Temple of Castor and Pollux, Rome

The Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum, Rome, was originally built in 484 BC and rebuilt by Tiberius in 6 AD. Three columns and part of the architrave stand today.

advertisement

History of the Temple of Castor and Pollux

According to Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin brothers and the sons of Leda and Zeus (Jupiter). The equivalent of the Greek Dioscuri, Castor was born mortal and Pollux immortal. They were both excellent horsemen and hunters. The cult of Castor and Pollux came to Italy via Greek influence in the south, where it is first attested around 570-30 BC.

The cult quickly spread north to Latium, where the twins were credited with a great victory. According to legend, two young men on white horses mysteriously appeared on July 15 during the Battle of Lake Regillus (499 or 496 BC). They were later seen watering their horses at the spring of Juturna next to the Roman Forum after delivering the news of victory.

After the Romans won the battle, which marked an important victory over the Latins, the victorious general Aulus Postumius vowed to build a temple to the Dioscuri. This he did in just over a decade; the first Temple of Castor and Pollux was dedicated in the Roman Forum in 484 BC. The temple was restored c.168 BC to celebrate the Roman defeat of the Macedonians and again in 117 BC after victories in Dalmatia.

In 14 BC or 9 BC, a fire necessitated significant rebuilding in the Forum. Augustus took the opportunity to rebuild the Temple of Castor and Pollux while also connecting it to the imperial cult. The festival day was changed to January 27 and the Dioscuri were associated with the imperial princes Gaius and Lucius Caesar. Both brothers died before the new temple was completed and the dedication passed to Tiberius and his late brother Drusus (d. 9 BC). Tiberius himself presided over the dedication in 6 AD.

The temple may have begun to fall into ruin as early as the 4th century. By the 15th century, only the present three columns were left.

What to See at the Temple of Castor and Pollux

When fully intact, the Temple of Castor and Pollux was a sizable edifice. The podium stood 23.5 Roman feet (7m) high and measured 108 by 168 Roman feet (32 x 50m). Inside were 25 small chambers, probably used for the temple's function as the office of weights and measures. One chamber seems to have been used by a dentist! The front of the podium was originally designed for use as a speaker's platform, but this was modified into a single flight of stairs by the 3rd century.

The temple itself was a Corinthian peripteros made of white Italian marble. The front and back each had eight columns; the sides had eleven columns each. It stood 50 Roman feet (14.8m) high, plus another 12.5 Roman feet (3.8m) for the entablature.

Festivals and Events

In Roman times, a calvary parade was held every July 15 to commemorate the victory at Lake Regillus. The parade was led by two young men on white horses, representing Castor and Pollux, and included up to 5,000 knights who carried spears and shields and wore purple robes and olive wreaths.

Quick Facts on the Temple of Castor and Pollux

Site Information
Names:Tempio dei Dioscuri · Temple of Castor and Pollux · Temple of the Dioscuri
Country:Italy
Categories:temples; World Heritage Sites
Styles:Classical Greece
Dedication: Castor and Pollux
Dates:6 CE
Status: ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:41.891672° N, 12.485594° E
Address:Rome, Italy
Hours:See Roman Forum
Lodging:View hotels near the Temple of Castor and Pollux
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. Personal visit (April 16, 2008).
  2. Amanda Claridge, Judith Toms, Tony Cubberley, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press, 1998), 91-92.

More Information

Another view from the west. © Holly Hayes
Temple of Castor and Pollux with the smaller Temple of Vesta (left). © Holly Hayes
Side view of the three remaining columns of the Temple of Castor. © Holly Hayes

Map of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, Rome

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.