The Forum and the Imperial Forums - What are they and why were they built?
The Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine are the three great archaeological sites that are preserved in the city of Rome.
The concepts of "Forum" (the Roman Forum) or "The Forums" (the Imperial Forums), are difficult to understand what was done in them and how their spaces were organized.
What is the difference between the traditional Roman Forum and the so-called Imperial Forums?
This Forum, built during monarchical and Republican Rome (from the 6th century B.C.), was for centuries the political center of ancient Rome. It was the nucleus of Roman civilization. No more and no less than the center of the city, the square where public buildings were located, where deals were closed, where meetings and protests took place.
Originally, it was a swampy valley, later drained by the excavation of the Cloaca Máxima. After erecting there the basilicas, temples, monuments, it became the commercial, legal, religious and political heart of the city.
The main government buildings were then located there: the Curia, which housed the meetings of the Senate, the Elections, where the popular assemblies met, the tabularium, which kept the government documents, the aerarium, which guarded the treasury. Also the buildings dedicated to the most ancestral rites.
After several centuries, the Forum had started to become small, tiny and ridiculous, as a political and social center, of the already then capital of an Empire.
The imperial forums are a succession of extensions of the Roman forum carried out during the end of the Republican era and the beginning of the Imperial era. In the middle of the first century B.C., when the great generals began to accumulate power and wealth and to put the Roman Republic in check, the insufficiency of the Roman Forum is clearly perceived. These great generals, who would soon be emperors, who were well financed by the plundering associated with their campaigns, and who needed to win over the Roman plebs and leave a sign of their magnificence, inaugurated a stage of constant architectural renovation.
Different emperors erected their own forums to form a vast complex in the center of Rome.
The complex consists of four imperial forums: Caesar's Forum, Augustus' Forum, Nerva's Forum and Trajan's Forum, realized due to the growing demand for political and administrative centers for both the state and the city, and also for the desire to have more solemn representative centers.
The Imperial Forums had a more logical and homogeneous organization of spaces than the Roman forum. Today, their ruins give the appearance of having been separated, but they formed a unitary architectural whole, isolated from the rest of the city and structured around five large arcaded squares. Their functions were practically the same as those of the ancient Roman Forum: worship (now to the emperors and their associated gods), administration, trade and justice. A great innovation was the separation of those functions from the purely economic or commercial ones, which used to attract different and less desirable environments in areas that pretended to be solemn or sacred.
The Forum of Trajan is the main attraction of the Imperial Forums, a majestic complex designed by Apolodorus of Damascus on behalf of the Emperor Trajan. It was, in addition, one of the last forums that was constructed, in year 112, but without a doubt it is the most impressive. In this Forum, an elegant marble column stands out, which was inaugurated in the year 113 AD, and commemorates the two victories that led Trajan to conquer Dacia. The column is over 30 meters long, and its spiral reliefs tell the story of those battles, starting with images of the preparation of the Roman legions and ending with the expulsion of the Dacians from their lands.
The ancient Roman Forum was outdated, chaotic in comparison with these new, more organized and modern constructions.
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