Maison Carrée Reconstructed Inscription – Nîmes, France - Atlas Obscura

Nîmes, France

Maison Carrée Reconstructed Inscription

The lost Latin words were reconstructed using the holes from the nails that once pinned them in place. 

Maison Carrée is one of the best preserved Roman temples and one of the most wondrous sites in the history-rich city of Nîmes in Southern France. If you look on the wall near the temple, you’ll see a long-forgotten piece of its past.

The temple was erected during the reign of Augustus and was dedicated to Gaius Caesar and his younger brother, Lucius Caesar. They were the sons of Agrippa and the adopted grandsons of Augustus, who raised them himself.

The brothers both started brilliant military careers and were destined to inherit the empire after Augustus’ death. But sadly, both men died at young ages, predeceasing the emperor. For unknown reasons, during the Middle Ages the inscription on the entablature dedicating the temple to the two young heirs of Augustus was removed.

In 1758, local scholar Jean-François Séguier studied the order and the number of the holes left by the nails that once fixed the ancient bronze letters onto the front frieze and the architrave. Just with this small hint—which was further complicated by the Roman habit to shorten many words—he was able the reconstruct the whole inscription. The English translation of the inscription reads: “To Gaius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul; to Lucius Caesar, son of Augustus, Consul designate; to the princes of youth.”

The inscription was thus reconstructed, but it wasn’t returned to its place on the front of the temple. Instead, it was written on a nearby wall in front of Maison Carrée, so it’s very easy to overlook.

Know Before You Go

The temple itself is open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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