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Roman Temple Front, Laodicea

Roman Temple Front, Laodicea

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The Church at Laodicea in Asia Minor

Laodicea was the chief city of the Lycus River Valley region. The full name of the city was Laodicea ad Lyceum (Laodicea on the Lycus). The city was originally known as Diospolis ("the City of Zeus").

The Greek deity considered to be the greatest of the Olympian gods. Homer, the Greek poet, often called Zeus "the father of gods and men," the ruler and protector of all.

The city was founded between 261 and 253 B.C. by Antiochus II Theos, king of Syria, and named in honor of his wife, Laodice (Laodike). "The early population of the city probably consisted of natives of the area, Hellenized Greeks and veteran soldiers in the army of Antiochus II" (Fatih Cimok, A Guide to the Seven Churches, p. 88).

The city became part of the kingdom of Pergamon and later passed into Roman hands in 133 B.C. Cicero, the famous Roman orator and statesman, served as governor of the province, residing mostly in Laodicea.

Laodicea was a great center of banking and finance (Rev. 3:14-21). It was one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient world! When Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 A.D., they refused aid from the Roman empire and rebuilt the city from their own wealth. "One of the most famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was in the same year overthrown by an earthquake and without any relief from us recovered itself by its own resources" (Tacitus, Annals, 14:27).

"The city was at the crossroads of north-south traffic between Sardis and Perga and east-west from the Euphrates to Ephesus. Laodicea quickly became a rich city, rich enough to be able to rebuild itself without outside help after the destructive earthquake of 60 A.D. In common with many of the Hellenistic cities there was a prosperous Jewish colony established there well before the Christian era. The city's reputation was for its money transactions and the good quality of raven-black wool grown in the area." (Blake and Edmonds, Biblical Sites in Turkey, p. 139-140).

Laodicea was a great center for the manufacturing of clothing—the sheep which grazed around Laodicea were famous for the soft, black wool they produced. Laodicea was well known for it's school of medicine.

"One of the principles of medicine at that time was that compound diseases required compound medicines. One of the compounds used for strengthening the ears was made from the spice nard (spikenard? an aromatic plant). Galen says that it was originally made only in Laodicea, although by the second century A.D. it was made in other places also. Galen also described a medicine for the eyes made of Phrygian stone. Aristotle spoke of it as a Phrygian powder. Ramsay tries to explain what kind of medicine it was by saying it was not an ointment but a cylindrical collyrium that could be powdered and then spread on the part affected. The term used by John in Revelation is the same that Galen uses to describe the preparation of the Phrygian stone. Would not these medicinal concoctions be a reason why John cautions the Laodiceans to buy 'ointment for your eyes so that you may see' (Revelation 3:18)?" (Blake and Edmonds, Biblical Sites in Turkey, p. 140).

"The principal deity worshipped in Laodicea was the Phrygian god Men Karou, the Carian Men. In connection with this god's temple there grew up a famous school of medicine, which followed the teachings of Herophilus (330-250 B.C.) who began administering compound mixtures to his patients on the principle that compound diseases require compound medicines." (Otto F.A. Meinardus, St. John of Patmos, p. 125).

Two of the doctors from Laodicea were so famous that their names appear on the coins of the city (Zeuxis and Alexander Philalethes).

The hot springs at Hierapolis, just six miles across the Lycus River valley and to the south, are probably what John had in mind when he spoke of lukewarm water (Rev. 3:15-17). No other city on the Lycus Valley was as dependent on external water supplies as Laodicea. Water was also piped in through an aqueduct from Colosse.

"The lukewarmness for which, thanks to this letter, the name of Laodicea has become proverbial, may reflect the condition of the city's water supply. The water supplied by the spring . was tepid and nauseous by the time it was piped to Laodicea, unlike the therapeutic hot water of Hierapolis or the refreshing cold water of Colossae (Rudwick and Green 1958) hence the Lord's words, 'Would that you were cold or hot!'" (The Anchor Bible Dictionary).

"Water piped into Laodicea by aqueduct from the south was so concentrated with minerals that the Roman engineers designed vents, capped by removable stones, so the aqueduct pipes could periodically be cleared of deposits." (John McRay, Archaeology And The New Testament, p. 248).

Our Lord did not accuse the brethren in Laodicea of apostasy, nor with following some false prophet or engaging in emperor worship. The church is accused of being "lukewarm"—this is the only congregation about which the Lord had nothing good to say!

The remains of the city are basically unexcavated, so most of what we know about the history of the city comes from written sources. The remains of two theaters, one Greek and one Roman, are on the northeastern slope of the plateau. A large stadium which also served as an amphitheater, dedicated by a wealthy citizen to the Roman emperor Vespasian in 79 A.D., can be found on the opposite end of the plateau. The stadium was used for both athletic contests and gladiatorial shows. Archaeologists discovered a life-sized statue of the goddess Isis in the ancient nymphaeum, or monumental fountain.

