The Imperial Cult Building



General Comments

The most important building on the Pompeian forum for Roman architectural history is the Imperial Cult Building, a building that could assume a more prominent position in discussions of the Roman architectural revolution, not only regarding its dissemination outside of Rome, but also concerning Roman developments themselves. While typically treated only in accounts of Pompeii, and only superficially there, the building deserves more attention.

The plan (fig. 1; after A. Mau, RM 11 [1896]) immediately proclaims the building to be more complex in its design and more creative in shaping interior space than any other building on the forum. The complete absence of comparable structures at Pompeii requires one to look elsewhere for parallels to the richly articulated wall surfaces or to the treatment of interior space. The similarities in design to dated buildings in Rome are considered below. (The reader should note that the AutoCAD plan above is somewhat abstract and does not present the full articulation of the interior walls.)

The building announced itself by eight large columns whose footings still remain in front of the bold, broad entrance. The absence of a facade contrasts sharply with adjacent buildings and established a relationship between spectator and interior space that was unique at Pompeii. The open quality of the building is heightened today in the absence of the colonnade.

The large eastern interior apse with its high ledge for sculpture drew the spectator toward it and focused the viewer's attention. Two statue niches flanking the apse and three others along each side wall joined the large statue bases in the lateral exedrae in extending the sculptural program from the apse to the entrance. None of the sculpture survives. The remains of an altar or a statue base occupy a position near the center of the interior. Both interpretations present problems. A statue on axis would have obscured the view to the central figure(s) in the apse and thus seems unlikely. An altar (i.e., for burnt sacrifices), however, has implications for the roofing of the structure and suggests that at least part of the interior was hypaethral. At the same time, the apse must have supported a semidome. Thus the interpretation that favors an altar results in a fragmented roofing scheme: vaulting in the apse (and in the exedrae?) and an open center.

Roofing System/Animation

The debris removed by the nineteenth-century excavators must have contained clues that could have informed us about the roofing system. Lacking such evidence, I will not treat the difficult problem of the roof design. However, one of my graduate students, Matthew Robinson, has prepared a brief animation that presents the ruins as they exist today and two hypothetical roofing schemes. To read his comments and view the animation, click HERE.

A Technical Note on Coigning

Among the many structural features that must be analyzed in order to interpret the buildings in the Pompeian forum, coigning plays a critical role at several points in the present discussion of the Imperial Cult Building and therefore requires a word of explanation. Coigning is the construction method by which larger or more regular building elements create a vertical crenellation pattern in order to bond with smaller or less regular building elements. In general, coigning is used to define and stabilize corners, doorjambs, and window frames. In the forum, coigning typically appears on building corners and doorjambs. The reason is obvious. Opus incertum and opus reticulatum--favored building techniques--serve well on curtain walls, but neither forms a straight edge at a corner nor bonds effectively with an adjacent wall of the same building.

Coigning, or lack of it, always rewards close inspection. As coigning provides a smooth and regularized interface, in other words a bond, between two building techniques, it announces in definitive construction terms that two different materials and techniques are contemporary. By the same token, a ragged interface between two different materials or techniques usually signals chronological discontinuity. In the Eumachia Building the brick-faced western end of the south wall (fig. 3, below) abuts and overlaps tufa block construction and reveals itself to be a secondary feature that belongs to the repair of the building.

The designation "coigning pattern" accompanied by a numerical reference, such as "6x6," refers to the regular alternation of projecting and non-projecting courses of brick or stone employed in te coigning. An interruption in a regular coigning pattern requires special attention as it may signal a chronological as well as a structural change in a wall's construction.

Table of Contents.
Main forum plan.
Introduction page.


