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Maximinus, Augustus Maximus (311-2 AD)

Maxentius in Rome (311-2 AD)

Maxentius Rotunda on Sacra Via

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Maximinus, Augustus Maximus (311-2 AD)Main Page    

Diocletian (died 311 AD ?)

  1. Maxentius in Rome: (311-2 AD)     Maxentius' Consecration Coins (311 AD) 

  2. Maxentius' Rotunda on the Sacra Via      Maxentius and the Gens Valeria  

  3. Constantine's Invasion of Italy (312 AD)      Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD) 

Literary Sources : Diocletian to Constantine (285-337 AD)


This lovely domed rotunda immediately to the west of the Maxentian basilica nova has long attracted scholarly attention, in part because of its interesting architecture and good state of preservation, but also because of the heated debate that has long surrounded its original function (discussed below).  It was once flanked by two narrow, apsed side halls (of which, only traces survive), which had formed an integral part of the original construction project.  Each aisle protruded into the Sacra Via and was articulated by a pair of cippolino columns raised on plinths (of which, only the pair on the right survives).  Its intriguing concave façade (discussed below), which linked the main portal to the façades of each of the protruding side halls, was decorated with two columnar niches on each side that presumably housed statues.  (Unfortunately, only the lower part of this facade survives, and even this is partially obscured by later masonry).  The portal itself comprises a pair of re-used bronze doors flanked by two porphyry columns.  These support a richly decorated marble architrave that had also come from an earlier building.

The ‘Liber Pontificalis’, in its account of the life of Pope Felix IV (526‑530), recorded that:
  1. hic fecit basilicam sanctorum Cosmae et Damiani in urbe Roma, in loco qui appellatur via sacra, iuxta templum urbis Romae.

  2. “[He] made the church of SS Cosma e Damiano in the city of Rome, in the place that is called the Via Sacra, near the templum urbis Romae [or, in some manuscripts, the templum Romuli]”.

Despite the uncertainty (discussed below) about the identity of the nearby temple, there is no doubt that the church itself was established in the hall behind the rotunda, and that the rotunda itself thereafter formed its vestibule (as shown in this engraving of 1569 by Étienne Dupérac, in which one of the columns on the left was still standing). 

Today, the rotunda communicates with what is now the crypt of SS Cosma e Damiano, and its interior can be viewed through glass inserted into the back wall of the church.  It is also sometimes open for exhibitions.

Architectural History

Date of Construction

Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below), who carried out a careful analysis of the elements available to date the rotunda, concluded (at p 138) that: 

  1. “The building’s brick stamps support a general date between Diocletian and Constantine, while masonry characteristics fit the early 4th century AD.”

She then considered the evidence from an inscription (discussed below) from the site that was recorded in the 16th century, which implied that, at some point, the rotunda had been dedicated to Constantine.  She reasonably concluded (at p. 139) that:

  1. “... even if [this inscription, as recorded] is accepted in its entirety (which is a dubious proposition), it only places the building in an early 4th century context and reveals nothing about the structure’s original patron.”.

Architectural Relationship to the Adjacent Templum Pacis

As Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below, at p. 121) pointed out:
  1. “The early 4th century building project was not limited to the construction of the [rotunda] and its side halls: it also included significant alterations to part of the Templum Pacis.”

This refers to alterations that were made to the hall behind the rotunda, which was part of the Flavian Temple of Peace.  Philip  Whitehead (summarising Biasiotti and Whitehead, see both references below) summarised these latter changes:

  1. “In the 6th period of its development, the [hall of the Templum Pacis] behind the rotunda] received the form which it preserved substantially unchanged until the 17th century.  Under this heading ‘6th period’ are included three different additions to the original structure which are grouped together (because of the difficulty of determining their relative order, to say nothing of their precise date).  These additions are:

  2. -an upper story of brick-faced concrete superimposed upon the peperino walls of the Flavian period;

  3. -a vestibule facing the Sacra Via [i.e. the rotunda]; and

  4. -a semicircular apse [in the wall opposite the vestibule].

  5. To provide this hall with an entrance from the Sacra Via, there was added [this] vestibule which now goes by the name ‘Temple of Romulus’.”

Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below, at p 123) stressed that the excavations carried out in the 1970s had confirmed these findings and, in particular, that:

  1. “... the threshold block from the doorway between the rotunda and the hall [behind it was] still embedded within the 4th century masonry.  This finding conclusively demonstrates that communication between the two spaces was planned from the outset: [it] was not [the result of] a later alteration, as has been occasionally supposed.”

Naja Regina Armstrong (referenced below, at p. 243) was of the same opinion:

  1. “Contemporary with the rotunda, an apsidal wall with a comparable diameter [to that of the rotunda] was added to the interior of the hall.  This apse opening towards [and reflecting] the rotunda, and, like the connecting door, suggests that:

  2. -the building of the rotunda and side halls; and

  3. -the restructuring of the Flavian hall;

  4. were intended to result in a single, unified structure.  The architectural evidence implies that the new building was designed as a monumental entrance for a pre-existing building, possibly put to a new use, which required both a shift in its orientation and an extension to reach the Sacra Via.”

Despite the archeological evidence, some scholars insist that the opening between the rotunda and the hall behind it dated to the 6th century, when the latter was adapted to serve as a church (see above). 

  1. Filippo Coarelli has long held this view, which he reiterated in his guidebook referenced (below, 2007/2014, at pp. 89-90):

  2. “In the 6th century AD, when the rectangular room ... adjoining  the rotunda was transformed into a church dedicated to SS Cosmas and Damian, a passageway was opened up between the two buildings, which were originally independent.”

  3. Fabiola Fraioli (referenced below, at p. 299) followed suit:

  4. “Pope Felix IV (526-30 AD) transformed [this hall] into the church of SS Cosma e Damiano ... .  The church was connected to the Sacra Via by the [rotunda], which was adapted as a vestibule of the cult space by the opening of an access between the two [previously independent] monuments” (my translation).

I am unaware of any concrete evidence for this alternative view.


Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below, at pp 128–30) discussed the complicated history of the façade of the rotunda, which was originally flat, before being changed to the concave form that now distinguishes the structure.  She argued (at p. 128) that the masonry of the curved façade was similar to that of both:

  1. -the plain façade that it replaced; and

  2. -the rest of the rotunda.

Further, since the new façade would have obstructed the original windows in the drum of the rotunda, these were probably closed at the time that the change was made.  She concluded (at p. 130) that, in all probability, this:

  1. “... fundamental change from a flat to a concave façade came not as a distinct later building phase, but was [rather] enacted at a late point during the building’s [original] construction process.”

Elizabeth Marlowe (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 213-4) argued (contra Dumser) that the change in the façade was more probably associated with a second construction phase associated with  Constantine, after his victory of 312 AD:

  1. “By markedly altering [the façade of the rotunda], Constantine monumentalised his victory over Maxentius and his imposition of a new régime and civic order.  The Maxentian rotunda in Constantine’s hands was thus like a trophy: enemy arms piled up on the battlefield by the victor, no longer signifying strength and aggression but their opposite, defeat.”

She drew attention to a drawing (16th century) by the artist Pirro Ligorio of part of the façade  that was annotated with a transcription of an inscription (presumably found nearby), which indicated that the building had been dedicated to Constantine.  Although Ligorio’s ‘completion’ of the inscription had been subsequently called into question, an apparently more authentic version that accompanied a similar drawing by his colleague Onofrio Panvinio had been accepted into the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (as CIL VI 1147):

.... Constantin[o // ] maximo [...]me....

Elizabeth Marlowe argued that:

  1. “Such an inscription, if genuine, would thus have given a clear ideological charge to Constantine’s architectural appropriation of this Maxentian monument”.

Filippo Coarelli (referenced below, 2012, at p. 109) was of the same opinion as Elizabeth Marlowe.  Thus, he recently summarised his position, which had developed over a number of decades, starting from a hypothesis he had first put forward in 1986:

  1. “This was based on an analysis of the [rotunda on the Via Sacra] that, starting from the Maxentian  [consecration] coins ..., I identified with the heroon of Romulus, the son of Maxentius.  It is unimaginable that, after the death of Maxentius, [the rotunda] maintained this function: in fact, there is evidence of the remaking of its façade under Constantine, as evidenced by an inscription - lost but partially copied by Panvinio and Ligorio - albeit that this does not record the name of the edifice.  On this occasion, [the rotunda] must have assumed a new name, probably that attested in the so-called  ‘Chronograph of 354 AD’]: Iupiter Stator” (my translation).

