Rome day 3 (continuation 2)

The  Roman Forum  in imperial times 3/3

Roman Forum view from the Palatine and an aerial  picture with remnants of the Forum
Reconstruction model Roman Forum during imperial times
Roman Forum view from the Palatine


Roman Forum commemorative columns from right to left basilica  Julia  temple of  Castor and Pollux imperial periode
Forum Roman Forum during imperial times reconstruction
Reconstruction: Roman Forum commemorative columns from right to left basilica  Julia  temple of  Castor and Pollux imperial periode

Source: Martin G.Conde

1. Youtube  Roman Forum Danila Loginov (3.54 minutes)
2. Youtube Roman Forum (1.49 minutes)
3. Youtube  Roman Forum progettotraiano  (2.00 minutes)
4. 60 graden 3D progettotraiano

In c. 48 BC., Julius Caesar (the Dutch word ‘keizer’ is derived from this) takes the seat of power. He was assassinated in the senate in  44 BC by twenty-three senators, each of them plunging a knife into his body. In the five years of Caesar’s reign, the Roman Forum changed considerably.

The basilica Aemilia was restored, the basilica Sempronia was rebuilt in a large and new basilica. The old senate building, the Curia Hostilia from the republican era, was rebuilt in the Curia Hostilia (the current curia was rebuilt by Diocletianus around 300 AD).

Curia Julia large size      Reconstruction
Lay out of the  Roman Forum end of the Republic      Lay out of the  Forum Roman Forum  end of the empire
Curia Julia senate Roman Forum

For reconstructions of the Curia Julia, click here for Le Plan De Rome and here Wikipedia. Caesar also moved the old rostra. The new rostra was placed exactly on the axis in front of a new temple, the temple of Divus Julius (divine Caesar, the human Caesar turned into a God post-mortum). Click here for Le Plan De Rome for a reconstruction of the rostra under Augustus and click here for the rostra of Diocletianus.

Remnants of the  temple of  Divus Julius  large size       Aerial picture      Reconstruction model     Reconstruction drawing
Youtube The death of Caesar (2.25 minutes)
Remnants of the  temple of  Divus Julius Roman Forum

photo: Rabax63

Remnants of the  rostra and a reconstruction model of the rostra of Augustus      Reconstruction rostra of Diocletian
Remnants of the  rostra Roman Forum

Reconstruction models: Le Plan Europe

On the spot where Caesar’s body was burned, Augustus – the first emperor and successor of Caesar, founded the divine temple of Julius Caesar. An altar was placed in front of the temple where sacrifices for Caesar could be made.

Remnants of the arch of Augustus (front) and the reconstruction      The remnants      Reconstruction model       
 Remnants of the arch of  Augustus red square      Video  reconstruction 
Remnants of the arch of Augustus Roman Forum

pictures: Tjflex2 and harve64

This worship of Caesar and of the later emperors signalled the end to the old comitium, where the chieftains first gathered and where later on the senate made their important decisions.

Temple of Vespasian and Titus

 Temple of  Vespasian and Titus a reconstruction        Detail
View from the temple of Vespasian on the Romam Forum
Remnants columns  Temple of  Vespasian and Titus Roman Forum
Reconstruction temples f.l.t.r Saturnus, Vespasian and Titus, Concordia
Reconstruction Temples f.l.t.r Saturnus, Vespasian and Titus, Concordia Roman Forum

photo: Digitalis (Humboldt Universität Berlin)

The later emperors also heavily influenced the square. For example, at the foot of the Capitoline, next to the Concordia around 81 AD, the Vespasian temple in honour of Vespasian and his son Titus was founded. The temple held the statues of the emperor and his son on pedestals. When Vespasian died, he tried his utmost best to die standing; befitting of an emperor. Facing death, Vespasian allegedly mockingly said: ‘What a pity, I believe that I am turning into a God.’ Three columns of this temple remain as of 2003, which include depictions like oxen as a force against evil. More about the temple of Vespasian and Titus: Digitalis Forum Romanum (English) 


The Antoninus and Faustina temple

The other side of the Forum is home to the Antoninus and Faustina temple (a reconstruction) When the wife of Antoninus, Faustina, passed away, he commissions a temple in 141 AD, to worship her as a new deity (diva). Because this temple was converted into a church in the 11th century, named the San Lorenzo in Miranda, it has remained the best preserved temple on the Forum Romanum. Later on this temple was given a baroque wall.