There is no scholarly consensus on the date. Mau and Maiuri favored a pre-62 date. In recent published statements Zanker, Jongman, and Ling--in contexts other than the analysis of this building per se--have either stated, implied, or entertained the possibility that the sanctuary is a pre-62 construction.
<1> In a recent article on the imperial cult in Pompeii, Gradel also proposed that the building belongs to the pre-62 period<2>. Most recently, Wallat follows Mau in drawing the same chronological conclusions<3>. In fact, there is no extended modern assessment of the evidence that could provide us with a date, but a date is, of course, essential if we are to place the building accurately in the history of the Pompeian forum and in the history of Roman architecture in general. Toward that end, I would like to suggest several approaches that point to a post-62 date.

Structure, or Building Fabric.

The building is devoid of the kind of repairs with their attendant masonry seams, abrupt changes of material, reused architectural fragments, or overlapping decorative schemes that characterize buildings repaired after the earthquake <4>. In other words, the structural integrity of the building argues that it was not struck by the earthquake because it was not in existence in 62 <5>. The seamless fabric of the Imperial Cult Building contrasts with the reused architectural fragments in the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus (fig. 2) and the ragged seam in the Eumachia Building (fig. 3), evidence in both cases of post-earthquake repair. This is not to say that there were no changes in the building. The two niches near the entrance, for example, reveal design changes, but these are not earthquake repairs.


If the conclusions drawn in my larger study of the forum's entire east side are correct in assigning marble revetment to the post-62 period, then the marble revetted interior can be seen as consistent with that pattern <6>.

Structural Relationships with Contiguous Buildings.

As the buildings on the forum are physically linked, an architectural analysis of one inevitably requires an analysis of adjacent structures. For example, as discussed below under (b) Imperial Cult Building/Macellum, the Imperial Cult Building is part of the same project that accomplished the post-62 repairs to the facade of the Macellum. Moreover, as the Macellum's facade project post-dates the Macellum's repaired south wall which it overlaps, the facade project, and the Imperial Cult Building which is part of the facade project, belong to an advanced stage in the post-62 repair of the forum. A consequence of linking the two buildings was the suppression of the street that had run along the south of the Macellum. The suppression of the street, in turn. contributed to the unification of the east side of the forum, which was one of the major developments of the forum's post-62 period.

While the juncture between the Imperial Cult Building and the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus is more difficult to read and not entirely unambiguous, a case can be made for recognizing the Imperial Cult Building as posterior to the sanctuary. Conclusions are that the south exedra of the cult building abuts the precinct wall of the adjacent sanctuary and that the southern side of the cult building's entrance overlaps and thickens the northern termination of the adjacent sanctuary's facade. We will consider this relationship first.

(a)Imperial Cult Building/Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus

Key: Numbering system.

This is the most difficult conjunction of walls on the east side of the forum and one that is not entirely unambiguous. Discussion begins with a description of the walls, beginning with the facade of the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus (W107.108), then proceeds in a clockwise fashion into and around the south exedra of the Imperial Cult Building, and finally ends with an examination of W105.95. The opus testaceum facade of the sanctuary abuts a wall of opus incertum at a distance of 3.35 m. from the inner corner of the sanctuary's facade (fig. 4); the join produces a roughly coigned, but irregular enough seam (fig. 5--detail of the seam) to indicate that the two sections of wall are not contemporary. The opus testaceum is the later of the two sections of wall, a relationship recognized by Mau long ago <7>.

The opus incertum wall, identified here as a vestige of the original facade of the sanctuary, runs to the inner corner of the facade where it meets opus testaceum coigning in a 6x6 pattern (fig. 6); <8> the coigning, also used to bond the corner to the adjacent W107.93, indicates that the corner and the adjoining stretches of opus incertum wall are contemporary. W107.93 finally terminates at its western end in opus testaceum, again employing coigning in a 6x6 pattern (fig. 7). Slightly to the west (left in fig. 7) of these latter coigns--ca. 0.60 m. from the western end of the wall--is a vertical seam created by slicing off the ends of the bricks that are associated with the coigning. Although the final 0.60 m. of the wall are of brick construction, the brickwork is not the same as that associated with the coigning just described or the coigning in the inner corner. The western end of W107.93 therefore reveals itself to be a reworking that is later than the main fabric of the wall.