Elizabeth Marlowe addresses the reason for the divergence of views discussed her.  She acknowledged (at p. 215, note 49) that:

  1. “[Elisha Ann Dumser’s] argument [that the change of plan was part of the original construction project] is plausible but hardly airtight (and does not explain why the flat façade would have been replaced with a curved one in the first place)”.

Dumser had cautioned (at p. 131) that:

  1. “... the scholarly tendency to ascribe all significant aspects of [Maxentian buildings] to [later interventions by] Constantine - here, the concave façade [of the rotunda] - needs to be tempered [by] a sound appraisal of the ... structural history [of the building in question].”

However, Marlowe countered that:

  1. “... the privileging of different [types of evidence] can yield sharply different results in cases where hard facts are so lacking.”

Thus, Dumser had privileged her interpretation of archeological evidence, while Marlowe herself placed greater emphasis on her evaluation of the motivation (or lack of it) on the part of the two possible protagonists, Maxentius and Constantine. 

I offer my conclusions on this point below.

Function of the Rotunda

There is a wide range of opinion as to the original function of the rotunda.  I summarise the various possibilities below, before offering my own view.

Temple of Romulus 

Rodolfo Lanciani (1897, referenced below) discussed the early medieval references to the buildings on this site: 

  1. “The ‘Liber Pontificalis’, John the Deacon, and others mention the site of SS. Cosma e Damiano as that of a templum Romuli (meaning the founder of the city), and this tradition has lasted to our own time”.

Lancani’s reference to the Liber Pontificalis’ related to the account therein of the life of Pope Felix IV (526‑530) discussed above, which recorded that he ‘made’ the church of SS Cosma e Damiano on the Sacra Via, near a temple described in some manuscripts as the templum urbis Romae and in others as the templum Romuli.  According to Louis Duchesne (referenced below, at p. 27), the latter variant:
  1. “... is found only in a special family of manuscripts and has nothing to do with the original text” (my translation).

Modern scholars usually accept the variant ‘templum urbis Romae’, which they sometimes identify as the basilica nova.  However, Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below, at pp 65-8) unravelled the complicated history of the names that have been given to this basilica over time and concluded (at p. 113) that, while it was:

  1. “... perhaps known as the  basilica nova in [Maxentius’] lifetime, [it was] certainly never called the ‘templum urbis Romae’.

She therefore identified the temple mentioned in the ‘Liber Pontificalis’ as the Temple of Venus and Roma (at p. 197), although Raffaella De Felice (referenced below, at p. 7) reasonably questioned whether this temple could be described as ‘near’ the church of SS Cosma e Damiano.  

There has been a similarly extensive debate about the other early medieval sources for the templum Romuli on the Sacra Via, as summarised by Raffaella De Felice (referenced below, at pp. 13-30).  In particular, she considered (at p.15 and p. 16 respectively) two other early accounts:

  1. The ‘Acta S. Pigmenii’, which records the martyrdom of St Pigmenius (by drowning in the Tiber) under the Emperor Julian the Apostate on March 24th, 362 AD, relate that:

  2. Coepit Pigmenius ascendere per Clivum Viae Sacrae ante templum Romuli… ecce Iulianus procedens in Regiam Aulam videns S. Pigmenium presb. a longe per clivum venientem…”.

  3. “Pigmenius began to climb the Sacra Via in front of the templum Romuli ... here, Julian, proceeding to the Royal Court, saw [him] from a distance ...” (my translation).

  4. John the Deacon (died ca. 880 AD), in his biography of Pope Gregory I (mentioned by Lanciani, above), recorded that Gregory’s ‘avatus’ (great great grandfather), Pope Felix III [sic], had built:

  5. ... basilicam SS Cosmae et Damiani martyrum via sacra iuxta templum Romuli, sicut hactenus cernitur. ”

  6. “... the church of the martyrs SS Cosmas and Damian in the Sacra Via, next to the templum Romuli, which can still be seen” (my translation).