The Gate to Ephesus, triple-arched and flanked by towers, was devoted to the Emperor Domition (81-96 A.D.). On the south-west side stand a number of buildings built under Vespasian (69-79 A.D.). An aqueduct bringing water into the city ended in a 16 foot tall water tower which distributed water throughout the city.

"An inscription erected by a freed slave from Laodicea was dedicated to Marcus Sestius Philemon. It will be recalled that a Philemon who owned the slave Onesimus (Philem. 10) was a leader in the church of Colossae. We cannot identify this Philemon with the slaveholdper to whom Paul wrote, but the coincidence of the inscription from the same area is intriguing, especially since it refers to the manumission of a slave." (John McRay, Archaeology And The New Testament, p. 247).

What can you learn from these churches? Laodicea took great pride in her financial wealth, yet the Lord told them to buy "gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich." Laodicea took pride in its clothing, yet the Lord told them to buy "white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed." Laodicea took pride in its eye medicine, yet the Lord told them to buy "anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."

The Lord promised to "dine" ("sup" KJV) with the one who would hear His voice and open the door (Rev. 3:19-20). "The word translated sup is deipnein and its corresponding noun is deipnon. The Greeks had three meals in the day. There was akratisma, breakfast, which was no more than a piece of dried bread dipped in wine. There was ariston, the midday meal. A man did not go home for it it was simply a picnic snack eaten by the side of the pavement, or in some colonnade, or in the city square. There was deipnon this was the evening meal the main meal of the day people lingered over it, for the day's work was done. It was the deipnon that Christ would share with the man who answered His knock, no hurried meal, but that where people lingered in fellowship. If a man will open the door, Jesus Christ will come in and linger long with him." (William Barclay, The Revelation Of John, Vol. 1, pp. 147-148).

Roman Temple Front, Laodicea - History

The Tell

Colossae was located 120 miles (193 km) east of Ephesus in the Lycus River Valley in ancient Phrygia, part of the Roman territory of Asia Minor. It was one of a triad of cities in the area (the other two being Laodicea and Hierapolis), resting at the foot of Mount Cadmus. Its biblical significance lies in the fact that the book of Colossians was addressed to the church here (Col 1:2) and that Philemon lived in this city.


Although no excavations have yet taken place, surveys of the site reveal remains on the acropolis including a defensive wall and a pit lined with stones to the west. A theater lies on the eastern side and a necropolis to the north of the Lycus River, a branch of the Meander. Flinders University of Australia has a plan to excavate the site, but the lack of interest from its Turkish partner has so far prevented the inauguration of archaeological work. As Michael Trainor notes, “It would appear that Colossae suffers the same fate today as it has in past centuries—it just doesn’t seem as glamorous as its competing archaeological neighbors” of Laodicea and Hierapolis. For more information, see Alan H. Cadwallader and Michael Trainor, eds., Colossae in Space and Time: Linking to an Ancient City, and Alan H. Cadwallader, Fragments of Colossae: Sifting through the Traces.

The Epistle to the Colossians

Paul had never visited Colossae when he composed his epistle to the church here, but he does imply that Epaphras founded the church, along with those at Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col 1:7-8 4:12-13). This was probably during Paul’s third missionary journey, when he preached in Ephesus for two years, “so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10, KJV).

Streams of Cold Water

In John’s message to the Laodicean church (Rev 3:14-22), he speaks of the lukewarmness of Laodicea, that they were “neither cold nor hot” (vv. 15-16). This local allusion would have been clear to citizens of Laodicea, who knew of the cold, pure waters of nearby Colossae.

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Related Websites

Colossae (Pilgrim Tours). A collection of Bible dictionary entries regarding Colossae.

Colossae (The Catholic Encyclopedia). Highlights the biblical significance of the site while briefly describing geographical and physical properties of the site and surrounding area.

Colossae (All About Turkey). A short but helpful page with links to related articles.

Colossae (WebBible Encyclopedia, Summarizes some facts about the site with internal links to related topics.

Colossae (Drive Thru History). This article explores the history of Colossae in connection with Paul’s letter.

Colossae ( Interests the reader with both physically and biblically descriptive facts.

Colossae (WebBible Encyclopedia, Interests the reader with both physically and biblically descriptive facts, including internal links to related topics.

Colossae – Finding the Freedom to Forgive (Wayne Stiles) Stiles observes a few applications for life from the archaeology and geography of Colossae.

Revelation's Warning

The church in Philadelphia was the sixth of seven churches who received a spiritual evaluation directly from God through Jesus Christ.

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write: These things says the Holy One, the one Who is true the one Who has the key of David . . .

