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Domitian's Temples to Jupiter 

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Flavian Dynasty: Haterii Temple/ Temple of Jupiter Stator       Literary Sources

This page is devoted to one aspect of Domitian’s massive programme of public works: his temples dedicated to Jupiter.

Jupiter Capitolinus

Plutarch recorded the long history of this temple:

  1. “The first [temple of this dedication] ... was built by [the legendary King] Tarquin, but consecrated by Horatius; this was destroyed by fire during the civil wars [of 83 BC].

  2. The second temple was built by Sulla, but Catulus was commissioned to consecrate it [in 69 BC],  after the death of Sulla.  This temple, too, was destroyed, during the troublous times of Vitellius [in 69 AD].

  3. Vespasian began and completely finished the third, with the good fortune that attended him in all his undertakings.  He lived to see it completed, and did not live to see it destroyed, as it was soon after ... For upon the death of Vespasian [actually, in 80 AD, some months after his death], the Capitol was burned.

  4. The fourth temple, which is now standing on the same site as the others, was both completed and consecrated by Domitian.  ... the greatest wealth now attributed to any private citizen of Rome would not pay the cost of the gilding alone of the present temple, which was more than12,000 talents.  Its pillars are of Pentelic marble, and their thickness was once most happily proportioned to their length; for we saw them at Athens.  But when they were recut and scraped at Rome, they did not gain as much in polish as they lost in symmetry and beauty, and they now look too slender and thin.   However, if anyone who is amazed at the costliness of the Capitol had seen a single colonnade in the palace of Domitian, or a basilica, or a bath, or the apartments for his concubines, then, as Epicharmus says to the spendthrift:

  5. ‘It is not beneficent thou art; thou art diseased; thy mania is to give’,

  6. so he would have been moved to say to Domitian:

  7. ‘It is not pious, nor nobly ambitious that thou art; thou art diseased; thy mania is to build; like the famous Midas, thou desirest that everything become gold and stone at thy touch’.

  8. So much, then, on this head. (‘Life of Publicola’, 15)

Suetonius also recorded the restoration of the temple after the fire of 80 AD:

  1. “[Domitian] restored many splendid buildings which had been destroyed by fire, among them the Capitolium, which had again been burned, but in all cases with the inscription of his own name only, and with no mention of the original builder”, (‘Life of Domitian’, 5:1).

Kenneth Scott elaborated:

  1. “The great temple of Capitoline Jupiter, which had been restored after the civil war [of 69 AD], was destroyed in the disastrous fire of 80 AD.  Domitian rebuilt it at a cost of 12,000 talents, and it was dedicated in 82 AD.  ... He likewise instituted for Jupiter of the Capitoline a quinquennial contest with musical, equestrian, and gymnastic competitions, at which he presided in Greek garb wearing on his head a golden crown with likenesses of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva; with him were the flamen Dialis and the college of the Flaviales, who were dressed like the Emperor, except that in their crowns his image was joined to those of the deities of the Capitoline triad”.

Suetonius was the source for this information on the games:

  1. “[The Emperor Domitian ...] established a quinquennial contest in honour of Jupiter Capitolinus of a threefold character, comprising music, riding, and gymnastics, and with considerably more prizes than are awarded nowadays.  ... He presided at the competitions in half-boots, clad in a purple toga in the Greek fashion, and wearing upon his head a golden crown with figures of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, while by his side sat the priest of Jupiter and the college of the Flaviales, similarly dressed, except that their crowns bore his image as well” ((‘Life of Domitian’, 4.4).

Titus featured this fourth temple on the reverse of a coin (RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Titus 515) of 80/1 AD, which had the distinctive reverse legend: ‘CAPIT RESTIT’.  Domitian minted two essentially identical versions in 82 AD: RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Domitian: 841 and 842.

Jupiter Custos/ Conservator

The history of this temple goes back to 69 AD, when Domitian hid in the house of the porter who had rescued him when Vitellius’ army stormed the Capitol. 