Reconstruction model of the  University of California Los Angeles

Next to this temple / church is the so-called temple of Romulus. This temple from the early 4th century AD was also likely a temple devoted to a deity. This one is not devoted to the Romulus, but according to some archaeologists to the son of emperor Maxentius, who was named Romulus. The temple is in good condition and still has its original doors and locks.

On the actual Forum, bordered by the basilicas Julia and Aemilia, later emperors left even more monuments as their legacy. Augustus and Tiberius, for example, commissioned the construction of triumphal arches. Only some remnants of these remain (reconstruction Arch of Augustus). The later triumphal arches by Titus and Septimius Severus can still be admired today. The arches were a symbol of the emperor’s power. They were erected in honour of his feats. The reliefs on the arches depicted the good deeds by the emperor, and naturally he posed as a mighty general, even if he never attended the field of battle. After this kind of ‘victory’, the emperor was cheered by a crowd as he passed underneath the arch in a procession towards the Forum.


photo: jean louis mazieres

1. Youtube Khan Academy Titusboog (4.56 minutes)
2. Youtube Khan Academy  treasures from the Jewish temple (6.34 minutes)
3. Youtube lecture  Arch of Titus professor Kleiner Yale University  (starts: 14.16 minutes)

Photos Nick Leonard and side  Egisto Sani

Arch of Titus:

1. Attic, dedication by the senate and Roman people to the Divine Titus
2. Frieze with a scene of the triumph of Titus and Vespasian over the Jews
3. Victories on spheres with trophies
4. False doors, one  of which (in the north) opened on the stairs that led up to the attic
5. Virtus (on the eastern face) and Honos (on the western face)
6. Coffered ceiling with, in the center, the apotheosis of Titus, AD 81
7. Southern relief of the archway with a scene of triumph
8. Entablature


It was founded in 81 AD by emperor Domitian for his brother Titus and his father Vespasian after their suppression of the Jewish resistance. The passage shows reliefs on both sides about taking treasures, including the candelabra with 7 arms, from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

Seven-armed candlestick and foot of the candlestick
Seven-armed candlestick and foot of the candlestick detail Arch of Titus Roman Forum

Pictures: Thorsten Straub

Titus could only conquer the city after setting it ablaze. He took tens of thousands of prisoners of war that he deployed for the construction of the Colosseum. In June of 71, Titus and Vespasian held a  triumphal march in Rome (for more info about these, click here for Wikipedia).

Not at the current arch, after all, it was only erected following the death of Titus, but at a triumphal arch near the Porta Capena, at the Circus Maximus. The Jewish historian, Joseph ben Mathityahu, who owed his life to Vespasian, was present at this Roman triumphal procession. His eyewitness report describes what this procession looked like and what took place.

‘For almost all the remarkable and valuable objects which have ever been collected, piece by piece, by prosperous people, were on that day massed together, affording a clear demonstration of the might of the Roman Empire.’ Here was a fertile land being ravaged, here whole detachments of enemy being slaughtered, others -in flight and others being led off into captivity.[…] The greatest amazement was caused by the floats. Their size gave grounds for alarm about their stability, for many were three or four stories high, and in the richness of their manufacture they provided an astonishing and pleasurable sight. The war was divided into various aspects and represented in many tableaux which gave a good indication of its character. […] Spoil in abundance was carried past. A golden table many stones in weight and a golden lamp stand, similarly made, which was quite unlike any object in daily use. A centre shaft rose from a base, and from the shaft thin branches or arms extended, in a pattern very like that of tridents, each wrought at its end into a lamp. There were seven of these lamps, thus emphasizing the honour paid by the Jews to the number seven. A tablet of the Jewish Law was carried last of all the spoil. After it came a large group carrying statues of victory,  all of them made of ivory and gold. The procession was completed by Vespasian, and, behind him, Titus. Domitian rode on horseback wearing a beautiful uniform and on a mount that was wonderfully well worth seeing.’

Cited from: Jona Lendering, ‘Stad in marmer Gids voor het antieke Rome aan de hand van tijdgenoten’, Athenaeum- Polak&Van Gennep, Amsterdam 2002 p. 206-207.

At the top on the inside of the arch, Titus is depicted whilst being carried up by Jupiter as an eagle to become a divus.

