Forum of Augustus

3d model and reconstruction

Forum of Augustus

Looking onto the area of the Forum of Augustus from Via dei Fori Imperiali, today, you see the remains of the Temple of Mars Ultor: the high podium with the front steps, some bases of the columns in the pronaos and one section of the cella wall with three splendid Corinthian columns made of white marble from Luni.

On the background you can clearly see the strong square peperino wall which separated the architectural complex from the popular area of Suburra. This wall has dozens of holes and encasements related to the structures leaning onto it; these have allowed, alongside the analysis of soil remains, to reconstruct the Forum with regard to the sector discovered until today.

The reconstruction also includes the numerous architectonic elements found during the excavations, most notably the caryatids and the shields in the arcade top part, as well as the beautiful capitals in the temple cella. The front decoration of the temple has been reconstructed through a relief dating to the age of Claudius, the Ara Pietatis Augustae; the group of statues in the cella, on the other hand, has been reconstructed on the basis of another relief, showing Mars, Venus and Divine Julius, found in Carthage and kept in the museum of Algiers. Numerous epigraphic and literary sources, including the biography of Emperor Augustus (Res Gestae Divi Augusti) provided further valuable data to reconstruct this monument.

There are also some drawings by Renaissance artists, such as Palladio, Sangallo and Peruzzi, which reproduce architectural details of the temple. Famous scholars, starting from Italo Gismondi, author of the Model of Ancient Rome, have suggested reconstructions of the Forum of Augustus, always leaving the open question of what it looked line in the area not yet excavated, covered by the embankment in Via dei Fori Imperiali. Recently it has been suggested that the Forum might have been closed on this side by a Basilica placed transversally, as in the later Forum of Trajan, for which the Forum of Augustus would therefore have provided the original model.

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Short history of

Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus was the second new public space built in Rome after the Roman Forum and the new Forum of Julius Caesar were shown to be insufficient to host the rapidly increasing daily economic and judicial activities of the city. It was inaugurated in 2 BC, after a period of construction  so long that even Augustus was heard to joke about it.

The complex was built in an area previously occupied by private homes, which Augustus bought, expropriating the land. The forum is a large rectangular space, enclosed on the north side by a great wall of tufa, which was supposed to separate the forum from the crowded Suburra neighborhood, protecting it from the frequent fires that broke out there. On the same side was the temple dedicated by Augustus to Mars Ultor or “Vindicator.” We still do not know with any certainty the aspect of the other short side of the forum, which separated it from the Forum of Julius Caesar. It may have been occupied by a basilica, a portico, or a simple wall. The long sides of the Forum, however, were articulated in a pair of exedrae, or semicircular public spaces with Corinthian porticoes on the front. In the center of forum it is supposed to be a bronze sculpture of Augustus driving a quadriga. The members of the Senate had the base of this statue inscribed with a phrase honoring Augustus with the title “father of his country,” the highest recognition that could be attributed to him.

From the moment of its inauguration, this great public work imposed itself as a physical manifesto of the political program of the princeps. The forum’s decoration, in fact, celebrated the glory of Augustus through the exaltation of his military prowess and the virtues of the great men who had come before him to build the grandeur of Rome.