  1. According to Suetonius:

  2. “In the war with Vitellius, [Domitian, who was then in Rome] took refuge in the Capitol with his paternal uncle Sabinus and a part of the forces under him.  When the enemy forced an entrance and the temple was fired, he hid during the night with the guardian of the shrine, and in the morning, disguised in the garb of a follower of Isis and, mingling with the priests of that fickle superstition, he went across the Tiber with a single companion to the mother of one of his school-fellows. There he was so effectually concealed, that though he was closely followed, he could not be found, in spite of a thorough search.  It was only after the victory that he ventured forth and after being hailed as Caesar, he assumed the office of city praetor with consular powers, but only in name, turning over all the judicial business to his next colleague” (Life of Domitian’, 1:2-3).

  3. According to Tacitus: 

  4. “Domitian was concealed in the lodging of a temple attendant when the assailants broke into the citadel; then through the cleverness of a freedman he was dressed in a linen robe and so was able to join a crowd of devotees without being recognised and to escape to the house of Cornelius Primus, one of his father's clients, near the Velabrum, where he remained in concealment.  When his father came to power, Domitian tore down the lodging of the temple attendant and built a small chapel to Jupiter Conservator (the Preserver) with an altar on which his escape was represented in a marble relief  (‘Histories’, 3:74).

Pat Southern recorded that the shrine of Jupiter Conservator probably burned in the fire of 80 AD, and was rebuilt by Domitian as the Temple of Jupiter Custos (the Guardian).  This was also recorded by

  1. Tacitus:

  2. “Later, when he had himself gained the imperial throne, he dedicated a great temple of Jupiter Custos, with his own effigy in the lap of the god” (‘Histories’, 3:74); and

  3. Suetonius:

  4. “[Domitian] built a new temple on the Capitoline hill in honour of Jupiter Custos ...” (Life of Domitian’, 5:1).

According to Platner and Ashby:

  1. “The temple may be represented in a relief of the period of Marcus Aurelius, now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori; and in a relief on the Arch of Trajan at Benevento; and the concrete foundation in the Via di Monte Tarpeo may belong to it”.

Domitian issued 13 coin types for Jupiter Conservator in the period 82-6 AD using two different iconographies for the reverse designs:

  1. an eagle standing frontally on thunderbolt, facing left, wings spread (2/13; 82/3 AD); and

  2. Jupiter seated, facing left, holding a thunderbolt and a sceptre or spear (11/13; 84-6 AD).

This second iconography had first been used by Augustus in 19 BC, on the reverses of seven coins in which the standing Jupiter was in the Temple of Jupter Tonans (see below). 

He also issued two coin types for Jupiter Custos, again using two different iconographies::

  1. Jupiter seated, facing left left, holding a thunderbolt and sceptre (RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Domitian 466; 86 AD), as in the majority of his Jupiter Conservator coins; and

  2. Jupiter seated, facing  left, holding a statue of Victory in the right hand and a vertical sceptre in left (RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Domitian 635; 88/9 AD).  (This coin is very rare, and its iconography really belongs to Jupiter Victor - see below).

The iconography of the seated Jupiter Custos facing left and holding holding a thunderbolt and sceptre can be traced back to the time of Nero (starting in 64 AD with RIC I (second edition) Nero 52).  Vitellius used it on the reverses of three coins  of 69 AD in which the deity was identified as Jupiter Capitolinus.

As discussed below, Domitian’s allegiance to Jupiter Conservator/ Custos seems to have given way to a new allegiance to Jupiter Victor from ca. 85 AD.

Jupiter Victor (?)

The regionary catalogues in the so-called ‘Chronograph of 354 AD’ include an  “aedes Iovis victoris” under regio X (Palatium).  Philip Hill (referenced below, at pp. 33-6), who assumed that this related to the temple that Fabius Maximus Rulianus had vowed during the Battle of Sentinum (295 BC), suggested that this original and venerable building must have  been destroyed in the fire of 80 AD.  He further suggested that Domitian had rebuilt it, and that it was depicted on the reverse of a coin (RIC II:1 Domitian 816) that he issued in 94 AD.  This reverse depicted an octastyle temple with its architrave inscribed IMP CAESAR and a cult statue of a seated figure within.  (The website of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has an excellent image of what might be the only surviving example).  Hill identified this cult figure as Jupiter Victor. 

