Roman Imperial Forum


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|---------------------300 meters---------------------|

  1. Temple of the deified Trajan
    The Forum was originally designed without a temple. This one was added by Hadrian, either to bring the space into architectural harmony with the other Imperial Fora, or as a mark of respect for his foster father.
    Unusually for Hadrian's temples, this is an ordinary octastyle building.

  2. Column of Trajan
    This 100-foot tall column depicts Trajan's Dacian campaign. It now has a statue of St Peter on top of it, but was originally topped by one of Trajan. It was designed specifically for the Forum, and the Forum for it. During Trajan's lifetime, the Column was his primary monument in the forum that bore his name.

  3. Libraries
    One of these symmetrical rooms held Greek texts, the other ones in Latin.

  4. Basilica Ulpia
    This was the finest basilica in ancient Rome, made of marble in multiple colors: yellow from Numidia, purple-streaked "peacock marble", snowy white Attic stone. It had a roof of gilt bronze and a frieze of the Dacian war (portions of which were later appropriated by Constantine for his triumphal arch.)
    The early Christians, impressed both by the beauty of the building and the virtues of the pagan Trajan, took this as the model of elegance for their churches.

  5. Apses
    These were roofed, unusual for a space that size. It was used as a museum of Trajan's trophies from the dacian campaign.

  6. Piazza
    The columns surrounding this space were topped with statues of Dacians, much in the style of the Caryatids in the Forum of Augustus. In the center of the open square stood an equestrian statue of Trajan.
    "Never," declared Constantius II in AD 357, "had any horse such a stable."

  7. Arch of Trajan
    After Trajan's death, this arch was created to form the entrance to his forum. It is now gone, but some of its panels are almost certainly on the Arch of Constantine. It is known to have depicted Trajan's return to Rome after his victory of the Dacians.

The last, and probably the most beautiful of the Imperial fora, the Forum of Trajan was more like the fora of Augustus and Caesar than its more immediate predecessors (the Forum of Nerva and the Forum of Peace). It was designed as a useful civic space, and Trajan designated it for several official ceremonies. The Basilica Ulpia was used for court hearings and for the manumission of slaves.

After Trajan's death, it continued to be a working space. The Emperor Hadrian burned tablets recording citizens' debts there. Laws were promulgated in the Basilica, which also served as a commercial area. In later years, the Forum became a venue for poetry readings and the education of youth.

The Forum of Trajan is the best-preserved of the Imperial Fora. The entire space from the eastern end to just beyond the Column of Trajan has been excavated. Although the portico, piazza and Basilica are gone, the Column still stands in the open space.

  • Course notes from "The Topography and Monuments of Ancient Rome", taught at UC Berkeley by Professor Stephen Millar
  • The Ancient Roman City, by John Stambaugh (course text)
  • The Mute Stones Speak: the Story of Architecture in Italy by Paul MacKendrick (course text)

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