Discover Rome

16 Sep

Forum of Caesar

The need to renew the most ancient administrative and law structures and to adapt them to the city’s new dimension was the pretext that Julius Caesar used to finish a brilliant initiative of self-representation by creating one of the biggest architectural complexes of that time, connecting it to his name and to the one of his family: The Giulia’s.

The area chosen by Caesar where to build the new forum was densely inhabited, as the recent archaeological findings show, and the strong economic commitment he provided in the purchase of private properties, as written on the ancient literary sources (from sixty to one hundred million of sesterces, which represented an enormous sum taking in consideration that the State annually spent twelve millions of sesterces for the maintenance of a legion).

After demolishing the expropriated buildings, Caesar ordered also some strong levelling works of the area in order to obtain the floors destined to guest the parts of the factory of the new forum made of a rectangular square of about 100×50 meters, paved in travertine plates, with colonnades on the three sides and with the temple of Mother Venus deeply recessed  in the south side according to the Italic and late Hellenistic use.

The structure was characterized by a total axiality and by the dominating presence of the temple.

This is in fact the difference to the Fori Imperiali, conceived as fence area of the temples and the squares (agoras) of the most ancient Greece, which served as attraction of the civil life with their role of market and gathering place for the population.

The agoras were also inserted in a rational urban and road system whereas the Forums were closed spaces and visibly separate both from the outside and by very high delimitation walls and by their parts of the factory.

In the square there might have been Caesar’s bronze equestrian statue (The Equus Caesaris), cited by many ancient authors and the horse Bucefalo sculpted by Lisippo which probably was used again for Alexander the Great, following a characteristic tendency of many ancient greats to get people and their ventures closer to those of the Macedonian captain to indirectly obtain a bigger glory (imitatio Alexandri).

Plinius the Old, tells us about the existence of a real art gallery inside the Forum that included paintings of the best Greek painters in addition to the many sculpture masterpieces and art objects.

It is likely that the construction of a new Curia was already included in Caesar’s original project, tightly linked to its Forum and also destined to stay attached to its name and the one of its family.

The construction of the new Curia was in fact approved by the Senate only at the start of the year 44 BC, two years from the inauguration of the Forum and Caesar’s date of death, who probably not even saw the start of it.

The event certainly caused an interruption of the works, which started again in the year 42 BC, thanks to a Senate law that allowed the works to be carried on.

These terminated in the year 29 BC by Augustus, who finished the forum and opened the same Curia which was named Iulia, by Caesar and his family.

Trajan, following the orographic levelling between the Quirinale and the Campidoglio that emptied a large area next to Venus’s temple, inserted between this and the Clivus Argentarius, a colonnade with two naves, with brick pillars connected by vaults, that represented a kind of extension of the occidental colonnades of the same forum, identified with the Basilica Argentaria, cited by the Region Catalogues.

The emperor himself intervened also on the Caesarian spaces creating a big semi-circular latrine (forica), equipped with a heating system and with an entrance from the Clivus Argentarius that maybe was symmetrically replicated on the opposite side of the structure.

A big change of Caesar’s Forum appearance occurred when, after a devastating fire of the year 283 AD, the emperor Diocletian followed by Maxentius took action in repairing the serious damages.

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