Evidence for the Dedication to Jupiter Victor

The surviving ‘temple’ coin, which is badly worn, could not alone support the hypothesis that it depicted a Temple of Jupiter Victor.  However, Hill made his case by relating it to series of coins issued by Trajan in 103 AD that featured a similar cult statue in an octastyle temple (RIC II Trajan: 577 (as); 577 (sestertius); and 578).  The catalogue describes the reverse design as:

  1. “Jupiter seated in centre of octastyle temple; architrave decorated with figure of Jupiter among other figures; figure holding spear between two Victories on roof.”

Perhaps all these reverses depicted the same temple, and the Victories on the roof on Trajan’s coins signalled its dedication to Jupiter Victor.  (The best illustration I can find is this one, of 577 (as) in which Jupiter’s right hand is extended and holds what could conceivably be a statue of Victory).

Even if one accepts that all these reverses depict the same temple, it has to be said that the evidence considered so far that it was dedicated toJupiter Victor is not overwhelming.  However, there is supporting evidence to be had from an analysis of the 29 coins of Domitian with reverses that related to Jupiter:

  1. two coins of 82 AD depicting the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus (above) - RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Domitian: 841 and 842);

  2. 12 coins from the period 84-6 AD depicting the seated Jupiter Custos/ Conservator holding a thunderbolt in his right hand and a spear in his left hand; (above);

  3. the rare coin of 88/9 AD (RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Domitian 635, above) in which the seated Jupiter Custos holds a statue of Victory in his right hand and a vertical sceptre in left (the iconograhpy of Jupiter Victor);

  4. 13 coins from the period 85-96 AD, which the legend “IOVI VICTORI S C, depicting:

  5. “Jupiter seated, [facing] left, [naked to the waist], holding [a statue of] Victory in [his extended] right [hand] and [a] vertical sceptre in [his] left [hand]”; and

  6. the ‘temple’ denarii (RIC II:1 Domitian 816), which he issued in 94 AD.

One gets the impression from this sequence that Jupiter Victor replaced Jupiter Custos/ Conservator at the heart of Domitian’s programme of self-representation (as mentioned above).   Françoise Villedieu (at pp. 383-7 and Figure 456) summarised the results of her analysis of these coins in her table on p. 386).  She observed (at p. 387) that:

  1. “... the [Jupiter Victor] type issued in 92-4 AD (RIC II:1 Domitian 751) was particularly widely circulated, in parallel with the issue of the denarii [of 94 AD] on which the temple under discussion ... appeared” (my translation).

In the context of these ‘temple’ denarii, she observed (at p. 383) that they had [probably ?] been issued:

  1. “... in order to celebrate the achievement of a construction, [presumably the construction of the temple]” (my translation).

This analysis seems to me to provide strong circumstantial evidence for the hypothesis that the denarii of 94 AD depicted a temple of Jupiter Victor the Domitian had either built, rebuilt or restored.

Françoise Villedieu suggested (at p. 384) that: 

  1. “The representation of the god [on the Jupiter Victor reverses] clearly derives from the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus and, through this intermediary, of Phidias’ statue of Zeus at Olympia” (my translation).

This iconography and the epithet ‘Victor’ were probably first used by Vitellius during the civil war that had brought Domitian’s father to power.  In his eight months as Augustus (before his defeat in 69 AD), Vitellius produced:

  1. five coins with reverses depicting IVPPITER VICTOR, using the above iconography; and

  2. another three coins with reverses depicting I O MAX CAPITOLINVS (Jupiter Capitolinus), on which the seated Jupiter had a thunderbolt rather than a statue of Victory in his right hand.