Raffaella De Felice noted (at p. 15) that scholars have usually corrected the first of these by replacing ‘templum Romuli’ by  ‘templum Romae‘ (the Temple of Venus and Roma), but she suggested that, in both cases:

  1. “... it would seem far more logical to assume that the ‘templum Romuli’ referred to the basilica nova  ...” (my translation). 

Her reasoning seems to have been that the basilica was securely ‘near’ the church (albeit that it was not a temple).  She suggested (in Table 1, p. 27) that the earliest unambiguous reference to the rotunda complex as the ‘templum Romuli‘ dated to 1435.  However, Louis Duchesne (referenced below, at p. 32) and Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below, at p. 116, at note 1) both gave this accolade to the record of John the Deacon.

In short, the scholars above have considered two possibilities for the ‘templum Romuli‘ in the Via Sacra, near the church of SS Cosas and Damian:

  1. the Temple of Venus and Roma, which is certainly a temple but not particualarly near the church; and

  2. the basilica nova, which is certainly nearer the church but was never a temple.

I think that, for whatever reason, both the Liber Pontificalis’ and John the Deacon used the expression ‘templum Romuli‘ (with the variant ‘templum urbis Romae’ in the first case) to identify the the rotunda and its side aisles, which they considered to be separate from the church (albeit that it served as its vestibule).  If so, there is no reason to doubt that this was the ‘templum Romuli’ from which St Pigmenius began his walk up the Sacra Via.

Shrine to Divus Romulus

The suggestion that the rotunda was possibly associated with divus Romulus (the son of Maxentius) was first made by Luigi Canina (referenced below) in 1848.  He started his analysis by considering the following passage by Aurelius Victor:

  1. “...all the monuments that Maxentius had built in a magnificent manner - the city’s sanctuary and basilica (urbis fanum atque basilicam) - were dedicated to the meritorious services of Flavius [Constantine] ...” (De Caesaribus40:26).

Canina suggested that the rotunda met Aurelius Victor’s description of the urbis fanum:

  1. it could have functioned as a shrine or temple;

  2. Maxentius had probably built it (arguably in a magnificent manner”); and

  3. the inscription discussed above indicated that someone, quite possibly the Senate, had subsequently dedicated it to Flavius (Constantine).  

Modern scholars generally prefer to identify Aurelius Victor’s urbis fanum as the Temple of Venus and Roma, although Canina’s hypothesis should not (in my view) be discounted:

  1. it would be odd to apply the term ‘fanum’ (shrine) to a temple as large as that of Venus and Roma, which was never described in this way in any other surviving source (see, for example, the table at p 197 in Elisha Ann Dumser’s thesis, referenced below); and

  2. it is hard to know what would have been meant by the dedication to Constantine of a temple already dedicated to Venus and Roma.

Having linked the rotunda to Maxentius from the account of Aurelius Victor, Canina then associated it with the funerary rotunda depicted on the reverses of the coins that Maxentius had minted for divus Romulus in ca. 309 AD, and thus with the cult of divus Romulus.  Although Canina later associated these consecration coins  with the mausoleum on the Via Appia, other scholars continued to maintain his original hypothesis.  Thus Samuel Platner (referenced below, at pp 337-8 in the 1911 edition):

  1. “Just west of the basilica of Constantine, on the Sacra Via, is the Heroon Romuli or temple of Romulus, which was begun by Maxentius in honour of his son Romulus, who, having died at an early age, had been deified.  The temple was finished by Constantine.  It adjoined the templum Sacrae Urbis in the rear, and with this latter edifice was converted into the church of SS Cosma e Damiano in the 6th century.”

As noted above, Filippo Coarelli (referenced below, 2012, at p. 109) recently restated a hypothesis that he had first put forward in 1986, which was:

  1. “... based on an analysis of the [rotunda] that, starting from the Maxentian  [consecration] coins ..., I identified with the heroon of Romulus ...” (my translation).

