Giacobbe Giusti, Tabularium, ancient Rome
Giacobbe Giusti, Tabularium, ancient Rome
|Giacobbe Giusti, Tabularium, ancient Rome
|Location||Regione VIII Forum Romanum|
|Built in||78 BC|
|Built by/for||M. Aemilius Lepidus and Q. Lutatius Catulus|
|Type of structure||Basilica|
The Tabularium was the official records office of ancient Rome, and also housed the offices of many city officials. Situated within the Roman Forum, it was on the front slope of the Capitoline Hill, below the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, to the southeast of the Arx and Tarpeian Rock.
Within the building were the remains of the temple of Veiovis. In front of it were the Temples of Vespasian & Concord, as well as the Rostra and the rest of the forum. Presently the Tabularium is only accessible from within the Capitoline Museum, although it still provides a panoramic view over the Forum.
The Construction of the Tabularium was ordered around 78 BC by the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. The building was completed by Quintus Lutatius Catulus, consul in 78 BC. This was part of a public works programme for the redevelopment of the Capitoline Hill, which had been damaged by a fire in in 83 BC. The construction by Catulus is not motioned in the ancient literature. It is known through an inscription (CIL 1).
Its great corridor, 67 m (220 ft) long, raised 15 m (49 ft) above the forum on a massive substructure, is still partly preserved. This corridor was lighted through a series of arches divided by semi-detached columns of the Doric order, the earliest example of this class of decoration, which is in the Theatre of Marcellus, the Colosseum, and all the great amphitheatres throughout the Roman empire constituted the decorative treatment of the wall surface and gave scale to the structure.
The facade faced the back of the Temple of Concord in the Forum and consisted of three levels. The first story was a large and tall fortified wall with a single door and only small windows near the top to light the interior, forum level rooms. The second story featured a Doric arcade (partially preserved) and the third, no longer extant story, had a high Corinthian order colonnade. The upper floors of this structure was much changed in the 13th century, when the Palazzo dei Senatori was built.
Some scholars, such as Filippo Coarelli, in the past, have suggested that the ‘Tabularium’ itself is unattested to in any literary sources. Furthermore, its function and purpose has been the subject of debate. The unity of the main structure does however suggest that the building was at least initially conceived to serve a singular purpose. To illustrate the complexity of the building, Filippo Coarelli has stated that a particular annex of the Aerarium Saturni was constructed specifically to house metal ingots and minted Republican coins. Recent evidence, in the form of six military diplomas dated from AD 85 to 88, confirms the existence of the ‘Tabularium’ in its renowned form. Coarelli has suggested that the ‘Tabularium’ can be dated precisely to 78 BC, although construction began many years prior and almost certainly prior to the death of Sulla. The building itself is in many ways intrinsically tied to the politics of Sulla, especially in regard to the temple substructure. The structure was considered such an enduring masterpiece of late Republican architecture that a funerary inscription for the architect commissioned by Lutatius Catalus was created and preserved in a courtyard of the hospital of the Fatebenefatelli, on Tiber island. The inscription reads as follows: ‘Lucius Cornelius, son of Lucius, of the Voturia tribe, chief engineer to Q. Lucius Catulus when he was consul, architect (to him) when he was censor’.
Nicholas Purcell’s article Atrium Libertatis is aligned with the view of contemporary historians regarding the epigraphic evidence once present within the Tabularium. In his detailed analysis of the now-lost inscriptions Purcell makes clear that these inscriptions have compounded our misunderstanding of one of the largest, oldest and best-preserved buildings of the Roman Republic.
The generic terms ‘probatio’ of a ‘substructio’ and a ‘tabularium’ were recorded by an early Renaissance antiquarian in that order. It is arguable that the identification of the so-called ‘Tabularium’ is incorrect. Purcell draws our attention to the lack of archaeological and epigraphic knowledge on ‘tabularia’ suggesting that these inscriptions were not intended to be grandiose in scope, nor did they name the building which further reflects the prevailing credulity of the structure in question. Purcell’s reference to the archaeological research conducted by Theodor Mommsenaligns with his argument and likely indicates that historians must set aside such misunderstandings reflected in the literary sources. As Mommsen stated quite rightly that ‘tabularium’ is a term that may be applied any structure associated with administration. Therefore, it is likely that the ‘Tabularium’ in question, despite the sheer size fronting the Capitoline Hill, was one of many structures built for the purpose of holding records.
Purcell’s assessment of the epigraphic evidence once found within the structure in question reaffirms the following view long held by academics that the ‘Tabularium’ is insufficiently documented and the product of scholarly inertia. This unfortunately has further compounded our understanding of the Capitoline substructure, and as a result, we are no closer to identifying the extent of its function, let alone its name.