Arch of Titus inscription
Arch of Titus inscription Roman Forum

A large engraving ornaments the eastern door head. The inscription originally had bronze letters, but these have disappeared. The holes into which the letters were mounted can still be seen. The Latin text (included in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum under no. VI 945) says:


The translation is: “The Roman Senate and People (dedicate this) to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian.”

The western side has another inscription. This is no longer the original Roman one, as it has perished. This inscription mentions that Pope Pius VII had the arch restored in the early 19th century. This inscription says the following:

Detail of the arch of Titus that shows the looting of Jerusalem.


(This) monument, remarkable in terms of both religion and art, had weakened from age:  Pius the Seventh, Supreme Pontiff, by new works on the model of the ancient exemplar ordered it reinforced and preserved. In the 24th year of his sacred rulership.


Source Wikipedia

Around 1995, archaeologists discovered that the Jewish treasures from the temple of Jerusalem largely financed the Colosseum. The evidence was a stone of one of the amphitheatre’s entrances. The text on this stone could be reconstructed using the small holes left behind by the nails of the copper letters. “Imp. T. Caes. Vespasianus Aug. Amphitheatrum Novum Ex Manubis Fieri Iussit.”The translation is: “The Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus had this new amphitheatre erected with the spoils of war. There is no doubt what war this was, the sack of Jerusalem,” said Cinzia Conti, the director of surface restoration at the Colosseum.

Caspar Andriaans van Wittel ‘Arch of Titus’ early 17th century
Caspar Andriaans van Wittel 'Arch of Titus' early 17th century

The Arch of Titus is situated at the summit of the Velia, a continuation of the Palatine and the highest point of the Via Sacra. It was a popular spot for many artists, including the Dutch Maarten van Heemskerck from the 16th century, where they painted their vedutisti, the ‘faces of Rome’.  In the Middle Ages, the arch was part of a castle, which has likely contributed to it still being so well-preserved. The arch of Septimius Severus from 203 AD, is the last triumphal arch that was built on the Forum Romanum.

Reconstructions of the University of California Los Angeles and for a  reconstruction clik heer by Le Plan De Rome

Contrary to the arch of Titus, this arch has three passage ways. The reliefs on the arch have mostly vanished, they contained the tales of Septimius’ victories in Parthia (Iraq and Iran) and Arabia. The inscription at the top of the arch was first devoted to Septimius and his sons Caracalla and Geta, but after Caracalla murdered Geta following his father’s death, Geta’s name was removed. This can still be seen today by the pin holes of the copper letters that hint towards the name Getanog.

To the Emperor Septimius Severus, Son of Marcus, Pius, Pertinax, Pater Patriae, Parthicus Arabicus, Parthicus Adiabenicus, Pontifex Maximus, having held the tribunician power 11 times ;acclaimed emperor 11 times, Consul 3 times, Proconsul, and Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Caracalla), Son of Lucius, Antoninus, Augustus Pius, Felix;having held the auspicious tribunician power 6 times, Consul, Proconsul, and to the most noble son of Lucius Septimius, Publius Septimius Geta, for having restored the State and enlarged the Empire of the Roman people, by their visible strengths at home and abroad, the Senate and People of Rome. The name Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus Pius Felix is Carcalla and the official name of Geta is Caesar Publius Septimius Geta. The words ‘and to the most noble son of Lucius Septimius, Publius Septimius Geta’ were changed to ‘Pater Patriae, Highest and Strongest Princes’.  (Jona Lendering)

Cited from: Jona Lendering, ‘Stad in marmer Gids voor het antieke Rome aan de hand van tijdgenoten’, Athenaeum- Polak&Van Gennep, Amsterdam 2002 p. 148-149

The arch was not built specifically for a procession, as becomes evident from the steps that would make a passage more difficult. In the Middle Ages, this arch, covered mostly in earth and debris, was mostly the location of a barber shop. The influence of the Severus arch in the history of art has been remarkable. The figures in the points (victory) on the Capitol-side can be found in many places elsewhere, including on doors and ceilings throughout the whole of Europe.

