A stroll in one of Ancient Rome’s most representative places of political life
The Imperial Forums in Rome include a series of monumental piazzas built between 46 BC and 113 AD. They are considered the centre of Ancient Rome’s political activities and form a place that has been enhanced with structures and buildings over the course of centuries.
The first building encountered in this impressive complex is the Forum of Caesar. This piazza, which was built for Julius Caesar for reasons of propaganda, was inaugurated in 46 BC and was completed by Emperor Augustus. The piazza has two porticoes on the east and west sides, while a temple dedicated to Venus Genitrix dominates the far end. The land on which the forum was built was directly purchased by Caesar. The forum was built as an extension of the buildings in the old political centre to give it more visibility and prestige. Next is the Forum of Augustus. It was built for Emperor Augustus together with the temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger, in Latin). In a vow made to the god, the Emperor promised to build the temple if he won the Battle of Philippi (42 BC). However, it was only inaugurated 40 years later and was included within the context of a second monumental piazza, precisely the one named after Augustus.
This forum is perpendicular to the Forum of Caesar. The Temple of Mars is on the north side against a wall (still visible today) separating the forum from the popular Suburra district.
The area was embellished with statues inspired by Roman history, by members of the gens Julia, by Aeneas and by Romulus. The forum is alternated by large exedrae, which were intended for the activities of the tribunals. It was 75 AD and Vespasian had just conquered Jerusalem. There is an area known as the Temple of Peace dedicated to Emperor Vespasian located between the forums of Augustus and of Caesar. It was not initially a part of the forums. Its square layout resembled a garden-museum with ponds and pedestals for the statues. The area was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt during the Severan period (3rd century AD) to house the Forma Urbis Romae, a map of Ancient Rome carved on marble slabs (only partially still intact). Domitian built a piazza to connect the free space between the Temple of Peace and the forums of Caesar and Augustus. The emperor was unable to inaugurate his work as he died in 96 AD, leaving his Forum of Nerva. This resulted in the construction of the Forum of Nerva and the annexed Temple of Minerva (the protector of the emperor). This forum is also referred to as the Transitional Forum since it connects the other forums.The work started by Domitian was partly continued by Trajan, after whom the fourth forum was named. This piazza was used for military encampments and, to a minimum extent, to perform activities associated with justice. The Trajan Column still stands behind it, which tells of the emperor’s deeds in his war against the Dacians. The construction of the forum was followed by that of the Basilica Argentaria, Trajan’s Market and the reconstruction of the Temple of Venus Genitrix. Lastly, there is the Basilica Ulpia, which was the largest basilica constructed during the Roman Era. It was built on a project by Apollodoro di Damasco between 106 and 113 BC and was located in the Forum of Trajan. The area was intended for activities associated with justice and commerce, but it was also the place of the so-called manumission, that is the act by a slave owner of freeing his/her slaves.