Chapter V - Temple of Fortune

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The Temple of Fortune may be considered as one of the best examples of the Roman style now remaining, and is doubly interesting as being the erection of the Tullian family, immortalized in the person of Cicero.

It is observable that this edifice neither stands exactly at right angles with the street of Fortune, nor exactly in the line of the street running between the baths and the house of Pansa. The portico is turned a little toward the Forum, and the front of the temple was so contrived that a part of it might also be seen from the other street. It is highly probable that these circumstances were the result of design rather than of chance. The Greeks seem to have preferred the view of a magnificent building from a corner, and there is scarcely a rightangled plan to be found in either ancient or modern Italy.

The Temple of Fortune is placed upon a podium or stylobate, the height of which protects it from the contamination of the street, and which was necessary where no peribolus existed. This consists of two members, the upper of which may be called a pluteus or stylobate. The whole may be about eight feet high, and is built with good blocks of Travertino stone.

By the plan, plate XIX, and the view of the remains, plate XX, it may be seen that the ascent was by two entrances of three steps each, separated by a platform projecting between them, on which stands a pedestal commonly supposed to have supported a statue, but which was, in all probability, the altar on which blazed the incense and sacrifices of the votaries of the fickle goddess of Antium and Preneste. Whether this was the custom in all cases has been doubted ; but neither victims, nor a great quantity of incense, could have been offered in any temple not hypaethral, without producing suffocation. The great circular altar may yet be traced at the east front of the Parthenon, which was hypaethral ; and at Pompeii the temples of Venus, Isis, and Aesculapius offer abundant proof of the situation of the altars in front of the temples.

The iron rails, which prevented the entrance of the profane, are yet visible in front of this platform, and were passed by two gates five palms four inches wide, placed on the lower platform after an ascent of four steps. These steps are twice as wide as the iron gates, and nine perpendicular bars formed the rails to the right and left of each entry. There were fifteen bars in the railing in front of the altar, and all seem wrenched and distorted, and broken by the fall of the entablature of the temple. The sanctity of the place rendered unnecessary any other protection, for even the cell had no door.

From the platform, which ran along the whole width of the temple, a flight of eight steps ascended to the columns of the portico, which were of white marble, and of the Corinthian order. The whole was covered, both on the exterior and interior, with thin slabs of the same material. The capitals of the columns are one foot eleven inches in height ; those of the pilasters of what may be termed the antae are two feet. There were probably four against the front of the cell, for three yet remain. There is yet a rich block cornice and mouldings with well-cut roses of white marble lying on the ground.

The measures of the Temple of Fortune are given in a work published at Naples thus :

The podium ninety-two palms long by thirty-six broad. The palm here used is that of ten English inches. The stylobate is eighty-three palms long by thirty-five palms nine inches. The height of the stylobate is six pains six inches.

The pronaos is thirty-one palms wide by twenty-nine long, according to the published account ; but there seems to be reason for supposing that the columns in front did not stand quite close to the upper step. Four columns were placed in front, and three in the flanks, reckoning the angles twice.

The central intercolumniation was two palms wider than the other, and this is supposed to have been determined by the Neapolitan Author, from the position of the doorand four pilasters against the angles, or anta, and front wall of the cell, the capitals of some of which yet exist.

The flanks of the cell were decorated externally with five pilasters. These measuring from centre to centre eight feet six English, seem the safest guide for determining the position and number of the columns in the flanks of the portico.

The cell is twenty-six palms nine inches wide, by thirty-four palms ten inches long, according to Signor Becchi. On the outside, the cell measures about thirty-three feet eight inches English in length ; and, though those who have written on the subject have imagined three columns, including those of the angles in the flanks of the portico, and De Goro six, it is difficult to imagine how any number exceeding two could have corresponded with the five pilasters.

The great niche at the east end, in which were the shrine and statue of the Goddess, is seventeen pains vide, and the aedicola itself is ten palms wide.

The shrine had an architectural canopy, of which the architrave is nine palms five inches long, and one palm two inches high, supported by two Corinthian pillars one palm three inches in diameter, of which the capitals, one palm three inches high, remain, though the whole had evidently been excavated by the ancients themselves in search of treasure. On the marble architrave is the inscription.


By this we learn that the Goddess was named Fortuna Augusta, and that Marcus Tullius, elected by the people three times, erected the temple on his own ground, and at his own expense.

A small court, immediately under the south wall of the portico, was also the property of the same person, as is proved by the inscription on a volcanic stone erected close to the podium of the temple.


In this court seem to have been the lodgings for the priests, and their kitchen. A head of Bacchus, which supported a round table, was found here, with two cups, a mortar, and other utensils of bronze.

