Monday, January 13, 2014

ROMAN FORUM (first part)

FORO ROMANO (prima parte)
The valley of the Forum, swampy and inhospitable, was used between 900 and 600 BC as a necropolis for the villages located on the surrounding hills
Only around 610 BC it was drained with the construction of the CLOACA MAXIMA by the Etruscan king Tarquinius Priscus and a pavement made of tufa was built
The rectangular square arose primarily as a place in which and around political and judicial (in the comitium) life used to take place and also as a market place in the area properly known as Forum further south
Here in 450 BC the renowned "Twelve Tables", the basis of Roman law, were created and posted to the rostra
After the end of the Punic Wars in 146 BC there was a large building development: FOUR BASILICAS (Porcia, Fulvia-Emilia, Sempronia, Opimia) and reconstruction of temples
Julius Caesar had the floor rebuilt, got rid of the Comitium and moved and rebuilt the Curia
The FLOOR was redone again (it is the one visible now) after a fire in 9 BC by Lucius Naevius Surdinus, maybe praetor, as the inscription near the Column of Phocas says. It is a copy and the original is in the Tabularium in the Capitoline Museums
Only Domitian (81/96) would dare to put a huge equestrian statue in the center of the Forum. It was removed after his death and the square of the Forum stayed clear until 284 with the Tetrarchy of Diocletian (284/305)
A statue of an emperor on a horse will be back in the Forum only with Constantine (306/337)
MANY MAJOR ROADS converged to the Forum:
The most important was VIA SACRA the Sacred Way, which ran from the foot of Capitol Hill to the area known as Carinae passing through the area outside the Temple of Venus and Rome
Then there were the VICUS IUGARIUS and the VICUS TUSCUS almost parallel, under Palatine Hill. The two roads joined the Forum with the Circus Maximus and the Forum Boarium
Both ended in Velabro and the etymology is uncertain: Varro referred it to vehere "to carry" or velaturam facere "to transport by ferry", Sextus Pompeius Festus to the ventilation of grain and Plutarch to the use of sails to cover the triumphal procession route, which also included the Velabro
To the north, between the Basilica Fulvia-Emilia and the Curia, entered the road called ARGILETUM, which was later transformed by Nerva in the Transitory Forum
Under the northern slope of Capitol Hill towards the Campus Martius ran a road known in the Republic period as LAUTUMIAE and in the late empire period as Clivus Argentarium
Before the excavations the area was known as Campo vaccino (Field of the cows) because it had become a pasture for cows
The first scientific excavation of the Forum was in 1788 with the Swedish nobleman von Fredenheim who explored the Basilica Julia
From the beginning of 1800 the systematic excavation of the ruins began with Carlo Fea and Antonio Nibby until the middle of the century
Then between 1871 and 1905 almost the whole area visible today was excavated under the direction of Pietro Rosa, Giuseppe Fiorelli and especially Giacomo Boni. The work was later continued by Alfonso Bartoli
Three small rooms to the left of the Temple of Romulus, below the level of the Augustan period of the Via Sacra
They have been thought to be service rooms of a private home, maybe reserved for slaves. This hypothesis was considered after the archeologists found a similar underground accommodation in the house of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus
It is more likely that they are just the basement's rooms of one of the shops along the Via Sacra
A modern shed next to the Umbiliculus Urbis covers an area of worship carved in the rock and completed with blocks of tufa
This site has been identified with the Altar of Saturn, one of the oldest shrines in the city, founded according to tradition, by the god himself or Hercules, dating to the sixth century BC. Therefore it is older than the Temple of Saturn nearby
Erected after the victory of 29 BC in Actium
It is also known as the Arco Aziaco (the Actium Arch)
Another arch was built later as a counterpart between the Temple of Divus Julius and the Basilica Julia, the PARTHIAN ARCH. It was erected by the Senate in 20 BC after the return of the Eagle to Tiberius who was still a General at the time. It had been taken by the Parthians in 53 BC from Crassus at Carrhae
The Parthian Arch was destroyed in the sixteenth century but it has been described and drawn by Pirro Ligorio. The "Consular and Triumphal Fasti" now in the Capitoline Museums come from this arch 
Dedicated in 203 by the Senate to Septimius Severus (193/211) and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta to celebrate the victory over the PARTHIANS (now IRAN-IRAQ), over the ARABS (now SAUDI ARABIA) and over the ADIABENES (now KURDISTAN) with two military campaigns ended respectively in 195 and 203
It is 20.88 m (67 feet) high, 23.27 m (76 feet) wide and 11.20 m (37 feet) deep
Above the side arches FOUR LARGE RELIEFS depict episodes over several levels of the war against the Parthians:
Forum side from left to right:
1) "Departure of the Roman army, combat, speech of Septimius Severus and release of Nisibis besieged by the Parthians"
2) "Roman army attacks Edessa with war machines. Subjugation of Osroene people and their King Abgar. Speech of Septimius Severus"
Capitoline Hill side from left to right:
3) "Attack on Seleucia on the Tigris River (30 km - 19 miles - from Baghdad) and escape of the Parthians. Surrendering of Seleucia and submission of the Parthians"
4) "Attack on Ctesiphon (located on the opposite river bank of Seleucia) with war machines and fall of the city. Final speech of Septimius Severus in front of Ctesiphon"
Below there is a frieze with "Triumphal procession"
On the bases of columns "Barbarians prisoners"
The fourth line of the inscription, optimis fortissimisque principibus, replaces the text with the name of Geta and was canceled after his murder and his damnatio memoriae
The representation of the human figure has been flattened in crowd scenes
Above the arch there was a bronze quadriga with the Emperors
"While the accessory decoration is carried out according to standards imbued with classicism, the four large reliefs make abundant use of those modes of expression of symbolic type, where vividness is emphasized as well as clarity of immediate actions and situations. We are fully in the tradition of the historical relief, which narrates the exploits in standardized moments and situations, particularly regarding military events and emperor achievements" (Gian Luca Grassigli - TMG)
The inscription facing the Forum bears the dedication of the Senate to Titus (79/81) who died at age 40. Being mentioned as Divus (god) the dedication must have been made after his death
It is made in opus quadratum of marble, pentelic (from near Athens) up to the capitals and luni (from Carrara) in the upper part, with base in travertine and inner core made out of concrete
The foundations are visible as a result of the excavations that went as far as the Augustan level
The sides in travertine are part of the restoration of 1822 by Raffaele Stern (1774/1820) and Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839) for Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23) as the inscription on the side toward the Colosseum mentions
ABOVE THE ARCHWAY there are  Victories with globes with banners"
At the CENTER OF THE VAULT of the arch there is "Titus brought to heaven by an eagle", an allusion to its apotheosis. This relief made some scholars think that the arch was also the tomb of Titus, but this idea doesn't seem to be backed up by enough evidence
ON THE INTERIOR WALLS two reliefs about the capture of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which ended the first Jewish War begun in 66 and ended up for good with the final victory of the fall of Masada in 72:
On the south side:
"Entrance of the triumphal procession", with the loot consisting of the seven-branched candlestick, the menorah, the table with the sacred vessels, the silver trumpets, the table for the bread of proposition
On the north side:
"Titus on the triumphant chariot", crowned by Victory, with the goddess Roma in person holding the horses and behind the personifications of the Roman people (shirtless) and of the Senate (in a toga)
The arch was almost certainly an honorary arch on the road leading from the valley of the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill. Surely the road that passes beneath the arch was not the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) which began from the Comitium and ended at the Carinae
In the Middle Ages the arch was built in the Fortress of the Frangipane family
When it was proclaimed the state of Israel in 1948 some Roman Jews symbolically passed under the Arch of Titus, something they had not done for many centuries
Another Arch of Titus, now disappeared, was inserted in the Circus Maximus on the short side toward Porta Capena
In memory of the tenth anniversary of the Tetrarchy in 303 of the four emperors (two Augusti and two Caesars) inaugurated by Diocletian (284/305) in 293
On the same year, 303, Diocletian visited Rome. It was the year of the last persecution against the Christians, the most violent one
Side facing the Curia Julia: two winged Victories supporting a shield with an inscription dedicated to the ten years (decennial Cesarum feliciter)
Side toward the Arch of Titus: procession of senators
Side toward the Arch of Septimius Severus: a bull, a sheep and a pig ready to be sacrificed (suovetaurilia), with servants and a character with a toga
Side facing the Basilica Julia: the emperor is at the center before an altar in the act of making a libation, and a Victory flies to crown him. In the scene there are also an attendant, a priest with a pointed hat (the Flamen Martialis), a naked figure with helmet (Mars) and a figure robed and bearded. Behind the emperor there is a character with a toga (maybe the Senate), with the goddess Roma seated and her head radiant as the Sun god
