Imperial Fora: Overview, Caesar and Augustus

Reconstruction drawing f.l.t.r. Capitoline, Roman Forum and Imperial fora
Imperial fora after antiquity and the situation before the interventions of Mussolini

Reconstruction drawing f.l.t.r. Capitoline, Roman Forum,  Imperial fora

Map fora    Map imperial fora    Maquette fora      Situation after the interventions of Mussolini    Map imperial fora over the current ruins

Map and reconstruction drawing of the Roman Forum and the imperial fora:

Maquette of Rome Paul Bigot     Layout     Plan des forums impériaux
Top right:  Roman Forum        Left  from top to bottom  the followings forums:
Peace, Nerva, Augustus, Caesar (right of Augustus) and  Trajan

Maquette Rome detail Paul Bigot 
photo: Carole Radatto

We will likely cover this area first before we visit the Forum Romanum, but that will depend on the temperature. The Forum Romanum is situated in a valley where temperatures can really skyrocket. Wikipedia has more info about the imperial fora here.

Caesar sculpture Caesar Forum
photo: Leomudde

Because the Forum Romanum comprised a rather small area and the emperors desired their own space, they were forced to find another location. This new location became the valley between the Palatine and the Quirinal, north of and adjacent to the Forum Romanum. The imperial fora served as a buffer against the impoverished areas north of the Forum, like the Subura (More info about the Subura here).

“Ancient Rome had its Urbs, the city, the area situated up-high that was home to the rich and powerful. And then there was Suburra, a densely populated working-class district that also offered shelter to a mish mash of hucksters, thieves, whores, gladiators and criminal innkeepers. Being a wealthy Roman, you would do well at night to avoid this swirling crowd lest you had torches and some slaves to guard you.” Source: Marc Leijendekker NRC 

The forum of Caesar

The new imperial fora were complexes with fountains, squares, gardens, temples, reading halls, basilicas and halls to stroll in. Caesar made the decision to build the first imperial forum, the Forum Julium or the Caesar forum.

Remnants of the forum of Caesar panoramic    Lay out    Aerial picture

Caesar Forum: remnants
photos: Vlad Lesnov and panoramic: Wolfgang Moroder
Caesar sculpture detail
photo: Mary Harrsch

It cost Caesar a fortune, all the spoils of war he brought from Gaul. Caesar had to purchase all kinds of houses to make room for his forum. To boot, the Curia with all its buildings had to be moved somewhat, while the offshoot of the Capitoline also caused serious issues and had to be largely excavated. The Forum was completed by his adoptive son Octavianus, the later emperor Augustus.

Remnants of Caesar forum and the three columns of the Venus Genetrix  temple

Ceasar Forum remnants
photos: Slices of Light and three columns: Yair Haklai

The Caesar forum is an enclosed, rectangular courtyard of 160 x 75 metres. The square was surrounded on three sides by a double colonnade. An extended main road of 160 metres ended up at a temple devoted to the matriarch of the Caesar family: the Venus Genetrix (mother). According to Caesar, he descended from the goddess Venus. Her statue was next to Caesar’s in the temple’s apse. The Greek sculptor Arcileus made the statue. Caesar had the breasts of the goddess decorated with pearls. A statue of Caesar’s true love, Cleopatra, was also given a spot in the temple (layout of the temple). A novelty of the Genetrix temple is the round apse that closes the cella: an innovation that would be often repeated.More about this temple? click here for Wikipedia).

His own cavalry statue stood in front of the temple. The horse, originally a statue of Alexander the Great, made by Greek sculptor Lysippos, was looted. Not Alexander, but Caesar came to mount the horse. The walled space was also used for shops that were located on the south side (remnants can still be seen). After the completion by Augustus, the forum was given another drastic change by Trajan. Some columns (photo: Adrian Russell) of the colonnade and the stage with three columns of the Venus-Genetrix temple still stand.

Behind the temple of Venus Genetrix, bordering the Clivus Argentarius, was the basilica Argentária, an exchange area for money traders, constructed by Trajan.

The Clivus Argentarius

 Clivus Argentarius Rome
photo night: Paul Hermans

Forum of Augustus

Statue of Augustus Via dei Fori Imperiali

This forum north of the Caesar forum continued with Caesar’s design, which in turn was based on Hellenistic squares. This again required many homes in the Suburra to be demolished. The impoverished people were forced to move.

photos: detail Yellow.Cat and statue Hoa binh

Remnants of Augustus’ forum and the other side        Aerial
Forum of Augustus cloister Basilius of Caesarea 10th century     Capital      Caryatide 

photos: Jakub Hałun and the other side: Navin75 reconstruction: Carole Raddato

The Forum of Augustus had a rectangular map with a colonnade on the sides. At the end of the long axis was a temple devoted to Mars Ultor (the avenging god Mars because of Caesar’s death). The temple held Caesar’s sword and the honorary symbols of the Roman army that Augustus retrieved back from the Parthians. A novelty were the two arch-shaped exedras at the end of the colonnade next to the Mars Ultor temple. The colonnades had many statues including that of Julius, Aeneas and the ancestors of the Julian family. Augustus made it clear this way that the history of Rome was the history of the Julians. The centre of the square had a large statue of Augustus with a chariot. Because Augustus feared that a fire in the neighbouring impoverished area of Suburra would destroy his forum, he had his entire complex walled. To the right, you can still see the gate in the wall (1880) that provided access to the Suburra. Read more about the Subura Wikipedia.

Continuation Rome day 3: Imperial Fora Vespasian and Nerva