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Rome: Temple of Portunus


Temple of Portunus: one of the temple of Rome's Forum Boarium.

The Temple of Portunus, the god of the river port, is one of the two temples on the Forum Boarium ("cattle market") that have survived to the present day. Here, it is seen from the east, from the forum itself. Behind it you can see the cars on the Lungotevere, the street along the river Tiber. Behind the cars, invisible, is the ruin of the ancient Pons Aemilius, the Aemilian bridge.

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The street that once connected the Forum Boarium with the bridge and passed in front of this temple, was called Vicus Lucceius (today Via di Ponte Rotto). Nowadays, the close connection between the temple and the water is hard to imagine, because after the flood of 1870, high dikes were constructed to regulate the Tiber. However, we can be certain that this temple once faced the incoming ships.

In the centuries BCE, in front of this temple was the river port, which silted up during the early empire. When the present building of the Anagrafe was constructed, the remains of buildings from the age of the emperor Trajan were found, which had been built on the site of the ancient port. 


Until the discovery of the old river port, the function of the square temple on the Forum Boarium was unknown, and it was sometimes - but incorrectly - called "Temple of Fortuna Virilis". That it was the temple of Portunus is again guesswork, but at least it's a guess based on knowledge of the actual surroundings of the monument.

The present shape of the temple dates back to the early second century BCE, but there were later restorations. It is erected from tuff from the valley of the river Anio. The terrace was exceptionally high (a part is now hidden under the ground) because it was so close to the river. The sanctuary was built on the site of an older temple, which seems to date back to the third or even to the fourth century BCE.


The temple was what modern specialists call a pseudoperipteros temple with six Ionic columns in front. This was a common type of temple in the Latin part of the Roman world, although examples are known from the east as well (e.g., the Temple of the Muses in Baalbek).

The last photo shows the temple, seen from the dike along the Tiber. Behind the temple was the Forum Boarium and the Porta Flumentana ("river gate").

A satellite photo of the temple of Portunus can be found here.
Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 31 July 2012
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