If you’ve ever walked along Via dei Fori Imperiali (the street of the Imperial Forums), you might have been overwhelmed with the amount of archaeological ruins on either side of the street. As the name suggests, there are actually many imperial forums built by different Roman emperors. The forums formed the political centre of Ancient Rome. If you are coming from Piazza Venezia towards the Colosseum, on your left you’ll find the forum built by the Emperor Trajan.
Who was Trajan?
Statue of Emperor Trajan. https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/9548613224
Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Traianus) was emperor from 98 AD to 117 AD and is remembered for both his military triumphs and his philanthropic rule. Before his ascent to emperor he was a popular army general, and it was this experience that helped him lead and win three major wars during his reign. These battles against East Europe and Asia led to the greatest expansion of the Roman Empire to that date. Aside from his military conquests, Trajan was concerned with both the good of the government and the public, and was responsible for implementing public building programs and social welfare policies. He improved the road system, built new bridges, aqueducts, baths and extended the port at Ostia. He also provided for the poor and freed wrongly incarcerated prisoners. Every new emperor that followed Trajan was honored by the Roman Senate with the words felicior Augusto, melior Traiano (that he be ‘luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan’).
Trajan’s Forum with Trajan’s Market in the background
This forum was the last and the largest of the imperial forums to be constructed in the Roman Empire. It was designed by the famous architect Apollodorus of Damascus and construction began in 107 AD. Trajan built the complex using the spoils of war from his conquest of Dacia (modern Romania), which was his biggest military achievement. At the time, the forum was seen as a very ambitious project as it required leveling a 40 meter high hill, along with destroying several significant buildings and streets. The completed complex held not only the forum but also a large basilica, two libraries, the markets and a temple. Today, only a small section of the forum remains, as well as part of the markets, and a majestic column.
Trajan’s Column was built in 113 AD to commemorate Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars (101–102 AD and 105–106 AD). Though now it stands tall in contrast to the ruins around it, at the time it would have been relatively well hidden, nestled in a small courtyard between buildings. It boasts some impressive diameters; 30 meters in height, 3.7 meters in width and is made from 20 marble drums which each weigh 32 tons!
However, undoubtedly its most impressive feature is the 190 meter long decorative frieze that winds around the column 23 times. The relief portrays Trajan’s two military triumphs against the Dacians. While this is a story of war, oddly the battle scenes are relatively nonexistent, while scenes of soldiers carrying out ceremonies and construction are emphasized. Trajan remains present both symbolically in the bronze statue that sits atop the column, and literally as his ashes were buried at the base of the column. This is said to represent that Trajan himself remains on earth with his people, while his conquests ascend up with him into Heaven!
Trajan’s Market, Rome
The ancient equivalent of a modern shopping centre, this market was once a three story high complex. It was a revolutionary structure, unequalled at that time, with a covered market containing hundreds of shop fronts (tabernae), a residential apartment block, and government offices. The complex was constructed with brick and concrete and is a fine example of Roman urban architecture. As one of the few preserved high-rise structures, it gives a good insight into daily Roman life. Today, visitors can walk along the main shopping street, Via Biberatica, through one of the many corridors, or explore the tabernae.
The Museum of the Imperial Forums
An upper level of Trajan’s market, accessible via the Museum of the Imperial Forums. https://www.flickr.com/photos/carolemage/14089200037
Via Quattro November, 94
Open daily, from 9.30am to 7.30pm
To enter Trajan’s Market, visitors must go through the Museum of the Imperial Forums. The museum allows access to certain parts of Trajan’s market, as well as exhibiting artifacts from all the imperial forums. In addition, the museum documents the history of the forum complexes and provides a deeper understanding of their design, as well as hosting many temporary exhibitions.
For more information or to arrange a private tour, please contact us at What a Life Tours!
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