Dedicated "To Mars and the founders of the Eternal City" by Maxentius (306/312), whose name was deleted after the victory of Constantine (306/337)
Large inscription on a base of an equestrian statue commemorating the victory of the emperors Arcadius, Honorius (395/423) and Theodosios over the barbarian hordes of Alaric in 403
In the fifth from the end it is possible to see the chiseling of the name of the general Stilicho, who was executed by order of Honorius in 408
Base of the equestrian statue dating back to the years 352/353 dedicated to the Emperor Constantius II (337/361) in remembrance of the victory at the BATTLE OF MURSA MAIOR (today Osijek in Croatia) against Magnentius in 351, the bloodiest battle in all the twelve centuries of Roman history:
Constantius II had an army of 60,000 men, Magnentius 36,000: the result was 54,000 deaths (30,000 Constantius II, 24,000 Magnentius) all soldiers of Rome
It was also the terrible and bloody civil wars that contributed eventually to the fall of the Western Roman Empire greatly weakened in its military strength
Begun by Maxentius (306/312) over the area where previously there was a large complex including utilitarian warehouses for processing and storage of spices, the Horrea Piperitaria
It was completed by Constantine (306/337), and finally restored in the late fourth century
Classical scheme of the basilica with three naves, the central one larger and higher than the two sides of equal size, and punctuated by tall marble Proconnesian columns (the Sea of Marmara in Turkey) all lost but one which was moved in 1613 in Piazza S. Maria Maggiore
Originally the entrance was on the east side, toward the Temple of Venus and Rome and the Colosseum
Five major entrances led to a kind of atrium from which it was possible to enter the nave 80 meters (262 feet) long, 25 meters (82 feet) wide and 35 meters (115 feet) high
There was another monumental gateway built at a later time on the south side toward the Via Sacra
Inside there was a GIGANTIC STATUE originally depicting Maxentius but later adapted as Constantine, of the acrolito type with exposed parts of the body in marble and the rest in wood covered with metal, maybe gilded bronze.
It was placed in the apse of the lower west side
The marble pieces found in 1487 (head 2.6 m - 8.5 feet - high and foot 2 m - 6.5 feet long) are in the courtyard of the Palace of the Conservatives on Capitol Hill
The basilica was recently identified as the seat of the Urban Prefecture, the most important of the offices of the city in late antiquity
The apse of the north aisle was added in the fourth century to transfer in it the Secretarium Senatus (the tribunal for trials against members of the Senate) from the Curia Julia
The gilded bronze plates that covered the roof were removed by Honorius I (625/638) in 626 to decorate the Basilica of St. Peter
Remarkable example of engineering and architectural at the beginning of the fourth century. If the arts had lost adherence to the real and could probably be considered in the process of decline, this was not the case of architecture as this building proves showing incredible vitality and magnitude
179 BC, built by the censor Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Marco Fulvio Nobilior over an earlier basilica, the remains of which in Grotta Oscura tufa can be seen on the west side under a roof
During the late Republican period it was restored several times by Emilia family members and took the name of BASILICA PAULI whereas before it was known as "Fulvia" or "Fulvia-Emilia"
One of the most important restoration is due to the consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (same name as the one of 179 BC) in 78 BC: he had a fa├žade built toward the Forum with portraits of his ancestors, and African marble columns added to the interior colonnade
Other works were done by the Emilia family but with financial aid from others: in 54 BC from Julius Caesar and in 22 AD from Tiberius (14/37)
The last restoration took place in about 430 due to the significant damage caused by the fire during the sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths under Alaric. On this occasion, the floor was raised
It is the only building of this type dating back to Republican times
The original basilica had three naves. The present structure has four naves with two naves on the north side and one on the south side, while the main nave (the largest) had a raised floor with large windows
According to a recent hypothesis the real Basilica Emilia would actually be identified with a 159 BC building due to the censor Aemilius Paulus to be located under the Temple of Divus Julius
In the porch on the side of the Via Sacra, there are the TABERNAE NOVAE, a series of workshops originally from the republican period, but rebuilt in the imperial age. They were used by bankers and money changers (argentarii) and were also known as Tabernae Argentariae
Begun in about 54 BC by Julius Caesar in the place of the ancient BASILICA SEMPRONIA that had been built in 170 BC by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (father of the famous Tiberius and Gaius) demolishing the house of Scipio Africanus and some shops
