Dedication of the Temple of Augustus and Roma, Lepcis Magna (IPT 22)

Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Honorific building dedication.
Original Location/Place: 
Western edge of the Old Forum, Lepcis Magna.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
In loco.
8 BCE to 19 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Pseudo-peripteral temple, oriented to the south-east of the Old Forum of Lepcis Magna. A large temple of c. 46 x 20 m, constructed from limestone from Ras el-Hammam (although later restored in places with marble). The temple is made up of a podium, reached by staircases in the side. The portico was made up of Ionic columns of grey limestone, which were replaced with marble versions in the 2nd century CE. The temple was situated between two temples, dedicated to Hercules and Liber Pater/Shadrap, to which it was linked by arches that connected the podia on each side.
The below inscription was carved all around the doorway.
Limestone and marble.

Iscrizioni Puniche della Tripolitania (IPT) 22           

The construction of the Temple of Augustus and Rome in Lepcis Magna began in c. 8 BCE and, on the basis of the epigraphic evidence and remains of the monumental statuary discovered at the site, was completed between 14-19 CE. It was the last of three temples to be built along the western edge of the Old Forum in the north (Regio VI) of the city and, along with a number of other public buildings that contributed to the massive expansion of Lepcis Magna in the Augustan period, is often cited as one of the earliest and most successful examples of ‘Romanisation’ (for the layout and archaeology of the city, see di Vita, “Architettura e societa nelle citta di Tripolitania…” p. 355-376; Liviadotti & Rocco, I tre templi, p. 165-308. For the Romanisation argument, see Macmullen, Romanization in the time of Augustus, p. 35-42).
The attribution of the temple is known from the monumental inscription that was inscribed around the doorway of the cella, and which survives today. It is a Punic inscription which reveals that the building was dedicated along with a series of monumental statues; in the first instance of the deified Augustus, Roma, Tiberius and Julia, the composition of which dates the building’s construction to Tiberius’s reign (Quinn, “The Reinvention of Lepcis,” p. 56). Statues of Germanicus and Drusus, along with their respective wives Agrippina and Livia, and mothers (Antonia and Agrippina) were also included in the decorative scheme. The full sculptural programme is somewhat complex, but it appears from the text of the inscription, and four heads that have been recovered from the site, that the first four statues named – Augustus, Roma, Tiberius and Julia – were of a larger size than the rest, and were likely arranged against a wall, perhaps at the end of the cella of the temple, with the portraits of Augustus and Tiberius seated on thrones (Smadja, “L’inscription du culte impérial dans la cité,” p. 180). Monica Liviadotti and Giorgio Rocco have, however, noted that there is not space for all four acroliths on the platform at the back of the cella, and so have suggested that this was intended to hold only the statues of Augustus and Roma, with Tiberius and Julia placed perhaps outside of the cella in the pronaos (“Il tempio di Roma e Augusto,” p. 233-234). Such an arrangement would provide an ideal balance, between the deities – Roma and Augustus – and those living – Tiberius and Julia –, who were expected to be deified following their deaths (Smadja, “L’inscription du culte impérial dans la cité,” p. 180). The remaining portraits listed in the inscription – Germanicus, Drusus and their wives and mothers – are more problematic, although the suggestion that they were organised into two groups of three and placed between the first and last three columns of the front elevation would seem to fit, with their ‘youth’ provided a unifying theme (Liviadotti and Rocco,“Il tempio di Roma e Augusto,” p. 234). Indeed, the portraits of Vipsania Agrippina and Antonia the Younger, the mothers of Germanicus and Drusus, have a decidedly more youthful appearance in the statuary than even their sons (Smadja, “L’inscription du culte impérial dans la cité,” p. 180-181; see also Liviadotti and Rocco, “Il tempio di Roma e Augusto,” p. 231-235). The conjectured presence of these statues has been confirmed by the discovery of the inscribed statue bases that supported them, and supports the notion that the figurative scheme of the temple was conceived not as a series of dedications, but as part of the unified programme of its design (for the inscribed statue bases, see: IRT (Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania) 326; 327; 333; 337; 340). The programme was completed by the addition of a bronze quadriga (four-horse driven chariot) containing the portraits of Germanicus and Drusus on the rostrum of the temple, although the little evidence for it that survives is not enough to attest as to whether this was included from the outset or – perhaps more likely – added at a later date following their deaths (Liviadotti and Rocco, “Il tempio di Roma e Augusto”, p. 235).
