Milliarium Aureum

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Miliarium 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
Miliarium Aureum is located in Rome
Miliarium Aureum
Miliarium 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 labelled Milliarium Aureum in the Roman Forum.

The Miliarium Aureum (Classical Latin: [miːllɪˈaːrɪʊm ˈawrɛʊm], 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.[1] On it were perhaps listed all the major cities in the empire and distances to them.[2] According to Schaaf,[3] the phrase "all roads lead to Rome"[4] is a reference to the Milliarium 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.



Augustus, as curator viarum, erected this monument in 20 BC.[5] Probably the monument received its name of Miliarium Aureum quite immediately after its inauguration. It symbolized the starting point of the Roman road system to Italy and to all the imperial possessions.

Architecture and Style[edit]

Plan Missing in the Forma Urbis[edit]

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[edit]

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 [or under] 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.[6][7]

General Style and Structure[edit]

The Miliarium 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 still had bronze hooks. The whole monument probably had the form of a Roman milestone. Other scholars think that the Miliarium Aureum was made entirely of gilded bronze.[7] According to other scholars, the monument only had gilded bronze letters.[8]


Height: 145 in or 345 cm .
Diameter: 1.15 m (the column only); 3 m (the base [?], i.e. the carved Marble fragments labelled as Miliarium Aureum in the Roman Forum).

The problem of the Inscription[edit]

The ancient sources never directly say what was inscribed on the Miliarium Aureum, so every idea one may have about this problem must be considered a modern inference based on the typical and usual form, structure and function of Roman milestones.

These are the main hypotheses about the inscription:

The problem of the Marble fragments labelled Milliarium Aureum[edit]

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 true, considering as well that the diameter of this base seems to be too large for a Milliarium. Scholars[7] now prefer 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, 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]

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.

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].

External links[edit]