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Colonna di Traiano

Colonna di Traiano

If we now cross the Via dei Fori Imperiali once again to go towards the area of the Palatine and the Roman forum, we pass next to the churches of Santi Cosma and Damiano and of San Lorenzo in Miranda, rising out of the temples of the Via Sacra. While the Roman Forum may have seemed alive from the Capitoline hill, down here it is very different. The single monuments still evoke images and visions of ancient Rome, but in its whole, it seems covered with an arcane sense of peace and serenity which emanates more from the rich vegetation than from the ruins and remains of the monuments around which these plants grow and form a beautiful frame, and especially from the laurel green crown of the Palatine which dominates the entire, incomparable scenario. Take a look at the solitary couples of lovers or the seminaries from every country dressed in their multicoloured tunics. One is almost led to abandon oneself to the physical pleasures of ecstatic contemplation of nature, which here has the power of magical enchantment. But from the ruins of the Forum a voice of warning arises even stronger than the voice of Nature, for its is the solemn voice of history:

"Here, each stone has its name.
Here each ruin has its glory."

Thus let us let the ruins, the arches and the columns speak for themselves and try to imagine the Forum in its grandeur, unique in the world. On the right towards what is now the Via dei Fori Imperiali is the Basilica Emilia, divided into five naves by four rows of African marble columns, and in front of it is an edicola dedicated to Venus Cloacina, where Virginio slit the breast of his daughter to prevent her from dishonour, signalling the beginning of the revolt against the tyranny of the decemvirate. Then we have the solemn Curia which with its rich multicoloured pavement and bronze doors constituted the seat of the Roman Senate and where the statue of Victory was held. Before the Curia is the Comitium or Piazza of the Comizi and joined to it is a portico of the Secretariat of the Senate. From here Rome dominated until the advent of the Caesars, here all triumphs were decreed, here Rome wrote the most memorable pages of its immortal history.

Next, on the western side of the Forum towards the Campidoglio is the equestrian statue of Nerazio Cereale, the lapis niger (a square stone which covers the remains of what is presumed to be the tomb of Romulus, and thus one of the most significant relics of the city) and the grandiose triumphant arch erected on the tenth anniversary of the ascent to the throne of Septimius Severus, topped by trophies and statues of the Emperor with his sons Geta and Caracalla. On the left of the arch is the Imperial Rostra, decorated with the prows from ships captured from the Volscians in the battle of Anzio and decorated with columns with honorary statues: from here the most famous Roman orators spoke to the crowds and weighed their destiny. Next is the Umbilicus Urbis, the symbolic centre of the Urbe, as well as the Volcanale or Altar of Vulcano (one of the most ancient sanctuaries of Rome from the Regia era). A bronze covered column stands which once bore golden letters signalling the distances from the different cities of the empire to the capital; next is a column erected in honour of Caio Dulio after the victory over the Carthaginians at Milazzo. In the background on the same side at the foot of the Capitoline hill in a dominant position is the Temple of Concord, erected to celebrate the peace between the patricians and plebeians after the secession of the plebeians of the Aventine hill; the Temple of Vespasian, built in honour of the first of the Flavian emperors; the Portico of the Consenti, where images of the 12 great divinities of Olympus were kept. Above emerge the grandiose heights of the Tabularium and the Temple of Jupiter. On the northern side of the Forum is the path of Clivo Capitolino, along which triumphant parades from the Via Sacra climbed the Campidoglio, and above is the Temple of Saturn, where the State treasure was kept and where during the Saturnial feasts crowds of patricians, plebeians, owners and slaves thronged about the garlanded and decorated columns in honour of the God Saturn, who had banished slavery from his happy kingdom. Next is the arch of Tiberius, erected in honour of the victories of Germanico over the Germans. Finally there is the Basilica Julia, where justice was administered and where the centumvirate its their meetings in this structure of 5 naves which still preserve today the traces of the games of the lazy and the less serious, with the statues on the columns on the side of the Forum. Next is the temple of Castor and Pollux, constructed by the son of the dictator Aulo Postumio in fulfilment of a vow made by the father to the Dioscuri before the battle with the Latini and Tarquinians at the Regillo lake. Erected in 484 B.C. and rebuilt many times, this construction still rings with the apostrophes of Cicero and the invectives of Catone the Censor, its portico being where the praetor sat, and from which Publio Cornelio Scipione Emiliano, conqueror of Carthage, pronounced himself against the slaves who were assembled in the Forum calling them "false sons of Italy". Beyond the temple of Castor and Pollux is the Fountain of Juturna and the equestrian statues of the Dioscuri, whose horses were drinking in the fountain when Juturna appeared to announce the victory of the Romans. In the background is the Temple of Augustus with the Atrium Minervae (the Roman military archives), where now the church of Santa Maria Antiqua stands and holds within a rare series of murals from the 5th to 10th centuries. Finally, on the eastern side of the Forum is the Temple of Caesar, preceded by a semicircular construction with a round altar in the centre, on which the body of the dictator was cremated. In front of the portico is a tribune decorated with the prows of enemy ships which Caesar created almost in countering that of the Imperial Rostra, which was used until his arrival as the protector of freedom. On the right is the triumphant arch of Augustus, from which the circular Temple of Vesta can be scene, alongside which an elegant marble edicola stands with the effigy of the goddess. Next is the royal residence of Numa Pompilio, later the residence of the Popes. Along the central line of the Forum, paved in travertine, is the equestrian statue of Constantine, the colossal equestrian statue of Domitian taken down immediately after his death for the damnation memoriae inflicted upon him by the Senate, which was a closed off trapezoidal area in which the three sacred trees of Rome were kept: the fig, the olive and the grape. Also here is the Lacus Curtius, what remains of an ancient chasm in which M. Curzio, a young Roman knight of Sabine origin threw himself armed and on horseback for the sake of his people, since the oracle had predicted that the chasm would have closed only when Rome would have thrown within what was dearest to her. The Column of Phocus is also located here; it was servile homage of Esarca Smaragdo to the wonderful and clement Phocus, honouring a dissolute and cruel Eastern Emperor. The statue of Phocus which was on the column was then taken down as soon as the tyrant was deposed and slain. On the right are the plutei of Trajan, bas-reliefs from the Rostra, and further is the small Temple of Giano, whose doors remained closed in times of peace. In front of the Basilica Julia are seven other honorary columns.