Reconstruction of the attic from one of the porticoes in the Forum of Augustus
Section on the Forum of Augustus
Inaugurated in the 2 BC, the Forum of Augustus consists of a rectangular square paved with white marble slabs, dominated, at its lower end, by the temple dedicated to Mars Ultor, also built in white marble from the quarry in Luni today known as Carrara. The temple was built against a high wall built of blocks of tufa stone that separated the forum from the rowdy Subura neighborhood.
The square was flanked on both sides by long deep porticoes in which the column shafts were made of ancient yellow marble. The attic above the columns is embellished with decorative Caryatids, whose elegant hairstyles support a headband carved from the same block, above which is a Doric capital with echinus, embellished with a typical Ionic kyma. The Caryatids appear to be holding up the coping with a baccellatura motif. In the recesses between the Caryatids, quadrangular panels feature round shields bearing an assortment of motifs set in convex frames whilst at the centre, there are heads of Jupiter each with different features.
There are several rooms dedicated to the Forum of August inside the Museum of the Imperial Fora, each displaying various reconstructions of the architectural elements from the Temple of Mars Ultor. These include the orders from both the porticoes and the exedra, and in fact one of the most significant of these is a partition from the attic above the Forum's porticoes which were located the most prestigious area in Trajan's Market: the Great Hall.
The reconstruction of the attic from one of the porticoes in the Forum of Augustus was achieved by piecing together several original pieces in Luna marble integrated with resin moulds and other pieces made of limestone.
Piece of the roof coping (the shaped upper end or sima, with rainwater spout shaped like a lion's head) FA 1118
Various sections of the roof coping:
FA 909 FA 917 FA 918 FA 914
Head of Jupiter Hammon: FA 2513
Piece of the frame from a shield (clipeus): FA 1117
Section of frame surrounding a panel (comprising three pieces that fit together)
FA 4385 4328 4302
Resin mould of a Caryatid taken from the original held in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence in the Villa Corsini (13711)
Porticoes and Exedras
Porticoes and Exedras
Moving along to the rooms in the central body of the museum, we come to the section dedicated to the porticoes of the Forum and a reconstruction of part of the architectural order from the façade overlooking the square is on display. The reconstructed piece is suspended from a metal trellis which makes it easier to fully appreciate the overall effect of the architectural concept which comprises the echinus in antique yellow marble and the capital of one of the two columns, all capped by the component elements of the trabeation (beams), architrave (moulds), frieze and cornice, all decorated on both sides. The display in front of this reconstruction is made up of single, priceless and elegant pieces of sculptures used to decorate the attic – a reconstruction of which can be found on the ground floor. It provides an opportunity to appreciate and admire the outstanding quality of the workmanship that went into sculpting the heads of the male deities and female figures and just how different they all were. In some cases in fact, the heads were inspired by the image of Jupiter Hammon, represented by the inclusion of bull horns, although the heads on display here have torques, not horns, traditional Celtic and Asian necklaces that were very much in vogue at the time. All the heads known about today, whether in Rome or elsewhere, would seem to suggest that Augustus must have summoned craftsmen from Rhodes, the island off the SW tip of Asia Minor, and established workshops for them in Rome during the period in which the Forum was being built. The signature found on a piece from one of the Caryatids tells us that these figures were essentially copies of the famous originals located in the Erectheion on the Acropolis in Athens, but slightly altered to reflect the different symbolic significance more pertinent to this location.The imposing architecture of the walkway between the porticoes and the exedra, effectively screens the inner area of the exedra, probably because admittance to the exedra, when meetings and audiences were taking place, was controlled. Statues of Augustus' ancestors and men who had contributed to the greatness of Rome adorned the niches. The reconstruction of the niche that can be seen in the museum is one from the portico, as can be seen by the fact that the semi-column in antique yellow, which is almost intact, bears the same decorative elements as the exedra.