Roman Temples:

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Temple of the Vestal Virgins

Ara Pacis of Augustus

Temple of Baal at Palmyra



TEMPLE OF THE VESTAL VIRGINS in the Roman Forum, c. 550 BC. Built during the reign of the Tarquins, remodeled in peripteral manner during the empire. Young women from the most highly ranked families were selected as priestesses of the cult. Their service was regarded as a privilege. Most Vestal Virgins chose to remain in the cult after fulfilling their compulsory 30 years celibate service. Unlike ordinary Roman women, Vestal Virgins were manumitted to the god and possessed the right to control their own financial affairs and property. Indicative of the higher status women generally enjoyed in the Roman world.


The ARA PACIS of Augustus, dedicated in 9 BC in commemoration of Augustus' return from the western provinces. The altar stood in the Campus Martius and was inclosed in a small precinct of marble decorated within and without in relief. The historical interest is centered in the friezes and groups which decorated this surface and include a procession formed by priests and dignitaries with women and children, representing the family of Augustus himself. The altar symbolized Augustus' foundation of the Pax Romana and his intention to insure peace and stability throughout the empire by handing his authority down through his own family.


The TEMPLE OF BAAL AT PALMYRA, also known as the Temple of the Sun was pseudodipteral, 8 Corinthian columns by 15. Its ornaments were possibly of gilt bronze. Soon after the completion of the temple its plan was completely changed by walling up the traditional front and back doors and opening a doorway on the east wall of the cella. This doorway, though not in the center of the temple, lay on the axis of the Propylea. In many ways the temple, with its pyramid roofs and peripteral design, epitomizes the fusion of Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architectural traditions. Palmyra existed in an oasis of the Syrian desert between Damascus and the Euphrates, and grew wealthy from its prominent role in the Roman caravan trade with the East, springing to fame in the 3rd century AD when its queen Zenobia temporarily broke away from the Roman empire to form a powerful kingdom of her own.

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                                                          Interior                Actual                Model

The PANTHEON, constructed by the Emperor Hadrian (176-138 AD), consisted of a rotunda flanked by semicircular niches and a portico. The rotunda is formed by a drum whose walls are 6.2 meters thinck and 21.754 meters in height, supporting a cupola. The total height of the building is the same as its width (150 feet). The largest domed building in existence. There are no windows, but a circular opening 30 feet in diameter at the summit of the dome admits light. The marble floor, slooping from the center toward the sides allows for rain water to pass to the gutter along the walls. The arcitrave bears the inscription M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS. TERTIUM FECIT, indicating that Hadrian chose to "restore" a traditional Etruscan styled Roman temple of the early first century AD in this manner.

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Last Updated: 02/17/2000