I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, and no one has the power to shut it because you have a little strength, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who proclaim themselves to be Jews and are not, but do lie - behold, I will cause them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

Because you (certain brethren in Philadelphia) have kept the word of My patience, I also will keep you from the time of temptation which is about to come upon the whole world to try those who dwell on the earth.

Behold, I am coming quickly hold fast that which you have so that no one may take away your crown. The one who overcomes (in Philadelphia and in all places where Christians dwell) will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall not go out any more and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of heaven from My God . . . (Revelation 3:7 - 12, HBFV).

Of Mass Baptisms and National Churches

Can a king-ordered mass baptism of his nation’s citizens really bring about their genuine conversion to Christ? What are we to make of Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations"? The “conversion” of Kievan Rus’ was a king-commanded, soldier-implemented “Christianization” of a people. So was it valid? Kemmerer says it was, and offers a rationale that focuses on problems with the stereotypical Western concept of salvation and how to carry out the Great Commission.

See Seven Ancient Ruins As They Would Have Looked In Their Prime

From the unmatched wonder of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat to the sprawling majesty of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar (aka Burma). From Egypt’s Great Sphinx of Giza to the extraordinary carved city of Petra in Jordan. These remnants of the ancient world have long cast a spell over travelers from every corner of the globe.

In fact, a quick check of any ‘most popular tourist attractions in the world’ list (note attractions, not cities) will likely throw up more ancient man-made sites than modern attractions or natural wonders, with Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis and Rome’s Colosseum regular contenders for the top spot.

People’s interest is clear. We’ve long been fascinated by our past as and how it shapes our future – how people lived, what technologies they had, what their homes and public spaces looked like and just how they built these extraordinary edifices without modern machinery.

But it’s often tough to really get a sense of what these ancient buildings would have looked like in their heyday - many were resplendent in gold and other finery, intricately carved and finished with elements no modern tourist can ever see and would struggle to imagine.

Now though, with a little creativity and some help from the technical, historical and architectural experts at Expedia , we can see what seven of the great ancient ruins of the world would have looked like to those who lived with them at their peak. Enjoy.

The Parthenon

The Parthenon, then and now.

Casting views from the hilltop at the Acropolis citadel in Athens, Greece, the Parthenon is a true ancient wonder whose Doric architecture has been ravaged by time and war. Its cavernous halls once held a huge golden statue of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, craft and (ironically) war.

Nohoch Mul Pyramid, Cobá

Original colours and details shine a new light on Nohoch Mul.

The Mayans built some amazing stuff before the Spanish conquistadors spoiled the party, with pyramids to rival those of Egypt. Cobá, set deep and remote in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, was settled some time between 100 BC and 100 AD and occupied right up until 1550. Amid the thick jungle, extraordinary caves and natural pools are dotted many temples, with Nohoch Mul the tallest at 137 feet. Rediscovered in the 1800s and only accessible to the public since 1973, it remains one of the most extraordinary insights into the tenacity of ancient humans to leave their mark anywhere in the world.

Temple of Jupiter

From a few broken columns to its original splendor, the Temple of Jupiter.

As its name suggests, this temple was built in honour of Jupiter, the Roman god of sky and thunder, on the Bay of Naples in a thriving city called Pompeii. Modern man may think they didn’t do a good enough job though, as it was buried beneath the wrath of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79AD in what remains the most famous volcanic eruption in history. Rediscovered in the 16th century, it took many years of excavation to uncover its limited remains.

Milecastle 39, Hadrian’s Wall

Little more than foundations now, Milecastle 39 was once a Roman stronghold.

Britain’s lesser known ‘great wall’ was a monumental Roman achievement - 73 miles of border cut through the English countryside dating back to the first century AD. Built (we think) to secure Roman Emperor Hadrian’s grip on the island nation and its pesky inhabitants, it had forts known as Milecastles built at each Roman mile along its length. All but gone now, this gives us a glimpse into how they would have looked.

Luxor Temple

The famed Luxor Temple returning to its original glory.

One of the most recognisable names connected to ancient architecture, Luxor takes its name from the Arabic for fortification – al-Uqsur – and has been a sacred site since its commission in 1380BC by Amenhotep III. It was renovated and updated a century later by Rameses II who added a great pylon gateway and courtyard, connected to the nearby Karnak Temple by an avenue of sphinxes to guard it. An iconic structure in a country filled with them.

The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán

This virtual renovation shows the true scale of the original Pyramid of the Sun.

A genuine modern day mystery, we know Teotihuacán was one of Mexico’s first urban centres sometime between the first and seventh centuries CE but we don’t know much about who built it or who lived there. Of its many extraordinary and mysterious structures, The Pyramid of the Sun is by far the largest – an ancient, man-made mountain.

Temple B, Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

Temple B – more impressive than its name suggests.

