Discover Rome

15 Sep

Forum of Augustus

In 42 BC in the lead up to the battle of Filippi against the coalition of the “Cesaricidi”, the young Gaius Octavius promised to build, in case of victory, a temple to Mars the Avenger (Ultore).

The construction of the new Forum lasted until 2 BC, when it opened, driven by pressing matters tied to the administration of justice.

The Forum of Augustus was therefore an enormous court but, at the same time, also composed of a rich gallery of sculptural images of mythological and historical characters of the history of Rome: starting from Aeneas,the Latin kings, Romulus and the famous men (summiviri) and portraits of the Giulia family.

A continuous thread that connected the ancestors of Troy to Augustus and exalted and legitimized the role of the prince.

Important ceremonies were also held in the Forum regarding the public life: it was the place where the Senate gathered itself and where foreign princes were greeted and, for Augustus’s intentions it represented a kind of military,administrative and political center of the Empire and represented a reference model for the construction of forums in many provincial cities.

From the architectural side, the Forum measured in total 120 x120 meters, equal to 400 x 400 “roman feet” and structured around a rectangular square of 70 x 50 meters.

The temple of Mars Ultore was inserted in the center of the oriental short side, whilst in the long sides there were deep open colonnades, as demonstrated by the recent excavations, each on a couple of semi cycles, one major and one minor, respectively with the diameter of 40 and 30 meters, where there might have been civic and law courts.

The short oriental side of the north colonnade ends with a beautifully decorated room called today the: Room of the Colossus because there are ruins of a statue of gigantic dimensions that might have represented the Genius of Augustus.

The whole structure leant on the north-east against an impressive massive wall in opus quadratum of blocks of peperino (a volcanic tuff)  and gabine stone disposed in alternate lines in the highest point. These materials were considered to be fireproof and the high ceiling was made to isolate the forum from the Suburra at the back, the popular and crowded district where fires happened frequently, and also to limit the perimeter and enclose the volumes.

In addition, on the great wall, there were two entries at the sides of the temple made of a triple arc in the most northern entrance and by a single one, in the other, called in medieval times the Pantani Arc. In 19 AD Tiberius added two arcs in honor of his son and grandson, Drusus and Germanicus, for the military victories they achieved, in the small places available at the end of the staircase, on the left and on the right side of who looked at the Mars temple from the front. Only some small ruins of the pillar foundations of the arcs are still possible to see.

A recent discovery, composed of a marble floor of part of the Forum of Augustus, gave new and interesting information on the structure while the recent excavations in 2004-2008 allowed to further expand the visible surface of the monument.

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