You may wish to read an introduction to this section first.
Palazzo della Loggia (see a detail of its decoration); (insets) imaginary portraits of Roman emperors
During the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, Brescia suffered as much as any city in Italy, but is now in a flourishing condition. (..) The houses are well built, with abundance of squares, and large well paved streets, which are kept very clean. (..) The town is very populous, and the inhabitants industrious and rich, having a very great trade in linen, cheese, and iron work; but particularly in swords and fire-arms, which employ a great number of gunsmiths, esteemed the best in Italy. (..) They have some handsome palaces and churches. (..) The palace of Justice is a large and stately building, of a hard stone resembling marble; over against it there is a portico of 500 paces long, filled with gunsmiths shops.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
Brixia (Brescia) is known to have become a Roman colony, but we are not informed at what period this event took place. It was also a municipium, as ancient inscriptions attest. Strabo speaks of it as inferior in size to Mediolanum and Verona.
John Murray - Handbook for Travellers in Northern Italy - 1852
Brixia acknowledged the hegemony of Rome at the beginning of the IInd century BC; in 89 BC it acquired the status of municipium and colonia and in 49 BC Julius Caesar granted Roman citizenship to all its peregrini, free inhabitants of local descent. The Renaissance Palazzo della Loggia was decorated with 30 imaginary portraits of Roman emperors in recognition of the historical links of the town with Rome.
Palazzo di Monte di PietÓ Vecchio at Piazza della Loggia (late XVth century): (left) Roman inscriptions (one of which mentions the Nonii Arrii, a wealthy family of Roman origin who had a villa on Lake Garda; other inscriptions mentioning this family were found in the Forum); (centre/right) reliefs from Roman monuments which were discovered during the construction of Palazzo di Monte di PietÓ and other nearby buildings
They have many noble families here, who pretend to be descended from the ancient Romans. Nugent
The citizens of Brescia began to collect and preserve these remains at an early period; earlier indeed than any other city in Europe. By a special ordinance, passed in 1480, they required that all who, in digging or otherwise, might discover ancient inscriptions, should preserve them, and fix them on the walls of their houses, or otherwise place them where they should be the objects of public study. Murray
The municipal authorities of Brescia, together with those of Verona, were among the first ones in Italy to act for the conservation of their Roman heritage.
The antiquities of Brescia were investigated in the 17th century by the learned Rossi, who describes them in his "Memorie Bresciane", but who trusted more to his fancy than to his observation. A tall Corinthian column was then protruding through the soil, and Rossi in his treatise gave the drawing of the whole temple to which it had belonged. The column escaped demolition, but no one paid much attention (..) until the municipal authorities were persuaded to institute a "scavo"; and the result was the discovery of the entire portico, and of much of the adjoining structure. Murray
Ottavio Rossi (1570-1630) published his book in 1616; the plan of Roman Brescia in the 1693 edition was definitely based on many unproven assumptions, yet the monuments in the central part of the town were identified in a rather precise manner. The Forum was indicated by Rossi as Piazza di Nonio Arrio because of inscriptions referring to members of that family which made the site known as Piazza del Novarino until the early XXth century. Rossi was also right in suggesting that ruins of a building at the southern side of the Forum belonged to the Curia (Senate Hall) of the town and that a theatre stood next to the temple.
Capitolium: (left) columns of the portico, only the entire one was visible before the excavation campaigns; (right) 73 AD inscription celebrating
Emperor Vespasian on the reconstructed entablature of the building
The columns, with the exception of the one which so long declared the existence of the rest, are broken at various heights, but the portions remaining are very perfect, and so are the stairs and the basement, which are entirely in their original state. The latter is composed of upright blocks of marble, one block composing the whole height upwards. The masonry indeed throughout is magnificent. The columns are elegant, both in proportion and execution, and good workmanship is visible in the sharply-cut capitals and mouldings which lie around. Where the outer casing is removed you may observe the bands of brick binding the structure. (..) The building is called a temple, and is supposed to have been dedicated by Vespasian to Hercules: but its form seems to indicate that it was intended for some other purpose, perhaps a court of justice; and it is not even certain whether the mutilated inscription upon which the conjecture is founded belonged to the building. Murray
Underground hall near the Capitolium; it was part of a shrine which was built in the Ist half of the Ist century BC, thus before the Capitolium
The temple is raised upon the foundations of an older structure, of which many vestiges may be seen in the passages and vaults included in the basement story. They have tessellated pavements, and the walls are of the "opus reticulatum", over which a fine and hard compact and polished stucco has been laid. Great portions of this remain quite perfect; it was painted in compartments as at Pompeii, and the colours are very fresh. Murray
Reconstructed cella of the Capitolium with Roman inscriptions (some actual, some casts) related to: (left) local citizens, (centre) emperors and other historical personages, (right) tombstones, one of which is shown in the image used as background for this page; in the foreground parts of a colossal statue
of Jupiter which together with a dedicatory inscription prove that the temple was a "Capitolium", i.e. a temple dedicated to to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the three gods who were worshipped on the Capitoline Hill in Rome; these temples, a symbol of loyalty to Rome, have been found in many provincial towns from Tunisia to Hungary
A museum has been formed within the walls of the ancient building, to preserve these objects. Girolamo Ioli was most properly appointed its conservator. The inscriptions in the museum are numerous and valuable. (..) They are classed, as nearly as possible, according to subjects. The Conservatore Ioli wishes to form a complete collection of all the Roman inscriptions found in the province of Brescia, which he is constantly exploring. In those cases, therefore, where the original could not be procured, he has caused a rubbing to be taken from the stone, and from these rubbings he has painted fac-similes in tablets upon the walls. Murray
Findings from the Capitolium which are on display there (Ist/IInd century AD): (left) monumental chandelier; (centre) altar; (right) two marble heads of Minerva; they were most likely complemented by a bronze helmet
The architectural fragments are numerous; some exhibit rich varieties of the composite. Many other objects of interest
are dispersed in the museum. Murray
The abundance of inscriptions and friezes at Brescia is partly explained by the availability of a white stone and of a slightly greyish marble (the latter can be polished) which were quarried at Botticino, in the environs of the town. The quarries are still active; the Monument to King Victor Emmanuel II in Rome was faced with botticino.