The brickwork that runs the length of W107.93 above the opus incertum (fig. 7) is problematical because its relationship with W107.95 is masked by extant setting bed mortar. It is clear, however, that this brickwork constitutes the back of the sculpture niche associated with the Imperial Cult Building, and that the brickwork itself is therefore part of the Imperial Cult Building. If the brickwork is contemporary with the wall fabric below it (i.e., of W107.93), then the whole wall must be interpreted structurally and chronologically with the Imperial Cult Building <9>. This brickwork, however, interrupts the 6x6 pattern of coigning at the western end of the wall and therefore appears to be a later reworking of the wall that supersedes the 6x6 coigning and its associated opus incertum. The ability to distinguish the phases of this wall has important implications for determining the date of the Imperial Cult Building.

Extremely important pieces of evidence, and the first clue toward establishing the long history of the sanctuary, are two small segments of painted plaster preserved in the inner corner of W107.93 and W107.95 (fig. 6). The first, ca. 2 cms. thick (fig. 8), adheres to the wall, turns the corner, and is without any doubt an intentional decorative treatment of the wall. Above this first fragment the edge of a second is visible (but not in fig. 8). Both patches of painted plaster are overlapped by the setting bed for the marble revetment that constituted the second decorative treatment of the facade. The setting bed has fallen away to reveal the painted plaster just described, but it is clear from the thickness that it once covered these still extant patches of painted decoration. Mau made the same observations in 1879; however, as discussed below, he considered the plaster and the wall to which it is attached to belong to the exterior of the south exedra of the Imperial Cult Building <10>. Maiuri did not consider the painted patches to be in a primary context <11>.

When the sculpture niche, W93.107, is viewed from the north, it is apparent that the niche underwent some reworking to produce its present form, but those changes have no bearing on the structural and chronological relationship between the Imperial Cult Building and the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus. More important is exedra no. 95 whose coherent fabric reveals it to have been constructed all at one time. Its wall facings are of quasi-reticulate masonry except for the northern ends of W95.107 and W95.105 where brick coigning effects the transition from the quasi-reticulate walls to the opus testaceum antae that frame the entrance to the exedra.

It is clear from plans and from aerial photographs that there is a thickening of walls <12> in the zone where exedra 95 meets the precinct wall of the adjacent sanctuary (fig. 9). Conclusions regarding the chronological relationship between the two buildings depend to a large extent upon the reading of the physical relationship between the exedra's rear wall and the sanctuary. Which abuts which? A glance at the plan and aerial views suggests that the exedra abuts the sanctuary. The southwest corner of room 105, where W105.95 meets the sanctuary wall is critical. Fig. 10 shows D105.95, W105.95, and the interface between the latter and the sanctuary wall. Fig. 11 is a detail of fig. 10 that shows the juncture of W105.95 and the sanctuary wall. The Imperial Cult Building appears to abut the sanctuary <13>. It is clear that figs. 10 and 11 do not depict a finished corner of a pre-existing exedra because corners terminate in solid, coigned masonry, not irregular facing. To argue otherwise and claim that this edge is a pre-existing corner not only posits a structural anomaly, but also the serendipidous presence of a straight vertical edge made of irregularly shaped stones against which the sanctuary wall could be smoothly constructed. It is much more reasonable to read the straight edge of W105.95 as the product of constructing it against the already existing sanctuary wall. One response might be to argue that the exterior of the exedra was sliced off to allow for the straight alignment of the sanctuary wall and that this action eliminated the coigned corner of the exedra. This, too, fails. The straight edge would still be an improbable happenstance and the shaving of the exedra would have produced a perilously thin wall at its southwest corner. Here there would have been almost no masonry to support the facing. The wall would surely have collapsed, but there is no trace of repair. Another response might be to claim that just as D105.95 is constructed of opus incertum without brick coigning to produce its jambs, so the exterior corner of the exedra was constructed without the usual corner treatment. The argument is attractive, but the comparison is misleading for it pairs the exterior corner of a major building with a small, subsidiary door. Other subsidiary doors are constructred in a similar fashion, but the freestanding exterior corners of large buildings are coigned. In sum, the evidence indicates that the south exedra of the Imperial Cult Building is later than the sanctuary wall.