Built in Italy not Argentina as the name may suggest, this gorgeous central Roman square once housed four exquisite temples. The most recently discovered (and least romantically named) Temple B was found in the 1920s and still has six columns and the original steps and altar intact. Perhaps most famous as the place where Julius Caesar uttered his immortal accusation, ‘Et tu, Bruté?’, as he was stabbed to death, it’s one of the lesser known but more remarkable sites from the Roman civilization, and isn’t often open to visitors.

Boudica and The Slaughter at Camulodunum

Camulodunum (Colchester) was the capital of Roman Britain, and the site of the first battle of the Iceni rebellion. What happened at Camulodunum deserves special mention as it was not simply a battle, but a systematic slaughter of every Roman who lived there.

The rage of the occupied Britons is hard to overestimate. The wound that had been festering among the British tribes at the rough handling of the indigenous people was finally cauterised with the systematic butchering of every Roman in Camulodunum.

Boadicea (Boudica) haranguing the Britons, by John Opie

The mutual hatred at the time was palpable. Boudica was ruler of a satellite kingdom to Rome, and by that measure, very probably a Roman citizen. After the death of her husband Prasutagus, the imperial procurator Decianus Catus seized all of his estate. When Boudica contested this, she was flogged and her daughters raped. To strip and flog a Roman citizen would have been anathema, but more than that, to gang-rape two princesses, who were most probably virgins, was even more unthinkable. The fact that the Roman historian Tacitus describes these events so sparingly shows the abhorrence with which this would have been considered at the time. Tacitus, who delights in the description of the later brutalities of the campaign, is circumspect at best in describing these atrocities, for that is what they were. This shows his shock and disgust at these events. Romans considered the Iceni sub-human and treated them so the Iceni saw their occupiers as brutal and amoral. This sickening symbiosis of hatred led to what was one of the most violent massacres of the time.

Camulodunum was no different to any other Roman occupied town at that time. With the indigenous peoples being taxed to pay for their own servitude, the occupation was universally despised. At the same time there was famine and people were going hungry: add to this the fact that some taxes were paid in grain, and the resentment only deepened. Furthermore, young Iceni men were being conscripted into the Roman army to fight and die for those they hated, and the tribal lands were being systematically seized by Roman citizens, dispossessing those who had lived on and farmed that land for years.

Bust of the Emperor Claudius

However, what made Camulodunum more important than most was the adding of insult to this already immeasurable injury: the construction of the Temple of Claudius. This temple was erected in the town to honour the very Roman Emperor who had enforced their subjugation. The people loathed this symbol of Roman dominance.

When Boudica’s rebellion began in outrage in AD60, Camulodunum was not chosen as the first target for their collective retribution by accident, but because it exemplified the quintessential Roman rule in Britain at the time.

The land surrounding the town had been taken from the Trinobantes tribe and given to Roman veterans to live out their retirement in peace and comfort. The town had been completely rebuilt on a Roman grid system and the temple to Claudius had been erected within it.

The Roman Balkerne Gate at Colchester

The Trinobantes had been some of the first to join the rebellion, aching to revenge themselves on their Roman overlords. As the army (and it was an army) marched towards Camulodunum many, many more people joined the rebellion. It was no longer an Iceni force but a British one, furious and hell bent on erasing the Romans from British lands. Estimates vary wildly, but when the army reached Colchester it was certainly in the tens of thousands, with some historians arguing it may have numbered as many as one hundred thousand.

Camulodunum was completely unprepared for the onslaught. If they had known that Boudica was coming for them with her armies, they were certainly not as afraid as they should have been, at least not until it was too late. When the Roman veterans and townspeople realised this was not a mere gaggle of women but a rolling tide of rage and hatred, heading straight for them with a palpable blood thirst, they begged Londinium for help. But it was too late. There were no legions in the area and Londinium sent a paltry 200 men to their defence. The veterans did the best they could, they were no strangers to Rome’s fight, but they were long retired, and the 200 sent to help them were not nearly enough.

The battle was over before it began. Boudica and her army slaughtered everyone. They poured into the town like an unstoppable plague of death and destruction. People fled where they could but were inevitably caught and brutalized. Some historians state that women had their breasts cut off and forced down their throats people were hacked to pieces where they stood or cut down as they ran. It is no exaggeration to say that the streets would have run red with blood. Those who turned to their Emperor and their gods for help by taking refuge in the temple that was so despised, were routed and murdered. No one was left alive. The Britons revenge was bloody, brutal and unstoppable.

Camulodunum was not a battle within a rebellion, it was a revenge massacre. So great was the tribes’ rage, they did not even loot the town but purposefully burned the buildings to the ground. They would rather annihilate any sign of Roman occupation rather than take anything of value to be found. When they had exacted their terrible revenge on Camulodunum their focus turned to Londinium, where the rebellion was to claim even more lives. When it was finally over, the death toll was estimated at around 70,000.

