Milliarium Aureum

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Milliarium Aureum
Location Regione VIII Forum Romanum
Built in Inauguration 20 BC
Built by/for Emperor Augustus
Type of structure Milestone with gilded bronze finishing
Related Augustus
Milliarium Aureum is located in Rome
Milliarium Aureum
Milliarium Aureum
This article covers the Ancient Roman Forum of the Republican and Imperial periods
Roman Forum Plan with the Milliarium Aureum in red and the Umbilicus Urbis in blue.
Remains labeled "Milliarium Aureum" in the Roman Forum.

The Milliarium Aureum (Classical Latin: [miːllɪˈaːrɪʊm ˈawrɛʊm], golden milestone) was a monument, probably of marble or 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 at this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to it.[1] On it perhaps were listed all the major cities in the empire and distances to them,[2] though the monument's precise location and inscription remain matters of debate among historians.

According to Schaaf,[3] the phrase "all roads lead to Rome"[4] is a reference to the Milliarium Aureum - the specific point to which all roads were said to lead. Today, a marble structure speculated to be the base of the milestone can be seen in the Roman Forum.


Augustus, as curator viarum, erected the monument in 20 BC.[5] It probably received the name Milliarium Aureum soon after its inauguration. It symbolized the starting point of the Roman road system to the rest of Italy and to all the imperial possessions.

Architecture and style[edit]

The plan of the monument is among those missing from the recovered fragments of the Forma Urbis. 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, and Temple of the Deified Vespasian). Information from ancient authors is also very scarce, so there are many problems of interpretation concerning the exact nature of the Milliarium Aureum.


It is certain that it was "hard by [under] the Temple of Saturn at the head of the Roman Forum", but its exact location is still unknown. Due to archaeological data from excavations by Kähler in 1959, which seem to confirm data from excavations by Bunsen in 1833, many scholars now believe that it was located at the southeast corner of the podium of the Rostra Augusti on a symmetrical axis with the Umbilicus Urbis Romae.[6][7]

Style, structure, and dimensions[edit]

The Milliarium Aureum seems to have been a marble column sheathed in gilded bronze; according to C. Hülsen, a huge marble cylinder was found in 1835 near the Temple of Saturn and it still had bronze hooks. The whole monument likely had the standard form of a Roman milestone. Some scholars think that the Milliarium Aureum was made entirely of gilded bronze,[7] while others believe only the inscribed letters were gilded bronze.[8] Probable dimensions for the structure include a height of 370 centimetres (150 in), and a diameter of 1.15 metres (3.8 ft) (column only) or 3 metres (9.8 ft) if including the alleged base (i.e. the carved marble fragments labeled "Milliarium Aureum" in the Roman Forum).

The problem of the inscription[edit]

Ancient sources never directly say what was inscribed on the Milliarium Aureum, so every idea one may have about the inscription must be considered a modern inference based on the typical form, structure and function of Roman milestones.

The main hypotheses about the inscription suggest that it included:

The problem of the marble fragments labeled "Milliarium Aureum"[edit]

The ca. 3-m diameter marble fragments labeled "Milliarium Aureum" with an anthemion frieze decoration have long been considered part of the base of the monument. However, there is no direct evidence for this, considering as well that the diameter of this base seems to be too large for a standard milliarium.

According to Richardson, the ruins labeled "Milliarium Aureum" can be considered pertinent only if the column of the monument was of a colossal scale, of almost 3 m diameter and not 1.15 m:

Still less credible is that the carved stone members labelled Milliarium Aureum at the northwest end of the Forum Romanum today actually belonged to the base of that monument. The frieze decorated with an anthemion belongs relatively high on a building, and both elements are of a diameter equal to that of the Umbilicus Romae, too large for a milestone, unless it were of colossal scale.[11]

Scholars[7] now prefer to consider these fragments a section of the upper part of the Umbilicus Urbis Romae ("Navel of the City of Rome"), a structure in the same area of the Forum which served a similar but not identical purpose, and which had a base 5.1 m in diameter and upper elements 3 m in diameter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cassius Dio 54.8.4; Plutarch, Galba 24.4; Pliny, Naturalis Historia 3.66; Tacitus, Historiae 1.27; Suetonius, Otho 6.2.
  2. ^ No direct ancient evidence seems to support this interpretation: Z. Mari, 'Miliarium Aureum', in E. M. Steinby (ed.) Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (1996) vol. 3, pp. 250-251 (Italian). ISBN 88-7140-096-8; 'Miliarium Aureum,' in L. Haselberger (ed.) Mapping Augustan Rome p. 167.
  3. ^ Schaaf, P. (1867/1886). Ante-nicene fathers: The Apostolic fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus [Roberts, A. & Donaldson, J, Eds]. [Electronic reprint] Grand Rapids, MI, USA: CCEL. 1886, v.1 p. 1
  4. ^ This phrase is the modern wording of what appears to be a phrase of medieval origin; see the Wiktionary entry for details.
  5. ^ Cassius Dio, Historiae Romanae, 54.8.4
  6. ^ H. Kähler, Das Funfsäulendenkmal für die Tetrarchen auf dem Forum Romanum [Cologne 1964], 23, 58-59
  7. ^ a b c B. Frischer, D. Favro and D. Abernathy, University of California Los Angeles, 2005
  8. ^ R.A. Staccioli, La Roma di Augusto, Novara 1985
  9. ^ C. Hülsen, Bretschneider and Regenberg, 1904
  10. ^ L. Richardson, 1992
  11. ^ L. Richardson, jr., 'Milliarium Aureum', A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1992) p. 254.ISBN 0-8018-4300-6
  • Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, London: Oxford University Press (1929), p. 342 [1].

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