Against Gravity

Thomas Morton

Two-Piece Capitals: How the Examples from Roman Africa Stack Up
For the Masons at Work conference (Philadelphia, 2012) Seth Bernard offered a detailed assessment of the origin, diffusion, and decline of two-piece Corinthian capitals in the Greco-Roman world. Bernard concluded that the use of two-piece Corinthian capitals on the Italian peninsula declined at the end of the Flavian dynasty; however, he noted that two-piece capitals continued through the Antonine period in North Africa. Examples of two-piece capitals are known from the principal temples in Sbeïtla, Haïdra, Timgad, and Djemila, and their two-piece capitals include not only Corinthian capitals, but in the case of Sbeïtla, Composite capitals as well. These capitals and their architectural contexts in these four cities will be the focus of the present paper. To date, none of the temples is securely dated, and the various dates for these temples range from mid second century C.E. to the early third century C.E. Interestingly, all of these temples were once considered Capitolia – although this designation has been challenged for some of the structures. In addition, the urban development varies considerably amongst these inland cities; all were at one time part of the Roman provinces of Africa Proconsularis and Numidia. These two-piece capitals were all carved from local stone, and thus, they are harder to place within the larger scholarly conversations regarding Corinthian capitals in marble. This paper will attempt to elucidate why two-piece capitals were used for these comparable architectural projects and, in addition, try to understand the larger urban development issues concerning these temples.