Wednesday, January 15, 2014

ROMAN FORUM (second part)

FORO ROMANO (parte seconda)
Roman Forum
Originally Curia meant "gathering of men" (from the Latin co-viria)
The Curiae were thirty, ten for each of the three tribes of the Tities, Ramnes and Luceres. The division dated back to the origins of the city, perhaps even prior to its founding institutions, rooted in the prehistorical Latin area
The Curiae gathered in assemblies, "Comizi curiati" in which the most important decisions affecting the lives of citizens were taken with a majority of votes
In the Roman army in the early days, the Curiae served as recruitment districts and each one used to give one hundred soldiers and ten riders to the Roman army
The Curiae lost this function when Servius Tullius introduced the centuriated military law and since then the Curiae kept only tasks of political and religious importance
By extension the term "Curia" also indicated the place where the Curiae met and which was also the place where the SENATE met to discuss the laws and make decisions
The original Curia building was built, according to legend, by King Tullus Hostilius in the Roman Forum, at the foot of Capitoline Hill in the area where now the Church of the Sts. Luke and Martina is, the so-called CURIA HOSTILIA
The Curia Hostilia was destroyed by fire in 52 BC and in its place the TEMPLE OF FELICITAS was built. A little further east a new and much more imposing structure was built, the CURIA JULIA. Begun by Julius Caesar, it was completed by Augustus and inaugurated on August 28, 29 BC
It was rebuilt once again by Diocletian (284/305) after the fire of 283 during the reign of Carino (283/285)
Inside there was an Altar of Victory
At the time of King Theodoric (454/526), meetings of the Senate were still held even though it was reduced to a ghost: the building at that time was called Atrium Libertatis, a name taken from a nearby building where, formerly, the release of slaves was held
It is one of the best preserved late ancient buildings in all of Rome, because in 630 it was converted into a church for Honorius I (625/638) with the name of S. ADRIANO AL FORO (St. Hadrian at the Forum)
It was decorated with Byzantine frescoes, still partly visible, and a bell tower was added
It was later restored in Baroque style with a dome by Luca Berrettini
In the early 1930s, the building was brought back to its original appearance, and the church was deconsecrated
Copy of the original ones that were taken to the Cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran, in about 1660
The CEILING is 21 meters (69 feet) high
The FLOOR still retains much of the precious inlaid marble slabs from the time of Diocletian
The dimensions of the hall follow the Vitruvian directives and are particularly suited to the sound of the human voice with the height equal to half the sum of length and width
On the right and on the left there are THREE SHORT STEPS used as a support for the seats of the senators in the IV century
In the walls of the long sides there are three niches on each side used to probably keep honorary statues
In the center there is the president platform with a base behind, which supported the statue of the goddess Victory, removed in about 384/385 from the Curia by the order of St. Ambrose
In place of the original statue there is now a porphyry one, representing a "Man with toga" found behind the Curia
There are two large marble reliefs, known as "Plutei of Trajans" (Parapets of Trajan) found near the area of the sacred fig tree, vine and olive tree. They represent two major events during Trajan's reign that took place in the Forum:
On the left:
On the right:
The back sides of both reliefs are adorned with the figures of a bull, a sheep and a pig ready for sacrifice
Friezes in Pentelic marble (from near Athens) maybe of the first century BC from the Basilica Emilia, probably adapted after being removed from an older building:
"The scenes, built with obvious clarity and abundance of details in the landscape, reveal the pictorial origin of the individual iconographies, as well as a stylistic eclecticism so that classicist features such as the neutral background or the compositional parataxis blend with others of Hellenistic tradition linked to the experiences of the friezes of Pergamon and Magnesia. A chronology of Silla's period, in conjunction with the reconstruction of 87/78 BC is confirmed by an analysis of the technical nature of the monument and of the numismatic documentation" (Lucio Fiorini)
According to the sources there used to be the Temple of Janus, an arch with two entrances, which was the oldest and most important sanctuary of Janus, with a two-headed statue of the deity at the center of the passage
Maybe the temple is the small brick building at the north west of the Basilica Emilia now used as a shelter for the guards of the Forum. The doors were opened in peacetime and closed in wartime and it was completely covered in bronze. Maybe it was replaced by Domitian with a four sided arch at the entrance of the Forum Transitorium
Small archaic sanctuary rebuilt several times