Shrine to the Divi Maximian, Galerius, Constantius and Romulus

Licia Luschi (referenced below), alternatively linked the rotunda complex to Maxentius’ consecration coins of 311 AD, which commemorated the divi Maximian, Galerius and Constantius, in addition to divus Romulus.  I have not been able to consult this paper directly but, according to Thomas Bayet (referenced below, at at p 75): 

  1. “... according to Luschi’s analysis, the rotunda should be seen as the ‘Templum gentis Valeriae’, a sanctuary in honour of the gens Valeria, the [putative] ancestors of Maxentius and the Tetrarchs” (my translation).

Naja Regina Armstrong (referenced below, at pp 244-5) gave another useful précis of Luschi’s hypothesis:

  1. “... Luschi suggests that the rotunda acted as a dynastic temple to the divi of Maxentius’ family [i.e. the gens Valeria].  Prominent since the Republic ... the gens Valeria had gained special privileges, including the licence to bury within the city walls.  Maxentius, who used family connections to legitimise his power, may have revived this tradition with a dynastic monument near the site of his ancestor’s historic domus and tomb.”

Vestibule to the Hall of the Templum Pacis

A significant body of scholarly opinion rejects the idea that the rotunda ever functioned as a temple of any kind (whether to: Romulus, the founder of Rome; divus Romulus son of Maxentius; or all of the Maxentius’ deified relations).  This rejection is based on the archeological evidence set out above, which confirms that, from its inception, the rotunda had communicated with the apsed hall behind it.  Thus:

  1. Elisa Ann Dumser (referenced below, at p. 158) asserted that:

  2. “...[the rotunda’s] design is inappropriate for a sacred monument.  The four doorways in the drum leading to other spaces in the complex emphasise [its] role as passage architecture and, as even Luschi [above] has noted, this makes its acceptance as a ritual space difficult.”

  3. Elizabeth Marlowe (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 211-2) asserted that:

  4. “Inside the rotunda, a wide, monumental, off-axis, marble-framed door at the back opened directly onto a hall of the Templum Pacis, originally built under

  5. Vespasian in 75 AD. ... Maxentius’ [rotunda] thus functioned as a passageway, offering direct access from [the Sacra Via] into the renovated [hall of the] Templum Pacis.”

  6. Gregor Kalas (referenced below, at p. 63, referencing Elisha Ann Dumser, above) asserted that the rotunda:

  7. “... served as a vestibule to a precinct rather than as an independent structure; ... [it] had neither functioned as a temple nor commemorated Romulus, whether this designated the founder of Rome or Maxentius’ son of that name.”

Balance of Probabilities

Once again, we are back to the question of which body of evidence should be privileged when assessing the balance of probabilities:

  1. Elisha Ann Dumser (referenced below, at p. 157), who privileged architectural considerations, insisted that:

  2. “... it cannot be assumed, as has been done so many times in the past, that the Rotunda Complex was a religious structure - not when its very design argues so vividly to the contrary.”

  3. She thus concluded (at p. 168) that:

  4. “Consideration of the entire complex suggests that the rotunda served as a vestibule  to the apsidal aula [behind it]. which would have housed ceremonial events, such as audiences and tribunals.  ... the modest scale of the hall points to use by a high ranking official rather than the Emperor himself.  The praefectus urbi [Urban Prefect], as the most powerful magistrate in 4th century Rome, remains a leading candidate.”

  5. Naja Regina Armstrong (referenced below, at p. 244), who privileged the evidence of the consecration coins (above), concluded:

  6. “Though [the rotunda’s] architecture suggests that [it] served as a 4th century vestibule for the Templum Pacis, Maxentius’ coins raise doubts about the accuracy of this attribution”.

  7. She thus concluded (at p. 246) that:

  8. “Based on the evidence available, it is likely that the rotunda depicted on Maxentius’ [consecration] coins is equivalent to the [rotunda and its side aisles]. Moreover, the coins’ symbolism suggests that [this edifice] served a commemorative function.  Luschi’s hypothesis of a temple to the gens Valeria is the most direct means Maxentius could have chosen to honour his deceased relatives.  ... such a monument accords best with Maxentius’ desire [evidenced by these coins] to tie his rule to [consecrated] members of his gens.

