How did the Forum develop?
Here, where now the forums are, was once occupied by wet marshes: a ditch was saturated with waters running back from the river.That Lacus Curtius, which houses altars, all dry,Is now solid ground, but once was a lake.Where now processions pass through the Velabrum on their way to the Circus,There was nothing except willows and hollow reeds;Often the revellers, going home across these waters on the edge of the town,Would sing a song and cast his drunken words across to the sailors here…The pools have receded and the banks keep the water in its place,The land is now dry: but the old custom remains.Ovid, Fasti 6.401-414.
The Black Stone in the Comitium indicates a place of burial. Some say it was intended to be the burial spot of Romulus, before he disappeared and made his burial impossible. Others say his foster-father Faustulus was buried here; others that it was Hostilius, grandfather of the Roman king Tullius Hostilius.Festus 184L
[The Roman writer Varro] has written about the places in which a decree of the senate can be issued, and had shown us that unless such a decree is made in a place properly appointed by the augurs, such that we call it a templum, it is not legally correct. For this reason the curia Hostilia, the curia Pompeia and the Julia, none of them sacred sites, were approved as templa by the augurs, so that senatorial decrees could be issued in them according to this custom of our forefathers.Gellius, Attic Nights 14.7.7
Figure 1: Digital reconstruction of the Forum Iulium (or Forum of Caesar).©Dr Matthew Nicholls, University of Reading, 2017.
Figure 2: Remains of the Forum Iulium (or Forum of Caesar). ©University of Reading
What have we seen more miserable than this, more bitter, more mournful? The temple of sanctity, of majesty, of intellect, of public policy, the head of the city, the altar of our allies, the welcoming harbour for all races, the seat given by the entire populace to the senatorial order – burned, demolished, polluted…Cicero, Pro Milone 90.
But what angered the multitude more than anything else was the construction of the Temple of Concord by Opimius [a consul who had ruthlessly suppressed a populist movement in 121 BC]. For he seemed to think a lot of himself, and to be taking pride and in a way triumphing over the slaughter of so many citizens. So in the night some people carved this line under the temple’s inscription: “An act of mad discord produced the Temple of Concord’.Plutarch, Life of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus 17.
The Temple of Concord. ©Dr Matthew Nicholls, University of Reading, 2017.
You can view Forum of Augustus in Rome in our 360° panorama picture.Please note: this link takes you to the external site ‘Panellum’.He even tried to bring back the old fashioned form of Roman dress; once when in the assembly he saw a crowd of people wearing cloaks, he grew angry and called out: ‘Behold, the Romans – masters of the nations, the race that wears the toga!’ He told the aediles that they should not let anyone come into the Forum or its neighbourhood after that unless they were wearing a toga and had taken off their cloak.Suetonius, Life of Augustus 41.
Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City
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