Coordinates: 41°53′33″N 12°29′04″E / 41.8925°N 12.48444°E / 41.8925; 12.48444
The Milliarium Aureum (Classical Latin: , golden milestone) was a monument, probably of gilded bronze, erected by the Emperor Caesar Augustus near the temple of Saturn in the central Forum of Ancient Rome. All roads were considered to begin from this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point. On it were perhaps listed all the major cities in the empire and distances to them. According to Schaaf, the phrase "all roads lead to Rome" is a reference to the Millarium Aureum, as the specific point to which all roads were said to lead. Today, the base of the milestone might still exist in the Roman Forum (see discussion of the problem of the fragments below).
Augustus, as curator viarum, erected this monument in 20 BC . Probably the monument received its name of Milliarium Aureum quite immediately after its inauguration. It had to symbolize the starting point of the Roman road system to Italy and to all the imperial possessions.
Otho's conspiracy and the death of the emperor Galba
The Milliarium Aureum, which stood hard by the Temple of Saturn at the head of the Roman Forum, was used 15 January 69 AD as gathering point for all the men who participated in Otho's conspiracy to murder the emperor Galba. The emperor Galba was then murdered on the same day in the main square of the Roman Forum by the men of Otho, Otho who then became emperor.
Architecture and Style
Plan Missing in the Forma Urbis
The plan of this monument is missing in the Imperial Forma Urbis as we have it now. The remaining fragments for this area of the Roman Forum are all in the so called slab V-11, Stanford University #19 (Temple of Saturn with the frontal section and staircase, but the Rostra section is missing, Temple of Concordia, Temple of the Deified Vespasian).
Location, General Style and Structure
Information from ancient authors are very scarce, so there are many problems of interpretation about this monument.
It is sure that it was hard by the Temple of Saturn at the head of the Roman Forum, but its exact location is still uncertain and unknown. Due to the new archaeological data from the excavations by Kähler in 1959 which seem to confirm the data from the excavations by Bunsen in 1833, now many scholars think that it was located at the southeast corner of the podium of the Rostra Augusti on a symmetrical axis with the Umbilicus Urbis Romae .
The Milliarium Aureum seems to have been a marble column sheathed in gilded bronze: according to C. Hülsen, in 1835 a huge marble cylinder was found near the Temple of Saturn and it had still bronze hooks. The whole monument had probably the form of a Roman milestone. Other scholars think that the Milliarium Aureum was entirely made of gilded bronze. According to other scholars, the monument had only gilded bronze letters.
Height: 1.45 in or 3.45 cm . Diameter: 1.15 m (the column only); 3 m (the base , i.e. the carved Marble fragments labelled as Milliarium Aureum in the Roman Forum).
The problem of the Inscription
The ancient sources never say, what was inscribed on the Milliarium Aureum, directly, so every idea one may have about this problem must be considered a modern inference which has its reason in the typical and usual form, structure and function of the Roman milestones.
These are the main hypotheses about the inscription:
- Nothing and probably the name and title of the Emperor only;
- The names of the most important cities of Italy and of the Empire in 20 BC with the distances of these from Rome: according to a vague sentence by Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia, 3.66), the distances in Roman miles were measured (so with a difference of ca. 1 mile) starting from the City gates and not from the location of the Milliarium: Via Appia from Porta Capena (to Brundisium, Greece and the Oriental Provinces), Via Salaria and Via Nomentana from Porta Collina and Via Flaminia (to Northern Italy, Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia and Illyricum), Via Aurelia (to the Galliae and Hispaniae), Via Ostiensis (to Ostia and to the main harbour to Corsica and Sardinia, Sicilia and Africa);
- The names of the roads out of Rome and the men of praetorian rank Augustus had made Curatores Viarum to see to the upkeep of them, based on Dio Cassius' account of the erection of the Monument.
The problem of the Marble fragments labelled Milliarium Aureum
The ca. 3 m diameter Marble fragments labelled Milliarium Aureum with an anthemion frieze decoration have been considered part of the base of the monument for a long time. However there's no direct evidence for this to be real, also because the diameter of this base seems to be too large for a Milliarium. Now scholarsprefer to consider the fragments a section of the upper part of the Umbilicus Urbis Romae which had a 5.1 m diameter basis and 3 m diameter upper elements.
According to Richardson the ruins labelled 'Milliarium Aureum' can be considered pertinent only if the column of the monument was of a colossal scale almost 3 m diameter and not 1.15 m:
This way the fragments of the so called Milliarium Aureum are now believed by some to be identical with the Umbilicus Urbis Romae (or Navel of the city of Rome), a structure in the same area of the Forum which served a similar but not identical purpose.