The imperial fora

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scale model of the imperial fora
map imperial fora

scale model of the imperial fora Rome

We will likely cover this area first before we visit the Forum Romanum, but that will depend on the temperature. The Forum Romanum is situated in a valley where temperatures can really skyrocket. Wikipedia has more info about the imperial fora here.


the imperial fora
Fora from right to left: peace forum, forum of Nerva, Caesar (bottom side and adjacent to the Curia), Augustus (upper) and Trajan
scale model
situation after Mussolini’s  intervention
aerial picture

the imperial fora Rome

picture: Martin G. Conde

Julius Caesar
in front of the Caesar forum

Julius Caesarin front of his forum

picture: cjffrex

Because the Forum Romanum comprised a rather small area and the emperors desired their own space, they were forced to find another location. This new location became the valley between the Palatine and the Quirinal, north of and adjacent to the Forum Romanum. The imperial fora served as a buffer against the impoverished areas north of the Forum, like the Suburu (More info about the Subura here).

‘Ancient Rome had its Urbs, the city, the area situated up-high that was home to the rich and powerful. And then there was Suburra, a densely populated working-class district that also offered shelter to a mish mash of hucksters, thieves, whores, gladiators and criminal innkeepers. Being a wealthy Roman, you would do well at night to avoid this swirling crowd lest you had torches and some slaves to guard you.’

source: Marc Leijendekker NRC 

The new imperial fora were complexes with fountains, squares, gardens, temples, reading halls, basilicas and halls to stroll in. Caesar made the decision to build the first imperial forum, the Forum Julium or the Caesar forum.

the forum of Caesar
scale model
Forum of Caesar Rome

pictures: Guess What iCott? and Martin G. Conde

The Caesar forum
map Caesar forum
The Caesar forum reconstruction


Forum van Caesar
aerial picture
Middle Ages 10th century
Forum van Caesar today

It cost Caesar a fortune, all the spoils of war he brought from Gaul. Caesar had to purchase all kinds of houses to make room for his forum. To boot, the Curia with all its buildings had to be moved somewhat, while the offshoot of the Capitoline also caused serious issues and had to be largely excavated. The Forum was completed by his adoptive son Octavianus, the later emperor Augustus.

The Caesar forum is an enclosed, rectangular courtyard of 160 x 75 metres. The square was surrounded on three sides by a double colonnade. An extended main road of 160 metres ended up at a temple devoted to the matriarch of the Caesar family: the Venus Genetrix (mother). According to Caesar, he descended from the goddess Venus. Her statue was next to Caesar’s in the temple’s apse. The Greek sculptor Arcileus made the statue. Caesar had the breasts of the goddess decorated with pearls. A statue of Caesar’s true love, Cleopatra, was also given a spot in the temple (more about this temple? click here for Wikipedia).

Temple of Venus Genetrix
map temple of Venus Genetrix
Temple of Venus Genetrix
frieze of the Venus-Genetrix temple
frieze of the Venus-Genetrix temple Caesar Rome

His own cavalry statue stood in front of the temple. The horse, originally a statue of Alexander the Great, made by Greek sculptor Lysippos, was looted. Not Alexander, but Caesar came to mount the horse. The walled space was also used for shops that were located on the south side. (Remnants can still be seen). After the completion by Augustus, the forum was given another drastic change by Trajan. Some columns of the colonnade and the stage with three columns of the Venus-Genetrix temple still stand.

A novelty of the Genetrix temple is the round apse that closes the cella: an innovation that would be often repeated.

Map and reconstruction drawing of the Forum Romanum and the imperial fora:

map imperial forums over the current ruins
map of the various imperial forums
Map and reconstruction drawing of the Forum Romanum and the imperial fora 1.  Tabularium
2.  Porticus deorum consentium
3.  Vespasian temple
4.  Concordia temple
5.  Carcer (prison)
6.  Arch of Septimius Severus
7.  Rostra (speaker’s platform)
8.  Saturn temple
9.  Julia basilica
10. Forum
11. Aemilia basilica
12. Castor and Pollux temple
13. Caesar temple
14. Antonius and Faustina temple
15. Regia
16. Vesta temple
17. Home of the Vestal virgins
18. Bibliotheca pacis
19. Romulus temple
20. Maxentius basilica
21. Venus and  Roma temple
22. Forum Julius Caesar
23. Curia regia
24. Venus Genetrix temple
25. Forum Augustus
26. Mars Ultor temple
27. Exedra
28. Forum Nerva
29. Minerva temple
30. Forum Pacis
31. Pax temple
32. Forum Trajan
33. Cavalry statue
34. Triumphal Arch
35. Exedra
36. Basilica  Ulpia
37. Trajan colum
38. Libraries
39. Trajan temple
Capitoline, Roman Forum, Imperial fora
Capitoline, Roman Forum, Imperial fora