Inaugurated incomplete in 46 BC, it was completed by Augustus (27 BC/14 AD)
It measured 101 x 49 m (331 x 161 feet), with a large central hall of 82 x 18 m (269 x 59 feet)
It burned in the fire of 9 BC. Rebuilt by the will of Augustus and dedicated to the two adopted sons, Gaius and Lucius, but it kept the original name
It was again damaged by the fire of Carino (283/285) in 283 and again restored by Diocletian (284/305)
It was the seat of the CENTUMVIRI COURT. Wooden partitions or curtains divided it into sectors, with four courts active at the same time. It was opened on the north side facing the square, with a portico with pillars in the center of which was the main entrance on the long side
Only the podium remains with the remains of the pavement and some semi-columns
On steps and on the floor there are still traces of game boards carved similar to the modern game of checkers, the tabulae lusoriae
In the east side there is an iron door that gives access to the CLOACA MAXIMA, the culvert that was and still is (incredibly, after 2,600 years) making sewage flow from the Forum to the Tiber River. It was originally built in the era of the monarchy, about 600 BC
To the south of the basilica in the non-excavated under the former hospital of Consolation there are still probably the remains of the Temple of Augustus (Templum Novum Divi Augusti) begun by Tiberius (14/37) and finished by Caligula (37/41)
A fragment of the Severan Marble Plan (the Forma Urbis) represents it at the center of a square with an inscription identifying it as the Graecostadium maybe a slave market
Private residence of the late-republican period, now covered by a roof, identified as the home of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus famous character of Rome in the first century BC. He is the one who built the Ponte Milvio (Milvian Bridge)
Sector underground with a small room with lararium and some other very small rooms built in opus reticulatum and simple floor made out of pieces of travertine. These rooms were probably intended for slaves
Other rooms with black and white mosaic floors probably belong to the spa area of the house
Last monument in order of time to be built in the Forum
Height 13.60 m (45 feet)
According to the inscription on the plinth, it was surmounted by a golden statue dedicated to the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus Phocas (602/610)
The dedication was curated by Smaradgo, Patrician and Exarch of the Byzantine Empire, and it was made in 608 AD by the church (Smaradgo was only the curator) to thank Phocas "for the countless benefits, for peace returned to Italy and for the preservation of liberty" but especially for having given the church the most important pagan temple, the Pantheon, which was then consecrated to Christian worship of Santa Maria ad Martyres
The column is much older (about second century AD) and most likely was part of another monument, maybe the Temple of Hercules (or Olivarius) in the Forum Boarium
Seven high bases in brick for the honorary columns dating back to the tetrarchical period, early fourth century AD
Two were reassembled at the end of 1800s with columns of gray granite and white marble found around the area. The disappearance of all inscriptions made it impossible to figure out to whom they were dedicated
Open space dedicated by the augurs, priests who interpreted the will of the gods by looking at the flight of birds, positioned according to the cardinal points (therefore it was a templum), marked by ritual wells and surrounded by terraces on which the citizens of the popular assembly sat down
Originally its shape was square, but from the first half of the third century BC it became circular
It was the oldest seat of city politics with the THREE ELEMENTS OF THE ROMAN CONSTITUTION:
1) The People's Assembly in the oldest form of the comizi curiati in the central square
2) The Senate in the Curia and in the Senaculum
3) The magistrates in the Rostra. In the late Republican period the Comitium's functions would move to the Forum
It was full of statues and monuments including: the bronze chapel of Concord, the statue and the well of the augur Atto Navio, the statue of Marsyas, republican symbol of freedom and those of Pythagoras and Alcibiades, "the bravest and wisest of Greek". There were also the statues of Camillo and the three Sibyls
Around the square there were a number of monuments:
The BASILICA PORCIA, erected by Cato the Censor in 184 BC, destroyed by fire in 52 and never rebuilt
The SENACULUM another meeting place of the senators
The GRECOSTASI platform from which foreign ambassadors (including, as the name clearly indicates, many Greeks) could attend the meetings of the senate
The ROSTRA or speakers' stage, so-called since 338 BC when the rostra of the ships captured at Anzio were hung on it
The VOLCANALE, probably corresponding to the Niger Lapis. Maybe the Comitium was even used during ancient gladiatorial games

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