Some have thought fit to dispute the identity of this family of the Tullii with that of the great orator, and to give, as a reason, the absence of the word Cicero in these inscriptions which Plutarch thought derived from the cultivation of pulse in ancient times, as was the case with the agricultural names of the families of Lentulus and Fabius. Others, however, thought that the orator was so named from a mole upon his nose in the form of a vetch, in which case the name of Cicero was not borne by bis ancestors but personal. The Temple of Fortune owes so much of its interest to the supposition that the family of Cicero was concerned in its erection, that it may be pleasing to see, by the genealogy, how improbable must be a contrary opinion.

It would appear, from this, highly probable that the Temple of Fortune must have been erected either by the great orator himself or his son, particularly as it is not known that his ancestors had property at Pompeii, and we have four generations with the name of Marcus, two of which are mentioned in these inscriptions.

In the Temple of Fortune was found a statue which many thought that of Cicero himself. It was of the size of life, or about six feet high. The hair, face, and eyes had been painted, and the toga was of a purple tint. A female statue was also found, but the face had been evidently eut off perpendicularly, that another face might be substituted, possibly to save expense on some funeral ceremony. Her tunic had a border either of gold or of a red colour.

On a basis of white marble, cylindrically hollowed, one foot two inches high, by about one foot five, and found at this temple, is inscribed


The Fasti Consulares give the name of C. SILIVS to one of the Consuls in the year 13 of the Christian aera, and that is probably the date of the inscription.

In the area Privata, on the south side of the Temple of Fortune, are the vestiges of what seem to have been the offices of the priests. At the end near the altar is a pole which may have served to facilitate the mystery of responses or oracles. Eusebius, in the fourth book of his Preparatio, cites a case in which mention is made, before the Roman magistrates, of machines by which phantasmagoria and oracular prestiges were played off, and the shrine in the Temple of Fortune is so disposed as to admit of such impostures.

On another base belonging to the Temple of Fortune was found a second inscription.


Several persons of the name of Aelianus were Consuls, but they are generally of a period later than the destruction of Pompeii. Statilius Taurus is also a name not unfrequent in the list of Consuls, but it is not easy to say which, if any one of them, is here named.

The mistakes ministorum for ministrorum, marmorias and poniret, are probably the faults of the sculptor : if not, the marble must be of a later time, which seems difficult. It is not a little strange that when a statue ought to have been placed, a couple of bases could serve in its stead if sculpture existed as an art at the time.

In plate XXI is given a restoration of the Temple of Fortune, made upon a tracing from the original drawing as obtained by the camera lucida. The end proposed, in all restorations, is to assist the unpractised spectator in understanding the application of the confused masses of architectural fragments which he often sees, without comprehending.

For this purpose the disjointed members are reunited according to the known rules of architecture, and no greater mistake can easily occur than that of a diameter, more or less, in the height of the columns, which the experience of every new discovery teaches us not to have been so invariable as some have imagined.

In the peristyle of a house excavated at Herculaneum in the year 1828 the Author observed columns of an order intended for Corinthian, the shafts of which are only four diameters and three-fourths in height, not greatly different from those of the shortest examples of Doric. They were so far apart that beams of timber only were used as architraves, the whole of which rernained perfect, though converted into charcoal by the tufa produced by the eruption.

The columns of the ancients seem to have been adapted to the building, and not the building to the columns. In fact, the outline of a Doric temple varied little from one of the Corinthian order ; but the latter aiming at lightness, slighter columns were used. The number was consequently increased and the entablature diminished, but the outline of the whole was the same. The gigantic temples of antiquity could never have been constructed had the architects adhered to the notion that the distance of two diameters and a half, called the eustyle, for the intercolumniation was essential, for architraves could not have been procured. On the other hand, some of the smaller temples could not have been sufficiently accessible without resorting to the areostyle, requiring frequently architraves of timber, and, very often, that the architraves and frieze should be of one block, when of marble, in order to resist the disposition to break which must arise from such long intervals between the points of suspension. The arch supported a bronze equestrian statue, supposed to be that of Caligula or Tiberius, which has been already noticed in the preface. This was discovered in the months of November and December, 1823, and beginning of 1824. The statue from the head to the horse was three feet high. The tail and hoof only of the horse were then found. The work was not of the first order. On a marble near it was found an inscription which would seem rather to prove that !lugustus was the Emperor represented.


Bonucci, however, says this was found in the temple. The capital and part of the shaft of a Doric pillar lying below the arch may have belonged to the ornaments of the arch itself ; and the remains of water-pipes yet visible in the piers of the arch, with the vestiges of unfinished work in front, rentier the existence of fountains probable.

The situation and present state of this edifice will be thoroughly comprehended by a reference to plate XXII, which represents the place as it appears from the roof of the natatorium or piscina of the baths, the cone or dome of which forms a principal object in the foreground, and which, from its construction, would evidently have resisted the attacks of time, had it not projected above the soil of the vineyard.

Vignette 12 - Commentary