Porticoes and exedrae of the Forum of Augustus

3d model and reconstruction

Porticoes and exedrae of the Forum of Augustus

At the back of the Forum of Augustus the sturdy square masonry peperino wall is clearly visible, which separated the architectonic complex from the popular quarter called Suburra behind it. This wall has dozens of holes and recesses associated with the structures which leaned onto it; this has allowed, together with the soil remain analysis, to reconstruct the Forum, only in the section which has been discovered so far.

Our reconstruction also includes the numerous architectonic elements discovered during the excavations, most notably the caryatids and shields on the top part of the arcades and the beautiful capitals in the temple cella.

Numerous epigraphic and literary sources, including the biography of Emperor Augustus (Res Gestae Divi Augusti) have provided further valuable data, useful for the monument’s reconstruction. Last but not least, there are drawings by Renaissance artists, including Palladio, Sangallo and Peruzzi, reproducing architectonic details of the temple.

Renowned scholars, starting from Italo Gismondi, author of the Model of ancient Rome, have suggested reconstructions of the Forum of Augustus, although the issue always had to remain open of what the Forum looked like in the section which has not been excavated yet, covered by the embankment in Via dei Fori Imperiali. It has been recently 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 thus even more likely appear to have provided the original model.


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Porticoes and exedrae of the Forum of Augustus

The long sides of the Forum of Augustus were flanked by porticoes, probably two stories high, made of columns in cipolin marble that supported a high attic decorated with caryatids – copies of those which adorned the Erectheum in Athens – and shields representing Jupiter Ammon.

Inside of the porticoes, along both sides, and in the large semi-circular exedrae which opened up near the podium of the Temple of Mars Ultor, tooked place a series of niches holding numerous statues. Those on the north side of the Forum were portraits of the twelve mythical kings of Alba Longa, the city where Romulus was supposed to have been born, and the ancestors of the gens Julian including, in a dominant position in the center of the exedra, the figure of Aeneas.

Romulus, the founder of the city who had inspired Augustus, stood on the south side, surrounded by the important figures who had contributed to the grandeur of Rome (the summi viri) in a symmetrical position with respect to Aeneas.

Unfortunately, the statues which adorned the porticoes and the exedrae have not been conserved, but some of the underlying inscriptions still exist, with their lists of the exploits of the various personalities represented (elogia), and there are some copies of the decoration of the Forum of Augustus in frescoes, statues, and reliefs.

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