Rostra - Encyclopedia

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ROSTRA' (" beaks"), in Roman antiquities, the orators' platform, which originally stood between the comitium and the forum proper, opposite the curia. It is not known when it was erected, but in 338 B.C. it was decorated by Gaius Maenius with the prows of ships captured from the people of Antium (Livy viii. 14). From that time it was called Rostra, having previously been known as templum (literally "consecrated place"), since it had been consecrated by the augurs (Cicero, In Vatinium, x. 24). Some, however, deny the identity of the templum and rostra. On the platform or hard by were exhibited the statues of famous Romans (Camillus, Caesar), and state documents and memorials (the laws of the Twelve Tables, the treaty with the Latins, the columna rostrata of Duilius). Caesar had it pulled down, intending that it should be rebuilt on the west side of the forum, but it was left for Augustus (or Mark Antony) to carry out his plan. The term Rostra Vetera, often used by classical authors in connexion with funeral orations, makes it doubtful whether the old platform was entirely demolished, unless the name was simply transferred to the new rostra of Augustus. This consisted of a rectangular platform, 78 ft. long, 33 ft. broad and II ft. above the level of the forum pavement. It was reached by steps from the back; in front there was a marble balustrade with an opening in the centre where the speaker stood, possibly also intended for a staircase leading down into the forum. In the existing remains the holes in which the beaks of the ships were fastened, arranged in pairs, are visible. Behind these remains, close to the Clivus Capitolinus, a row of light lowarched cells has been found, which, owing to a certain resemblance to the earlier rostra as shown on the well-known coin of Lollius Palicanus, has been identified by Boni with the rostra removed by Julius Caesar, the other remains being attributed to the time of Domitian (for objections to this theory, see Hiilsen and Richter). In the time of Hadrian the side balustrades were+,decorated with marble slabs, on which were represented in relief the burning of the lists of the citizens who were in arrears to the fisc and the distribution of necessaries to the poorer citizens. Thedenat explains the first as Domitian reassuring a deputation of citizens by burning the denunciatory reports of the delatores, and the second (the scene of which he places at the Rostra Julia) as the promulgation of the law forbidding the mutilation of children. The erection of the arch of Severus necessitated considerable alterations, the most important of which was a triangular courtyard cut out of the north half of the rostra, to allow direct access to it from the side that faced the arch, its breadth being thereby reduced by a third. A later extension of the facade northwards is explained by a long inscription, recording that about the year 470, Ulpius Junius Valentinus, a city prefect, restored the structure (hence called Rostra Vandalica) after a naval victory over the Vandals. A relief on the arch of Constantine represents the emperor speaking from the rostra.

The Rostra Julia was a platform with a semicircular niche 1 The Lat. singular rostrum, a beak, the beak of a ship, is used in English of a platform, stand or pulpit from which a speaker addresses his audience. It is also used in its original meaning of a beak-like prolongation or process in zoology or botany.

in the centre, in front of the Aedes divi Julii, built by Augustus on the spot where the body of Caesar was cremated. The niche was probably used to support the bier while a funeral laudatio was being delivered. The front on either side was decorated with the beaks of ships captured at the battle of Actium.

For results of the excavations see C. Htilsen, Das Forum Romanum (Eng. tr. by J. B. Carter, Rome, 1906); see also 0. Richter, "Topographie der Stadt Rom" (1901), pp. 81, 93, 35 6 (iii. Abt. 3, pt. 2 of I. von Miiller's Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft); H. Thedenat, Le Forum Romain (3rd ed. 1904); J. H. Middleton, Remains of Ancient Rome (1892); O. Richter, Rekonstruktion and Geschichte der riimischen Rednerbitihne (Berlin, 1884); F. M. Nichols, The Roman Forum (1877); also article ROME: Archaeology.

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