in:

  1. Lulof P. S. and Smith C. (editors), “The Age of Tarquinius Superbus: Central Italy in the Late 6th Century”, (2017) Leuven, Paris and Bristol CT, at pp. 97–106

Diffendale D. P., “The Roman Middle Republic at Sant’ Omobono”, 2017) thesis of the

University of Michigan

Mura Sommella A, “Arianna Ritrovati: Un Nuove Grppo  Acroteriale dall’ Area Sacra del Foro Boario”, in:

  1. Lulof P. S. and Smith C. (editors), “The Age of Tarquinius Superbus: Central Italy in the Late 6th Century”, (2017) Leuven, Paris and Bristol CT, at pp. 107-12

Diffendale D. P., “Five Republican monuments: On the Supposed Building Program of M.

Fulvius Flaccus”, in:

  1. Brocato P., Ceci M. and Terrenato N. (editors), “Ricerche nell' Area dei Templi di Fortuna e Mater Matuta, Vol. I.”, (2016) Università della Calabria, at pp. 141–66

Diffendale D.P., Brocato P., Terrenato N. and Brock A. L., “Sant' Omobono: an Interim Status Quaestionis”, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 29 (2016) 7–42

Mura Sommella A., “La Dea col Tutulo dal Tempio Arcaico del Foro Boario”, in:

  1. Lulof P. S. and Rescigno C.(editors), “Deliciae Fictiles IV: Architectural Terracottas in Ancient IV: Images of Gods, Monsters and Heroes”, (2011) Oxford

Bonfante G. and Bonfante L., “The Etruscan Language: An Introduction (Revised Edition)”, (2003) Manchester

Mura Sommella A., “‘La Grande Roma dei Tarquni’: Alterne Vicende di una Felice Intuizione,” Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma, 101 (2000) 7-26

Coarelli F., “Il Foro Boario: Dalle Origini alla Fine della Repubblica”, (1988)Rome

Oleson, J. P., "Greek Myth and Etruscan Imagery in the Tomb of the Bulls at Tarquinia", American Journal of Archaeology, 79:3 (1977) 189–200.

Torelli M., “Il Donario di M. Fulvio Flacco nell' Area di Sant’ Omobono”, Quaderni dell'Istituto di Topografia Antica della Università di Roma, 5 (1968 ) 71-6 

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

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

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