Imperial Fora: Trajan Forum and Market

in front of the Forum of Trajan and on the column

Trajan statue
photos: Sarah Nichols and column Mike Bishop

Remnants of Trajan Forum: Basilica Ulpia and map    Aerial picture     Maquette
Trajan Forum Middle Ages about 1000    Imperial fora  Middle Ages about 1000  

Trajan Forum: Basilica Ulpia
photos: Bgabel and Trajan Forum Middle Ages: Carole Raddato

This large complex was built between 107 and 112 AD. The architect was Apollodorus of Damascus. The terrain was too small and irregular to be able to construct the forum and its adjacent market. Various monuments and buildings in the valley between the Capitoline and the Quirinal were demolished, but that still didn’t create sufficient room.

A large advantage of this project was that it connected the old centre, the Forum Romanum, with the new, second large centre: the Campus Martius or the Field of Mars (Wikipedia).

The significant modifications in the landscape allowed Apollodorus to construct a forum with a length of 300 metres and a width of 185 metres. This forum thus trumped all the previously built fora not just in size, but in splendour. The northwest of the Forum was closed off by the temple: Divus Trajan, but nothing of it remains.

Trajan column
photos: damian entwistle and Neil Boulton

Trajan column

A ridge between the Capitoline and the Quirinal that carried on through the valley was dug out. The height of the small ridge is still indicated by the column of Trajan, forty-two metres. A part of the Quirinal was dug out as well.

The market of Trajan zoom in    View from the market

Trajan Market
photos: Jebulon; zoom in: Gabriella Clare Marino Unsplash License and view from the market: Amphipolis

The excavated part of the Quirinal became the market of Trajan built in the shape of an exedra. This blocked the view of the peculiar excavation of this part of the Quirinal and conversely the market, consisting of multiple floors of tabernae (shops), was required as a counterweight for the Quirinal’s pressure.

Market of Trajan and third floor

Trajan Market third floor
photo third floor: Darren and Brad

Trajan Market: Via Biberatica
photos: edk7 and Via Biberatica: Old_Man_Leica

Via Biberatica    Central part of the Via Biberatica

“Thought to be the world’s oldest shopping mall, the arcades in Trajan’s Market are now believed by many to be administrative offices for Emperor Trajan. The shops and apartments were built in a multi-level structure and it is still possible to visit several of the levels. Highlights include delicate marble floors and the remains of a library.”
Cited from Wikipedia

Trajan market and a reconstruction of the hall

Trajan Market: interior
photo: Gwendolyn Stansbury

Column of Trajan

Trajan column
photos: Haydn Blackey and Trajan: Mike Bishop

Column of Trajan    The emperor Trajan

“Trajan’s Column (Italian: Colonna Traiana, Latin: Columna Traiani) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan’s Forum, north of the Roman Forum. Completed in AD 113, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which depicts the wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern.

The structure is about 30 metres (98 feet) in height, 35 metres (115 feet) including its large pedestal. The shaft is made from a series of 20 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 32 tons, with a diameter of 3.7 metres (12.1 feet). The 190-metre (620-foot) frieze winds around the shaft 23 times. Inside the shaft, a spiral staircase of 185 steps provides access to a viewing deck at the top. The capital block of Trajan’s Column weighs 53.3 tons, and had to be lifted to a height of about 34 metres (112 feet).”
Cited from Wikipedia

Petrus    Reconstruction original top

The statue of Trajan later had to make room for the H. Petrus. The gold urn with the ashes of Trajan and his wife was kept in the pedestal. A spiral band of two hundred metres with sculpted reliefs was crafted along the column. It depicted the wars against the Dacians.

This idea was entirely novel, and originally very easy to see from the ground, but also from the vantage point of the two libraries.

Trajan column: Petrus top
photos: Gary Todd and H. Petrus: Mary Harrsch

Wikipedia 140 images of the casts of the column (Museo della Civilta Romana)

Crosswise and directly behind the column and the libraries was the basilica Ulpia (map). Some columns still remain. The Ulpia had five aisles and two semi-round apses on the ends. The large dimensions are still obvious by looking at a two metre high Corinthian capital and a piece of column of two metres across, which are now behind the Trajan column, but were originally a part of the Ulpia.

Remnants basilica Ulpia and a reconstruction      Map

Remnants basilica Ulpia
photo: Bgabel

In front of the Ulpia basilica there was an enclosed squared with colonnades with two exedras in the middle near the sides, with one them being the market of Trajan. The middle of the square held the cavalry statue of Trajan.

When emperor Constantine visits the Forum of Trajan in 356 and sees the statue, he calls out that he could never replicate this, but he could replicate the horse that Trajan mounted. To which the prince answered: “Then first build a stable.” When pope Gregory visits the forum around 500 AD. and witnesses the depictions on the column of Trajan, he gets so moved that he drops to his knees and prays to God to free the soul of the heathen Trajan from Hell. After returning to the St. Peter, the pope receives a vision that the soul of Trajan has indeed been freed by the Lord, but that he should refrain from praying for heathen souls. Another source claims Gregory was given the choice of three days of hellfire or pain and suffering on Earth. He chose the latter and his health never returned back to normal. Further east there was a triumphal arch with three passages, the entrance to the square.

Imperial fora and Trajan forum in the Middle ages

Trajan forum in Middle ages
photos: Carole Raddato

Étienne Dupérac ‘Trajan’s forum’  1575 Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam       
Visscher ‘Trajan’s column’ 1681     
Piranesi ‘Trajan’s column’ 1748-1778        Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 
Victor-Jean  Nicolle ‘View of Trajan column’ 1754-1820

Étienne Dupérac ‘Trajan’s forum’

Ippolito Caffi Belluno ‘View on the  Forum of Trajan’  c. 1847

Ippolito Caffi Belluno ‘View on the  Forum of Trajan’ 

In the 1930s, Mussolini demolished the working class districts that arose centuries after Rome’s decline, to excavate the old imperial forums again. Mussolini commissioned the Via dei Fori Imperiali, straight through the imperial forums, of which a part is still beneath the road’s asphalt.

 Via dei Fori Imperiali and before the interventions of Mussolini     

 Via dei Fori Imperiali aerial
photo: Mister No

After having viewed the imperial forums, we move up at the Titus arch towards the Palatine where we are met with a lovely sea air.

The path up to the Palatine 

Path up to the Palatine Rome
photo: Vince O’Sullivan

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Continuation Rome day 3: Palatine: Overview and first Settlements