Roman Imperial Forum, also known as the Forum of Vespasian


  • AD 69: (The "Year of the Four Emperors") After the death of Nero, a bloody scramble for the Emperorship occurs. Vespasian triumphs by the end of the year
  • AD 71: Vespasian begins construction of the Forum and temple of Peace
  • AD 75: Temple of Peace dedicated
  • AD 192Fire destroys large parts of the forum
  • AD 208 - 211: Septimius Severus orders the renovation of the forum, and has the Forma Urbis Romae mounted on the wall of the library.
  • AD 526 - 530: The former library is transformed into the Church of Saints Cosmos and Damian; the rest of the Forum is allowed to fall into decay.


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|                         :  |    |
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|                         :  |      |
|           2             :  |  1   |
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|.........................:  |____| <- 4
|                            |    |
|_____    _________    ______  3  |
      |__|         |__|      |    |

  1. Temple of Peace
    Built to give thanks for the restoration of order in Rome, this was not constructed like a traditional temple. It was on a level with the piazza rather than on a podium, and had no doors. A row of columns was all that separated it from the portico in front of it. Its one traditional feature was a semicircular apse at the rear, in which the cult statue of the personification of peace stood.

  2. Piazza
    Rather than create a hard, paved area to display some glorious statue of himself, Vespasian created six rows of garden plots in the central space of the forum (three on each side).

  3. Library

  4. Wall where the Forma Urbis Romae was mounted.
    The marble map of the city subsequently fell off of this wall and shattered, becoming a gigantic jigsaw puzzle that keeps Classicists busy to this day.

  5. Museum
    These rooms were constructed to display the paintings and sculptures taken from Nero's Domus Aurea, and Vespasian's son Titus' spoils from the conquest of Jerusalem.

Vespasian's Forum of Peace was built to celebrate the restoration of order to the Roman Empire after the chaos that followed Nero's death. It was constructed on the site of the Forum Piscinarium, the old fishmarket.

At the time of its construction, Vespasian did not see the need for any more "working" civic spaces in Rome (the reason both Gaius Iulius Caesar and Augustus gave for building their fora). Rather, Vespasian's forum was designed as a place of rest and education. Ironically, because of this lack of civic activity, some historians do not consider it to be a true forum.

The forum was bordered by a colonnaded portico with four ornamental niches. We don't know what statues, if any, went in those niches, but one of the African marble columns that separated them from the rest of the portico is all that remains of the main piazza.

Off of the piazza, flanking the Temple of Peace, three rooms served as a museum. Many of the statues and paintings that Nero had used to decorate his Domus Aurea were returned to public display in them. Also displayed there were works of art captured by Titus when he conquered Jerusalem. The most famous of these was the golden menorah from the Great Temple, which is depicted on the Arch of Titus

The piazza and temple were left in ruins after a fire in the fifth century AD. Benito Musolini then paved over the ground where it had sat in the 1930's, destroying any archaeological information that might have been left. only the old library, now a church, remains. Since so little of the forum remains, we rely on Pliny the Elder and the Forma Urbis Romae for any information on it.

Pliny said it was one of the most beautiful squares in the world. As an island of calm in the urban whirl of Imperial Rome, the Forum of Peace must have truly lived up to its name.

  • 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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