giovedì 12 febbraio 2015



The Roma Forun lies in the valley surrounded by the Palatine, Capitoline and Esquiline Hills. In the Republican period (5th - 1th centuries BC) this was the political, economic, religious and commercial heart of ancient Rome. In the 9th - 8th centuries BC, when the city was made up of independent villages, the areas was occupied by the cemeteries of the various settlements. Later, the villages began to merge and the Forum valley naturally became the place where their inhabitants met for economic transactions and social activities; broad and flat, it gradually became the centre of the ancient city's social life. Originally this was a marshy and unhealthy area, especially at its lowest point near the Capitoline hill. This made it necessary to carry out works here to drain the marshy swamp; this enterprise, one of the first land reclamations of ancient Italy, was ascribed to the Tarquins who built the Cloaca Maxima to channel the waters into the Tiber. This was when the area took on a specific social and political function within the community. The Forum hosted games, political meetings and assemblies. It is described by legend as the setting for some of the mos important events in the first few centuries of Rome's history, including the Rape of the Sabine Women. Particularly between the third and first centuries BC, the intense activities carried out here led to the construction of the first buildings with specific sacred and public functions. An initial road                  network also began to take shape between the temple and basilicas: the Via Sacra, the Vicus Tuscus, the Clivius Argentarius, etc.      

The Roman Forum retained its importance especially during the Republican Period (from the fifth to the first century BC), when the valley gradually filled with public buildings whose remains are still preserved. These buildings, which almost always originally had a timber frame and brick facing, were reconstructed on various occasions, in part because they were frequently destroyed by fire or civil strife. It was this unplanned continuity of its buildings over time which gave the Roman Forum its typically disorderly appearance, without a unitary plan. The area's development peaked with the victorious end of the Punic Wars in the second century BC when four basilicas were built: the Porcia, Opimia, Aemilia and Sempronia. Later, first under Julius Caesar and then Augustus and the early emperors (from the first century BC to to the first century AD), the Forum gradually took on a different role, that of monumental centre and place of religious memory, whilst public life moved  to the nearby Imperial Forums. As a consequence building activities were interrupted, with one last moment of glory in the late empire with the construction of the honorary colums and equestrian statues.  True decline began with the imperial court's move to Ravenna and the edicts of the fourth century Ad, decreeing the closure of the temples, some of which were turned into churches. This was followed in the fifth century by the Visigoth and Vandal invasions. The abandoned buildings fell into ruin, whilst the ground level of the Forum rose to cover what remained. Buried in vegetation and now on the edge of the city, the square became pasture, whence the name of "Campo Vaccino" (Cow's field).


The Basilica is now mainly reduced to its vast floor (107 m long by over 61 m wide). It was approached on the Forum side by a flight of steps to accomodate the slope between the Temple of Saturn and the Temple of Castor. It replaced the Basilica Sempronia and the tabernae veteres. The name Julia comes from Julius Caesar who began it in 54 BC anddedicated the first version, while it was not yet finished in 46 BC. It was completed by August, but it burned down soon afterwards. It was rebuilt and dedicated in AD 12 in the name of Augustus' deceased heirs Gaius and Lucius Caesar. The basilica suffered several fires over the centuries and was restored in the 4th century AD by Diocletian and again after Alaric's sack of Rome (AD 410).  

The rectangular building was surrounded on all four sides  by a double colonnaded portico, of which only the bases of the pillars survive.  The front was made entirely in marble.  The internal piers were originally of travertine . The outer aisles wewre two storeys high, with an upper gallery at first-floor level.  Remains of the tabernae, small rooms used as offices and meeting places canbe seen on the South side of the building.

The Basilica Julia, like all the other basilicas, was a building to be used as a covered space for all different kind of social functions.


The facade of eight ionic colums on a tall footing of of travertine blocks belongs to the Temple of Saturn. The inscription on the architrave is:

(Destroyed by fire, restored by the Senate and the People of Rome)

The restoration took place in about AD 360-380. The cult of Saturn was very old; the first temple had been built on this place  at the beginning of the Republic (about 497 BC). The feast day of Saturn took place  17 december (the Saturnalia).

From the earliest times the temple had also housed the public treasury; it continued to house the municipal treasury of Rome under the Empire. Some of the rooms beneath the Precinct of the Harmonious Gods probably served as treasury offices.

The column shafts are in Egyptian granite, the six across the front in grey, the two side ones in pink. They derive from several different colonnades. Only three are monoliths, the others have been made up by joining two broken lengths together.  In the architrave blocks there is a frieze of achantus leaves on the inner face They are datable about 30 BC. They were probably salvaged from the previous temple building, which had burned down.

The temple vowed and paid for by Lucius Munatius Plancus, had been one of the last great temples financed by private individuals, before the Imperial monopoly set in.


The triple arch is situated on the triumphal route just before that turned hard left in front of the Temple of Concordia to ascend to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. There is an inscription on both faces of the attic which declares that it was awarded to the emperor Septimius Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta in AD 203  for "having restored the Republic and expanded the dominion of the Roman people". Severus had seized power ten years previously, after the assassination of the last Antonine emperor Commodus. While he tried to eliminate a rival contender in the East,he  had made an attack on Parthia. There he capturated the capital city of Ctesiphon in AD 197 and annexed a new province of Mesopotamia in AD 199.

