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p227 Forum Nervae

Article on pp227‑229 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Forum Nervae: * the fourth of the imperial fora (Mart. X.28.6, 5.12), built by Domitian, but dedicated by Nerva at the beginning of 97 A.D. (Suet. Dom. 5; Stat. Silv. IV.3.9‑10; Cassiod. Chron. 140; Hier. a. Abr. 2105; Eutrop. vii.23; Vict. Caes. 12.2; CIL VI.953 = 31213). It occupied the space between the forum Augustum on the north-west and the forum Pacis on the south-east, and was in effect a transformation of the intervening Argiletum with its crowded and unsightly buildings into a magnificent avenue which had the form of a very narrow forum. Its length was about 120 metres, its width about 40, and the walls of the fora already existing were extended so as to form a continuous enclosure. A part of the wall at the north-east end is still standing and corresponds in height and character with that of the forum Augustum which it adjoins, except that the size of the rectangular blocks of stone used in the construction has been considerably increased (from 59 cm. (2 Roman feet) to 78 cm.).

This forum was officially the forum Nervae (Suet. loc. cit.; Lydus, de mens. IV.1), but as it was the main thoroughfare between the Subura p228and forum Romanum and the other imperial fora, it soon became known as the forum Transitorium (Hist. Aug. Alex. Sev. 28.6; 36.2; Pol. Silv. 545; Cassiod. Chron. cit.;1 Eutrop. vii.23; Hier. a. Abr. 2105; Serv. Aen. VII.607), or, less frequently apparently, forum Pervium (Vict. Caes. 12.2). In Reg. it is listed in Region IV as forum Transitorium, in Region VIII and the Appendix as forum Nervae, which indicates the common use of both names, and that the boundary between the two regions passed through the forum (Pr. Reg. 144). Once it is called forum Palladium (Mart. I.2.8), because of the temple of Minerva, but whether this was in general use, or merely a conceit of the poet, is uncertain (cf. also Minerva Templum). It appears to be spoken of as Caesareum forum in CIL VI.0097 = 33960 (cf. Mart. I.117.10).

After the pattern set in the other imperial fora, Domitian built in his forum a temple of Minerva, to whose cult he was especially devoted (Suet. Dom. 15; Cass. Dio LXVII.1). It was dedicated by Nerva at the same time as the forum, and was a magnificent and imposing building (Vict. Caes. loc. cit.; CIL VI.953 = 31213). It is represented on the Marble Plan (116), and stood in the centre of the north-east end of the forum. From either side short walls extended across the fora of Augustus and Vespasian. It was of the Corinthian order, hexastyle prostyle, and its apse projected beyond the limits of the forum.

Besides this temple Domitian also erected one to Ianus Quadrifrons (q.v.); and Alexander Severus set up colossal statues of all the emperors who had been deified, with bronze columns on which their res gestae were inscribed (Hist. Aug. Alex. Sev. 28.6).2

A considerable part of the temple of Minerva (which was known as templum Palladis in the twelfth century, see JRS 1919, 30, 52) was standing in the sixteenth century, and of this we have views (Du Pérac, Vestigi pl. VI; Palladio, Quattro Libri di Architettura (1570), iv. ch. 8; cf. Mem. L. 3.xi.25; DuP 101‑105; Toeb. i.52‑53; DAP 2.xv.367), but this was destroyed in 1606 by Paul V and the material used in building his fountain on the Janiculum. Modern houses stand on the podium (FUR p27; LR 310).

The short ends of the forum were slightly curved, and that toward the forum Romanum was pierced by two monumental archways, while at the other end there was one, east of the temple. Of these arches the last-named was known as arcus Aurae (v. Aura), or arcus Aureus, in the Middle Ages (cf. the churches of S. Andreas and S. Maria de Arcu Aureo, of which the former is also called S. Andrea in Portogallo (Arm. 142, 170; Mél. 1905, 149; HCh 177, 312), while the arch at the other end, called arcus Nerviae, is still to be seen in the bird's-eye view of Rome published in 1577 by Du Pérac, and the Colonnacce were called Arca Noe (Noah's ark); cf. S. Maria de Archa Noe (HCh 311), probably the same as p229S. Maria degli Angeli in Macello martyrum (cf. 342; Jord. II.474, 503). See also Porticus Absidata.

Within the enclosure wall was a colonnade of marble columns, entirely surrounding the forum. Excavations have begun to the south-west of these two columns, but without important results up till now. Two of these columns, with about 11 metres of the wall itself, are still standing at the east corner of the forum, in the Via della Croce Bianca. This ruin, one of the most beautiful in Rome, is called Le Colonnacce. The wall is peperino, lined with marble, the columns are 8.80 metres high without the capital, and 1.08 in diameter at the base (NS 1912, 226), and the intercolumniations 5.30 metres in width. Above the columns are a cornice and lofty attic which, instead of following the line of the columns, run along the wall itself in the intercolumnar spaces, and project and return round the columns, thus breaking the entablature into sections. The attic, which is 4.40 metres high, has a plinth and cornice, and in the space between the columns is a relief of Minerva, 2.65 metres high. The close parallelism between the architectural details of the forum Transitorium and those of Domitian's palace has already been noticed (DuP 101, n1), and is further developed by Fiechter ap. Toeb. i.54‑61. It is probable that similar reliefs, either of Minerva or of some other goddess, stood in each intercolumnar space. The frieze is decorated with reliefs representing (a) Minerva among the nine Muses; (b) the punishment of Arachne, together with scenes of household life, such as spinning, weaving and dyeing — the arts which were especially under the protection of Minerva. According to Strong (SScR 132)º the scenes 'are perhaps to be interpreted as scenes of initiation into the mysteries of the goddess of wisdom' (Ann. d. Inst. 1877, 5‑36; Mon. d. Inst. x. pls. 40, 41, 41a; Mitt. 1889, 88, 249; for the forum and temple in general, see Jord. I.2.449‑453; Gilb. III.232‑234; Mem. L. 3.xi.22‑26; 5.xvii.521; Mél. 1889, 346‑355; Mitt. 1891, 101‑103; Théd. 194‑197, 369‑371; ASA 54).


The Authors' Notes:

it soon became known as the forum Transitorium: Cf. also Chron. Min. 147 (Prosp. Tiro).

colossal statues of all the emperors who had been deified: The colossal statue of Mars in the Capitoline Museum was not found here (p223, n1).


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