Although the Punic dedication of the inscription has survived, there is a surprising lack of Latin counterpart in the surviving evidence. No Latin inscription has yet been identified that records the same dedication, but the discovery of a limestone block containing the top half of the ansata of a tabula ansata (the frame within which many monumental Latin inscriptions were set) appears to suggest that it was once present (Liviadotti and Rocco, “Il tempio di Roma e Augusto”, p. 213). This tabula ansata was most probably situated beneath the pediment, making up the entire entablature of the front of the temple; this was the logical, and most typical, place for a monumental building dedication, with the Punic version of the text added in a less prominent position. Other inscriptions from the Forum area of Lepcis Magna attest to this kind of epigraphic arrangement; the dedication of the amphitheatre, for example, was made in two identical Latin inscriptions that contained versions of the text in Neo-Punic beneath them. A dedication recording the gift of a portico and the paving of the Old Forum floor is also given in Latin and Neo-Punic; in this case, the Latin text was inscribed in monumental lettering and bronze inlays on the upper – more visible – part of a stele, with the Neo-Punic text added beneath, close to the bottom where it is almost illegible (see IRT 338). It is clear that in these inscriptions, the ‘official’ version of the text was made in Latin, and positioned in the most visible and prominent place on the monument; the Latin text drew attention to the cultural identity of the city and its engagement with Roman architectural models, with the Punic version offering context at a local level. As Josephine Quinn has noted, the Latin was also accommodating to Latin-speaking visitors to the city, and invoked the presence of the princeps in a way that demonstrated loyalty without subjugation, “alongside but not fully integrated into the local context” (Quinn, “The Reinvention of Lepcis,” p. 62).
Unlike many of the ‘bilingual’ inscriptions of Lepcis Magna, however, the construction and dedication of the Temple of Augustus and Rome does not appear to have been commissioned nor paid for by a private individual. The inscription has been damaged in this crucial spot, but Véronique Brouqier-Reddé has suggested that it was in fact paid for and dedicated by the city as a whole (Temples et Cultes, p. 247). This is especially unusual as Lepcis had not, at the time of the temple’s construction, been awarded the status of either colonia or municipium; the temple was not, therefore, built in response to a recent change of status or following an order from the central administration in Rome. The government of Lepcis Magna retained its Punic character under Augustus, with its traditional magistrates – such as the sufetes named in the final lines of the inscription – entrusted to maintain order and run themselves much as they had previously been accustomed. The sudden adoption of such Roman building forms as the Temple of Augustus and Rome in Lepcis Magna was, then, unprecedented, and is indicative of the enthusiasm with which certain members of the community received and transmitted Roman imperial ideals. The sufete Bodmelqart Tabahpi Graeculus, named in the inscription, was part of the aristocratic local Tapapius family, whose acts of euergetism are recorded in inscriptions all over the city. This indigenous noble gens fully embraced the principles of Roman urbanisation and used them to promote their own position within the city in a set of messages aimed both outwardly at the Roman audience looking in, but also internally, to its inhabitants, who might associate the new forms and structures with the cultural prestige of Rome, and by association with those whose names were attached to them (Mattingly, Imperialism, Identity and Power, p. 238-340). For the first half of the first century CE, it was these indigenous noble families who directed the political and administrative affairs of Lepcis Magna, but whom also acted as agents of ‘transmission’ for Rome’s ideological programme according to their own aesthetic choices (Smadja, “L’inscription du culte impérial dans la cité,” p. 183).
Bibliographical references: 

Temples et cultes de Tripolitaine

Brouquier-Reddé, VéroniquebookTemples et cultes de TripolitaineParisEditions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique1992

Il tempio di Roma e Augusto

Liviadotti, Monica, Rocco, Giorgioarticle-in-a-bookI Tre Templi del lato nord-ovest del foro vecchio a Leptis MagnaA. di Vita, M. Liviadotti165-308Il tempio di Roma e AugustoRomaL’Erma di Bretschneider2005

The Reinvention of Lepcis

Quinn, Josephine Crawleyarticle-in-a-journal52-692010/ Volume special A/A7/6The Reinvention of LepcisBollettino di Archaeologia On Line2010

Architettura e societa nelle citta di Tripolitania fra Massinissa e Augusto: qualche nota

Vita, Antonio diarticle-in-a-journalArchitecture et Societe de l’archaisme grec a la fin de la republique romaine: Acte du colloque Internationale organise par le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et l’Ecole francaise de Rome (Rome 2-4 decembre 1980)355-376Architettura e societa nelle citta di Tripolitania fra Massinissa e Augusto: qualche notaParis1983
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