Temple of Augustus and Livia

Future President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson visited southern France in 1784.

On his way to the coast, he passed through Vienne, a small city of 30,000 people today just south of Lyon. Vienne has a great character and it is situated on the left bank of the Rhône River. Jefferson was particularly interested in the amphitheater, the Gallo-Roman pyramid and the Temple of Augustus and Livia.

Temple of Augustus and Livia
photo by Carole Raddato

It is said that he loved the building very much and took notes of its dimensions. He called it the Pretorian Palace during his trip and compared it to the ancient palace Maison Carrée in Nîmes.

Built in the 1st century, this Corinthian monument has a peristyle on three of its sides. Six fluted columns bear, on the facade, an entablature topped with a triangular pediment. 

Elected 3rd President of the United States, Jefferson had public buildings built on the model of the temple of Augustus and Livia and his twin, the Maison Carrée in Nîmes.

Thus in most American states, today we find a state capitol, the seat of state legislature, whose facade closely resembles the temple of Augustus and Livia as well as some other Roman buildings in France.

In Vienne today, a small plaque near the temple recalls that a US President passed by in 1784 and remembers his visit!

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