My Conclusions

Function of the Rotunda Complex


Rotunda Complex

                         Original  flat facade (my suggestion)                           Final concave facade


                                  IMP MAXENTIUS,                                                       DIVO  MAXIMIANO,   

                         DIVO MAXIMIANO PATRI/                                   PATRI MAXENTIUS AUGUSTUS/

              AETERNAE MEMORIAE  (hexastyle reverse)           AETERNAE MEMORIAE (tetrastyle reverse)  

                                    RIC VI Rome 251                                                             RIC VI Rome 244        

For the reasons set out in my page on Maxentius' Consecration Coins (311 AD), I agree with Naja Regina Armstrong that these coins almost certainly depicted the rotunda complex, as seen from the Sacra Via.  More specifically, I think that the hexastyle and tetrastyle reverses of these coins represented the rotunda complex in its two successive phases of construction:

  1. The hexastyle reverses probably represented the rotunda and its side aisles when the former still had its flat façade.  As I have shown in the reconstruction above, in this configuration, the rotunda itself could well have had (or have been intended to have) two columns in front of it that completed the line of the columns of the side aisles.   On this model, the columns on the coin reverses have been displaced sideways in order to reveal the open doors of the rotunda and thus to indicate its funerary significance.

  2. The  tetrastyle reverses probably represented the rotunda and its side aisles after the plans were changed to give the former its concave façade.  The variability among these reverses probably reflects the fact that their dies were carved quite soon after the plans were changed, leaving a great deal to the imagination.

If this is correct, it follows that the rotunda complex must have been a shrine dedicated to the subjects of the consecration coins: the divi Maximian, Galerius, Constantius and Romulus.  In particular, I think that the apsed hall at the rear of the complex was devoted to this purpose in ca. 311 AD.  The contrary view of Elisha Dumser (above), that this space must have had a secular function, was predicated on the assumption that Roman temples never had basilical form.  However, the Templum Flaviae Gentis at Hispellum (Spello), which Constantine sanctioned for the worship of his deified predecessors shortly before his own death and deificaton in 337 AD, was in the form of a basilica: and, like the basilica of this Maxentian complex, it was later converted into a church (see my page on Spello: Rescript of Constantine: Templum Flaviae Gentis).  I think that the apsed hall of the rotunda complex provided one of the precedents for the later temple at Hispellum.

In short, it is entirely possible that Maxentius initially conceived of the rotunda as a vestibule that cleverly allowed the hall behind it, which had stopped short of the Sacra Via and was oriented at 22° to it, to be harmonised with the new urban environment that he had created along the Sacra Via: the new Maxentian basilica stood immediately to the right of it.  However, I think that the plan changed in 311 AD, in order to capitalise on the dynastic opportunities that arose after the death of Galerius (in April/May of that year).  It was probably at this point that the apsed space behind the rotunda was called into service for the veneration of Maxentius’  deified relations.   

If this is correct, then this complex might well be the urbis fanum atque basilicam that, according to Aurelius Victor (above) was dedicated to Constantine after Maxentius’ defeat.  This is discussed in my page on Constantine's Imperial Cult.

Change from Flat to Concave Façade

As noted above, Elisha Ann Dumser suggested that this change occurred during the original construction project, while Elizabeth Marlowe attributed it to a separate construction phase under Constantine after 312 AD.  My analysis of the consecration coins clearly takes me in the direction of Elisha Ann Dumser. 

However, this means that I have to address the question raised by Elizabeth Marlowe: why did Maxentius make this fundamental change at a relatively late stage in the construction process?  As set out in my page on Maxentius and the gens Valeria, I would like to suggest that the change was associated with a change of emphasis in his dynastic propaganda, and that this change was suggested by Aradius Rufinus, who served as one of his designated Consuls in September-December 311 AD and as Urban Prefect from 9th February until 27th October 312 AD.  Crucially, Aradius Rufinus had married into the ancient gens Valeria, which had (according to tradition) been founded by Publius Valerius Publicola, one of the first two consuls of Rome (in 509 BC).  After a life of devoted service to the new Republic, Publicola had died in poverty and, according Dionysius of Halicarnassus:

  1. “The Senate, ... learning how impoverished [Publicola’s family] were, decreed that the expenses of his burial should be defrayed from the public treasury, and appointed a place in the city near the Forum, at the foot of the Velia, where his body was burned and buried, an honour paid to him alone of all the illustrious men down to my time” (Roman Antiquities’ 5:48:3).

