Imperial Forum


Imperial Forum

Maps in Via dei Fori Imperiali(Fori Imperiali). In 1933 Benito Mussolini, dictator and urban planner, wanted to see the Colosseum from his office in Palazzo Venezia, and impress Hitler during his imminent visit to Rome.

So he had this large 850 yard long, 30 yard wide boulevard rammed through the ancient heart of Rome, straddling the Forum of Peace, Imperial Forums and Trajan's Forum. He tore down Renaissance churches, palaces and medieval housing, raising an enormous hue and cry at the time.

Going towards Colosseum, half way down on the right side of Via dei Fori Imperiali, shortly after the main entrance to the Roman Forum are the extremely interesting maps of Imperial Rome through the ages. Study how Rome grew from a small town to become Leader of the World (Caput Mundi).

Brass plaques from these maps were stolen by an American G.I. during the liberation of Rome in 1944. They recently surfaced in a farmhouse in the American midwest and are being returned to Rome.

But, first start in Via dei Fori Imperiali at the Piazza Venezia end: Left side of the Piazza looking towards the Colosseo:

Forum of Trajan

Column of Trayan(Foro Traiano). Trajan’s Forum is part of the vast complex the genius sculptor/architect Apollodorus of Damascus designed: the Column, the Forum, the Basilica Ulpia, and the Markets. Inaugurated in 113 AD.

Not much of the ancient elegance is left in this enormous meeting place where lawyers pleaded their clients' cases and a cross section of Rome business life was conducted at 2,000 decibels!

The original area was double the present size: continuing across the road, with another semi-circle where the Victor Emanuel Monument (friendly called "Wedding Cake") now is.

A gilded statue of Trajan graced the center of the square and brilliant marbles were on floor and wall. At the back were 2 libraries, Greek and Latin - of course all the "books" were scrolls.

The Roman library on the Campidoglio side of the column still shows the brick and mortar of the cupboards housing the scrolls.

This masonry was to needed to absorb humidity, since marble - which was used everywhere else in the complex - is not porous.

Forum of Trajan


312 AD. When Constantine, formerly Emperor of the Eastern Mediterranean, came to Rome after defeating Maxentius, the freshly victorious Emperor of the Roman World visited this Forum and spluttered: "I will never be able to construct anything like that".

Via dei Fori Imperiali (Map I 6 - J 7)

Column of Trajan

Column of Trayan(Colonna Traiana). With extraordinary deeply sculpted bas reliefs, (very unusual), and the seamless way in which the sculpting continued up the column, this must be one of the greatest masterpieces to come down to us intact from ancient Rome, showing Trajan's victories in Eastern Europe (he coveted those metal mines in Dacia).

Archeologists feel the drums were sculpted "in situ", as they have not one iota of damage.

The 26,000 figures were originally painted in bright colors, easily visible from the libraries' roofs from where they were meant to be viewed.
The bronze statue of the Emperor on the top was replaced with one of St. Peter in 1587.

The column in Luni (lunar = moon white) marble, is 131 feet/40 meters high, 18 drums of marble each 4 feet/1.5 meters high and 11 feet/3.5 meters in diameter - with a spiral staircase curling up in the center.

Via dei Fori Imperiali (Map I 6 - J 7)

Basilica Ulpia

Adjacent to and part of the Forum. Ulpia was Trajan's family name. This is the largest and latest building of the complex and most of it is underground. Its marbles were pillaged in the Middle Ages as building material for houses and churches which were built on top.

Via dei Fori Imperiali (Map I 6 - J 7)

Market of Trajan

(Mercati Traianei). For us this is the most satisfying building of the complex, combining symmetry, beauty, space and supple lines. It rises six floors in a semicircle on the hill overlooking the Forum.

150 booths distributed free grain in the hall on the entrance level while wine, oils, fruit, vegetables and a myriad of other commodities were sold on the other levels. Via Biberatica, 3d floor, had taverns facing each other, so that Senators and other important people in the Forum below could not hear the joyous noises emanating from here! It is still covered with its original floors.

4th floor: exotic spices and pepper; 5th floor, offices of Public Assistance (ancient Roman Social Security); 6th floor: ponds with live fish, one fed by an aqueduct with fresh water, the other with sea water from Ostia.
Herein ends Trajan's lofty and beautiful complex.

Via Quattro Novembre (Map I 5)

Mamertine Prison

(Carceri Mamertine). Right side of via Fori Imperiali, behind the Vittorio Emanuele Monument. Below Caesar's Forum is Carcere Mamertino (formerly Tullianum) located below the Chiesa S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami (1598).

In Etruscan times (pre V Century BC) this was probably a cistern for collecting water. It does seem to connect with the great Etruscan hydraulic miracle, the Cloaca Maxima, the drain that got rid of the water in the Forum.

In Roman times (late BC - early AD) it was a dungeon and prison for enemies of the state, although very small in size. It's most illustrious occupant, vanquished king - Vercingetorix of Gaul, was led to be killed from here in 49 AD.

There is a small spring in what is said to be the cell of its most famous Christian prisoner: St. Peter. Tourists throw in coins and we noticed visitors fishing them out and keeping them for luck.

On the right hand side of Via dei Fori Imperiali, behind the Monument of Victor Emmanuel, near the Foro of Ceasar.

Via dei Fori Imperiali (Map I 6 - J 7)