There is one enduring mystery to this. It is undeniable that this massacre occurred and that the Iceni rebellion took place, and yet, where are the bodies of those that were slaughtered at Camulodunum? Throughout history there are only two instances of bones being found in Colchester dating from Boudica’s rebellion, once in 1965 and then again in 2014. If so many people perished within this town, where are their remains? And what really happened to the bodies of those who were butchered so brutally in Camulodunum in AD60?

Architecture of the Pantheon

Probably one of the most fascinating features of the Pantheon is the Architecture. The structure of the Pantheon is comprised of a series of intersecting arches. The arches rest on eight piers which support eight round-headed arches which run through the drum from its inner to its outer face. The arches correspond to the eight bays on the floor level that house statues.
The dome itself is supported by a series of arches that run horizontally round. Romans had perfected the use of arches which helped sustain the weight of their magnanimous buildings.

The Romans were aware of the heavy nature of their building materials. So they used lighter materials toward the top of the dome. On the lowest level travertine, the heaviest material was used, then a mixture of travertine and tufa, then tufa and brick, then all brick was used around the drum section of the dome, and finally pumice, the lightest and most porous of materials on the ceiling of the dome.
This use of lighter materials on top alleviated the immense weight of the dome. The Roman Pantheon was probably constructed by using an elaborate setup of wooden scaffolding, which in itself would have been costly. The elegant coffers on the dome were likely struck with a device that was exacted from floor level.
The detail of this building is extraordinary. If the dome of the rotundra were flipped upside down it would fit perfectly inside the rotunda. When approaching the Pantheon from the outside it appears rectangular in shape. But it is only the first small room (cella) that has corners. The rotunda is completely round. The small entry room would have been entered by climbing a staircase that is now entirely under modern ground level.

Also, in antiquity there would have been a large colonnaded enclosure in front of the building making it almost impossible for one to glimpse the dome at the back.

The statues of Augustus and Agrippa stood in the apse at the end of the colonnaded side aisles of the entrance.
The interior design of the Roman Pantheon is a striking synthesis of tradition and innovation. The dimensions of the interior height and the diameter of the dome are the same (145 Roman feet., which is 141 feet. 8 inches43.2m).
The architect, who is unknown, did this on purpose to show the harmony of the building. The marble veneer that we see today on the interior was for the most part added later.
However, the Roman Pantheon in its present state allows us a glimpse into the marvelous and stunning world of Roman architecture. The dome would have been gilded to look like the heavenly sphere of all the gods that the name Pantheon evokes. The oculus was an engineering gem of the Roman world. No oculus had even dared come close in size to the one in the Pantheon. It is still lined with the original Roman bronze and is the main source of light for the whole building. As the earth turns the light flows in to circle the interior making the viewer aware of the magnificence of the cosmos. The oculus was never covered and rain falls into the interior and runs off the slightly convex floor to the still functioning Roman drainpipes underneath. The Pantheon has since antiquity been used to inspire artists during the Renaissance as well as become the tomb for important figures in Italian history.

The Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I as well as the famous Renaissance painter Raphael and his fiancée are buried in the Pantheon. It is a wonderful example of second century Roman architecture. It boasts mathematical genius and simple geometry that today still impresses architects and amazes the eyes of casual viewers.

Roman Temple Front, Laodicea - History

Roman Power / Roman Architecture

Many European cities still bear reminders of the power of ancient Rome, and throughout the western world the influence of Roman power is still manifest. Architecture was crucial to the success of Rome. Both formal architecture like temples and basilicas and in its utilitarian buildings like bridges and aqueducts played important roles in unifying the empire. The construction of a roads with bridges helped communication across the far flung empire. Aqueducts like the so-called Pont du Gard enabled the Romans to provide adequate water supply to its cities. City walls like the one in Autun in central France protected the Roman cities. Cities provided a network of administrative centers and acted as visible symbols of power throughout the Empire. Many European cities and towns, most notably London and Paris, were founded by the Romans.

The buildings in these cities directly and indirectly served Roman power. A building type known as the basilica served administrative functions. The basilica acted like a town hall or court house in American cities. The so-called Basilica Ulpia constructed by the Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the second century AD can be used to exemplify this category of building. A characteristic element of these basilicas was a projection called an apse which served as the seat of the magistrate responsible for dispensing the law. Accompanying the magistrate would be an image of the Emperor, the source of the law. A sixth century illustration of Christ being judged shows the seated Pontius Pilate flanked by images presumably of the emperor. The semi-circular line above the scene is best explained by seeing this as an echo of the form of the apse. For a citizen of the empire the basilica in a Roman city conveyed the idea of Roman authority. The associations with authority was an important rationale for the use of the basilica type as the standard form of the Christian church from the time of the Emperor Constantine.