Behind the temple of Venus Genetrix, bordering the Clivus Argentarius, was the basilica Argentária, an exchange area for money traders, constructed by Trajan.

Augustus, the adoptive son of Caesar, built his own forum.

reconstruction of the forum of Augustus
map Forum of Augustus
Youtube  forum of Augustus (1.21 minutes)
Youtube  forum of Augustus reconstruction Capware ( 1.12 minutes)
aerial view of the remains 

reconstruction of the forum of Augustus

picture (mouseover): Martin G. Conde

Forum of Augustus
map Forum of Augustus
Forum of Augustus Exedra reconstruction

photo: the imperial fora

Forum of Augustus
facade temple of Mars Ultor
Forum of Augustus facade temple of Mars Ultors reconstruction

the remnants aerial picture
forum of Augustus

the remnants forum van Augustus

pictures: professor frenchieen mrhson

Forum of Augustus
Forum van Augustus reconstructie

photos: Erechtheion

Forum August
big format

Forum Augustus:
1. Le Plan De Rome 
2. Youtube Forum Augustus Le Plan De Rome
3. Youtube Forum van Augustus (1.21 minutes)

This forum north of the Caesar forum continued with Caesar’s design, which in turn was based on Hellenistic squares. This again required many homes in the Suburra to be demolished. The impoverished people were forced to move.

The Forum of Augustus had a rectangular map with a colonnade on the sides. At the end of the long axis was a temple devoted to Mars Ultor (the avenging god Mars because of Caesar’s death). The temple held Caesar’s sword and the honorary symbols of the Roman army that Augustus retrieved back from the Parthians. A novelty were the two arch-shaped exedras at the end of the colonnade next to the Mars Ultor temple. The colonnades had many statues including that of Julius, Aeneas and the ancestors of the Julian family. Augustus made it clear this way that the history of Rome was the history of the Julians. The centre of the square had a large statue of Augustus with a chariot. Because Augustus feared that a fire in the neighbouring impoverished area of Subura would destroy his forum, he had his entire complex walled. To the right, you can still see the gate in the wall that provided access to the Suburra.

passage of the forum of Augustus to the working class district in the 19th century and nowadays
the other side
wall from a house in the Suburra

oorgang van het forum van Augustus naar de volkswijk in de late 19e eeuw

Source and photo: Martin G. Conde and kacoma

working-class neighbourhood
Piazza della Suburra

working-class neighbourhood Suburra rome


Entirely eastward, directly behind the temple of Romulus lies the peace forum, also called the Forum of Vespasian. Barely anything has survived. It was commissioned by Vespasian. The entire complex was a large, rectangular square surrounded by colonnades. The peace temple was at the back, as a commemoration of the peace treaty following a long period of civil wars. In this temple, which was not elevated, the loot was kept that was brought in by Vespasian’s son Titus from Jerusalem. Both sides of the temple had libraries and colonnades with famous statues.

1. Youtube  peace forum  Le Plan De Rome 
2. Youtube lecture  peace forum by professor Kleiner Yale University  (starts at 44.30 minutes)


Forum of Vespasian
Peace  forum

Forum of Vespasian Peace  forum
Peace Forum
Peace Forum (Vespasian) reconstruction
Peace Forum
Hall of the “Forma Urbis Romae”
Peace Forum Hall of the “Forma Urbis Romae” reconstruction

photo: the imperial fora

Click here by Le Plan De Rome

Forum of Vespasian
1. Pictures Forum of Vespanian Le Plan De Rome

Forum of Nerva:
1. Youtube  remnants and a reconstruction (2.13 minutes)
2. Youtube  Forum of Nerva (1.17 minutes)