As so much depends upon the interpretation of this interface, further analysis is required. Moreover, as Mau's evaluation of the evidence underwent a 180 degree transformation, and as his revised view has had such a profound effect on Pompeian studies, it is justifiable to reopen the discussion in order to consider the problem as fully as possible <14>. Initially, Mau considered that the sanctuary was dedicated to the Genius of Augustus and that the Imperial Cult Building, then called the Curia, was a later construction because the south wall of the exedra (our exedra 95) abutted the Augustan sanctuary wall <15>. He also argued that the facade of the sanctuary, which he correctly observed bonds with the Eumachia facade, abuts the southwest corner of the cult building's exedra thereby creating the ragged seam already discussed. Thus for Mau in 1879 the construction sequence was (a) the Augustan sanctuary, (b) the Imperial Cult Building (his "Curia," which he dated to the pre-earthquake period), and (c) the postearthquake facade of the Augustan sanctuary. Then, following a re-examination of the walls he reversed his opinion, mistakenly I believe, and argued that the south exedra of the cult building was anterior to the sanctuary's precinct wall and that the sanctuary itself was a post-earthquake foundation dedicated to Vespasian <16>. This pronouncement prepared the way for Maiuri's study and for the view current until very recently that the temple was a Flavian foundation.

The change in Mau's thinking involved only the chronological relationship between the exedra and the adjacent sanctuary. Remaining constant through both phases of his theory was his belief in the structural independence of the south exedra and of the cult building as a whole. Herein lies a major difference between his reading of this juncture and mine. Fig. 12 is a graphic representation of Mau's reading of this juncture. As will be seen, my reading recognizes three components in this juncture: a vestige of the original precinct wall of the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus, the post-62 reconstruction of the same sanctuary, and finally the south exedra of the Imperial Cult Building.

In order to evaluate Mau's readings we must return to W107.95/W95.107 and W107.93. Mau considered these two walls to belong to the Imperial Cult Building and believed the seam on W107.95 between opus incertum and opus testaceum fig. 4 to be the point at which the post-earthquake sanctuary facade abutted the pre- existing south exedra. By chance, this seam falls at the location where the southwestern corner of the exedra would have been if the exedra had been a freestanding structure, but this is just a coincidence. The absence of coigning proves that this point in the wall was never a finished exterior corner against which the repaired facade of the sanctuary was built. If the opus incertum masonry actually belonged to a pre-existing exedra, the corner would have been located further to the south to account for the additional masonry required by its coigning, a situation that would undercut the argument for seeing the present juncture as a corner. In addition, the arguments against reading the southeastern corner of the exedra as a finished freestanding corner (figs. 10 and 11) must be recalled here. The conclusion is that the exedra lacks the two finished exterior corners it should have if Mau's theory were correct. Lacking these, the exedra fails to achieve the structural independence required to support Mau's interpretation.

From the above analysis it follows that the opus incertum of W107.95 does not belong to a freestanding, pre-existing exedra; another explanation must be sought. Mau did not take into consideration the possibility that the two sides of a single wall may not be contemporary; consequently he read W107.95 as a wall of one period. My own reading recognizes that at Pompeii the two sides of a single wall may be faced very differently and that the two facings may or may not be contemporary. Instances where the two visible sides of walls are of different dates are W111.114 and W197.221.

The view taken here (expressed graphically as fig. 13) is that W107.95, the patches of painted plaster, and most of W107.93 are vestiges of the original Augustan sanctuary and that the process of constructing the south exedra produced (a) the facing that is designated W95.107, (b) the sculpture niche (W93.107 whose back is formed by the stretch of bricks above the opus incertum on W107.93), and (c) the western termination of 107.93/93.107 (fig. 7). In other words, when the Imperial Cult Building was constructed, the exedra ran up against the eastern side of W107.95, continued along the northern side of W107.93, and overlapped the western end of W107.93. This masonry chronology indicates that the cult building postdates the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus. Moreover, as the exedra abuts the rebuilt north precinct wall of the sanctuary, its sequence in the construction history of the forum must be assigned to a period that postdates those repairs.

