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 p225  Forum Iulium

Article on pp225‑227 of

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

Forum Iulium: the first of the so‑called imperial fora, begun by Julius Caesar and designed, not for a market, but to provide a centre for business of other kinds (App. B. C. II.102). The plan of this forum had been conceived as early as 54 B.C., for in that year Cicero and Oppius with engaged in purchasing land for Caesar from private owners, and had already paid sixty million sesterces (Cic. ad Att. IV.16.9). More land was acquired afterwards, and the final cost is said to have been one hundred  p226 million sesterces, about £1,000,000 (Plin. XXXVI.103; Suet. Caes. 26), a sum perhaps exaggerated.

Work was probably begun in 51, during Caesar's absence in Gaul (Suet. loc. cit.). At the battle of Pharsalus Caesar vowed a temple to Venus Genetrix, the mythical ancestress of the Julian gens, and proceeded to build it in the centre of his forum (App. B. C. II.68‑69, 102; III.28; Cass. Dio XLIII.22.2), which thus became in effect a porticus surrounding the temple, a type followed in all the later fora. Temple and forum were dedicated on the last day of Caesar's great triumph, 26th September, 46 B.C. (Cass. Dio, loc. cit.; Fast. Arv. Pinc. Vall. ad VI Kal. Oct., CIL I2 p215, 219, 240, 322‑323, 330; Fast. Praen. in BC 1915, 170, 346), although the forum was not finished by Caesar (cf.  Nic. Damasc. Caes. 22; Plin. NH XXXV.156), but by Octavianus after the dictator's death (Mon. Anc. IV.12; Cass. Dio XLV.6.4). In the forum Caesar allowed the erection of a statue of himself wearing a cuirass (Plin. XXXIV.18), and he himself dedicated a statue of his horse with 'humanis similes pedes priores' (Plin. VIII.155; Suet. Caes. 61; Stat. Silv. I.I.84‑85), on which the dictator was mounted (Ber. d. k. sächs. Gesells. 1891, 99‑112). In front of the temple stood a fountain surrounded by nymphs, called Appiades (q.v.). The forum was burned in 283 A.D. and restored by Diocletian (Chron. 148). While the official designation was forum Iulium (Mon. Anc.) it appears regularly in our sources as forum Caesaris (locc. citt.; Not. Reg. VIII; Plin. XVI.236; CIL VI.10097 (?)=33960; BC 1915, 170‑171; possibly Phlegon refers to this forum as ἡ Ῥωμαίων ἀγορά (Mir. 13).

The temple of Venus (aedes, Livy, Pliny, Suet., Vitr., templum, Ovid, Pliny, Tacitus, νεώς Appian, Cass. Dio, Ἀφροδίσιον Cass. Dio) was pycnostyle (Vitr. III.3.2) and built of solid marble (Ov. A. A. I.81). The statue of Venus Genetrix by Arcesilas, which Caesar set up, in foro Caesaris (Plin. XXXV.156; cf. Cass. Dio XLVII.18.4), was probably in the cella of the temple.​1 (For another type of Venus Genetrix (seated) on a coin, see BM Rep. I.583.4277.) Caesar also placed in the temple two paintings by Timomachus, Ajax and Medea (Plin. VII.126; XXXV.26, 136); a gilded statue of Cleopatra (Cass. Dio LI.22.3; App. B. C. II.102); six dactyliothecae or collections of engraved gems (Plin. XXXVII.11); and a thorax adorned with British pearl (Plin. IX.116). Later, Augustus is stated to have set up in the temple a statue of the deified Julius with a star above his head (Cass. Dio XLV.7.1; XLVII.18.4; Plin. II.93), although some scholars believe that this is a mistake for the temple of divus Iulius in the forum (see Jord. Hermes 1875, 342‑343; Gilb. III.226).

A colossal statue was erected near the temple in honour of Tiberius by fourteen cities of Asia Minor which had been relieved by him  p227 after the earthquakes of 17 and 23 A.D., with personifications of them on its base: and a copy of this in relief was found at Puteoli (Tac. II.47; IV.13; Atti Acc. Nap. 1903, 119 sqq.: Ruesch, Guida Mus. Nap. 22‑24; CIL X.1624).

A statue of Drusilla was erected in the temple after her death (Cass. Dio, LIX.11.2‑3).

The forum Iulium was rectangular, about 115 metres long and 30 wide, surrounded by a colonnade and wall. Its main axis ran north-west to south-east, corresponding with that of the curia Iulia which adjoined it at the south corner. On this axis the temple was built, facing south-east. All that remains of the forum is part of the enclosure wall of peperino on the south-west side (Via delle Marmorelle 29), 12 metres high and 3.70 thick, and some small vaulted chambers or tabernae opening into the corridor of the forum through a row of peperino arches with Anio tufa piers and travertine imposts (TF 46). Of the temple of Venus, excavations in the sixteenth century brought to light portions of the foundations of peperino and travertine, and fragments of columns and frieze (cf. Strena Helbigiana 139‑142 and DAP 2.xv.366). At this time Palladio (Quattro Libri dell' Architettura 1570, IV. ch. 31, 128 sqq.) and Labacco (Libro appartenente all' Architettura, 1552, 25‑28; 1559, 33‑36) drew a plan and reconstruction from what was then visible, representing a peripteral octostyle structure with very narrow intercolumniations. A piece of the architrave still exists in the Villa Medici. (For forum and temple, see also Jord. I.2.436‑441; Théd. 178‑180, 371‑372; Gilb. III.224‑227; LR 302‑304; ZA 34‑36; Mem. L. 5.xvii.153; ASA 54.)

The Authors' Note:

1 See Weickert in Festschr. f. P. Arndt, 54‑61, for the type as represented on a relief in the Villa Borghese (Reinach, Rép. III.171.1), which he assigns to the period before 46 B.C.; and cf. AJA 1927, 141‑152.

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