It seems to me that this pattern supports the iconographic development suggested by  Françoise Villedieu, in which ‘Jupiter Capitolinus’ was given a statue of victory instead of a thunderbolt, becoming ‘Jupiter Victor’. 

Vitellius used his victory title, Germanicus, on all the coins he produced in his short reign.  It is perhaps significant that Domitian was able to adopt this title and use it on his coins after late 83 AD, following a widely-mocked ‘victory’ and triumph over a Germanic tribe called the Chatti.  This hardly matched the victories that had given legitimacy to the rule of his deified father and brother, but it was the only victory that he was ever able to claim.  Perhaps his sudden switch (at least as far as his coins were concerned) from Jupiter Custos/ Conservator to Jupiter Victor occurred at this point, culminating in the dedication of a new Temple to Jupiter Victor in ca. 94 AD.

There is one further piece of circumstantial evidence that I find compelling: the next Emperor to issue coins with reverses depicting the seated Jupiter holding a victory in his right hand was Trajan, in two coins (RIC II Trajan 113 and 153), albeit that Jupiter (with or without the epithet Victor) was not identified on them by inscription.


Thus, we have a putative temple built by Domitian in honour of Jupiter Victor that was later apparently commemorated by Trajan.  If this was the “aedes Iovis victoris” in the 4th century regionary catalogues, then it was on the Palatine.  However, Filippo Coarelli has long argued (most recently in his book referenced below, 2012, at p. 247) that this late record provides the only indication of a Temple of Jupiter Victor on the Palatine.  He noted that the sequence of monuments in these lists placed it on the terrace of the Vigna Barberini, but this was:

  1. “... where, in the period in which the catalogues were compiled, one found the Temple of Jupiter Ultor [as discused below].  The rarity of this epithet and the ease with which it could be [mistakenly] transformed into Jupiter Victor, as well as the undoubted grandeur of this monument ... renders extremely probable, if not certain, the hypothesis [that the catalogues mistakenly represented the Temple of Jupiter Ultor as Jupiter Victor].” (my translation).

In other words, he doubted that there had ever been a Temple of Jupiter Victor on the Palatine.  If this is correct, then there is not particular reason to locate Domitian’s temple there. 

However, a number of scholars have been reluctant to make that leap.  Unfortunately, since no securely attributable remains have ever been unearthed, the precise location of the “aedes Iovis victoris” in regio X remains a matter of speculation.  Scholarly attention has centred on:

  1. a podium that has been found near the remains of the so-called Arch of Domitian, which formed the monumental entrance to his new imperial palace; and

  2. the terrace he established on the slopes below, later called the Vigna Barberini (mentioned above).

Podium near the so-called Arch of Domitian

Mario Torelli (referenced below, 1987, at pp. 578-9) deduced the existence of a Flavian successor to Fabius’ temple on the basis of his analysis of the urban topography associated with Domitian’s cult of his deified father and brother.  The proposed site for this Flavian incarnation of the temple was close to:

  1. “... the arch (which has never been satisfactorily published).... [that] represents the imposing entrance from the Forum to Domitian's [new] palace  ...”

He pointed out that:

  1. “... a few meters to the south west [of this arch are found] the remains of a substantial rectangular podium that is usually associated with the huge fortress of the Frangipane [family].  We must ask ourselves whether this podium is not, at least in part, old and possibly reused as part of this medieval structure, in the same way that the podium [near the Arch of Titus] was used to  support the medieval turris Chartularia.  It would be attractive to identify the [Frangipane] podium with the aedes Iovis in Palatio, a temple vowed by Fabius Rullianus ... and recorded [in the 4th century regionary catalogues]” (my translation).

Other scholars have supported this hypothesis.  For example:

  1. Amanda Claridge (referenced below) showed the location of the Arch of Domitian and the temple podium in her plan of the imperial palace (Figure 55, at the lower left).  She observed (at p. 156) that:

  2. “Brick stamps indicate that [the temple] was built by Domitian at the same time as the new palace.  Possibly, it is the temple of Jupiter Victor, which is listed in the [regionary catalogues] in association with the Area Palatina, ...” 