(b) Imperial Cult Building/Macellum

Key: Numbering system.

The design relationship between the Imperial Cult Building and the Macellum is much more intimate than the abutting of one building against another. The Macellum, a simply designed, but structurally complex building, consists of several discrete building projects. The evidence by which these several construction projects can be identified and associated with the post-62 period is presented in the discussion of the Macellum in my article on the Pompeian forum; it is not repeated here. Of interest here is the Macellum's "facade and portal project" which includes most of the facade shops, the redesigned entrance, and the projecting termination of the southern end of the facade. The southern end of the facade project, located at the southwestern corner of the Macellum, extends beyond the already repaired corner of the building, turns the corner, and forms the back wall of the north exedra of the Imperial Cult Building. At the same time, the construction forms the southern limit of the Macellum facade and also defines the northern edge of the entrance to the cult building, including a sculpture niche that balances the one already discussed. This construction also blocks the street that once ran along the south side of he Macellum. While the multiple function of this single construction is fascinating from a design and an urban planning point of view, the chronological implications are equally apparent and important: the construction of the Imperial Cult Building belongs to the same project as the facade of the Macellum. To date one is to date the other.

While it is relatively easy to see that the Macellum facade wraps around the southwestern corner of the building and becomes one with the Imperial Cult Building, a detailed assessment of the masonry is frustrated by a modern refacing of the corner that also included a refacing and a rebuilding(?) of the rear wall of the cult building's north exedra. Two photographs provided by the Fototeca of the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei (fig. 14 and fig. fig. 15) can be compared to two of my own photographs from 1991 (fig. 16 and fig. 17). Fig. 14(facade shops 25 and 26 viewed from the west) shows that the upper part of the facade wall is constructed of reused tufa architectural fragments in a manner typical of the post-earthquake period. The repairs seen in fig. 16 completely mask the architectural fragments which are most helpful in providing a date for the wall and therefore for the whole facade project and the adjacent building associated with it. Fig. 15 (north exedra of cult building (92) and adjacent Macellum south wall; from south) also documents the use of architectural rubble in the south wall of the Macellum (upper left corner) and in the back wall of the exedra. No evidence of the door in the eastern wall of the exedra is apparent <17>. Figs. 17 and 19 make it clear that the opus reticulatum backing of the exedra is modern; the doorjamb of tufa blocks in the northeastern corner of the exedra is certainly modern; the creation of the doorway itself may be modern <18>.

Mau confessed difficulty in reading the interface between the cult building and the Macellum <19>. In the same passage he claimed that the relationship between the cult building and its adjacent buildings will not yield a clearer date for the former. This is a surprising declaration because it is precisely those relationships that reveal the building's relative and absolute chronologies. Mau was led to this conclusion by his already firmly held conviction that the so-called Temple of Vespasian was later and by his observation that it was not possible to determine whether the cult building abutted the original or the repaired Macellum. We can see where Mau's usually more strict methodology broke down. The cult building should have forced him to reevaluate his understanding of the relationship between the cult building and the adjacent buildings. Instead, Mau's prior opinions dictated his interpretation of the cult building. This, coupled with his difficulty in discerning the relationship between the cult building and the Macellum, undermined his reading of the masonry chronology and led him to date the building to the early imperial period.


Several aspects of the building's design point to a post-62 date.

(a) Relationship to the street grid (fig. 18). Whereas the Eumachia Building, Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus, and Macellum--all pre-earthquake foundations--defer to the pre-existing street grid, the Imperial Cult Building completely ignores and actually supersedes it by blocking the street that had run along the south side of the Macellum. Moreover, it is the only building on the east side of the forum that establishes an orthogonal relationship with the main axis of the forum. The chronological implication is that the cult building was constructed at a time when the street grid was no longer a principal component in the design of the forum. The building, therefore, appears to be later than the adjacent buildings that do adhere to the grid. As other structures that also serve to suppress earlier streets--the Macellum's facade project and the wall shared by the Sanctuary of the Genius of Augustus and the Eumachia Building--are post-62 constructions, it is possible to date the rejection of the street grid to a post-62 urban design scheme.

