Forum of Augustus, Rome

Forum of Augustus, Rome

Forum of Augustus
Forum of Augustus

42 BC – Battle of Filippi and vow by Octavian to erect the temple at Mars Ultor;

27 BC — Octavian receives the title of’Augustus ‘;

August 1st 2 B.C. — Inauguration of incomplete Forum

14 — Augustus dies

19 — Arches in honor of Germania and Druso minor

Area complex: 125 x 118 meters

height of forum walls: 33 m eters

The rectangular piazza has long deep porticos with a surface that widens into large semicircular exedras. Porticos and exedras included columns, semi – columns, and pavements in colored marble, and were adorned with statues; on their attic ran a decoration of female figures (Caryatids) and clypeus.

At the end of the piazza was the Temple, dedicated to Mars Ultor – a large structure in white marble with eight columns in front and seven along the sides.

The internal part was richly decorated and ended with an apse holding worship statues dedicated to Mars and Venus.

On the sides of the Temple were two paved ways that finish with stairways that surpass the height of the exterior. Both lead to two entrances, one with three arches and the other with one, the so- called Arch of Pantani. After the death of Augustus, two monumental arches were added at the bottom of the stairways, dedicated to Germania and Druso Minor. The northern portico ended in the Hall of Colossus, a room rich in precious works of art that probably held a giant statue dedicated to Augustus the Genius.

The large covered areas of the exedras and porticos were surely the location of the urban magisterial activity that dealt with civil causes.

‘ Appointments’ for court appearances were made near the statues between the columns of the porticos, giving the idea that the spaces were subdivided and assigned to individual judges.

According to sources the Forum was also utilized for education and scholastic purposes.

The Temple of Mars Ultor was the seat of Senate reunions connected to wars and triumphs, reflecting the military character of the god himself. Inside the cell were guarded military emblems recovered from war or returned by the people.

There were also some particular religious ceremonies that took place, like the ludi martiales, which was a celebration dedicated to the god of war, or ceremonies with ritual banquets from the antique priestly order of Salii.

The entire decoration of the Forum was tightly connected to the ideology of Augustus. The origin of Rome was born from the god of Mars through Romulus, along with the gens Iulia (the family of Julius Caesar and therefore Augustus, being his adopted son) generated from Venus through the mythical Aeneas. So Augustus presented the young Romulus as the new founder of the city.

The line of continuity with the republican history is emphasized by the numerous statues in the exedras and in the porticos that honor the great personalities of the Republic: the summi viri.

Simultaneously, Augustus ideally laid down the basis of a new regime where the emperor was designated as the true essence of power. This is well represented by the worship of Augustus the Genius in the Hall of Colossus, and by the strategic position in the middle of the piazza of the large statue of four horses escorting Augustus to Victory.

A giant foot and hand

In the Hall of Colossus at the end of the northern portico, is a partly reconstructed giant hand. The back of the hand and part of the fingers measure about 145 cm. The entire statue, probably dedicated to Augustus the Genius, should be 11-12 meters tall.

The imprint of a giant foot is located at the end of the hall. It still remains visible on bases of blocks made of tufa covered with marble and alabaster.

Antique graffiti

Going up the podium in the Temple of Mars Ultor, one can take advantage of the noon sunlight, making it possible to’see’ graffiti representing erotic scenes on a marble slab along the north side. The scene wittily reflects verses from Orazio and represents the worship statues of Venus iuncta (united) to Mars in the Temple. On the portion of the piazza opposite the temple podium, it is possible to see a sort of chessboard ‘game’ incised in the pavement.

The reasons for going to the Forum were probably of various kinds: civil causes, schools, solemn ceremonies, and to simply pass the time.

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