9

From Wikipedia article on the Temple of Trajan in Rome:

The Temple of Trajan was a Roman temple dedicated to the emperor Trajan and his wife Plotina after his deification by the Roman Senate. It was built in the Forum of Trajan (Rome), by Trajan's adoptive son and successor Hadrian, between 125 and 138. It was destroyed in the Middle Ages.

The same article states that the exact place of it is unknown.

Is it known how and when exactly was destroyed?

Google searching this can be tricky, as most results are from a Trajan Temple in Pergamon (destroyed by an earthquake), and from another Trajan Temple in Antioch (burnt down by Emperor Jovian).

2 Answers 2

9

The Temple of Trajan has not actually been excavated, hence the ambiguity surrounding its fate. However, it is thought to have been at where the 16th century Santa Maria di Loreto is presently located. It was not unusual for Medieval or Renaissance churches to be built on ancient temples.

Excavations of the [Loreto] foundations disclosed a number of large fragments of marble, probably from the Temple of the Deified Trajan; and Michelangelo may have carved one of the larger pieces into the base for the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Packer, James E. The Forum of Trajan in Rome: A Study of the Monuments in Brief. University of California Press, 2001.

Construction on the Loreto Church began in 1507, though it was known to have been built over an earlier chapel. This implies that the Temple of Trajan was destroyed some time in the 15th century, probably by having a chapel built over its foundations and its marble recycled.

In all likelihood, the temple was in a state of extreme disrepair before its final destruction.

1
  • Exactly. If the temple was still useable, the building would simply be re-used. (Tearing down a perfectly good building and then constructing another in the same place was expensive.) Re-use is basically how temples like the Pantheon survived after people ceased paying for upkeep. Once it was a church, there were priests and a congregation who would politely but firmly suggest that building contractors look elsewhere for their materials.
    – Mark Olson
    Oct 25, 2023 at 0:36
1

Recent excavations and analysis by Roberto Meneghini, archaeologist in charge of all Roman imperial forums for 30 years, has concluded that the Temple of the Deified Trajan was actually located at the far southern end of the Forum of Trajan, abutting the Forum of Augustus. Because of the limited space afforded by this location, the temple was more of a shrine - probably hexastyle (6 columns across).

Traditional point-of-view is that the temple was located at the far northern end, beyond the Column of Trajan - which may have been an incorrect assumption.

The huge granite columns sections and white marble capitals found north of the Column of Trajan may have been part of a monumental gate, looking something like the huge 16-column (50 ft, 15 metre high, made of gray Egyptian granite) portico of the the Pantheon. It was assumed the large granite columns found in the vicinity of the Ulpian libraries and Column of Trajan were part of a massive octastyle (8-column wide) Corinthian temple. A very important consideration is how, despite many excavations north of the Column of Trajan, convincing evidence of a massive Roman temple podium (foundation) has not yet been discovered. It has been assumed that a church, built in the 1400s, was constructed over the Temple of the Divine Trajan - but that is just supposition. Where is the archaeological proof of that? Surely a massive octastyle temple containing numerous 15 metre (60 foot) high columns, would leave a huge imprint in the ground - where is it?

Consider also the timeline of both the Forum of Trajan (completed 112 AD and the Pantheon (completed 125 AD). Both were built by the same presumed architect (Apollodorus of Damascus). Also, very importantly, both the Pantheon portico (front entrance area) and the massive gray granite columns found north of the Column of Trajan are of the same material - gray granite shipped from Egypt. Those found at the Forum of Trajan are 60 ft in length (18 metres), whereas those of the Pantheon are 50 ft (15 metres). However, the Pantheon was originally designed to use 60 ft columns, as you can see the architectural discrepancy on the front of the Pantheon. The point is, just as those same granite columns were used to construct a grand 16 column entrance to the Pantheon, it is indeed possible those same granite columns found in the northern part of the Forum of Trajan also were used to construct another grand northern monumental entrance to the Forum of Trajan.

The argument by Prof. Packer to the above is that almost 30 massive gray granite columns (29) were found - far more, he says, than are required to construct an octastyle (8 column-wide) entrance. However, if the hypothetical northern monumental entrance (portico) to the Forum of Trajan employed the same plan as the Pantheon - that alone accounts for 16 columns. Furthermore, if just 7 more columns were employed along the walls on either side of the entrance, that would total 30 columns, based on 16 for the entrance and 14 for the northern walls abutting the Ulpian Libraries.

Thus the debate rages on about not only the location of the Temple of the Deified (divine) Trajan, but also its structure. The debate seems to be polarized thusly: Roberto Meneghini (archaeologist) versus James Packer (Historian). So who is correct about the temple location - north or south end of the forum? Also, what size and appearance did the temple have - massive octastyle (8 column-wide temple) vs smaller shrine-like hexastyle (6-column wide) temple.

In my opinion, though I do tend to accept more the Meneghini position, I do believe both points-of-view have merit, and hopefully the debate is finally resolved one day.

1
  • 3
    Sources would improve this answer. Thank you. Oct 25, 2023 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.