(b)Use of the building site. In rejecting the straight jacket of the street grid, the Imperial Cult Building displays a bold, expansive design that fully utilizes the building site by taking the adjacent buildings, and not the pre-existing street as the limits for the design. This way of thinking about building has neither precedent nor parallel on the forum. The designer(s) of the building rejected, or at least superseded, the design parameters of all other forum buildings, thus revealing a more urbanistically advanced, and presumably more chronologically advanced, approach to urban design.

(c) Design relationship to dated buildings in Rome. Design relationships place the Imperial Cult Building in a developmental and chronological position between the Domus Aurea's octagon suite and the Aula Regia of Domitian's palace on the Palatine Hill. The achievements of Nero's architect, Severus, in the Domus Aurea are noted especially for their bold essays in the creation of innovative interior spatial design as seen in the octagon suite. The centralized plan of the octagon fixed the spectator in space, while simultaneously directing vision and motion into the radiating chambers and outwards to the grounds of the Neronian estate. The dome overhead and the broad doorways of the octagon dematerialize the traditional walls and roof of the trabeated enclosure and substitute curve and vista by means of the dome and the amply pierced octagonal container. The Imperial Cult Building alludes to these developments without attempting to recreate the Neronian octagon suite. The Imperial Cult Building is nearly a centralized plan. Its width from exedra to exedra is the same as its depth; solid lines in fig. 19 mark the main axes. The strong transverse axis, apparent even today when a spectator is standing in the ruined building, reduces the impact of the central axis that focuses on the eastern apse with its high podium. Even though the west side is open to the forum (originally through a screen of eight columns), the spectator feels totally enveloped by a vast architectural space that anticipates the impact of Hadrian's Pantheon by at least half a century. There is no other building like this at Pompeii. Expressed differently, the innovative spatial treatment of the Imperial Cult Building has more in common with the interior of Sant' Agnese in Agone in the Piazza Navona in Rome than it does with the adjacent Temple of the Genius of Augustus or the nearby Pompeian Basilica. The innovative design must be recognized as a product of developments at Rome that we term the Roman architectural revolution.

The highly articulated wall surfaces, originally clad in marble, present advancing and receding sculpture niches whose original statues would have awed the spectator who, by means of space, opulent material, and imperial iconography, was transported into another realm. The eastern apse, with its statues elevated on a high podium, drew the spectator to the intersection of the central axis and a secondary transverse north-south axis (dashed line in fig.19). At this optimum viewing point, fig. 20,the spectator was locked into the architectural and sculptural coordinates of the building and held suspended in a world that transcended any architectural experience that could be found at Pompeii. This interplay of axial apse, transverse axes, and elaborated wall surfaces decorated with statuary and marble revetment anticipates the Aula Regia of the 90s in Domitian's Palace at Rome. From this position in the Pompeian building, the spectator who would turn to face the forum would see the interior space expand into the two large exedrae before it contracted to frame a view of the forum whose open center must have seemed very far away. The great distance between the building's interior and the open forum further emphasized the isolated quality of the interior without denying its inherent connection with the forum.

(d)Geometric proportioning

The Imperial Cult Building's width from exedra to exedra equals its depth: 26.60 m. The building's most significant interior dimensions therefore generate a square that can be superimposed upon the building (fig. 21). Fig. 21 (left) also demonstrates that the apse of the Imperial Cult Building is a segment of a circle whose diameter equals the radius of the larger circle that can be inscribed within the square. These observations are consistent with the Vitruvian dictum that temples should be designed in such a manner that the parts bear a proportional relationship to the whole structure just as the parts of the human form bear a proportional relationship to the whole body. <20>

