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Roman Architecture: Engineering an Empire

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Krystal Coenen
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« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2007, 04:53:50 pm »

The Curia Hostilia

The original Senate House of Rome is the Curia Hostilia. It is believed to have been constructed during the reign of Tullus Hostilius, around the 7th century BC[1]. This Curia Hostilia was the site of the irregular execution of the demagogue Lucius Appuleius Saturninus and his partisans in 100 BC.

The first major alteration to the building came in 80 BC when Lucius Cornelius Sulla restored and enlarged the curia. It was burned down in 52 BC when a mob cremated the body of the demagogue Publius Clodius Pulcher inside it.


Description of the Curia Hostilia

As it was the oldest Senate House in Roman history, relatively little is known about it. One feature of the Curia that is mentioned in almost all sources is the “Tabula Valeria.” The “Tabula Valeria” was a painting on the exterior of the Curia’s western wall[2]. It depicted the victory of Marcus Valerius Messalla over Hiero and the Carthaginians in 263 BC[3]. Pliny says that the painting was the first such picture in Rome.[4]

Another fact most sources agree on is that the Curia Hostilia was located on the north side of the Comitium[5]. It is believed that the circular set of stairs of the Comitium led up to the Curia. With regard to the Curia’s location, Stambaugh writes, “[T]he Curia Hostilia was built on rising ground so as to dominate the whole space of the Forum Romanum”[6]. Given its prominent place in the Forum, it seems that the Curia Hostilia was a symbol of the strength of the Roman Republic.


Signifigance of the Curia Hostilia

During his reconstruction of the Curia Hostilia, Sulla kept the building in its original location. It was in keeping with Sulla’s “pro-senatorial policies that the Senate House should stand in this dominating position, in view of the whole Forum and above the Comitium...and the open square”[7]. Of the reconstructed Curia, Stambaugh writes, “This was the Curia in which many of Cicero’s speeches were delivered, where debates over the fate of Catiline or the distribution of commands were held”[8]. Cicero himself said of the Curia Hostilia, “[It] is the mighty protection of all nations” and “the shrine of holiness and majesty and wisdom and statesmanship, the very center of the city’s life”[9]. Cicero’s comments emphasize the preeminence of the Curia at this time.


The Curia Julia

In 44 BC Julius Caesar tore down Faustus’ reconstructed Curia in order to make way for his own Forum [10]. However, the work on Caesar’s new forum was interrupted by his assassination in that same year. The project was eventually completed by Caesar’s adopted son Augustus in 29 BC[11].

From AD 81 to 96 the Curia Julia was restored under Domitian. In AD 283, this Curia was destroyed by the fire of emperor Carinus[12]. From AD 284 to AD 305, the Curia was then rebuilt by Diocletian. It is the remnants of Diocletian’s building that we see today. In AD 412, the Curia was restored again, this time by Urban Prefect Flavius Annius Eucharius Epiphanius.
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