Forum of Nerva
in the current urban context
Forum of Nerva in the Middle Ages
Forum of Nerva reconstruction Forum of Nerva in the Middle Ages
Forum of Nerva
Passage to the  Suburra
Youtube  remnants and a reconstruction (2.13 minutes)
Forum of Nerva Passage to the  Suburra

1.   Youtube lecture by professor Kleiner Yale University Forum of Trajan (starts at j 22.10 minutes)
2.   Youtube lecture  Basilica Ulpia  by professor Kleiner Yale University (starts at 31.30 minutes)
3.   Youtube  Forum of Trajan and Trajan’s market Discovery (9.07 – 12.04 minuten)
4.   Youtube lecture Trajan column by professor Kleiner Yale University (starts at 45.30 minutes)
5.   Youtube lecture professor Kleiner Yale University (starts at 59.30 minutes)
6.   Youtube  Khan Academy Trajan’s market (6 minutes)
7.   Youtube Khan Academy Trajan’s market (3.55 minutes)
8.   Youtube Khan Academy Trajan column (4.55 minutes)
9.   Youtube Trajan’s Forum  Capware (3.40 minutes)
10. Youtube The construction of the Colonnade of Trajan National Geographic (4.46 minutes)

Forum of Augustus right and left the Forum of Trajan
Youtube Trajan’s Forum  Tim Wright (1.09 minutes)
Youtube Trajan’s Forum (1.55 minutes)
Forum of Augustus right and left the Forum of Trajan reconstruction

photo: the imperial fora


 Trajan’s Forum
aerial picture remnants Trajan’s Forum
Youtube Trajan’s Forum  Tim Wright (1.09 minutes)

Trajjan's Forum

Market of Trajan
aerial picture

Market of Trajan Rome

pictures: Markus Bernet and Wikipedia

This large complex was built between 107 and 112 AD. The architect was Apollodorus of Damascus. The terrain was too small and irregular to be able to construct the forum and its adjacent market. Various monuments and buildings in the valley between the Capitoline and the Quirinal were demolished, but that still didn’t create sufficient room. A ridge between the Capitoline and the Quirinal that carried on through the valley was dug out. The height of the small ridge is still indicated by the column of Trajan, forty-two metres. A part of the Quirinal was dug out as well. The excavated part of the Quirinal became the market of Trajan built in the shape of an exedra. This blocked the view of the peculiar excavation of this part of the Quirinal and conversely the market, consisting of multiple floors of tabernae (shops), was required as a counterweight for the Quirinal’s pressure.

 Trajan’s market
shops reconstruction
Via Biberatica
 Trajan's market shops Via Biberatica

A large advantage of this project was that it connected the old centre, the Forum Romanum, with the new, second large centre: the Campus Martius or the Field of Mars (Wikipedia).

The significant modifications in the landscape allowed Apollodorus to construct a forum with a length of 300 metres and a width of 185 metres. This forum thus trumped all the previously built fora not just in size, but in splendour. The northwest of the Forum was closed off by the temple: Divus Trajan, but nothing of it remains.

Trajan market hall
Trajan market hall interior Rome
map Trajan’s Forum with the market of Trajan scale model
map Forum Trajanum with the market of Trajanus scale model 1.   Entrance gate (triumphal arch)
2.   Square, enclosed by porticus
3.   Marble peristylia
4.   Exedras
5.   Trajan Market
6.   Via Biberatica
7.   Basilica Ulpia with two exedras
8.   Greek and Latin library
9.   Column of Trajan
10. Courtyard temple of Trajan
11. Temple of Divus Trajan

Here you can see a reconstruction of the square of Trajanus with the basilica Ulpia and the marvellous column of Trajan as background.

Column of  Trajan
coin of Trajan
reconstruction about 1500
Column of  Trajan

source: App Imperial Fora

In front of these there were two famous libraries, a Greek one on the right and a Latin one on the left, with in the middle the famous column of Trajan from 113 AD. This forty-two metre high column with a spiral staircase was endowed with a statue of Trajan. Library and a reconstruction drawing of the basilica Ulpia (for more info, click here for Wikipedia). An extensive website about the column of Trajan is found here and University of St. Andrews.