  3. Peter Wiseman (referenced below, 2013, p 263) noted that:

  4. “Filippo Coarelli [referenced below, 2012 pp 282-3] identifies [this podium as the site of] the temple of Jupiter Propugnator, which is attested in the records of an unidentified priestly college in the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD.  Much preferable, to my mind, though equally unprovable, is the suggestion of Mario Torelli  [above] that it might be the temple of Jupiter Victor”.

However, as Francoise Villedieu (referenced below, 2007, at p. 388) pointed out:

  1. “The relationship that [this location for the Temple of Jupiter Vicor would have impled] between Domitian and the theme of victory certainly finds confirmation in the large number of coins bearing representations of Jupiter Victor that were issued during his reign.  However, given its dimensions, the podium could not have supported the temple that Hill proposed to attribute to this divinity” (my translation).

In other words, if one accepts that Domitian had commemorated in his temple to Jupiter Victor on the denarii of 94 AD and it this was the “aedes Iovis victoris” in regio X, it could not have been located here.

Vigna Barberini

Philip Hill (above) pursued his line of enquiry by drawing attention to the similarities between the temple depicted on the reverses of Domitian and Trajan (above) with the that on the reverses of the following later pieces:

  1. a medal (RIC IV Elagabalus 339) of the Emperor Elagabalus (218-22 AD), which can be dated to 222 AD and which almost certainly depicted his temple known as the Elagabalium; and

  2. several pieces of Severus Alexander, which depicted this temple after he had rededicated it to Jupiter Ultor (evidenced by the legend IOVI VLTORI):

  3. a bronze medallion (an example of which is illustrated here), which is dated to 224 AD; and

  4. three coins: a silver denarius; a bronze sesterius; and a bronze as (respectively RIC IV Severus Alexander: 146412 and 413).

(These later coins are discussed in my page on the Severan Dynasty (193 - 235 AD): Elagabalium/ Temple of Jupiter Ultor). 

There is no doubt that the Elagabalium stood on the artificial terrace south the Arch of Titus (now open to the public), which formed part of Domitian’s palace and which is now often named for the Barberini family, who used it as a vineyard in  the 17th century.  More specifically, it was on the upper part of the terrace, between the churches of San Sebastiano and San Bonaventura.  Philip Hill suggested that Elagabalus had created it by adapting Domitian’s temple, which must therefore have shared both its location and its orientation, facing the so-called clivus Palatinus.  

Françoise Villedieu referenced below, 2007) addressed Philip Hill’s hypothesis in her report on the excavations (1985-98) of this site.  She asserted (at p. 383) that, since the orientation of the putative temple of Domitian would have been imposed by the layout of the body of the imperial palace, it could not have been adapted for the Elagabalium, which had its long axis across the terrace.   However, she agreed with Philip Hill that:

  1. “On [each of] the coins of Domitian, Trajan, Elagabalus and Severus Alexander, the [temple on the reverse is] octastlyle and apparently Corinthian.  Although, generally, the symbolic representation of steps leading to temples is too imprecise for one to differentiate between a [simple] podium and a crepis [stepped platform], in the case of the coins of Trajan, [the perspectival representation of the temple base] undoubtedly leads one to the second conclusion.  Now, the late temple in the Vigna Barberini has the same characteristic” (my translation).

(She might also have added that the temple of Trajan, like that excavated on the terrace of Vigna Barberini, was surrounded by a portico.)  Thus, the the Elagabalium might have been modelled on the temple depicted on the coins of Domitian and/or Trajan, albeit that the earlier temple was (according to Villedieu) located elsewhere.  She tentatively suggested (at p. 388) that:

  1. “Some clues might argue for the presence of a temple in the [largely unexcavated] northern half of the terrace, the most appropriate place for it to have been” (my translation).

However, she stressed that this was merely a hunch, built on fragile foundations. 

