A Vision Of Imperial Unity: The Temple Of Venus And Roma

Güven, Suna
As one of the largest building projects of Hadrian in Rome, the Temple of Venus and Roma captures the eye of the beholder in its ruined state even today. Notwithstanding its gargantuan scale, the renowned edifice is associated with a notorious tale in the ancient literary record as the building that allegedly cost the Syrian architect Apollodorus his life. According to the often quoted account of Dio Cassius in his Roman History (69.4), the emperor Hadrian was so incensed at having the architectural flaws of his project bluntly and irrefutably pointed out by a professional that his retribution was fatal [2]. Incidentally, the account is of interest because it suggests that the emperor was personally involved in architectural matters and was perhaps responsible for the actual design of the Temple of Venus and Roma. In an age when the Roman architectural revolution had reached its apogee, Apollodorus certainly represented the conservative strain in public building. He promoted the Hellenistic style in Rome by using marble trabeation in the Basilica of Ulpia and Forum of Trajan, the largest of the imperial fora. On the other side of this bastion of classicism, it was in the age of Hadrian that the most accomplished examples of Roman curvilinear design came into being as exemplified in Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli (Jacobson, 1986, 85). Yet with its anachronistic peristyle trabeation in the Greek manner, the Temple of Venus and Roma can hardly be said to reflect the progressive architecture in vogue, in spite of its importance and monumentality. In this respect, the conservative and perspicacious remarks of Apollodorus deserve attention since they are levelled not at a new-fangled invention (of the kind that enraged Vitruvius a century earlier) but they criticize a traditional building with a Greek appearance. Although it is generally posited that Roman religious architecture was, comparatively speaking, more subject to traditional prescriptions, it would be simplistic to explain the design of the temple solely on the grounds of religious restraint. Given Hadrian's openness to change, the many vicissitudes of his character and the contemporary building-boom, it appears that the design of the Temple of Venus and Roma was dictated by a meticulously calculated political motive. In an age when the old and new values on the one hand and the Italic and provincial territories on the other were increasingly welded together, they all found an outlet in Hadrian's vision of a unified empire. In this paper, a framework is created for the contextual study of the Temple of Venus and Roma, with the aim of formulating a working definition of classicism in classical antiquity as a functional political device.


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Citation Formats
S. Güven, “A Vision Of Imperial Unity: The Temple Of Venus And Roma,” ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 10, no. 1-2, pp. 19–30, 1990, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/51133.