It is entirely possible that the rotunda (which stands at the foot of the Velia, near the Forum) was built on the presumed site of sepulchre of Publicola.  Plutarch, who was writing at the end of the 1st century AD, supplied additional information on how these burial rights were exercised in his time:

  1. “[Publius Valerius Publicola] was ... by express vote of the citizens, buried within the city, near the so‑called Velia, and all his family were given privilege of burial there.  Now, however, none of the family is actually buried there, but the body is carried thither and set down, and someone takes a burning torch and holds it under the bier for an instant, and then takes it away, attesting by this act that the deceased retains the right of burial there but relinquishes the honour.  After this, the body is borne away” (‘Life of Publicola 23).

I would like to suggest that, in the difficult political climate of 311-2 AD, Aradius Rufinus advised Maxentius to assert his own links with this most ancient and most Roman of families: after all, he (Maxentius) and his deified relations all shared the gentilicum (hereditary surname) Valerius (albeit that they had inherited it from Diocletian).  One way of underlining this more ancient association might well have involved the articulation of the circular space in front of this shrine to the deified members of the gens Valeria, in order to commemorate their ancient (and waived) burial rights within the city walls. 

Read more:

R. De Felice, “Contributi alla Lettura della Storia Identificativa di Alcuni Monumenti

Posti Lungo la Via Sacra: il c.d. Tempio del Divo Romolo”, (2015)

G. Kalas, “The Restoration of the Roman Forum in Late Antiquity: Transforming Public Space”, (2015) Texas

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

F. Fraioli, “Regione IV: Templum Pacis”, in

  1. A. Carandini, “Atlante di Roma Antica”, (2012) Rome: Vol. 1 pp 281-306; and Vol. 2, Maps 89-106 inclusive

E. Marlowe, “Liberator Urbis Suae: Constantine and the Ghost of Maxentius”, in

  1. B. C. Ewald and C. F. Noreňa (eds.) “The Emperor and Rome: Space, Representation and Ritual’ (2010) Yale 

F. Coarelli (with English translation by J. Clauss and D. Harman), “Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide”, (2007, 2nd edition 2014) Oakland CA

E. Dumser, "The Architecture of Maxentius: A Study in Architectural Design and Urban Planning in Early 4th Century Rome" (2005), Dissertation of University of Pennsylvania

N. Armstrong, “Round Temples in Roman Architecture of the Republic through the Late Antique Period”, (2001) Thesis of University of Oxford

P. Tucci, "Nuove Acquisizioni sulla Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano", Studi Romani, 49 (2001) 275–93

T. Bayet, “Architectura Numismatica: Iconographie Monétaire du Temple de Rome, des Mausolées et des Ouvrages Fortifiés au Bas-Empire”, Revue BeIge de Numismatique, 139 (1993) 59-81

L. Luschi, “Iconografia dell' Edificio Romano nella Monetazione Massenziana e il "Mastino del Divo Romolo", Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma, 89 (1984) 41-54

G. Biasiotti and P. Whitehead, “La Chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano al Foro Romano e gli Edifici Preesistenti”, Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia di Archeologia, (1925) 83‑122.

P. Whitehead, “The Church of SS Cosma e Damiano in Rome”, American Journal of Archaeology, 31:1 (1927) 1‑18.

S. Platner, “The Topography and Monuments of Ancient Rome”,  (1904, 2nd edition 1911) Boston

R. Lanciani, “The Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome: a Companion Book for Students and Travelers”, (1897) Boston

L. Duchesne, “Notes sur la Topographie de Rome au Moyen Age: I: Templum Romae, Templum Romuli”, 6 (1886) 25-37

L. Canina, “Gli Edifici di Roma Antica e sua Campagna” (1848) Rome

Maximinus, Augustus Maximus (311-2 AD)    

  1. Diocletian (died 311 AD ?)

  2. Maxentius in Rome: (311-2 AD)     Maxentius' Consecration Coins (311 AD) 

  3. Maxentius' Rotunda on the Sacra Via      Maxentius and the Gens Valeria  

  4. Constantine's Invasion of Italy (312 AD)  

  5. Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD)

Literary Sources: Diocletian to Constantine (285-337 AD)

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