Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Photo courtesy of dfworks


As a symbol of imperial majesty and monumentality, the Roman Forums were characterized by their imposing temples and secular buildings, as well as by the ornamentation of the space with statues and allegorical motifs.

Remains of the Basilica of Maxentius

The previous post reviewed the historical development and urban layout of the forums in Rome, and this post will explore some of its most conspicuous monuments.


"Curia" comes from"co-viri" which means "association of men" and "Senate" comes from "senex," which means "old man". The curia was originally the place where the elders of the tribes near Rome met . During the Republic, the primitive Hostilia Curia, a modest building where the Senate sat in simple wooden benches, was burned down by a mob in 52 BC.
The Curia Julia was started by Julius Caesar in 44 BC and completed by his adopted son Augustus in 29 BC.

The brick building was originally covered by marble in its lower half and stucco imitating marble at the top, in the same style as the Baths of Caracalla. It features a rectangular layout of 25.2 x 17.6 m and 15.4 m high and is slightly rotated with respect to the old Curia Hostilia, defining more clearly the spatial boundary of the forum.

In front of the facade, covering elongated stairs, was a portico of Ionic columns called Chalcidium, which was dedicated to the goddess Minerva. He also had two huge bronze doors, which were moved to the church of San Giovanni in Laterano by Borromini, during the Baroque era.

The interior is a single room that hosted up to 300 senators. On the back was the podium, a seat for the President of the Senate.

On the side walls were three niches, the central one with a semicircular pediment and the other with a triangular one.

Roof of the Curia. Photo courtesy of jere7my

The Curia we see today was restored by Diocletian in 283 AD, after being partially destroyed by fire. At this time corresponds the current decoration visible on the mosaic floor .

Photo gmcdowel

In the early seventh century it was transformed into the Church of St. Hadrian.

Photo courtesy of antmoose

In the 1930s Mussolini ordered the demolition of the church and restored the building closely to its original status.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

It is the best preserved building in the Roman Forum. It is located east of the Basilica Emilia, facing the Via Sacra. It was built by Antoninus Pius when his wife Faustina died in 141 AD.
The building rests on a podium and consists of a cella originally clad in marble, a pronaos of six Corinthian columns with capitals carved in white marble, and a height of 17 m. The frieze is decorated with griffins. The building rests on a stylobate.

Notable for the simplicity and purity of its style, which is Corinthian, hexastyle (6 columns) and prostyle (with freestanding columns in front of the buiding).
In the columns some marks can be seen, correspondent to the incisions that were made in the Middle Ages, in order to tear them down with ropes.

In the seventeenth century the temple was transformed into the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda.


This long building (109 x 48 m) was started by Julius Caesar in 54 BC, completed by Augustus in 12 BC and rebuilt by Diocletian in 283 AD. The basilica is one of the most important types of Roman architecture and was subsequently adopted in the early churches of Christianity.

The basilica rested on a podium and was surrounded by a colonnade of two levels. Its main hall, (82 x 18 m) was 3 storiess high and could be divided into four parts by removable wooden structures. It also had two smaller naves on the sides. Among its functions, it housed civil courts and shops.


Parallel to the Basilica Julia, this trapezoidal building (70 x 30 m) consisted of three naves, with the central one 12 m wide. It was surrounded by an arcade of 16 arches in each of its two levels.

It was built in 179 BC by Aemilius Lepidus and expanded through the centuries. The building came to replace the old tabernae of the Roman forum, therefore new shops called novae tabernae were included .

Temple of Saturn

Here we are, at the foot of what remains of the temple of Saturn, 8 columns of its portico. The scale is, indeed, monumental, and one can not help feeling moved to imagine the impression that this structure would had produce in ordinary Roman citizens when it was still complete.

This temple is the oldest structure in the area, dating from 501 to 498 BC and it housed the Roman state treasury. It was an Ionic temple, in whose interior the statue of Saturn, the god of agriculture, was carefully housed .

Photo courtesy of San Juan Ramon .

Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus was erected in 203 by his sons Caracalla and Geta to celebrate the triumphs of the emperor. It is a marble gateway, richly decorated in bas-reliefs, with a main central arch and two smaller side arches (another reference to the Emperor and his sons). There are four protruding columns, and on top of the arch was originally a bronze sculpture of a chariot of the Emperor Septimius with his two sons. A curious detail is that, after the bloody Caracalla killed his brother Geta in front of his mother, he had to remove his name from all monuments in the empire.

The third and final part of this series on the forums will focus on the interesting market of Trajan, that I will review in a future post. Until then.



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