The Temple of Claudius was an ancient structure located on the Caelian Hill south of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. The Caelian Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome.
Today, some parts of the temple are still visible.
The temple stood on a rectangular platform meassuring 180 x 200 meters, suported by powerful retaining walls of 15 meters or more. A podium was built 20 steps above the platform. The platform itself is believed to have been adorned with equestrian statues of Claudius, but this is not known for sure.
To enter the temple, one would pass through a monumental entrance on the southern side which incorporated a large stairway oriented towards the Palantine Hill.
Construction of the temple was initiated by Emperor Claudius’ widow Agrippina upon his death in 54 AD. The temple was damaged in the Great Fire of Rome in July 64 AD, during the reign of Agrippina’s son Emperor Nero, and then further deliberately destroyed on Nero’s order. Exactly why Nero demolished the temple is unclear, but it might have been motivated by the extension of the aqueduct Aqua Claudia to the Caelian Hill, or to make room for the construction of the Domus Aurea, the vast landscaped palace built by the Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome after the great fire in 64 AD.
Later, Emperor Vespasian – who ascended the imperial throne in 69 AD – had the Temple of Claudius rebuilt.
The last mentioning of the temple in surviving texts is from the 4th century AD.
We don’t know if the temple was still extant or even in use when the persecution of non-Christians started in Rome during the 4th century reign of Constantine the Great. If it was in use, it was probably closed as the persecution started. It might also have been destroyed, since Emperor Constantine ordered the pillaging and tearing down of certain pagan temples.
Alternative English names
- Temple of the Divus Claudius
- Temple of the Divine Claudius
- Temple of the Deified Claudius
Can I see it?
The known remains of the Temple of Claudius are the four sides of the platform. The temple stood on a rectangular platform measuring 180 x 200 meters, supported by strong retaining walls of 15 meters and more, and it is some elements of these walls that are still partly visible.
The eastern side of the temple is the part that is best preserved, and it was re-discovered when the road Via Claudia was constructed in 1880.
The western side of the temple platform was built using travertine, a type of limestone deposited by certain mineral springs, especially hot springs. Some of this travertine that once used to be a part of the temple is today a part of the bell tower of the basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the Caelian Hill.
Tunnels running through tufa limestone are located under the temple and has been mapped by Italian authorities.
The ship’s bow fountain
A fountain that used to be in the Temple of Claudius is today housed in the Capitoline Museums on top of the Capitoline Hill. It is shaped like a ship’s bow adorned with a boar’s head. It was in use in the temple during the reign of Emperor Nero. Later, Emperor Vespasian returned it to civilian use, in an effort to reduce the temple’s water consumption.
Where is it?
The area where the temple used to be is roughly bounded by the roads Clivus Scauri, Via Claudia and Viale del Parco del Celio.