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Imperial Forums

Imperial Forum: Cradle of Roman Civilization

When coming to Rome you absolutely cannot miss the Imperial Forum. Going down Via dei Fori Imperiali, from Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum, you will be able to come into contact with a century and a half of history (from 46 B.C. to 113 A.D.), when, in the very heart of Rome, a lot of monumental squares were built in order to celebrate the Roman Emperors and their achievements. So, the Imperial Forum in Rome is actually a collection of 4 monumental architecture complexes that the Emperors enlarged and embellished to leave their mark on what was the center of daily and political life in ancient Rome.

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Caesar's Forum: History
The first large square of othe Imperial Forum, dating back to 46 B.C., was commissioned by perhaps the most important and famous ancient Roman leader, Julius Caesar. The structure remained incomplete for a long time after his assassination, and work on this part of the forum was probably completed by his successor the emperor Augustus.
It was built in order to celebrate the power of this great conquerer and statesman, and activities in Caesar's Forum were not commercial in nature. In fact, the Forum was a meeting place for statesmen and a place where it was possible to discuss politics and public affairs.

Caesar's Forum: Description
Caesar's Forum was surrounded by porticoes around its long sides. In the center there was a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus Genetrix, because Caesar was thought to be a descendant of this goddess. Inside the temple a lot of artists' masterpieces, such as those by Arkesilaos, the sculptor of Venus' statue, some paintings by Timomachos from Byzantium, a golden portrait of Cleopatra, and many other valuable objects. Caesar's Forum also functioned as a small museum.

Augustus' Forum: History
40 years after the building of the first Forum, Augustus' Forum was inaugurated in 2 B.C. in another part of this area of Rome. One could consider it as a sort of ancient urban renewal project, in which much of the brick that had originally characterized the ancient city of Rome was replaced by polished white marble. In this case too, the function of this Forum was to immortalize the life's work of its benefactor, and it was decorated to be a symbol of the golden age of Rome, the Imperial period, which began with Augustus.
 
Augustus' Forum: Description
The building was perpendicular to the previous Forum built by Caesar. Inside this Forum, Augustus wanted to build a temple dedicated to Mars Ultor, or the avenger, to remember that Augustus avenged Caesar's asssination next to a very tall wall which is still visible in the Forum today. This wall divided the monument from the large and populous area of ithe Suburra, under the Quirinal and Viminal hill, which is today the area of Rome known as Monti.

Peace Forum: History
The Peace Forum, built in 75 A.D. It was not meant as an imperial forum at first. Also known as Vespasian's Forum, it celebrated the victory over Jerusalem. Commissioned by the Emperor Vespasian, the new and large square is separated from other Forums by Via dell'Argileto, and it is known as the Peace Forum. This Forum was destroyed by the fire of 192 A.D. and re-built by Settimius Severus. In this second building, two rooms were added in the southern area, next to the corner of the Basilica of Massenzio. They were used, in the IV century A.D., as the site for the building of the Church of Santi Cosma and Damiano.

Peace Forum: Description
The Forum had quite a different shape compared to that of its predecessors: It was a square surrounded by porticos, and the forum's temple was located at the end of the monumental structure. The central area did not have the classic shape of a square, but it was settled as a garden, with plants, water and statues. A kind of open-air museum.
Inside, there were remains of the Jerusalem Temple, among them the famous Menorah (seven-branched candelabrum) and a lot of works of art coming from Greece, and Asia Minor used as decor for Nero's Domus Aurea.

Nerva's Forum: History
Built in 98 A.D., in the area between Caesar's Forum, Augustus' Forum and Peace Temple, Nerva's Forum takes its name from Domitian's successor, the real benefactor of the Forum. Nerva's Forum is also known as the Transitional Forum, because it united the Imperial Forums that had already been built, and because it accomplished the task of a passage by replacing Via dell'Argileto.

Nerva's Forum: Description
Nerva's forum was built in a long and narrow square, 120 meters by 45 meters, without porticos, but surrounded by a large colonnade. Its pavement was inlaid marble and flint, with travertine. The temple dedicated to Minerva was built outside Augustus' Forum, and the ground around it was used as the entrance (Porticus Absidata) to all of the surrounding monuments.

Trajan's Forum: History
Trajan's Forum was the last Forum to be built, but it is also the largest and the biggest one among the Imperial Forums, built between 107 and 112 A.D. Trajan, in order to build his own Forum, followed the ambitious projects of Domitian, which planned to reduce the hill between the Campidoglio and il Quirinal towards Piazza Venezia.

Trajan's Forum: Description
Trajan's Forum is the biggest among Imperial Forums (300 meters x 180 meters). It was made of a rectangular square, which took up the half of the whole Forum. In the south of the Forum, there was a giant equestrian statue representing Trajan. The square was surrounded by porticoes, and in a second period some rooms were added and used as a marketplace, where Ancient Romans could buy bronze and silver plates. The structure was closed by the Basilica Ulpia, and behind it Trajan's Column was built. The column is 30 meters high, and a great symbol of the Emperor's victories over the Dacians.

Remember that the Forum is a collection of monumental structures built by Roman Emperor's and not conceived of as a single contribution to the ancient city's space, for a visual idea of how the structures were divided, and what is still visible today one must see what the structures actually looked like in their heyday.

Imperial Forum: What to Visit
In the vicinity of the Imperial Forums you can visit the Colosseum and the Campidolglio. Via del Corso is also nearby if you are interested in discovering the history and shopping of Rome's main central artery.

Imperial Forums: How to Arrive
It  is easy to arrive at the Imperial Forums from Via dei Fori Imperiali, a quick and easily reachable street in the very heart of Rome between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia. By bus, you can take numbers 175, 84, 85, 87, 810, while the nearest Rome Metro stop is Colosseo (Line B).

Imperial Forums: Opening and Closing Times
Every day, except Tuesday, from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Info 06.692050630.

More and different things to come in Rome-Explorer.com's guide to the Imperial Forum.

 


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