A Tourist in Rome - Forum of Augustus

Location:On the northeastern side of Via dei Fori Imperiali, between the Trajan's Forum and the Forum of Nerva
Metro:Colosseo
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time, beautifully lit at night

The Forum of Augustus was the second of the five Imperial Fora to be built. The most interesting part of it is located on the northeastern side of Via Alessandrina, the small pedestrian-only street northeast of Via dei Fori Imperiali, but part of it is locaed between those two streets, and part of it is buried under those two streets. Three of the Imperial Fora are next to each other in this space. The Forum of Augustus is the center of those three fora, and is shown in the left 3/4 of the 180-degree 1st photo below. It runs from the rough stone wall at the left edge of that photo which has pillars built into the bottom of it and a building on top of it, through the beautiful raised Temple of Mars Ultor with 16 white marble steps in front of it, past the inlaid colored marble floors to its right, until the rough stone wall curves outward toward us again. On the 1st photo below, that wall ends right in front of the leftmost of the umbrella pine trees. To the right of that wall until the end of the excavated area, is the tiny Forum of Nerva. To the left of the rough wall on the left is Trajan's Forum with Trajan's Market behind it. The 2nd photo below shows the statue of Augustus on Via dei Fori Imperiali, right in front of the Forum of Augustus.

    
180-degree panorama of (left to right) Forum of Augustus (with the Temple of Mars Ultor), and Forum of Nerva (mosaic of 6 photos)
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Statue of Augustus on Via dei Fori Imperiali in front of the Forum of Augustus. This is a bronze copy of the famous marble Augustus of Prima Porta.
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Octavian vowed to build the Temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger) (5 photos below) during the battle of Philippi in 42 BC, in which he and Mark Antony fought together and defeated the armies of Brutus and Cassius to avenge the assassination of his adoptive father, Julius Caesar. But times change and eventually Octavian and Marc Antony became bitter enemies and fought against each other, culminating in the battle of Actium. Octavian won, and in 27 BC he became the first emperor of Rome and changed his name to Augustus. At that time, he began construction of the temple and the forum bearing his name. They were inaugurated in 2 BC, even though they were not yet complete. The Forum was filled with many statues, such as a statue of Augustus (naturally) in full military outfit in the center of the Forum, and of Mars and Venus in the Temple of Mars Ultor. In all, there were 108 portrait statues, with inscriptions listing their achievements, mainly inside two long porticoes on either side of the forum. Statues of Romulus, the first kings of Rome, and a series of important Romans during the republic were housed in the portico on one side. The other side featured marble images of Augustus' ancestors, beginning with Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome, and on through the kings of the city of Alba Longa, to the family Julii, and right down to Julius Caesar, Augustus' adoptive father. Part of the western wall of the forum is shown in the 6th and 7th photos below, and the eastern wall is shown in the 8th photo below. The niches in the wall in these photos once held these statues. Five steps flanked by the legionary standards lost in a battle with the Parthians in 53 BC, and returned to Augustus by the Partians in 23 BC to avert war, led up to the apse, where a colossal marble cult statue of Mars stood. Augustus decreed that the Temple of Mars Ultor should be the meeting place for the Senate when decisions of war were taken. The temple was also the place where young Roman males were ceremoniously given their adult toga, thus becoming eligible for military service, and it was the official departure point for commanders embarking on military service in the empire.

    
The Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus
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The Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus
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The Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, from the southwest (the game board is near the bottom of the right edge)
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The Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, lit up at night
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The Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, lit up at night
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The left-side porticus of the Forum of Augustus
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Part of the western wall of the Forum of Augustus, to the left of the Temple of Mars Ultor
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The Eastern Wall of the Forum of Augustus
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There are many cool details in the Forum of Augustus and the Temple of Mars Ultor. In my opinion, the best is an easily-visible rectangular game board at the foot of the steps of the Temple of Mars Ultor. Look at the lower-right corner of the 3rd photo above and there is a slab of paving stones in front of the steps to the Temple of Mars Ultor. You can look straight down from the sidewalk on Via Alessandrina to see the view of those paving stones in the 1st photo below. Zooming in on the bottom paving stone shows the best example of a rectangular game board that I know of in Rome (2nd photo below). I have no idea how a game might have been played on this board, but the infinity-symbols in the left column of the board are too too too awesome. The symbol for infinity was not conceived until 1655, and the Roman symbol for eight was VIII, not 8, so what do these symbols mean? Above it is an unusual circle game board (3rd photo below) which consists of a large outer circle and a small inner circle. Another circle is to its right (4th photo below).

    
The grouping of marble floor which includes, at the bottom-right, the Rectangular Game Board on the floor of the Forum of Augustus, in front of the Temple of Mars Ultor
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Rectangular Game Board on the floor of the Forum of Augustus, in front of the Temple of Mars Ultor
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Possible Circle Game Board directly above the Rectangular Game Board on the floor of the Forum of Augustus, in front of the Temple of Mars Ultor
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Circle Game Board (?) on the floor of the Forum of Augustus, in front of the Temple of Mars Ultor
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Bits and pieces of the floors of the Forum of Augustus are still intact, after having been buried under dirt for over a thousand years. Some of these are shown in the photos below.

