HERCULIS INVICTI ARA MAXIMA
the earliest cult-centre of Hercules in
Rome, in the forum Boarium, erected, according to tradition, when
Hercules had slain Cacus, and his divinity had been recognised by Evander
(Liv. i. 7
. IO-II; ix. 29
.9; Dionys. i. 40
. 6; Fest. 237; Serv. Aen. viii.
). The dedication of this altar was ascribed by one form of
tradition-probably the earliest-to Evander (Dionys. loc. cit.; cf. Macrob.
iii. II. 7; 2. 4; Tac. Ann. xv. 41
; Myth. Vat. ii. 153
; Strabo v. 3
by another to Hercules himself (Liv. loc. cit.; Ov. Fast. i. 581
. 67; Solin. i. 10
; Verg. Aen. viii. 271 1
), and by a third to the companions whom Hercules left behind in Italy (Macrob. iii. 6
. 17). In the
forum Boarium, its site is also described as post ianuas circi Maximi
(Serv. loc. cit.), iuxta circum
(Schol. Iuv. viii. 13
; cf. Schol. Veron. Aen.
), and within the line of the Palatine pomerium at one corner
(Tac. Ann. xii. 24
). It stood, therefore, in the eastern part of the forum
Boarium, near the carceres of the circus, and probably very near to the
temple of HERCULES VICTOR
(q.v.), that is, at the north-east corner of
the Piazza di Bocca della Verita, north of S. Maria in Cosmedin (LS iii.
; DAP 2. vi. 274).
This altar was burned in the fire of Nero (Tac. Ann. xv. 41
), but was
restored, and was standing in the fourth century (Fest. Serv. locc. citt.).
To the second, third, and fourth centuries belong several inscriptions,
dedicated by praetors to Hercules Invictus (CIL vi. 312-315
316 Alcide ; 319 Hercules Victor), which were found near by when the
ruins of the round temple, identified with that of HERCULES VICTOR
were destroyed during the pontificate of Sixtus IV, and it is not certain
whether these inscriptions belonged to the temple or ara, or both. No
traces of the altar itself have ever been found (cf. an unsuccessful attempt
to identify it with the early structure under S. Maria in Cosmedin, M61.
1909, 107-117 2
). By Tacitus and Juvenal (loc. cit.) the altar is called
magna instead of maxima.
It would be natural to enclose the altar, and some kind of a sacred
precinct may be indicated by certain passages in literature rather than
the aedes Herculis Invicti (Strabo v. 3
. 3: τέμενος
; Solin. i. 10
: consaeptum sacellum
; Plut. q. Rom. 90: ἐντὸς τῶν περιβόλων
). A statue
of Hercules triumphalis (Rosch. i. 2911
) in the forum Boarium, ascribed
by tradition to Evander (Plin. NH xxxiv. 33
) and probably referred to by
Macrobius (iii. 6. I 7) and Servius (Aen. iii. 407
; viii. 288 3
), may have been
in this ancient precinct of the ara rather than in the temple (Jord. i. 2
481 ; Ann. d. Inst. 1854, 28-38
; Arch. Zeit. 1877, 107
ff.; Gilb. i. 78-82
RE viii. 552-554
; Rosch. i. 2901-29
o3, 2904-2920 passim ; Wissowa, Ges.
Abhandl. 260; WR 273-284). An inscription recently acquired by the
Lateran Museum mentions an aedes dedicated to Hercules Invictus
Esychianus (cf. CIL vi. 280
, 322; BPW 1889, 683
). Its provenance is
unknown, but Hiilsen conjectures that it belonged to a chapel situated
in the vicinity of the forum Boarium, in which the cult of Hercules was
centred (RPA i. 89-94
, and esp. 93, n. 10; cf. NS 1924, 67
. For a
Pompeian painting believed to represent Hercules at the ara Maxima
see Mem. Ace. Napoli 1911, 169-180
). Like the first of the two inscriptions cited, it was dedicated to Hercules by Hierus and Asylus (cf.
Mart. ix. 103
), slaves of Tiberius Claudius Livianus, praefectus praetorio
under Trajan (Pros. i. 384
, 753; cf. CIL vi. 1604
; xv. 932
, 2317, 7882).
The name Esychianus is explained by the fact that the second inscription
is a dedication (also to Hercules) by one M. Claudius Hesychus, probably
a freedman of Livianus.