Several important design features of the building can be explained by using the geometric elements introduced so far. Fig. 21 (right) introduces two lines that meet the top of the square at its midpoint and are tangent to the lower of the two smaller circles. These lines define the opening of the building as they intersect the lower edge of the square. (Fig. 22) retains the square and the apse circle and multiplies the apse circle so that three circles are tangent to each other. The diameters of the two lower circles define the major transverse axis just as the diameters of the two circles in fig. 21 (left) define the main longitudinal axis. If we mirror the major transverse axis around the cross axis of the square (highlighted in red), then the minor transverse axis is created. Thus it is clear that the creation of the transverse axes are related to the overall geometry of the plan.

Table of Contents.
Main forum plan.
Introduction page.


The designation of the building as the Sanctuary of the Public Lares has never been argued in detail, although it is the most commonly accepted attribution. Mau argues, correctly I think, for the religious character of the building. Its location, large size, innovative design, marble veneer, and sculpture niches certainly elevate the building to a special status. Moreover, its post-62 date and role in the monumentalization of the forum indicate that it was a building of considerable importance to the Pompeians. However, Mau's suggestion that the building is the public analogy of the household lararium remains less convincing than Zanker's association of it with the imperial cult. <21>

The weight of precedent, namely that the other three buildings under consideration, in whole or in part, evoke Augustus, his family, and his building program in Rome should not be discounted. If this building did not refer to the imperial family in some way, it would be the only building in this part of the forum to fail to do so. This is not to suggest, however, that the Pompeians necessarily dedicated the building to Augustus. Another emperor may have been the focus.

It is unlikely that the Pompeian recovery was achieved with only local funds. As the imperial treasury in Rome was the only other source of capital, it is likely that the advanced design of the building, as well as the funds to construct it, derived from Rome. If the response from Rome had been immediate, then the imperial patron would have been Nero. The accommodations for sculpture suggest that the Pompeians turned the gift from Rome into a civic display that honored the patron. The building may have been dedicated to the deified Augustus or to Augustus and to the other Julio-Claudian divi with the clear indication through statuary and inscriptions that Nero was a descendent of the divus and the benefactor who provided the building. One can imagine certain iconographic modifications after the death of Nero, but the design placed a Neronian stamp on the building that survived his damnatio memoriae and even the eruption of Vesuvius.

Table of Contents.
Main forum plan.
Introduction page.


The evidence presented here points to a post-62 date for the Imperial Cult Building. If that date can be accepted, then we can begin to assess the importance of the building within a Pompeian urban context. Its design, decoration, orientation, and function can be examined in relation to other post-62 developments in the forum. At the same time, we can relate the building's design and patronage to developments in Rome at a critical moment in the Roman architectural revolution. (Several of these issues are treated in my article on the Pompeian forum.<22>)

Table of Contents.
Main forum plan.
Introduction page.


The following abbreviations are used:

