Roman Forum

3d model and reconstruction

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is the heart of Ancient Rome and the richest area in terms of monuments and historical remains.

It is possible to read a thousand years of the city’s history through the stratifications of the Forum’s architecture. So, the reconstruction of this space is extremely complex. The first thing to do is to decide in which epoch to represent this space that has a thousand years of activity. We decided to represent a mature and high evolved state in the 4th century at the Age of Costantine where the basilica of Costantine and the vast majority of monuments were already present. It is therefore a rich space one in which we have worked to reconstruct for more than 15 years with the help of numerous architects and archaeologists who have worked and studied in this area.

We also based our reconstruction on historical documents beginning with the most antique that describe the Forum’s aspect and characteristic and on the extraordinary designs of the architects, the celebrated “envois”, who studied at the French Academy of Rome. These architects studied the great classical architecture and left us with hypothetical reconstructions of great charm and impact. These designs were incredibly useful in deciding which type of representation we wanted to give our reconstructions of this monumental space.

The definition of the monuments is mostly on an urban scale and ideal for bird’s eye views, particularly spectacular in this area which includes the most famous monuments in the ancient city.

Apart from the images in the viewer, on request it is possible to have videos or other images from different perspectives.

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Short history of

Roman Forum

Originally, the Palatine and the Capitol were separated by a swampy valley, called the Velabrum, where the streams coming down from the Esquiline and Viminal hills flowed on their way to the Tiber. In the first half of the 7th century BC, the northernmost part of this swamp was reclaimed by a landfill which allowed the Romans to have a new, vast plain in the center of the city. It has been calculated that some 20,000 cubic meters of earth were needed to fill in the depression of the swamp, and it is likely that a solid wall had to be built on the side of the still unreclaimed swamp, in order to contain the enormous accumulation of earth. The square obtained from this intervention, a surface area of some 5,000 square meters, was paved with a simple layer of stones.

We know very little about the first Roman Forum, which remains hidden under more recent pavements and buildings. Only a very small part of it has been reached by archaeological digs and we must rely on information conserved in the writings of ancient authors to  reconstruct the way it  looked in its original version.

The square created by the landfill probably commissioned by King Ancus Marcius, was paved again at the end of the 7th century BC with a layer of clay mixed with stones. The new forum was surrounded by buildings and served by a great sewer – the Cloaca Maxima – which, flowing down from the area between the Viminal and the Esquiline hills, passed through the forum, carrying waste and refuse toward the river.

The first Tarquinius is credited with the construction, on the south side of the forum, of a portico and a series of tabernae, or shops, which sold meat and with the assignment to members of the aristocracy of the surrounding areas as development zones. Several structures discovered under the Basilica Julia and the Basilica Aemilia could be considered parts of the rich private homes built on the invitation of the king. A short tract of tufa wall, discovered on the southeast side of the square, is more difficult to interpret. It could be part of the original outside wall of the forum or, conversely, a small sacellum, or chapel.

In the last centuries of the Republic, the Roman Forum was the established center of a powerful state which controlled the entire Mediterranean. Up to that time, a number of different buildings had been built around the central square, defining its form, but not always in a regular way. Starting in the 4th century BC, the need was felt to create a more orderly urban plan. In 318 BC, Gaius Maenius rebuilt the tabernae first commissioned by Tarquinius Priscus and transformed them from butcher shops to offices for bankers. In 210 BC, after a serious fire, other shops and a basilica, whose name is still unknown, were built on the northern side of the forum. Finally, from 179 to 169 BC, the basilicas of Aemilia and Sempronia were built, both of them probably with frontal porticoes. The different orientation of the Comitium, or meeting place, became more and more evident and under the dictatorship of Sulla, the problem was partially resolved by visually limiting the area of the forum facing the Capitol with the construction of the Tabularium, or record office.

By the time Julius Caesar came to the power, the old area of the forum in which the Romans had met since prehistoric times for political and commercial matters, had begun to prove itself inadequate for the changing needs of a city in continuous expansion. Thus, the need of a second forum and of new spaces was recognized. They, from Augustus on, will become a necessary complement to imperial politics in the field of urban planning, above all for the purposes of political propaganda. Nonetheless, throughout the entire classical period, the area reserved for the first forum was never abandoned. On the contrary, all of the emperors left their mark there, through the realization of numerous restorations and new constructions. The construction program of Augustus in the Roman Forum was marked, above all, by the completion of buildings already initiated or at least commissioned by Caesar, such as the new Curia, the Basilica Julia and a new square, whose orientation was in line with that of the Forum of Julius Caesar.

Caesar had already placed the rostra on the western side of the square, after having completely modified the area of the old Comitium. Augustus would again renovate the tribunal of the magistrates, giving them a straight, rather than curved, façade. These monuments were joined by other buildings commissioned by Augustus, in particular the temple dedicated to the deified Caesar in the place where his funeral was held. To this same period of great activity, belongs the new pavement in the forensic square, realized with slabs of marble and commissioned by the praetor L. Naevius Surdinus, which remained in use throughout the entire classical period.

The structure conferred on the area of the forum by Augustus remained unchanged for a long time: the insertion of new buildings, like the Temple of Vespasian and Titus or the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina did not disturb the Augustan plan.

Only Domitian, in strict observance of his rigidly monarchical policies, dared to the be the first to introduce an element that broke with the past: his gigantic equestrian statue in the center of the square, which turned the square into a mere frame in exaltation of the monument that qualified him as “dominus et deus”. Beginning in the 3rd century AD, the area of the forum was again invaded by cumbersome structures such as the Arch of Septimius Severus and its equestrian statue. But it was above all with the era of the tetrarchy that the forum was destined to host additional monuments, like the seven honorary columns and the new Rostra. All of this building fervor was related to the massive public work of rebuilding following the great fire of Carinus in 283 AD.

From the end of the 3rd century AD, the monuments of the forum underwent numerous restorations, while the central square, the only space left free, was filled with a series of statues and columns which changed its aspect. Constantine had an equestrian statue of himself placed in the center of the square (Equus Constantini); under the tetrarchy, seven honorary columns were added on the south side, along with numerous statues of which only the bases remain, with dedications to Constantius, Arcadius, Honorius and Theodosius.  In 608 AD, the emperor Phocas placed another column in the center of the area, crowned with a gold statue of himself, thus concluding the series of monuments in the area of the forum.