1902 Encyclopedia > Rome > Ancient Rome - The Imperial Fora

(Part 27)



The Imperial Fora

Forum Julium

The Forum Julium (see fig. 18), with its central temple of Venus Genitrix, was begun in 49 B.C. after the battle of Pharsalia by Julius and completed by Augustus. Being built on a crowded site it was somewhat cramped, and the ground cost nearly a hundred million sesterces. Part of its circuit wall, with remains of five arches, exists in the Via Marmorella ; and behind is a row of small vaulted rooms, probably shops or offices. The arches are flat, slightly cambered, with travertine springers and keys ; the rest, with the circular relieving arch over, is of tufa ; it was once lined with slabs of marble, the holes for which exist. Foundations of the circuit wall exist under the houses towards S. Adriano, but the whole plan has not been made out. Palladio {Arch., iv. 31) describes excavations made here, and the discovery of remains of a fine temple, probably that of Venus Genitrix.

Forum of Augustus

The forum of Augustus (see fig. 18) adjoined that of Julius on its north-east side ; it contains the temple of Mars Ultor, built to commemorate the vengeance taken on Caesar's murderers at Philippi, 42 B.C. (Ov., Fast., v. 575 sq.). It was surrounded with a massive wall of peperino, nearly 100 feet high, with travertine string-courses and cornice ; a large piece of this wall still exists, and is one of the most imposing relics of ancient Rome. Against it are remains of the temple of Mars, three columns of which, with their entablature and marble ceiling of the peristyle, are still standing; it is Corinthian in style, very richly decorated, and built of fine Luna marble. The cella is of peperino, lined with marble ; and the lower part of the lofty circuit wall seems also to have been lined with marble on the inside of the forum. The large archway by the temple (Arco dei Pantani) is of travertine. Palladio (Arch., iv.) and other writers of the 16th century give plans of the temple and circuit wall, showing much more than now exists. The temple, which was octastyle, with nine columns and a pilaster on the sides, occupied the centre, and on each side the circuit wall formed two large semicircular apses, decorated with tiers of niches for statues.

Forum Pacis

The Forum Pacis, built by Vespasian, was farther to the southeast ; the only existing piece, a massive and lofty wall of mixed tufa and peperino, with a travertine archway, is opposite the end of the basilica of Constantine. The arch opened into what was probably the Templum Sacrae Urbis, which contained a plan of the city of Rome. The original plan was probably burnt with the whole group of buildings in this forum in 191, in the reign of Commodus (Dion Cass., Ixxii. 24) ; but a new plan engraved on marble was made, and the building restored in concrete and brick by Severus. The north-east end wall, with the clamps for fixing the marble plan, still exists, as does also the other (restored) end wall with its arched windows towards the forum (see fig. 19); one hundred and sixty-seven fragments of this plan were found c. 1560 at the foot of the wall to which they were fixed, and are now preserved in the Capitoline Museum ; drawings of the seventy-four pieces now lost are preserved in the Vatican (Cod. Vat., 3439). The whole has been published in a valuable work by Professor Jordan, Forma Urbis Romae, Berlin, 1875-82. The fragments which relate to the Forum Magnum are given on Plate VIII. The circular building at the end facing on the Sacra Via is an addition built by Maxentius in honour of his deified son Romulus ; like the other buildings of Maxentius, it was rededicated and inscribed with the name of his conqueror Constantine. The original stone building of Vespasian was probably an archive and record office ; the name Templum Sacrae Urbis is with much probability given to it by Jordan, partly on the authority of an inscription now in the Vatican (see Forma Urbis Romae). The fine bronze doors at the entrance to the temple of Romulus are much earlier than the building itself, as are also the porphyry columns and very rich entablature which ornament this doorway. Pope Felix IV. (526-530) made the double building into the church of SS. Cosmo e Damiano, using the circular domed temple of Romulus as a porch. The chief building of Vespasian's forum was the Templum Pacis, dedicated in 75, one of the most magnificent in Rome, which contained a very large collection of works of art.

Forum of Nerva

The forum of Nerva (see fig. 18) occupied the narrow strip left between the fora of Augustus and Vespasian ; being little more than a richly decorated street, it was called the Forum Transitorium or Forum Palladium, from the temple to Minerva which it contained. It was begun by Domitian, and dedicated by Nerva in 97 (see Suet., Dom., 5 ; Mart., Ep., i. 2, 8). Like the other imperial fora, it was surrounded by a peperino wall, not only lined with marble but also decorated with rows of Corinthian columns supporting a rich entablature with sculptured frieze. Two columns and part of this wall still exist; on the frieze are reliefs of weaving, fulling, and various arts which were under the protection of Minerva. A great part of the temple existed till the time of Paul V., who in 1606 destroyed it to use the columns elsewhere. In the reign of Severus Alexander a series of colossal bronze statues, some equestrian, were set round this forum ; they represented all the previous emperors who had been deified, and by each was a bronze column inscribed with his "res gestae" (Lamprid., Hist. Aug. ; Sev. Alex., 28).

