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Roman Fora: Truth Excavation vs. Theory Essay

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Updated: Dec 16th, 2021


The Roman Forum was a cradle of the Ancient Roman Civilization. For a long time the Forum Romanum has been considered a driving force for the small villages’ fusion and the city’s birth. However, this has been disputed owing to the geographical consideration and the latest archaeological studies. Particularly, the American archaeologist Albert J. Ammerman has thrown daylight upon the initial state of the Forum place, which was a plain often flooded by the Tiber waters, unsuitable for the settlement (Ammerman 627). Under these conditions the construction of the Forum required a strong united effort of a numerous community.

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Thus, the Forum cannot be considered an authentic city-forming force.

The numerous temples were constructed in order to impress the citizens and strengthen their belief and obedience. The architecture, pictures and their situation aimed at glorifying the sanctuaries. The impressive religious ceremonies were held at the Forum.

Taking into account the results of the archaeological and topographical studies, Roger Ulrich states in his article that Julius Caesar did not plan construction of the Forum Iulium initially (Ulrich 49). As for the geographical aspect, the choice of the Forum’s location can be explained by Caesar’s desire to be close to the central power, represented in the Curia (Forum of Caesar).

Besides, the construction of the Forum was not held according to a strict plan, being influenced by the numerous events which impacted different sides of the Empire’s life. Ulrich defines the function of the Forum of Julius Caesar: “The Forum Iulium was the only one of the Imperial fora built to supplant directly the traditional civic functions of the original Forum Romanum” (Ulrich 49). Gradually the Forum’s functions evolved, which stimulated building activity marked by the archeologists.

The Forum executed the ideological function through its architecture and decoration appealing to the Hellenistic sanctuaries. It also glorified Caesar, whose statue was placed at the Forum.

The Forum of Augustus (the Forum Augustum) was constructed in addition to the Forum Romanum in order to provide additional space for the events, ceremonies and judicature, as the population grew, and the public life intensified.

The Forum Augustum was adapted to the purposes of education, which shows the development of the education process (Forum of Augustus).

The Forum Trajan had a huge extension and was located north of the Forum Julium and northwest of the Forum Augustum. Stamper describes the reason for the Forum’s expansion:

It also had the practical purpose, as had been the case with the fora of Julius Caesar, Augustus, and the Flavians, to provide more open space in the center of the city to serve the needs of the Romans for public administration and judicial activities. It was the most formal example yet in Rome of the Greek-inspired agora, where commercial and financial business, political events, and trials could be transacted in the open air or in the adjacent basilica (Stamper 175).

For Trajan, the Forum’s expansion meant the embodiment of his military success. Its impressive architecture and luxurious decoration served as a strong propaganda instrument (176). To construct the most magnificent forum meant to Trajan to declare himself the most powerful warrior and the strongest emperor. However, the Forum did not intend to promote the militancy: it was an effort to represent Trajan and his power as peaceful and inviolable (Forum of Trajan). The impressiveness of the Forum also served as a force for strengthening the power of religion.


Thus, the Fora were business, political and religious centers for the Roman citizens. Their evolution was conditioned by the rulers’ will, as well as by a variety of the historical events. The expansion of the Fora’s areas can be explained by intensification of the community’s public life, population growth and also by the propaganda incentive, which implied the embodiment of the emperors’ power.

The knowledge about the origination and the initial functions of the Fora, as well as their evolution, has been considerably expanded owing to the results of excavations and their comparison to the data from the ancient sources. Analysis of the geographical, topographical issues and the sequences of events opens a new page in the Fora research.


Ammerman, Albert J. “On the Origins of the Forum Romanum”. American Journal of Archaeology 94 1990: 627-45. Print.

Forum of Augustus”. Capitolium.org. Web. 2010.

Forum of Caesar”. Capitolium.org. Web. 2010.

Forum of Trajan”. Capitolium.org. Web. 2010.

Stamper, John W. The Architecture of Roman Temples: the Republic to the Middle Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.

Ulrich, Roger B. “Julius Caesar and the Creation of the Forum Julium”. American Journal of Archaeology 97/1.1993: 49-80. Print.

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