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Part IV – ‘The heart of the entire Roman Empire’

Watch Dr Matthew Nicholls introduce you to the political architecture at the heart of the Roman Empire, the great Forums.

Last week you looked at the infrastructure of Rome such as the roads, aqueducts and sewers. This week you’ll investigate the political architecture at the heart of the Roman Empire.

Let’s explore ancient Rome’s great forum spaces. The oldest was the main Forum, followed later on by the nearby imperial fora. These started with Julius Caesar’s Forum Iulium, which set a pattern which other emperors followed. First and foremost was Caesar’s adoptive heir Augustus, who built the Forum Augustum, partly to honour Caesar (and Augustus’ revenge on his killers). Caesar’s and Augustus’ lead was followed in Vespasian’s Templum Pacis. Next came Domitian’s Forum Transitorium and then Trajan’s mighty Forum which dwarfed them all. Each emperor built close to his predecessors, cementing their legacies into a long line of Roman leaders.

While you watch this video you may like to think about the following and share your thoughts in the comment area below:

  • How were the imperial fora an effective way for each emperor to promote his importance and ambition?

  • At the end of the video, I raised the possibility that over time the Roman Forum became less of a practical working space and more a commemorative precinct. Do you agree?

I also join my colleague, Dr Luke Houghton, back at the University of Reading to discuss how poetry can tell us more about the architecture of these great buildings. You’ll hear more about how poetry can illuminate the ancient city later this week.

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Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City

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