Forum of Trajan

The forum of Trajan with its adjacent buildings was the last and, at least in size, the most magnificent of all; it was in progress from 100 to 117. A great spur of hill, which connected the Capitoline with the Quirinal, was cut away to make a level site for this enormous group of buildings. It consisted (see fig. 20) of a large dipteral peristyle, with curved projections, lined with shops on the side. That against the slope of the Quirinal, three stories high, still partly exists. The main entrance was through a triumphal arch (Dion Cass., lxviii. 29), from which probably were taken most of the fine reliefs used by Constantine to decorate his arch. Aurei of Trajan show this arch and other parts of his forum. The opposite side was occupied by the Basilica Ulpia (Jordan, For. Ur. Rom.), part of which, with the column of Trajan, is now visible ; none of the columns, which are of grey granite, are in situ, and the whole restoration is misleading. Part of the rich paving in Oriental marble is genuine. This basilica contained two large libraries (Dion Cass., lxviii. 16 ; Aul. Gell., xi. 17).

Trajan's Column

The Columna Cochlis (so called from its spiral stairs) is, including capital and base, 97 feet 9 inches high, i.e., 100 Roman feet; its pedestal has reliefs of trophies of Dacian arms, and winged Victories, with an inscription recording the enormous mass of hill which was removed to form the site (comp. Dion Cass., lxviii. 16). On the shaft are reliefs arranged spirally in twenty-three tiers, scenes of Trajan's victories, containing about 2500 figures. Trajan's ashes were buried in a gold urn under this column (Dion Cass., lxviii. 16); and on the summit was a colossal gilt bronze statue of the emperor, now replaced by a poor figure of St Peter, set there Temple by Sixtus V.

Temple of Trajan

Beyond the column stood the temple of Trajan completed by Hadrian ; its foundations exist under the buildings at the north-east side of the modern piazza, and many of its granite columns have been found. This temple is shown on coins of Hadrian. The architect of this magnificent group of buildings was Apollodorus of Damascus (Dion Cass., lxix. 4), who also designed many buildings in Rome during Hadrian's reign. In addition to the five imperial fora, and the Forum Magnum, Olitorium, and Boarium, mentioned above, there were also smaller markets for pigs (Forum Suarium), bread (Forum Pistorium), and fish (Forum Pisearium), all of which, with some others, popularly but wrongly called fora, are given in the regionary catalogues.


Cic, Ep. ad Att, iv. 16; Suet, Cms., 26.
There is no foundation whatever for the theory that these chambers were part of the " Mamertine prison"; their form and position both make that impossible.
See Dion Cass., xliii. 22; Appian, Bell. Civ., ii. 102; Vitr., iii. 3 ; Plut,
Cess., 60.
The Ancvraan inscription records—IN . PRIVATO . SOLO . [EMP]TO. MARTIS . ULTORIS . TEMPLVM . FORVMQVE . AVGVSTVM . EX . [MANI]BIIS . FECI. See Suet., Aug., 29, 66 ; Dion Cass., Ivi. 27 ; Plin., H.N.

1 Those of Roman leaders and generals, from Eneas and Romulus to Augustus. See Borsari, Foro d'Augusto, &c. (Lincei), 1884.
An interesting description of this discovery is given by Vacca, writing in 1594 (printed in Nardini, .Roma Ant., ed. Nibby, 1818-20, vol. iv.) ; since then a few other fragments have been found. The scale is roughly 1 to 300, but appears to be not quite uniform.

For accounts of this interesting group of buildings, see De Rossi, Bull.
Arch. Crist., 1867, p. 62; Tredelemburg, Ann. Inst., 1872, p. 66; and Lanciani,
Bull. Comm. Arch. Rom., 1882. Ligorio (in a 16th-century MS.; Cod. Vat.,
3439) and Du Perac (Vestigi) show much more than now exists.

4 "Hic (Felix) fecit basilicam SS. Cosmie et Damiani ... in Via Sacra, juxta Templum Urbis Romas" (Anastas. Bibl., Vita S. Felicis IV.),—important evidence in favour of Jordan's suggestion.
5 Statues by Phidias and Lysippus existed in the Forum Pacis as late as the 6th century (Procop., Bell. Goth., iv. 21).
6 Drawings of it are given in Du Perac and by Palladio (Arch., iv. 8).

See Aul. Gelh, xiii. 25, 2; and Amm. Marc, xvi. 10.

Its pedestal is inscribed, " Senatus Populusque Romanus Imp. Ceesari Divi Nerva; F. Nervge Trajano Aug. Germ. Dacieo Pontif. Maximo Trib. Pot. XVII. [i.e., 114 A.B.I Imp. VI. P. P. ad declarandum quantge altitudinis mons et locus tant(is operi)bus sit egestus." This cannot be taken literally, as the ridge which was cut away never approached 100 feet in height, but possibly means that the cliff of the Quirinal was cut back to a slope reaching to a point 100 feet high (see Brocchi, Suolo di Roma, p. 13S ; Becker, Handb., note 737).
See Fabretti, Columna Trajana (1683), who gives drawings of all the reliefs ; also De Rossi, Col. Traj. designata. The reliefs, from their lofty position, are now difficult to see, but originally must have been very fairly visible from the galleries on the colonnades which once surrounded the column.
See Aul. Gelh, xi. 17, 1; Spart., Hist. Aug.: Hadr., 19 ; and compare Pau-sanias (v. 12, 6 ; x. 5,11), who mentions the gilt bronze roofs of Trajan's forum.
See Fea, Foro Trajano, 1S32; Riehter, Rislauro del Foro Trajano, 1839 ;
Bartoli, Col. Trajana, 1704 : Pistolesi, Col. Trajana, 1846 ; Froehner, La Colonne Trajane, Paris, 1865.

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