According to tradition, during the Gallic fire in 390 BC some sacred vessels of the cult of Vesta were hidden here. The remains are Augustan
Nearby there are the LATE ANCIENT DOLIOLA (48) dating back to the Constantine period
Maybe a shrine placed at intersections of streets, places deemed to be exposed to the influence of infernal deities and that, therefore, had to be protected
So it was a compitum or crossroad aedicula, maybe the shrine of the Lares Praestites
Here the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) crosses a small road, the Vicus Vestae
Unpaved area in the center of the Forum where a few decades ago a fig tree, an olive and a vine were planted as Pliny the Elder wrote about, maybe to replace the older Ficus Ruminalis originally in the Comitium
They were important symbols in the Roman trade
Maybe warehouses also used to house a fish market as confirmed by the discovery of the remains of tanks and shells
From the age of Hadrian it may have also have been used as seat of the imperial administration
Dedication of 2 BC of the Senate in honor of "Lucius Caesar, son of Augustus" and future successor of the latter
In fact, Lucius was the son of Agrippa and Julia, daughter of Augustus, so Lucius was his grandson. Augustus adopted Lucius and his brother Gaius to continue the dynasty, not having had sons, but the untimely death of two children-grandchildren eventually led to the appointment of Tiberius as successor
The inscription was probably part of the PARTHIAN ARCH, a triple arch built in 19 BC to celebrate the return of eagle insignia conquered in 53 BC by the Parthians during the Battle of Carre against the legions commanded by Crassus
Bronze letters reinstated in part during the restoration of 1955 on the travertine floor of the Forum
It was made in the Augustan period after the fire in 9 BC by the urban praetor Lucius Naevius Surdinus in memory of the new paving of the area which it was also used for gladiatorial games
It is a copy and the original is in the Tabularium in the Capitoline Museums
Trapezoidal area with remains of three floors: the Augustan, the Caesarian and the Republican in tufa stone
Under the modern canopy there is a tufa base of dodecagonal form always spared by the various pavements. The area was a swamp until the time of Augustus
The name Curtius would be derived from two stories:
1) A Roman knight, Marcus Curtius would have thrown himself in a pit located here to sacrifice himself to the gods as a result of an oracle
2) A Sabine chief, Metius Curzio, would have fallen with the horse in a chasm in this area
More likely the name derived from the consul Gaius Curtius who in 445 BC, at the behest of the Senate, fenced the place because it had been struck by lightning
At the time of Augustus people used to throw coins in the swamp. Emperor Galba was killed here in 69
Source dedicated to the nymph Juturna, the sister of the legendary King Turnus
It was the most important spring in Rome before the construction of aqueducts
The water was collected in the basin still well preserved rebuilt in 117 BC by Metellus Dalmaticus and covered in marble at the time of Trajan
At the center "Base for statues of the Dioscuri" that are now kept in the Forum Museum. They would have stopped here to let the horses drink and gave the news of the Roman victory against the Latins at Lake Regillo in 499 BC
At the edge of the basin, a cast of an ALTAR from the time of Trajan, with a copy of the relief of "Two Dioscuri, Jupiter and Leda, their parents, and Juturna" whose original is in the Forum Museum
Near the pond there are small monuments dedicated to the nymph Juturna:
An AEDICULA maybe from the Trajan period
A WELL with a double inscription of Marcus Barbatius Pollio, edile curule at the time of Augustus
A copy of the remains of an ALTAR, maybe dating back to the Severian period, with reliefs of Turnus and Juturna. The original altar is in the Forum Museum, an extremely interesting small museum that has been closed for decades in perennial restoration
Behind the source to the east there is the AQUEDUCTS OFFICE (Statio aquarum) moved here in 328 AD from its original place maybe where the sacred area of Largo Argentina is now
The name comes from the black marble found in this enclosure surrounded by marble slabs placed vertically to remember the place where Romulus was allegedly killed by senators because of his exercise of despotic power
We know that Romulus was killed near a shrine dedicated to the god Vulcan, that's why it was possible to identify these archaic remains found in excavations carried out in 1899
Recent research has ruled out the possibility that this was the burial place of Romulus
The Lapis Niger should correspond therefore to the VOLCANAL that was rebuilt 5 m (16 feet) further south east in the Augustan period
Remains of a monumental complex were found consisting of a platform on which there were an altar with three panels of tuff, a circular base that probably used to support a statue and a stone with a trapezoidal shape on the sides of which a Latin archaic text was engraved derivative of the archaic Chalcidian alphabet, imported into Italy from the early Greek settlers, written boustrophedon i.e. readable alternatively from top to bottom and from bottom to top
