Forum of Trajan

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Trajan's Forum (Foro di Traiano) was a large public square in ancient Rome built during the reign of Emperor Trajan (reigned 98-117 CE). It was located in the heart of Rome, between the Colosseum and the Capitoline Hill. The Forum was built using wealth obtained from the conquest of the Dacian kingdom in 106 CE and construction began between 105 and 107 CE. The Forum was officially opened in 112 CE and was considered one of the most impressive architectural achievements of ancient Rome.

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Overview

Emperor Trajan's Forum included a large central square, surrounded by impressive architectural elements including porticos, markets, temples, and Trajan's Column, which was added and dedicated in 113 CE. The column is famous for its spiral bas-relief, which depicts Trajan's military campaigns in Dacia. The Forum remained in use throughout the Roman Empire and even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, some of the buildings were repurposed for other uses. Today, the ruins of the Forum can be seen in the city of Rome and is considered an important historical and architectural site.

Forum of Trajan

circa 112 CE

Basilica Ulpia
The Basilica Ulpia (named after Trajan's family; the Gens Ulpia) was inaugurated in 112 CE and it served as a huge court-house. The importance of its juridical function was stressed by the grandeur of its architecture. Outside it appeared as a fourty meter high building which completely hid the view of the Trajan's Column from the square of the Forum. It overlooked the square of the Forum with a wide colonnade on the ground floor. Several bass-relief decorations on the upper floor depicted trophies of arms alternated with statues of Dacian warriors as captives (some statues and fragments of the decorations are on display in the Museum of the Imperial Fora). Inside the building was divided in to five huge naves, four side aisles (six meters wide each) and a nave (about 25 meters wide), separated by rows of monolithic columns made of Egyptian gray granite. Two large hemicycles opened up to the short sides. The presence of a second floor allowed to follow the trials held in the tribunals at the ground floor. During the Middle Ages the basilica partly collapsed and partly destroyed on the initiative of the French Governorated (circa 1812-1813 CE) in order to bring to light the ancient ruins. After the return of the Papal Government, the arrangement of the area was finished circa 1820 CE by the will of Pope Pius VII (circa 1800-1823 CE).

circa 112 CE

Side Porticos of the Trajanic Forum
The square of the Forum of Trajan was flanked, on the long sides, by two deep porticoes, measuring approx. fifteen meters in length, which opened up to large hemicycles with a diameter of fourty meters. The portico facades were supported by fluted Corinthian columns made of Paconazzetto marble (coming from modern day Turkey and characterized by the typical purple veins against a white background). Above the columns an attic displayed large marble sheilds (clipei) with portraits alternating with statues representing Dacian captives. A second row of statues was perhaps placed as acroteria along thetop cornice of the porticos. The statue of Dacians commemorated not only of the two wars fought by Trajan in Dacia in the years 101-102 CE and 105-106 CE, but also of the exceedingly rich booty that Rome acquired from the conquest and that was used to finance the construction of the Forum it self. The large portraits on the clipei depicted members of the imperial family and famous people to ideally expand the portrait gallery displayed in the adjacent Augustan Forum. Other colossal white marble statues of famous people were housed in the niches with in the two large hemicycles where tribunals were held, similarly to those existing in the Basilica Ulpia and in the Forum of Augustus. The Forum of Trajan was in fact a sort of large palace of justice where law related matters were administered with regards to the whole empire. Sculptures from this area are now on display in the Museum of the Imperial Fora.

circa 112 CE

Market
The Trajan's Market complex was built during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98-117 CE) as part of the larger Forum of Trajan complex. The market was designed to provide a central location for the sale of goods and services to the citizens of Rome. The complex consisted of a large central courtyard, surrounded by multiple levels of storefronts and offices, as well as storage rooms and workshops. The design of the market was innovative for its time, as it made use of the slope of the Quirinal Hill to create a multi-level complex.

The market was built using wealth obtained from the conquest of the Dacian kingdom in 106 CE, construction began between 105 and 107 CE. The market was officially opened in 112 CE. The complex was built with brick and concrete, and it was covered with marble, which made it look grand and imposing.

The market remained in use throughout the Roman Empire period, and even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, some of the buildings were repurposed for other uses. The market was rediscovered in the late nineteenth century CE, during excavations in the area, and today it is open to the public as a museum and is considered an important historical and architectural site. Trajan's Market is considered to be one of the earliest and most significant examples of a retail market in the ancient world and it is an important example of ancient urban planning. The complex provides valuable insights into the social, economic and architectural history of ancient Rome.

circa 113 CE

Trajan's Column
The Trajan's Column narrates in pictures the two military campaignes in the years 101-102 and 105-106 CE in which emperor Trajan (circa 98-117 CE) conquered Dacia, corresponding largely to themodern Romania. The public forum built by the emperor Trajan was the most impressive of the Imperial Forums, inaugurated in 112 CE, because of extraordinary spoils of these wars. The column was erected at the center of a courtyard bordered by the monumental entrance to the Forum to the north, the Basilica Ulpia to the south and by two libraries to the east and to the west. It rests on a plinth decorated with bas-reliefs depicting stacks of weapons. The shaft, 100 Roman feet (approx. 30 meters), consists of seventeen colossal monolithic drums made of white Carrara marble, with a diameter of nearly four meters.

Inside the column it develops a spiral staircase of185 steps leading to the top. Around the shaft, the column is adorned with a frieze (inspect), imagined as a spiral wound roll, almost two hundred meters long. It is densely animated by scenes, with almost twenty five hundred characters; emperor Trajan appears 59 times. The column not only celebrated the conquest of Dacia, but also had the function of Trajan's mausoleum-monument; in fact the golden urn containing the ashes of the emporor (dies August 8, 117 CE), was placed in the plinth. On the top of the column there was a gilded bronze statue of the emperor. This was probably lost in the Middle Ages and in 1587 CE it was replaced by the will of Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590 CE) with a new statue of Saint Peter, which survives today.

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