Column of Trajan
Youtube Trajan’s Column Capware (3.40 minutes)
Youtube Library Capware (starts at 1.25 minutes)
Youtube  Khan Academy column of Trajan (4.55 minutes)

Zuil van Trajanus

picture: AntyDiluvian

This statue later had to make room for the H. Petrus. The gold urn with the ashes of Trajan and his wife was kept in the pedestal. A spiral band of two hundred metres with sculpted reliefs was crafted along the column. It depicted the wars against the Dacians.

Trajan’s Column
Originally in color
Trajan's Column relief Originally in color
Column of Trajan
Youtube Trajan Column Color Reconstruction (1.12 minutes)
Youtube The construction of the Colonnade of Trajan
National Geographic (4.46 minutes)
reconstruction Column of Trajan
column of Trajan reconstruction base

This idea was entirely novel, and originally very easy to see from the ground, but also from the vantage point of the two libraries. The gold urn with the ashes of Trajan was kept in the base.

Statue of Peter
Column of Trajan
zoom in

Statue of Peter Column of Trajan

picture: Cat Man! and Hiker Bob

Crosswise and directly behind the column and the libraries was the basilica Ulpia. Some columns still remain. The Ulpia had five aisles and two semi-round apses on the ends. The large dimensions are still obvious by looking at a two metre high Corinthian capital and a piece of column of two metres across, which are now behind the Trajan column, but were originally a part of the Ulpia. In front of the Ulpia basilica there was an enclosed squared with colonnades with two exedras in the middle near the sides, with one them being the market of Trajan. The middle of the square held the cavalry statue of Trajan.

Column of Trajan

Zuil van Trajanus

pictures: evan.chakroff en matt Raftery

When emperor Constantine visits the Forum of Trajan in 356 and sees the statue, he calls out that he could never replicate this, but he could replicate the horse that Trajan mounted. To which the prince answered: “Then first build a stable.” When pope Gregory visits the forum around 500 AD. and witnesses the depictions on the column of Trajan, he gets so moved that he drops to his knees and prays to God to free the soul of the heathen Trajan from Hell. After returning to the St. Peter, the pope receives a vision that the soul of Trajan has indeed been freed by the Lord, but that he should refrain from praying for heathen souls. Another source claims Gregory was given the choice of three days of hellfire or pain and suffering on Earth. He chose the latter and his health never returned back to normal. Further east there was a triumphal arch with three passages, the entrance to the square.

reconstruction of the entrance of the basilica Ulpia
part of the square

reconstructie van de ingang van de basilica Ulpia

source: Joost van Dongen Het Forum Trajani in Rome

Forum van Trajanus
reconstructie Forum van Trajanus Rome
source: Joost van Dongen

Forum of Trajan

Forum of Trajan reconstruction

Basilica Ulpia

Basilica Ulpia

After the fall of the Roman empire, the Forum and the imperial fora begin to decay. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, large parts are covered in earth and a few columns or parts thereof protrude from the ground.


Forum  of Trajan
in the mid-16th/17th century
drawings by  Etienne Du Pérac
Imperial fora after Antiquity
situation before Mussolini’s intervention
Imperial fora after Antiquity

picture: Martin G. Conde


Forum of Caesar
Middle Ages
10th century
 Forum of Caesar Middle Ages 10th century

photo: the imperial fora

Forum of Augustus
On the basament there is the Monastery of St. Basil
Middle Ages
10th century
Forum of Augustus On the basament there is the Monastery of St. Basil Middle Ages 10th century

photo: the imperial fora

Forum of Nerva
Middle Ages
10th century
Forum of Nerva Middle Ages 10th century

In the 1930s, Mussolini demolished the working class districts that arose centuries after Rome’s decline, to excavate the old imperial forums again. Mussolini commissioned the Via dei Fori Imperiali, straight through the imperial forums, of which a part is still beneath the road’s asphalt.


Ippolito Caffi Belluno
Trajan’s Forum
1847Ippolito Caffi Belluno  Trajan's Forum 1847


Via dei Fori Imperiali
Youtube  demolition under Mussolini (2.09 minutes)
situation before Mussolini’s intervention

Via de Fori Imperiali

After having viewed the imperial forums, we move up at the Titus arch towards the Palatine where we are met with a lovely sea air.

the path up to the Palatine

the path up to the Palatine Rome

picture: phototram

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