Maiuri 1942              Amedeo Maiuri, L'ultima fase edilizia di
                         Pompei (Rome 1942).
Mau 1879                 August Mau, Pompejanische Beiträge
                         (Berlin 1879).
Mau 1894                 August Mau, "Osservazioni sul creduto
                         tempio del Genio di Augusto," Atti della
                         Reale Accademia di Archeologia, Lettere
                         e Belle Arti 16 (1891-1893) [published
                         in 1894] 181-188. 
Mau 1896                 August Mau, "Der staedtische Larentempel
                         in Pompeji," RM 11 (1896) 285-301.
Mau 1902                 August Mau, Pompeii: Its Life and Art,
                         trans. Francis W. Kelsey (New York 1902)
Richardson               L. Richardson, Jr., Pompeii: An
                         Architectural History (Baltimore and
                         London 1988).
Wallat                   K. Wallat, "Opus Testaceum in Pompeji," RM 100                          (1993) 353-382.
  1. P. Zanker,Pompeji: Stadtbilder als Spiegel von Gesellschaft und Herrschaftsform (Mainz am Rhein 1987) 28; W. Jongman in his review of recent books by M.A. Levi, L. Richardson, and P.Zanker: JRS 81 (1991) 213-15; R. Ling, "The Architecture of Pompeii," JRA 4 (1991) 253. Back
  2. I. Gradel, "Mamia's Dedication: Emperor and Genius, The Imperial Cult in Italy and the Genius Coloniae in Pompeii," AnalRom 20 (1992) 53-54. Back
  3. Wallat 370. Back
  4. Maiuri 1942, 50 comments on the unitary construction and makes similar observations. Back
  5. It would be possible to agree with the structural integrity of the building and to argue that this reflects a pre-62 building that was not repaired. Quite apart from placing the design in a pre-62 context, this counter argument is inconsistent with all other evidence from the east side of the forum which shows that the three other buildings were repaired. One would be constrained to explain why such an ostensibly important building was left untouched. Back
  6. The argument from decoration is in danger of becoming circular if it is not accompanied by other arguments, such as those presented in this section. The building's marble revetment can be used justifiably as evidence for the post-62 decorative preference so long as the date for the building is reasonably established on grounds other than the decoration itself. Back
  7. Mau 1879, 256; Wallat 370 considers the coigning to be regular and therefore he concludes that the two parts of the wall are contemporary. Back
  8. For a discussion of coigning and an explanation of "coigning pattern," return to the Table of Contents and click on "A Technical Note on Coigning." Back
  9. This was Mau's view (infra n. 10) and is also the position held by Wallat 369-70. This issue will be taken up below. Back
  10. Mau 1879, 256; Mau 1894, 184; Wallat 370. Back
  11. Maiuri 1942, 52. Back
  12. W.F. Jashemski, The Gardens of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Villas Destroyed by Vesuvius (New Rochelle 1979) fig. 8; Jashemski, Gardens of Pompeii II. Appendices (New Rochelle 1993) fig. 4 (of which the present fig. 9 is a detail); L. Franchi dell'Orto ed., Pompei: L'informatica al servizio di una città antica (Rome 1988) pl. 18. Back
  13. Some cleaning and scraping might help, but only a dismantling of the walls would provide confirmation, and that is obviously not recommended. The visual examination of the juncture satisfies this writer that the south exedra of the Imperial Cult Building is built against the sanctuary wall and is therefore a later construction. Back
  14. None of the current speculation concerning a pre-62 date for the cult building is supported by a new architectural analysis. It therefore seems that Mau's hypothesis lies at the root of these theses. Back
  15. Mau 1879, 255-56. Back
  16. Mau 1894. In this article Mau did not offer a date for the cult building. These views were reiterated in Mau 1896, 285-301. Here Mau retains the belief that our W107.95 and W107.93 belonged only to the south exedra of the cult building. The possibility that these walls are vestiges of the earlier facade of the sanctuary is not entertained. In the 1896 article, p. 287, Mau offered an early imperial date for the cult building. Back
  17. The angle, the distance, and the presence of soil in the exedra may mask features that were actually there. Back
  18. This rebuilding is at odds with Mau's account (1879, 256; 1896, 287; reiterated by Maiuri 1942, 50) that this door was blocked. The date of the soil deposition shown in fig. 15 is problematical as well; Mau's observation of the blocked door suggests that this area was clear of earth at that time. The Eschebach plan (Die städtbauliche Entwicklung des antiken Pompeji. RM Supp. 17. [Heidelberg 1970]) does not show a door in this location nor does Mau's own plan in Mau 1896, 285 (=fig. 1 in this report). Back
  19. Mau 1896, 287. Back
  20. Vitr. De arch. 3.1. Back
  21. Mau 1896, esp. 299-301; Mau 1902, 102-105; Zanker (supra n. 1) 28; Zanker, Pompei: Società, immagini urbane e forme dell'abitare, trans. Andrea Zambrini (Torino 1993) 103; Richardson 273-75 considers the building to be a library. Back
  22. "Problems of Chronology, Decoration, and Urban Design in the Forum at Pompeii," AJA 98 (1994) 629-694.Back
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