In 91 AD, emperor Domitianus founded a cavalry statue of himself on the old Forum (before Caesar’s temple). Domitianus was depicted as a cavalryman to commemorate the victory he achieved over the Germanic tribes. The statue was so large that they reinforced the square pedestal with a heavy iron core to make the entire construction sturdy enough. The senate, which still existed at the time, was furious about this and condemned this emperor to a damnatio memoriae. The cavalry statue was smashed by angry mobs after Domitianus’ murder in 99. It took another two centuries for another calvalry statue to appear on near enough the same spot in front of the temple of Julius Divus, a statue of emperor Constantine this time.

 Roman Forum commemorative columns from right to left basilica  Julia  temple of  Castor and Pollux imperial period
 Reconstruction Roman Forum commemorative column basilica  Julia temple of  Castor and Pollux imperial period

source: Martin G. Conde

Roman Forum imperial period commemorative columns column of Phocas from left to right basilica Julia temple of Saturn

source: Martin G .Conde.

Roman Forum 360 CE large size     Other side
Roman Forum 360 CE


Under Domitianus’ reign, seven victory columns were also erected on the side of the Via Sacra across the basilica. These columns celebrated the regular joe. Atop the columns were statues of citizens, which were of tremendous importance to the Roman Epire under Diocletianus. Two of them, albeit partially, still remain.

Milliarium Aureum

‘A monumental milestone was erected by Augustus in the Roman Forum in 20 B.C., on the occasion of his appointment to the “Curator viarum” office. As reported by Cassius Dio (Historia Romana, 54.8, 4), this milestone had to be called the “Miliarium Urbis” even though it received the name of “Miliarium Aureum” (Golden Milestone). According to Plutarch (Galba, 24.4), all roads intersecting Italy were considered to finally lead to this monument, conceived as the ideal landmark linked to the whole system of Roman roads.’

Source: Milestone Rome (The milestone project)

The Milliarium Aureum was founded in 20 BC. under emperor Augustus. This was a column that displayed in gold letters the distances from Rome to the most important provinces. The distance of every country road was measured from this column. Not far from the temple of Saturn, the original place, remnants of the Milliarium Aureum can still be seen. Pliny the Elder writes this about the Golden Milestone:

‘Measured from the Mile-Stone on an elevated position of the Forum Romanum to each separate gate – these currently are thirty-seven in total, whilst keeping into account that the twelve double gates should be counted as one and seven of the old gates that no longer exist are not included – the combined length of the (main) roads within that same city wall measures to 31200 in a straight line.’

Cited from: Jona Lendering, ‘Stad in marmer Gids voor het antieke Rome aan de hand van tijdgenoten’, Athenaeum- Polak Van Gennep, Amsterdam 2002 p.167

Milliarium Aureum 1602 large size
Milliarium Aureum A 1602 image of ancient Rome from the Warburg Institute’s collection

picture:  The Warburg Institute’s collection

Close to the rostra and the milliarium aureum, emperor Septimius Severus commissioned the umbilicus urbis, or, the navel of Rome. The cylinder-shaped brick building was the centre of the city


Umbilicus Urbis    Large size    Reconstruction
remnants of Umbilicus Urbis Roman forum

photo: Sebastià Giralt and the reconstruction model of the  University of California Los Angeles

The porticus deorum consentium, or the porticus of the twelve gods, was constructed under the imperial reign of Diocletianus and was mostly reconstructed following the 1858 excavations. The colonnade is situated at the Clivus Capitolinus, the only road for carriages and horses at the Forum Romanum (for more info about the Clivus Capitolinus, click here for Wikipedia). The bent colonnade had the statues of the twelve supreme gods. The original porticus, somewhere near the Forum, dates back to the Republic and was built after the Romans suffered defeat at the hands of the Punics. Benches were set up and the twelve statues of the gods were placed on them: one female and male god at each table. They partook in an extensive ceremonial meal. In doing so, the Romans hoped to gain favour with the gods and it indeed bore fruit, as the third and final war against the Punics was eventually won (for more info, click here for Wikipedia).

Foto’s: HEN-Magonza bovenaanzicht daleeast en het reconstructie model van University of California Los Angeles

Finally, the Byzantian emperor Phocas erected a victory column in 608, which is still largely intact to this day.

foto: stevesheriw

Column of Phocas
Column of Phocas Roman forum

photo: brenda70001

The column itself is much older, after the fall of the West-Roman Empire, recycling old materials became very customary. It is likely that the column originally stood on the Forum Boarium (cattle market at the Tiber, not far far from the Roman Forum). This column stood firm in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as well, reminiscent of the old Forum with the remainder largely being buried underground. In the 16th century, the Forum was a pasture for cows. Click here for the site  Wikipedia for more information about the column of Phocas.

