Key to Umbria

Martial (43-102/4 AD)

Marcus Valerius Martial was born  in Bilbilis in Spain, but was active as a poet at Rome.  His works were mainly published under Domitian, whom he flatters outrageously, although he continued to be active under Nerva and then Trajan.  Finding the latter less responsive to his flattery, he eventually left Rome and returned to his home town of Bilbilis, with the aid of Pliny the Younger, where he died. 

His most important surviving works consist of 14 books of epigrams.

Martial on the Temples built by Domitian

“If you, [Domitian], were to assume the rights of a creditor and to demand payment for all that you have given to the gods and to heaven,

  1. Atlas, even though a great auction were to take place in Olympus, and the deities were compelled to sell all they have, would be bankrupt, and

  2. the father of the gods [Jupiter] would be obliged to compound with you in a very small dividend.

  3. For what could he pay you for the temple on the Capitol?

  4. What for the honour of the glorious Capitoline games?

  5. What could the spouse of the Thunderer pay for her two temples?

  6. Of Minerva I say nothing; your interests are hers.

  7. But what shall I say of the temples to Hercules and Apollo, and the affectionate Lacedemonian twins [Castor and Pollux]?

  8. What of the Flavian temple which towers to the Roman sky?

You must needs be patient and suspend your claims, for Jove's treasury does not contain sufficient to pay you. (IX:3)

Tacitus (ca. 55-117 AD )

Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, the author of the “Histories” (105-9 AD) and the “Annals” (113 AD), was close to the Emperor Vespasian and the later Flavian emperors.  The city of Terni claim that he was born there, although there is no proof of that.

Tacitus and the Temple of Jupiter Conservator

“[During Vespasian’s attack on Vitellius in Rome in 69 AD], 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 the Preserver with an altar on which his escape was represented in a marble relief.  Later, when he had himself gained the imperial throne, he dedicated a great temple of Jupiter the Guardian, with his own effigy in the lap of the god” (3:74).

Suetonius (died after 122 AD)

The historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus is best known for the De Vita Caesarum (Twelve Caesars), a set of biographies of 12 successive Roman rulers from Julius Caesar to the Emperor Domitian.

Suetonius on the Emperor Domitian

In his biography of the Emperor Domitian, Suetonius recorded that:

  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” (para. 4.4).

  2. “He celebrated the Quinquatria too every year in honour of Minerva at his Alban villa, and established for her a college of priests, from which men were chosen by lot to act as officers and give splendid shows of wild beasts and stage plays, besides holding contests in oratory and poetry” (para. 4.4 cont.).

Suetonius also describes the portents of Domitian’s impending assassination in terms that stress his veneration for Fortuna and Minerva:

  1. “Fortune of Praeneste [Fortuna Primigenia] had throughout his whole reign, when he commended the new year to her protection, given him a favourable omen and always in the same words. Now at last she returned a most direful one, not without the mention of bloodshed.  He  [also] dreamed that Minerva, whom he worshipped with superstitious veneration, came forth from her shrine and declared that she could no longer protect him, since she had been disarmed by Jupiter”.


Flavian Dynasty (69-96 AD)

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