It seems that in the text there are references to some form of sacred law to regulate the rites to be performed at the altar dedicated to Vulcan, all under the control of the King. In any case, the font of this text led to date its composition at the age of the kings, around the sixth century BC
Covered in bricks on a higher level of the visible Via Sacra
It probably dates back to the late empire, not the Middle Ages
Remains of a portico of which there are three columns that have been raised again
There are bases of travertine columns of a colonnade even older that maybe was the porch of Gaius and Lucius Caesar, built in this area in the last decade of the I century BC
Maybe III or II century BC, but the current form dates back maybe to a reconstruction of the Flavian period
Two rows of Corinthian columns joined at an obtuse angle with lintel. At the back porch there are seven cells
It was excavated in 1834 and restored in 1858: the missing columns were replaced with travertine
On the architrave dedication to the Dei Consentes (willing gods) from the praefectus urbi Vettius Agorius Praetextatus who restored it in 367, one of the last vestiges of pagan revival of the fourth century
The capitals have trophies on the sides: the best preserved one is in the Tabularium
According to the testimony of Varro there were twelve golden statues of the Dei Consentes, six goddesses and six gods, the Roman version of the twelve Greek gods (dodekàtheon): the pair in Rome were Jupiter and Juno, Minerva and Neptune, Apollo and Diana, Mars and Venus, Vulcan and Vesta, Mercury and Ceres
Among the Doliola and the area of the fig tree, the olive tree and the grapes, there are some square-shaped wells covered by grates and barriers, dating back to the time of of Caesar with flooring of the same period
The function of the wells has been associated with the maze of tunnels present in the square: the tunnels and wells were used as shortcuts to get the gladiators in the central area of the Forum at the time when it was used as an arena
Construction of 120 m² (1,292 square feet) attributed to the second king Numa Pompilius of whom it would have been the residence
Later it was the place where the Rex Sacrorum, the priest chosen from the aristocracy who inherited the priestly functions of kings in the republic, and the Pontifex Maximus, the most important Roman religious authority, were exercising their functions
Numa Pompilius also built the TEMPLE OF VESTA and the DOMUS PUBLICA which was the residence of the Pontifex Maximus
Some ruined bases of the walls of the building now visible date back to the period of Julius Caesar
The three buildings were a single religious complex
It burned down and restored in 148 BC and again in 36 BC, when the restoration was executed in marble by Calvin Domitius, the conqueror of Spain
Its importance became symbolic during the empire and it was transferred to a private residence in the VII/VIII century
To the north there was a fenced open yard paved in irregular tuff and with a wooden porch, maybe the ATRIUM REGIUM
Inside, three rooms with private entrance from the courtyard in the middle room which was a simple vestibule
The WEST HALL was the SANCTUARY OF MARS (SACRARIUM MARTIS) where the Ancilia was kept, the original shield donated by Mars and eleven copies that used to be carried in procession by the Salii jumpers, ancient priestly corporation
There were also the lances devoted to Mars, the Hastae Martiae. It was believed that if they had started to vibrate, something terrible would happen. According to legend, they vibrated the night of 14 March 44 BC but Julius Caesar, Pontifex Maximus at the time, who lived in the Domus Publica from 62 BC (beginning of his pontificate) went anyway to the Senate and to his death
The EAST HALL was the SANCTUARY OF OPS CONSIVA, the Sabine goddess of abundance of the harvest, to whose protection the wheat harvested and stored in granaries was entrusted. The sanctuary was so sacred that only the pontifex maximus and the Vestal virgins could access it
There were also the archives of the pontiffs, prayers, sacrifices, the sacred calendar, the Annales (a collection of events of public interest) and the laws on marriage, death, and wills. The college of pontiffs would meet here and sometimes also the Fratres Arvales, the Arval Brethen, body of priests who offered sacrifices to the Lares to get good harvests
Adjacent to the eastern corner of the Règia there was the FORNIX FABIANUS one of the most ancient Roman triumphal arches erected in 121 BC by Quintus Fabius Maximus for his victory over the Allobroges, and restored by his grandson in 56 BC
In this area the DOMUS 3 was recently excavated, an aristocratic house dating back to about 530 BC with tabernae, atrium with impluvium, cubicles, tablinum and hortus

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