       Other side  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam large size     G.B. Falda map surrounding 1676
Piranesi ‘Campo Vaccino’ c. 1746-1748 in its entirety and large size      Pannini ‘View on the Roman Forum’ 1735
Piranesi 'Campo Vaccino' c. 1746-1748

The Roman Forum was dug up in the 19th century.

Veronika Maria Herwegen-Manini ‘The Roman Forum’ 1886, 82 x 136 cm. large size
Veronika Maria Herwegen-Manini 'The Roman Forum'  1896


Otto Wagner ‘Excavations by prisoners on the  Roman Forum’  1837
Otto Wagner excavations on the Forum Romanum 1837
The Roman Forum Mussolini 1926-1928
Forum Romanum Mussolini 1926-1928

picture: Martin G. Conde

Santa Maria Antiqua

This church re-opened in 2016 after a 30 year hiatus. The frescos have been restored. It’s remarkable byzantine frescos have led the church to be known as the Sistine chapel of the Middle Ages.

Santa Maria Antiqua aerial picture
Youtube Khan Academy (7.08 minutes)             Video Santa Maria Antiqua Manortiz (5.51 minutes)
Santa Maria Antiqua Roman forum

 A dragon and a heroic pope

The building that contains the Santa Maria Antiqua was founded in the year 342. As with almost all places in Rome, the founding of the church ties in to a remarkable legend. The story goes that in the fourth century a dragon haunted the forum, suffocating all who came near it with its foul breath. After some time, the pope, Silvester I, decided to intervene. He prayed zealously unto Mary so she could aid him in fighting the dragon. Together with a bunch of loyal followers, he went to war with the dragon with nothing more than a cross, a silk thread and a steadfast belief in a positive ending. The dragon – as confused as it was paralyzed by the pope’s valor – forgot to breath, allowing Silvester I to get close enough to tie the dragon up. His followers finished the job by beating the dragon with the cross until its heart stopped beating. The dragon was buried where the columns of the Castor and Pollux temple are still standing upright. To show his gratitude for Mary’s advice, the pope decided to erect a special church in her name: the Santa Maria Antiqua.

Greek monk’s work

Two centuries later, in the sixth century, the church was given its first beautiful set of frescos by Greek monks who resided in Rome. Their work was followed up on by the papacies of John VII (l705-707), Zachary (741-752) and Paul I (757-767). John VII even turned the Santa Maria Antiqua into his personal chapel. Each of the three popes did their part in adding to the church’s splendor as you can examine by yourself as of late. We owe this to a rather large earthquake that hit Rome in 847. The Santa Maria Antiqua was almost completely buried underneath the rubble. For centuries, the frescos by the Greek monks remained covered by a thick layer of dirt.

Cited from: Ciao tutti discovery blog through Italy  Santa Maria Antiqua – the Sistine Chapel of the Middle Ages


For more info, visit Wikipedia and the website of the Santa Maria Antiqua (Italian and English).

Layout of the Santa Maria Antiqua

Santa Maria Antiqua plattegrond 1. Nave
2. Priest choir
3. Apse
4. Chapel of Saint Theodotus
5. Chapel of the holy doctors
6. Staircase (imperial ramp) to the Palatine
7. Temple of Augustus (left part of the exterior)
8. Oratory of the forty martyrs
9. Atrium


Imperial ramp of Domitian opens to public
‘For the first time since it was discovered in 1900, a monumental ramp built by Emperor Domitian in Rome opened to the public on Tuesday, October 20th. Domitian built the ramp in the second half of the 1st century A.D. to connect the Roman Forum, the administrative and political heart of the city, to the imperial palace complex of the Palatine, the city’s center of power. With high walls flanked by storerooms, the imperial ramp went up seven levels with six turns between them and was as much as 35 meters (115 feet) high. Of the seven original ramps levels, four remain, but they are more than sufficient to convey the majesty of the space and the symbolic significance of the steep ascension from popular politics to imperial might. Visitors who walk the ramp will emerge atop the Palatine to a breathtaking view of the Roman Forum that before now regular folks haven’t had the chance to experience.’

Cited from: The History Blog


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