Many European cities still have amphitheaters that served as arenas in which the Roman staged spectacles that entertained the population. Gladiatorial contests and even sea battles were staged that imitated great Roman military victories. The most famous and grandest amphitheater was the so-called Colosseum that was begun by the Emperor Vespasian in about 72 AD. It was built on the site of a garden that had been part of the lavish palace the Emperor Nero had created in the center of Rome. The building of the Colosseum was clearly a political statement on the part of Vespasian. It conveyed to the Roman people the overthrow of the hated Nero and Vespasian's interest in appealing to the broad mass of the Roman people.

Triumphal Arches like the Arch of Titus (c. 81 AD, Rome (left)) or the Arch of Trajan (114-117 AD, Benevento (right)) were constructed by Emperors in Rome and its major cities to commemorate great military triumphs. They thus gave clear testament to the great military power of Rome.

The foundation of temples was particularly important to Emperors. Religion and politics were very much allied in the Roman world. The public cults celebrated outside these temples were a significant way the population attested to their membership to the community and to the Empire. The building of a temple by an emperor was a clear testament of his pietas, or his dedication to the traditional customs of Roman society. The Maison Carrée from the southern French town of Nîmes is a particularly well-preserved example of a Roman Temple. Roman temples, while related to the Greek temple form in general design and use of the Classical orders, represent a very defined category of temple form. The distinctive elements of being raised on a podium, having a front staircase, and having the columns along the sides being attached or engaged (pseudo-peripteral) allow for the easy identification of a Roman temple. For a Roman citizen from Syria to England, the appearance of this form of temple and the cult practices associated with it provided a sense of membership in the empire.

Basilicas and temples regularly appeared in public squares or fora (forum sing.) in the center of cities. Considering the compact nature of Roman cities, the large amounts of space dedicated to fora were a testament to imperial authority. Large and small cities throughout the empire had fora at their core. The remains of Pompeii reveal a forum with temple and basilica. The most famous were the so-called Imperial Fora in Rome itself. The largest of these was the Forum of Trajan. The use of axial planning is a characteristic of Roman planning. It created a clear sense of order and focus to a building complex. Along the central axis of the Forum of Trajan are a series of monuments dedicated to the role of Trajan as imperator or military leader. You entered the forum through a triumphal arch dedicated to Trajan's campaigns in Dacia, while in the center of the large courtyard appeared an equestrian statue of Trajan. The central axis is crossed at right angles by the so-called Basilica Ulpia. Beyond this appeared a small courtyard flanked by two libraries, one for Greek texts and the other for Latin texts. At the center of the courtyard appeared the famous Column of Trajan decorated by a helical band of relief sculptures illustrating Trajan's campaigns in Dacia. Trajan was originally buried in the base of this column, and apparently after his death, a statue of him was placed at the top of the column. The building complex was completed by a temple dedicated to the Divine Trajan by his successor Hadrian. The use of hemicycles flanking the courtyard was clearly done in emulation of the adjacent Forum of Augustus. This borrowing clearly connects Trajan to his revered predecessor at the same time the grander scale of Trajan's complex would not have been missed by the Roman audience.

Analysis of this early second century building complex demonstrates how the organization of the space and the disposition of the buildings create almost a symbolic map of Roman power. The constituent parts of the complex relate to the major facets of Roman life. The basilica with its apses allude to Roman law the libraries reflect the authority of classical literature and culture and the temple connects to the role of religion in public life. Even the markets added by Trajan on the adjacent hill are a clear testament to the role of the emperor as a provider for the Roman populace. At the very center is the imperial axis with images of Trajan as military leader.

Influence of Roman Architecture on Western Architecture

Echoes of the tradition of the Roman Empire are found in cities throughout the western world. Nations and leaders to give visual testament to their authority and power have emulated the distinct forms of Roman architecture. Particularly good examples can be found in Paris. After Napoleon was crowned emperor in 1804, he set out to make Paris a new Rome. The Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 but not completed until 1836, is the most famous example of the French borrowing of Roman formulas. For the Place Vendôme in Paris, Napoleon commissioned a monumental free-standing column that was directly based on the Column of Trajan from the early second century. The Vendôme column is topped by a bronze statue of Napoleon dressed in the style of a Roman Emperor, like Trajan on his column. Napoleon, standing in the classical contrapposto stance, is shown holding an orb topped by a Nike or Victory figure. The Laurel wreath worn by Napoleon signifies that he is a conquering Emperor. Napoleon decided to build a Temple of Glory to his Army. The result was what has now become the church of the Madeleine. The architect Pierre-Alexandre Vignon clearly based his building on the distinct form of the Roman Temple.

