Project Description

Fora Imperatorum: Rome’s Expanding Downtown

Discover the majesty of Imperial Rome’s urban sprawl, the growing downtown that Romans called the Fora.  We’ll explore them in chronological order to better understand Rome’s urban planning and public works.  So we’ll start with Julius Caesar’s Forum, where we’ll admire how his architectural ambitions were an extension of his political genius: he was the first person to alleviate the serious problem of overcrowding in the old Roman Forum.  How?  By building a new one and doubling the space available for shops and administration.  He also gets the credit for starting the ‘forum trend,’ which all self-respecting emperors then followed.

Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian (soon to be known as Augustus), soon built a splendid Forum embellished with a temple dedicated to Mars, the god of war.  Why Mars?  What was the message?  Wasn’t Augustus the harbinger of a Golden Age?  We’ll discuss how Octavian’s politics reflect in his commission.  After that, we’ll tackle Vespasian’s Forum, more properly known as the Templum Pacis (the Temple of Peace).  It served principally as a museum, where the Emperor displayed the trophies of his war in Judaea.  We wave to the elderly Emperor Nerva, who succeeded in immortalizing himself (although he reigned for less than two years) by inaugurating the Forum Transitorium (which had been started and perhaps nearly completed by the Emperor Domitian) in the space remaining between his predecessors’ fora.

Trajan made the biggest contribution by creating the most complicated and multi-functional Forum of them all.  To make space for this giant project, construction workers moved over 61 million cubic meters of dirt!  We’ll discuss this and other engineering miracles while jostled by ancient Romans shopping in this monumental ancient mall.

Expenses: at the moment, the only Forum accessible to the general public is Trajan’s Complex (the Basilica and so-called Markets). When the archeological area hosts exhibits, the entrance fee is euro 14; under normal circumstances, it is euro 12.  Children are eligible for discounts. 

At times, the Forums of Caesar and Augustus are accessible by special request.  Please see “the cost” section of this webpage for more information related to special requests and their fees.  

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