Daniela Bruno (referenced below, pp 247–8) accepted this suggestion, which she depicted in Map 80 (as X 715).  In his review of this book and that of Filippo Coarelli (referenced below, 2012), Peter Wiseman (referenced below, 2013, p. 266) commented that:

  1. “Coarelli [at p. 509 of his book] is surely right to insist that the complete lack of any archaeological evidence must rule [this proposition] out”.

The wisdom of this seems to have been borne out by events: following the subsequent phase of the excavations (see Françoise Villedieu’s paper of 2011, referenced below), it seems more likely that the northern part of the terrace accommodated the famous revolving dining room of Nero’s palace.

My Conclusion

I think that Domitian’s temple to Jupiter Victor was in the Vigna Barberini, and that the apparent lack of archeological remains suggests that it was destroyed in the fire of 191/2 AD.  As set out in my page on Elagabalium/ Temple of Jupiter Ultor, Septimius Severus probably rebuilt it in its original form (and perhaps on its original location).  Elagabalus probably used this structure for his Elagabalium, which probably explains why he was able to rededicated it soon after his his acclamation as Emperor and arrival in Rome.

I recognise that this scenario depends on a long series of hypotheses, and that the disproving of any one of them could well demolish it.  Nevertheless, it can at least attempt to address the problem of the “aedes Iovis victoris” in the regionary catalogues.  It could be that:

  1. the temple’s dedication to Jupiter Victor was reinstated in them soon after the damnation of Elagabalus’ memory in 220 AD;

  2. the new games that Severus Alexander introduced for Jupiter Ultor following the rededication of the Elagabalium to this cult on 13th March 224 AD were duly recorded in the official calendars and remained there in the ‘Calendar of Philocalus’ of the 4th century AD; but

  3. the regionary lists were not updated after 220 AD, either through oversight or because the epithets Victor and Ultor were considered to be essentially interchangeable.

Any scenario that places the “aedes Iovis victoris” anywhere else faces the powerful point made by Filippo Coarelli: it is difficult to see why the “aedes Iovis ultoris”, which certainly featured in the ‘Calendar of Philocalus’, was missing from the broadly contemporary regionary catalogues. 

If one accepts that Domitian’s temple lived on as the Temple of Jupiter Ultor, and was represented in the regionary catalogues under its original dedication (for whatever reason), then the case for locating Fabius’ temple on the Palatine is considerably strengthened.  This is discussed in my page on Victory Temples and the Third Samnite War.

Read more: 
T. P. Wiseman, “The Palatine, from Evander to Elagabalus”, Journal of Roman Studies,
103  (2013) 234-68  
D. Bruno, “Regione X: Palatium”, in
A. Carandini, “Atlante di Roma Antica”, (2012) Rome, Vol. 1, pp 215-80; and Vol. 2, Tables 82-88b
F. Coarelli, “Palatium: Il Palatino dalle Origini all' Impero”, (2012) Rome 
Villedieu, “La ‘Coenatio Rotunda’ Neroniana e altre Vestigia nel Sito della Vigna Barberini al Palatino”, Bollettino d’ Arte, 12 (2011) 1-28 (online abstract) 
F. Villedieu, “La Vigna Barberini II: Domus, Palais Impérial et Temples: Stratigraphie du Secteur Nord-est du Palatin”, (2007 ) Rome 
A. Claridge, “Rome: An Oxford Archeological Guide”, (1998, 2nd edition 2010) Oxford
P. Hill, “The Monuments of Ancient Rome as Coin Types”, (1989) London 
M. Torelli, “Culto Imperiale e Spazi Urbani in Età Flavia: Dai Rilievi Hartwig all' Arco di Tito”,  in 
“Urbs, Espace Urbain et Histoire: Colloquio Roma (1985)”, (1987), pp. 563-82 
Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD):  Main Page    Domitian's Temples to Jupiter    
Flavian Dynasty: Haterii Temple/ Temple of Jupiter Stator       Literary Sources

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