The tradition of Roman architecture has had an important influence on American architecture. For example, many courthouses throughout America can be seen to be based on Roman architecture. A particularly striking example is the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washingon. Designed by Cass Gilbert and completed in 1935, the core of the building can be seen to be directly based on the Roman Temple type including the characteristics of being raised on a podium and approached by a formal front staircase. Like Roman temples, the free-standing columns only appear on the front of the Supreme Court building. Like many of the other major public buildings in Washington, the exterior of the Supreme Court is dressed in white marble. The choice of marble was deliberate to echo the authority of Greek and Roman formal architecture. The biography of Augustus describes how when Augustus transformed Rome from a city of brick to a city of marble. The decision to base courthouse designs in America on Roman temples is understandable when it is remembered that our legal system traces its authority back to the tradition of Roman law. Latin is still the language of legal authority.

Monuments directly derived from Roman forms embellish many American cities. For example, in New York City there is the Washington Square Arch derived from the tradition of Roman Triumphal Arches. Baltimore's Washington Monument was clearly based on the form of the Column of Trajan. Consider the prominent position in American cities given to equestrian statues of great Revolutionary or Civil War generals.

When l'Enfant laid out the plans for Washington, D.C., he clearly based his plans on Roman planning. The Mall with its axial planning that leads from the Capitol building down through the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial is clearly based on the design of Roman fora. Journal Assignment: Compare and contrast the plan of the Mall with the forum of Trajan discussed above. Note what is included and also what is excluded from the Mall. The Rockefeller or Empire Plaza in Albany likewise reflects the same tradition of architecture.

The Pantheon of Hadrian and Its Progeny

The Emperor Hadrian who reigned from 117-138 AD was responsible for the Pantheon, one of the most influential buildings in western architecture. In what has been called an architectural revolution, the architect's of Hadrian transformed the traditional Roman temple plan into a centrally plan structure employing vaulted architecture and concrete as well as more traditional building materials. It best exemplifies the importance of space in Roman architecture. Hadrian, who was strongly influenced by Greek culture, dedicated the temple to "All Gods" using a Greek (Pan=All Theon: Gods) rather than Latin name. With its hemispherical dome and orderly division of the interior walls into different levels, the Pantheon becomes an architectural embodiment of the Greek idea of cosmos. The dome with its central oculus and original bronze rosettes in the coffers was understood as the vault of heaven. The universal aspects of this design and dedication appealed to Hadrian's conception of the Empire as embracing all the lands under the heavens.

William L. MacDonald in his book on the Pantheon has written:

Hadrian's Pantheon is one of the grand architectural creations of all time: original, utterly bold, many-layered in associations and meaning, the container of a kind of immanent universality. It speaks of an even wider world than that of imperial Rome, and has left its stamp upon architecture more than any other building. Its message, compounded of mystery and fact, of stasis and mutability, of earth and that above, pulses through the architecture of western man [sic] its progeny, in both shape and idea, are all about. The force of its planetary symbolism still works irrestibly upon the visitor who, passing through the bronze doors into the enclosing rotunda, experiences the awesome reach of its canopied void [p.11].

. [A] domed rotunda is a place where one can partake, symbolically, of the immutable laws and hoped-for tranquility of the universe. There the lower order is united with the higher, the unity of which Hadrian dreamed. A Pantheon is neither sacred nor secular, but a place of man and nature, of man and the forces the ancients called the gods [p. 132].

The following gallery of images is intended to demonstrate the direct and indirect influence of the Pantheon on western architecture. Consider how the form and meaning of the Pantheon are integrated in these later buildings.

Andrea Palladio, Villa Rotunda, near Vicenza, Italy, c. 1566-1570.

St. Peter's, Vatican City, Rome: Original Plan: Bramante Plan redesigned by Michelangelo, 1546-1564 Dome completed by Giacomo della Porta, completed 1590 Facade: Carlo Maderno, 1606-1612.

Sir Christopher Wren, St. Paul's Cathedral, London, 1675-1710.

Richard Boyle (earl of Burlington) and William Kent, Chiswick House, near London, begun 1725.

The Panthéon in Paris designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, 1755-1792. When the building was finished, in the midst of the French Revolution, the Constituent Assembly of the Revolution decided by decree to transform the church into a temple to accommodate the remains of the great men of France.

Drawing of Washington, 1852 with the Capitol as designed by Benjamin Latrobe (1803-1807) and L'Enfant's plan (created 1791). Temple of LibertyBuilding the Capitol for a New Nation

Alexander Jackson Davis "Interior of the Hall of Representatives," c. 1832-1834

Lithograph of the campus of the University of Virginia designed by Thomas Jefferson.

Rotunda of the University of Virginia designed by Thomas Jefferson, 1817-26. The building was originally designed as the university library.


