Roman Imperial Forum



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|  6  : 3  |  |       |  | 4  :  6  |   118
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      |    |      7      |    |          |
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|-----------125 meters--------------|

  1. Temple of Mars Ultor
    This was an octastyle frontal temple, on a tall podium. It was flanked by staircases which rose higher than its roof, providing access to the Subura beyond the back wall of the forum.

  2. Firewall
    This deserves special mention. The Forum of Augustus backed onto the Subura, which was prone to disastrous fires. To prevent them spreading, Augustus had a wall built of travertine, tufa and brick, 100 feet high. Much of it remains to the present day.

  3. Portico of great Romans
    This portico was filled with the statues of great Roman leaders and generals.

  4. Portico of Julians
    All of the statues in this portico were of the great men of the Julian clan, into which Augustus had been adopted as a young man.

  5. Hall of the Colossus
    A monumental statue of Augustus, 12 meters tall, dominated this space. It is long gone, but its footprints remain.

  6. Excedras
    These were roofed over, making two vast half-domes to bracket the piazza.

  7. Piazza
    The open space of the piazza was ornamented by a statue of Augustus in a chariot, pulled by four horses.

Augustus created this forum in the same spirit that his uncle Gaius Iulius Caesar had infused in his. It was intended to expand the civic space of Rome, and at the same time link him to the city's public life.

The temple was chosen with an eye to this. Its name means "Temple of Mars the Avenger", and is a reference to Augustus' revenge on the conspirators who killed Caesar. Mars, like Venus, was counted as an ancestor by the Julian clan (he was the father of Romulus).

To increase its importance, Augustus dictated that his forum should serve several important functions. Senatorial debates on war, peace and triumphs took place in the temple (fitting, since Mars was the god of war). Judges were assigned to legal cases in the excedras, and the porticos served as centers of education.

Symbolically, the forum was Augustus' house, adorned by the statues of his ancestors. He received foreign princes and took oaths of allegiance there. As "pater patria" (father of his nation), it was in his space that young men first donned the toga virilis, the sign of manhood, almnost as though they were his sons.

The forum also rooted Augustus in the civilized traditions of Greece. Caryatids copied from the Acropolis adorned the porticos, and the octastyle temple echoed the eight columns of the Parthenon.

Very little of the forum remains. The massive back wall still looms over the Imperial fora, and 3 of the columns from the temple of Mars have been set up again. Beyond that, though, virtually nothing of one of Rome's most important fora is left.

  • Course notes from "The Topography and Monuments of Ancient Rome", taught at UC Berkeley by Professor Stephen Millar
  • The Ancient Roman City, by John Stambaugh (course text)
  • The Mute Stones Speak: the Story of Architecture in Italy by Paul MacKendrick (course text)

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