The Forum of Augustus was planned as part of a wide reorganisation of the area between the central Forum, the Forum of Caesar and the Basilica Emilia. Its proximity to the Subura (Current Monti Quarter) was conditioned by the capabilities of the existing sewer system found there. The Forum of Augustus originally covered some 8,000 square metres and was built next to Caesar’s Forum. Later, it would be bordered on the left side by Trajan’s Forum and on the right by Nerva’s Forum to create the complex known today as the Imperial Fora. The temple was finally inaugurated (although still not quite finished) in 2 BCE and it came to function as the focal point of Roman military strategy. The “E” shaped central space was dominated by a temple, which was very imposing especially when compared to the frontal square and two narrow side corridors. To make space for the Hall of the Colossus at the end of the northern walkway the building (today known as the House of the Knights of Rhodes) was “cut”.
Recent excavations at the Forum of Trajan have revealed the existence of a third exedra, which was removed to make way for a building of the same period. Therefore, the existence of a fourth exedra has been assumed. Perhaps, it was subsequently eliminated to make way for the Forum of Nerva. The numerous historical sources that document these spaces have different theories as to their function. The forum is made of ashlar blocks of peperino tufa with Carrara marble. Its construction also includes colonnades made of giallo antico, from Numidia, with the second storey of colonnades made from africano and pavonazzetto. Interestingly these materials are from all over the Empire, but the enclosing walls were made of local Roman stone. The Forum was filled with a rich variety of different statues. Most notable were the statues of Augustus in full military outfit in the center of the Forum, and of Mars and Venus in the Temple. In total, there were 108 portrait statues with inscriptions of each individual’s achievements, providing an important idea of how Augustus viewed his role within Roman history.
The Temple of Mars Ultor
The exterior of the temple was constructed using the Italian white Luna marble from Cararra. The centre-piece of the whole temple was a huge marble statue of Mars who resided in the apse of the cella ahead of five Egyptian alabaster covered steps and surrounded by the legionary standards which the Parthians had taken but which, following Roman victory, were recaptured and restored to Rome. The torso of this statue may well be the one now in the Capitoline Museums of Rome with the head, arms and legs having been restored.
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