Museum of the City of Brescia at Santa Giulia (it was inaugurated in 1999 in the premises of a medieval nunnery): findings from the Capitolium: (left) cast of a bronze statue of Victory, highly resembling a relief at Colonna Traiana; (centre) head of Domizia Longina, wife of Emperor Domitian (previously thought to portray Annia Faustina Maior, wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius); (right) an unusual depiction of a prisoner (it brings to mind that of young Attis)
When these passages were opened, the excavators discovered a heap of bronzes, some nearly whole, others broken, but none injured except by fracture, and which had evidently been deposited there all at one time - how or when, it is difficult to conjecture; but the most reasonable supposition is, that, when the emblems of paganism were removed by law from the temples, these were hidden by the adherents of idolatry, and forgotten in the dark vaults in which they were concealed (see the Treasure of Bavay, a collection of Roman bronze statues which was hidden at "Bagacum", a town in "Gallia Belgica"). A museum has been formed (..) to preserve these objects. The best work in this museum is the bronze winged statue, which, from its attitude, has been supposed to be either a Fame or a Victory. The shield under the left hand is a restoration; so also is the helmet upon which her left foot rests. (..) The figure is rather larger than life. Her head is encircled by a garland of laurel-leaves, inlaid with silver. The drapery and wings are executed with the greatest delicacy. (..) When discovered the wings were found lying at the feet of the statue, evidently having been taken off for the purpose of better stowing the figure in its place of concealment. (..) Found together with the Victory, and now in the same room, are six heads, with traces of gilding: one of them is supposed to be the Empress Faustina. Also a small statue, fully gilded, representing a captive, a Barbarian monarch. Murray
Many fragments of mouldings and
ornaments, some gilt, all of great elegance; and probably decorations of
the monument, whatever it was, of
which the Victory formed a part. Murray
The fragment of a decorated pillar resembles one at Verona which was admired by J. W. Goethe. In many ways Verona and Brescia are twin cities, but the latter did not attract as many Grand Tour travellers as the former, because it lacked a grand ancient monument which could withstand comparison with the Arena.
Near these ruins
are the remains supposed to be part
of a theatre. Not much is seen, and
they are concealed by a private dwelling-house. Murray
The theatre was built during the Augustan age in the slope of a hill in the northern part of the town, along the Decumanus Maximus, the main east-west street of Verona. It was enlarged and embellished in the IInd century and there is evidence that it was utilized until the beginning of the Vth century.
Roman Theatre: stage
The high wall behind the stage collapsed, perhaps because of an earthquake which struck the region in 1117, and its stones were used as construction material. In the XIIIth century a large house was built on the site of the stage; it was demolished in 1961-1973. The theatre must have been very similar to that of Orange which has retained almost entirely its original structure.
Part of the Forum
Under another dwelling-house, near
the museum, in a kind of cellar, are
some Corinthian columns, buried up to
their capitals, and supporting architraves sculptured with foliage. These
are conjectured to be parts of the
Forum. Many other vestiges are found
dispersed in the city. Murray
The house was demolished to unearth a portico on the eastern side of the Forum between Capitolium and Curia. The western side of the Forum housed a bath establishment.
Parts of the fašade of the Curia
The southern side of the Forum was occupied by a long building, a basilica, which, in addition to housing the meetings of the local Senate, served as tribunal and more in general for the everyday gatherings of the citizens of Brixia (you may wish to see the Basilica of Pompeii and the beautiful ruins of the Forum of Sabratha with Capitolium, Curia and other temples and basilicas).
(left) Torre d'Ercole; (right) some ancient stones on its walls
The Capitolium was for a long time believed to be a temple to Hercules because according to tradition Brixia was founded by him. The circumstances in which this occurred are fuzzy, but they were probably linked to the hero's return to Greece after he stole the cattle of Geryon and the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides, the nymphs of evening and therefore of the West. In order to perform these labours he travelled either to the Atlas mountains of Africa or to southern Iberia. Ottavio Rossi wrote that Brixia had another temple to Hercules, the stones of which were utilised in the construction of a medieval tower.
You may wish to see Other Roman Monuments of Brescia or Longobard Brescia or to move to:
Roman Aquileia - Main Monuments
Roman Aquileia - Tombs and Mosaics
Early Christian Aquileia
Chioggia: Living on the Lagoon
Chioggia: Other Monuments
Roman and Medieval Cividale del Friuli
Venetian Cividale del Friuli
Roman and Byzantine Parenzo (Porec)
Medieval and Venetian Parenzo (Porec)
Peschiera del Garda
Roman Pola (Pula)
Medieval and Venetian Pola (Pula): Churches
Medieval and Venetian Pola (Pula): Other Monuments
Byzantine Ravenna: S. Apollinare in Classe
Byzantine Ravenna: S. Vitale
Byzantine Ravenna: Other Monuments
Venetian and Papal Ravenna: Walls and Gates
Venetian and Papal Ravenna: Churches
Venetian and Papal Ravenna: Other Monuments
Roman and Medieval Trieste
Roman Verona: Theatre and Arena
Roman Verona in the Museums
Medieval Verona: San Zeno
Venetian Gates of Verona