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The Imperial Fora

"If we imagine the whole agglomeration of our buildings massed together and placed on one great heap, we shall see such grandeur towering above us as to make us think that some other world were being described, all concentrated in one single place."

Pliny, Natural History (XXXVI.34.101)

Patterned after the forum of Julius Caesar, which was constructed to alleviate the congestion of the original Roman Forum, the other imperial fora share certain common features which allow them to be regarded as a single architectural unit. All have a temple (some more dominant than others), are enclosed by walls, and have axial symmetry that runs either parallel or perpendicular to each another. The axis of the Forum of Augustus, for example, is at right angles to that of Caesar. The Forum of Vespasian (Templum Pacis) is parallel. Between the two, Domitian transformed an ancient thoroughfare into the Forum Transitorium, a project completed by Nerva. Finally, Trajan completed the sequence of fora with a complex almost as large as the rest put together. It extended the axis of the Forum of Vespasian and reinforced their unity by duplicating the exedrae of Augustus and the gardens of the Temple of Peace. The front row of the columns of Venus Genetrix are in line with the ends of the porticoes in the Forum of Trajan, and the colonnades of both have the same width.

The model of Rome provides a three-dimensional view of the imperial fora.

References: A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1992) by L. Richardson, Jr.; A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1929) by Samuel Ball Platner and Thomas Ashby; The Historical Topography of the Imperial Fora (1984) by James C. Anderson; Urbs Roma (1967) by Donald R. Dudley; Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1968) by Ernest Nash; Roman Imperial Architecture (1981) by J. B. Ward-Perkins; "The Imperial Fora" (1954) by Peter H. von Blanckenhagen, The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 13(4), 21-26; The Architecture of Roman Temples (2005) by John W. Stamper.

The standard reference of the imperial fora now is Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (1993-2000) edited by Adriano La Regina (6 vols).

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