The eight free-standing composite columns and all the exterior facing of the arch are of the banded grey/white marble. Much of the core of the structure, like the uppermost courses of the foundations which have been exposed at its feet, is of travertine. The attic interior is hollow, with a concrete vault supporting the roof, which coins show us was crowned with a forest of gilded bronze statuary: in the center the emperor rode in triumph in a chariot drawn by six horses, with his sons mounted on the horseback to either side, and accompanied by other figures (either foot-soldiers or more probably gods, such as Rome and the Genius of the Roman people).  More ornament was originally supplied by bronze  appliqués   (trophies and garlands) on the plain surfaces around the inscription panel. A staircase in the South pier with its door placed 5 m above ground level for security leads up to the attic


The Curia is the building, in which the Senate met. The original structure, founded by king Tullus Hostilius, was rebuilt by Julius Caesar with a different orientation and completed by Augustus, who chose Victory as its tutelary  deity. Damaged by fire in AD 283, the Curia was rebuilt by Diocletian; sacked during the invasion of Alaric, it was consecrated as the Church of Sant'Adriano in 630. The inlaid marble floor survives, with three steps at the sides, on which the senators sat. The wooden ceiling is modern. The bronze door is a replica of the original, moved to San Giovanni Church.     


The Basilica, basically constructed of colonnades, was open on three sides. Its construction began in 55 BC with Lucius Aemilius Paullus and finished in 34 BC with his son Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus. It replaced the Basilica Fulvia, a building of 179 BC. After only twenty years the new basilica burned down, together with the row of shops between it and the Forum and the two elements were rebuilt together. The shops were transformed in a grand porticus that was dedicated  in 2 BC in the name of Augustus' grandsons and heirs apparent at the time, Gaius and Lucius Caesar .   

The reconstructed basilica, although paid for by Augustus and other friends, was dedicated in the name of Aemilius Paullus. For a while it could rank as one of the most magnificent buildings in the Roman world.


The Porticus, communicating with the basilicaby three large doorways in their shared supporting wall, housed a row of shops , in front of which three and then four descended to the Via Sacra. Staircases at each end led to an upper level.


The House of the Vestals is located next to the Temple of Vesta. Together the Temple and House formed a single complex, the Atrium Vestae. The structure that can be seen today was built in brick-faced concrete, after Nero's fire in AD 64. It was then reconstructed by Trajan and restored by Septimius Severus. In AD 394 Theodosius I, a Christian emperor, ordered it to be abandoned. Bedrooms, reception rooms with heating systems and marble   paving and service areas such as kitchens and a mill were arranged on several levels around an arcaded courtyard, decorated with fountains and statues of the most famous Vestals of the past.


The temple is characterized by its facade of green marble columns, six across the front, two more at the sides.  The temple was built by Antoninus Pius for his wife Faustina, deified by decree of the Senate. Twenty years later Antoninus Pius died and was deified. The dedicatory inscriptions bear both names. There is a beautifully sculpted freeze, of griffins and acanthus scrolls and candelabra,  which is still well preserved along the sides. The original roof has been destroyed. The upper cornice and the rear wall of the cella were dismantled to provide stone for new buildings. In 1430 a makeshift roof was attached over the portico.The marble facing probably continued someway up the cella walls before it was changed to stucco. The front steps , partly reconstructed in modern brick, were originally of marble and ran the full width of the facade.

In the cella of the temple was installed the curch of S.Lorenzo in Miranda. In 1430 the Church was given over to the guild of apothecaries.











The Arch with the Temple of SS Luca and Martina

The arch of Septimius Severus in a print by Piranesi






Trabeazione dell'ordine inferiore della Basilica Emilia


The Temple seen from Farnese Gardens


Temple of Divus Romulus and New Basilica of Maxentius





Nell'annuale della fondazione di Roma

Te redimito di fior purpurei
april te vide su 'l colle emergere
dal solco di Romolo torva
riguardante su i selvaggi piani:

te dopo tanta forza di secoli
aprile irraggia, sublime, massima,
e il sole e l'Italia saluta
te, Flora di nostra gente, o Roma.

Se al Campidoglio non più la vergine
tacita sale dietro il pontefice,
né più per Via Sacra il trionfo
piega i quattro candidi cavalli,

questa del Foro tuo solitudine
ogni rumore vince, ogni gloria:
e tutto che al mondo è civile,
grande, augusto, egli è romano ancora.

Salve, dea Roma! Chi disconosceti
cerchiato ha il senno di fredda tenebra,
e a lui nel reo cuore germoglia
torpida la selva di barbarie.

Salve o dea Roma! Chinato a i ruderi
del Foro, io seguo con dolci lacrime
e adoro i tuoi sparsi vestigi,
patria, diva, santa genitrice.

Son cittadino per te d'Italia,
per te poeta, madre de i popoli,
che desti il tuo spirito al mondo,
che Italia improntasti di tua gloria.

Ecco, a te questa, che tu di libere
genti facesti nome uno, Italia,
ritorna, e s'abbraccia al tuo petto,
affisa ne' tuoi d'aquila occhi.

E tu dal colle fatal pe 'l tacito
Foro le braccia porgi marmoree,
a la figlia liberatrice
additando le colonne e gli archi:

gli archi che nuovi trionfi aspettano
non più di regi, non più di cesari,
e non di catene attorcenti
braccia umane sugli eburnei carri;

ma il tuo trionfo, popol d'Italia,
su l'età nera, su l'età barbara,
su i mostri onde tu con serena
giustizia farai franche le genti.

O Italia, o Roma! quel giorno placido
tornerà il cielo su 'l Foro, e cantici
di gloria, di gloria, di gloria
correran per l'infinito azzurro. 

Giosuè Carducci (1877)

View of the place where there was the roman forum (Print by Piranesi). 

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