Tucci’s article radically changed the way historians and archaeologists alike would view the ‘Tabularium’, questioning the very identification of the structure and its function. Exploring the history of archaeology at the site, Tucci makes clear that the identification of the so-called ‘Tabularium’ is hinged solely upon an inscription long lost (CIL VI 1314, 31597), with no ancient evidence from the period directly correlating to the site. As such, it is arguable that the word tabularium itself has been incorrectly in modern scholarship with reference to the building. Instead, Tucci argues that the substructure, which provides the foundations for the entire building, was itself likely a tabularium, being one of many offices housed within Roman buildings and temples for the purpose of holding records. As such, Tucci disputes the idea that a sole Tabularium or mass-archive of Rome ever existed. In alignment with this argument, Tucci subsequently seeks to identify the structure in occupation of the space above the Tabularium substructure. In examining the architectural link between the rooms of the substructure and that of a south-western building, Tucci, in accordance with historians before him, could identify the remnants of an extension of the Aerarium, or treasury, which was housed in the Temple of Saturn. Subsequently, in correlation with the accounts of Livy (7.28.4-6), Ovid (Fasti 6.183-85) and Cicero (De domo 38.101) Tucci draws attention to a clear association between the location of this mint, and that of the Temple of Juno Moneta. With reference to the archaeological research of Giannelli and his identification of concrete remains in the Aracoeli Garden in the Forum, Tucci argues for the foundations of Giannelli’s supposed Temple of Juno Moneto to date back to the 4th century B.C, thus indicating a relocation. Tucci’s argument thus is fulfilled as he concludes that in circa 78 B.C., the Temple of Juno Moneto was rededicated atop the substructure of the Tabularium, in a complex which included the extended Aerarium, and that this relocation likely occurred after the fire of 83 B.C. As a result, Tucci called into question both the identification and function of the so-called ‘Tabularium’, in his attempt to overturn a theory that had been taken for historical fact since the 15th century A.D.
Fillipo Coarelli (2010) uses the arguments and findings of Nicholas Purcell (1993), Henner von Heserb (1995) and Pier Luigi Tucci (2005) to propose an alternative understanding of the function of the Tabularium. These works are characterised by their ability to provide alternative understandings when questioning the function of the “Tabularium.” It is important to note that prior these studies, research and scholarship of the “Tabularium” was primarily saturated by the Richard Delbruck’s Hellenistiche Bauten in Latium, published in 1875. It was Delbruck’s findings that rendered the conclusion that the Tabularium served as a house of public records. However, writing in 2010, Coarelli has had access to a wider range of both archaeological and written sources that probe a deeper inquest in to traditional discourses that cloud our conception of the function and meaning of the “Tabularium.”
Within Substructio et tabularium, Coarelli fundamentally purports that “the so-called tabularium is not the archive of the Roman state, known by this name’ and the rejection of this long held but incorrect hypothesis permits us to study the monument afresh.” He goes on to state that “[the tabularium] represents in fact the foundations (substructio) of a large temple of the Sullan period, restored by Domitian after the fire of 80AD.” Throughout his work, Coarelli uses the findings of Purcell, von Hesberg and Tucci as a roadmap that forms the basis of his argument. He begins with Purcell’s epigraphic discoveries that connotes the classification of the Tabularium as a records building: “Populi tabularia ubi publici continentur” (Populi Tabularia where the public documents are housed.). Moving to von Hesberg, Coarelli highlights the study of the dimensions of architectural pieces from the Tabularium that suggest “the second floor of the building must have been significantly wider than the arched lower floor”, proposing that there was a temple structure within the Tabularium (Fig. X.). Finally, Coarelli’s inclusion of Tucci’s findings builds upon von Hesberg’s assertion, serving as a sounding board for Coarelli’s initial thesis; that the “Tabularium” served as the basement of a proposed temple.
Coarelli tracks the structural changes that took place within the Tabularium, and ultimately concludes that it is challenging for historians to ascertain the absolute meaning of this structure due to the “complexity of [it].” He points out that only until recently have we been able to understand that the Tabularium actually existed due to the emergence of from six military diplomas, with dates ranging from AD85-88. Further, these diplomas refer the location of the Tabularium publicum to the Capitolium. Here, the location is extremely significant. Coarelli states that the tabularium “must have been situated in the immediate environs of the area Capitolina, where the military diplomas were displayed until AD90.” Thus, it is clear that the tabularium was a multifaceted building that pertained to the political and religious culture of the Roman empire.
Thus, by expanding upon the arguments of Purcell, von Hesberg and Tucci, Coarelli positions himself to further execute his overarching thesis with increased clarity. Fundamentally, by galvanising the “deep-rooted biases” that obfuscate the understanding of the Tabularium, Coarelli is able to suggest that the Tabularium is rather a multifaceted structure that pertained to the political and religious centre of the Roman world.
- Chisholm 1911, p. 341.
- (eds.), Olivier Hekster/Richard Fowler (2005). Imaginary Kings royal images in the Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome. [Stuttgart]: Steiner. ISBN 3515087656.
- Musei Capitoloni, Rome.
- Oxford Classical dictionary, 2012
- Filippo Coarelli, Substructio et Tabularium, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 78 (2010), p. 123.
- Nicholas Purcell, Atrium Libertatis, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 61 (1993), p. 135
- Nicholas Purcell, Atrium Libertatis, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 61 (1993), p. 140
- Atrium Libertatis
- Tucci, P. L., 2005. ‘Where High Moneta leads her steps sublime. The “Tabularium” and the Temple of Juno Moneta’, Journal of Roman Archaeology vol. 18, 6-33
- G. Giannelli, 1978. “La Leggenda dei ‘Mirabilia’ e l’antica topografia dell’Arce Capitolina”, StRom vol. 26, 60-71, as cited in P. L. Tucci (2005)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Tabularium“. Encyclopædia Britannica. 26(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.