How and why the bones of nearly 100 infants were deposited in a late Roman-early Byzantine sewer beneath a bathhouse at Ashkelon, on the southern coast of Israel, continue to baffle scholars. An initial examination of the remains by Patricia Smith and Gila Kahila of the Hebrew University revealed that most of the bones, discovered in 1988, were intact and that all parts of the skeletons were represented, suggesting that the infants had probably been thrown into the drain soon after death. All of the bones and teeth (unerupted) are comparable to those of newborn infants. The absence of neonatal lines--prominent marks in the enamel of deciduous teeth and first permanent molars, which are considered evidence of survival for more than three days--indicates the babies died shortly after birth.

The number of infants, all of the same age and with no signs of disease or skeletal malformation, suggested infanticide rather than a catastrophe such as epidemic, war, or famine, in which a range of ages might be expected. Smith and Kahila thought the Ashkelon infants were probably girls because female infanticide was widespread in Roman society. In a letter written in 1 B.C a husband instructs his pregnant wife, "if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it," and the Roman poet Juvenal mentions children "abandoned beside cesspools."

Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University and her colleagues have now analyzed DNA from the bones to determine the sex of the infants, for which standard osteological methods are unreliable. They extracted DNA from 43 left femurs, using a single bone to eliminate the possibility of analyzing the same infant's DNA more than once. The extraction was successful in 19 cases, 14 of which were male and five female. They checked their results by making multiple DNA extractions and analyses for each bone, obtaining the same results in 17 of the specimens. The significant number of male victims was unexpected, they say, and raised the intriguing possibility that these infants may have been the unwanted offspring of courtesans working in the bathhouse.

There are problems with this interpretation. If prostitutes were discarding all infants, a ratio closer to 1:1 of males to females would be more likely (about 20 males are born for every 21 females). Either the results of the analysis are somehow biased or some selectivity took place in the abandonment of the infants. Harvard archaeologist Larry Stager, director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, interprets this as evidence that male infants may have been discarded while females were brought up to work in the brothel.

The link between the contents of the sewer and the bath, built over several houses, is not entirely clear. According to Stager the bath and sewer are both fourth-century constructions. The remains of the babies were found in a gutter in the bottom of the sewer, which filled with debris and went out of use by ca. 500, suggesting the babies may be contemporary with the functioning of the bath. In a 1991 report Stager noted that hundreds of fragments of ceramic oil lamps, some decorated with erotic motifs and others with mythological scenes, were found in a small street-front room of one of the houses. Although the lamps appeared unused, Stager claimed they were "solely for the amusement of the owner" and were not being sold from the house. The possibility that the bath also served as a brothel was considered but dismissed in the same article. But in the DNA report, published in Nature, the lamps are associated with the bath, not the earlier houses, and considered to be evidence that it was also a brothel.

Based on ancient sources, historian John M. Riddle of North Carolina State University raises additional questions about the new interpretation. "The literary evidence--classical, medieval, and early modern--is virtually united in claiming that prostitutes knew what to do to prevent full-term pregnancies," he notes. "Why would prostitutes at Ashkelon be different?" A variety of contraceptive methods and abortifacients was used in the classical world (see ARCHAEOLOGY, March/April 1994). Among the church fathers, Jerome (348-420) condemned the use of potions that cause "sterility and murder those not yet conceived," while Augustine of Hippo (354-430) held that as long as the fetus was no more than "some sort of living, shapeless thing" homicide laws did not apply because it had no senses and no soul. Riddle also says that after the first century A.D. the value of slaves increased to the point that unwanted babies could be and were sold to dealers. Neither of the proposed explanations--female infanticide or discarding of unwanted children by prostitutes--seems to match the evidence.

I wonder about this part:
"The literary evidence--classical, medieval, and early modern--is virtually united in claiming that prostitutes knew what to do to prevent full-term pregnancies," he notes. "Why would prostitutes at Ashkelon be different?"

What were these methods the literary 'evidence' mentions then? My great grandmother would have loved to know.

Prostitutes in ancient Rome were almost all slaves. The demand for prostitution is always larger than the (voluntary) supply. In modern times there is women trafficking to meet demand, but ancient Rome was a slave holding society, so slaves did the job. Archeologists recognize Roman brothels, not (as you may imagine) by titillating fresco's a la the Pompeii excavations, but by the pits with baby carcasses next to them. All male carcasses, as the girls were allowed to live, to serve the next generation of Johns. “Career choice”? Really?
"The current stigma of prostitution has damaged the reputation of what many consider the oldest occupation in history."

Something more demeaning can hardly be said of women, who were earning their own food as hunter gatherers first, and later became the world's main food suppliers as farmers. (In traditional societies, the vast majority of food is still produced by women: 90% in Africa, 60% in Asia.) Please girl, inform yourself better.

Ignoramus. open male homosexuality was punished by the death penalty in Athens. it was not tolerated at all!

I am sure that the coins pictured in that article were found a LONG time ago.
Is it only now that they have surfaced?