    
Marble floor in the western half of the Forum of Augustus
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Marble floor in the eastern half of the Forum of Augustus
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Marble floor in the eastern half of the Forum of Augustus
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Marble floor in the western half of the Forum of Augustus
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Marble floor in the western half of the Forum of Augustus
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Interesting pieces of rubble are all over the floor of the Forum of Augustus, a few examples of which are below.

    
Rubble neatly organized on the floor of the western half of the Forum of Augustus
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Pillar fragment lying on the ground in the western part of the Forum of Augustus
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Rubble of the Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, from an opening in the back wall of the Forum, on Via Tor De Conti
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Piece of the cornice from the Temple of Mars Ultor, on the ground in the Forum of Augustus
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And many more artifacts from the Forum of Augustus are on display in the Museum of Imperial Fora. Notice how the last photo above looks the same as the 1st photo below, which is how I identified the last photo above as a piece of the cornice from the Temple of Mars Ultor.

    
Piece of the cornice from the Temple of Mars Ultor of the Forum of Augustus, in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Reconstruction of the attic from one of the porticoes in the Forum of Augustus, now in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Reconstruction of the attic from one of the porticoes in the Forum of Augustus, now in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Remnant from the female statue of Victory, from the Forum of Augustus, now in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Lesene capital in Corinthian style embellished with winged horses (Pegasus), from inside the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, now in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Pilaster and column capitals on the Temple of Mars Ultor had the forepart of the winged horse Pegasus (bearer of the thunderbolts of Zeus) instead of spiral scrolls, on display in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Facade of the porticoes of the Forum of Augustus, in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Corinthian capital from the porticoes of the Forum of Augustus, in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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Two pieces from a shield containing the head of Jupiter, from the attic above the porticoes in the Forum of Augustus, in the Museum of Imperial Fora
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The Capitoline Museum and Ara Pacis museum add these contributions:

    
Colossal Statue of Mars, found in the Forum of Nerva in the 16th century, now in the Atrium of the Capitoline Museum. Originally thought to be a statue of Pyrrhus, the statue was probably located outside the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus
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Relief with sacrifice of a bull, and, in the background, a temple with eight columns, identified as perhaps the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, a plaster cast of a fragment of the Ara Pietatis, in the Ara Pacis Museum
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The left wall of the Forum of Augustus (1st and 2nd photos below) is one of the outer walls of the House of the Knights of Rhodes, which was built in the 12th century, reusing the wall of the Forum of Augustus, and reusing a beautiful colonnaded atrium from the time of Augustus. I've nicknamed the stairway that ends abruptly (and has no rail) the 'stairway to nowhere'. One morning when I snuck into the House of the Knights of Rhodes, I was able to stand on the balcony at the top of that stairway and take a photo looking down the stairs (3rd photo below) and out into the Forum of Augustus (4th, 5th and 6th photos below).

    
The Western Wall of the Forum of Augustus, including the 'Stairway to Nowhere' coming down from the balcony in the House of the Knights of Rhodes that I stood on
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The west wall of the Forum of Augustus, shared with the House of the Knights of Rhodes, including the 'stairway to nowhere'
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The View of the Forum of Augustus from the balcony with the 'stairway to nowhere' outside the top floor of the House of the Knights of Rhodes, looking down the 'stairway to nowhere'
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Marble floors of the Forum of Augustus, and the stairs leading to the triple-arch of Drusus, taken from the balcony at the top of the 'stairway to nowhere' outside the top floor of the House of the Knights of Rhodes
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The View of the Forum of Augustus from the balcony with the 'stairway to nowhere' outside the top floor of the House of the Knights of Rhodes, looking down the 'stairway to nowhere'
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The View of the Forum of Augustus from the balcony with the 'stairway to nowhere' outside the top floor of the House of the Knights of Rhodes, looking down the 'stairway to nowhere'
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The back of the Temple of Mars Ultor and the Forum of Augustus consisted of a very tall wall which still stands. It was built to separate the forum from the neighborhood behind, and to act as a firebreak since there were frequently fires in the low-rent neighborhood which the elite didn't want to spread into the forum. From the Forum of Augustus side, the grey wall is shown in the first few photos at the top of this page. The neighborhood side of the wall is shown in the 1st photo below. Today, a walk along Via Tor De Conti, the street behind the Forum of Augustus, provides an up-close, touchable view of this wall. In 19 AD, Tiberius added two triumphal arches into this wall to commemorate victories in Germany by his son Drusus and his nephew Germanicus. The triple-arch dedicated to Drusus is shown from the forum side in the 2nd photo below, and from the neighborhood side of the wall in the 3rd photo below. The marble paving within the Forum of Augustus in front of the triple-arch dedicated to Drusus is shown in the 4th photo below.

    
Part of the back wall of the Forum of Augustus, on Via Tor De Conti
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The triple-arch dedicated by Augustus to Drusus, to the left of the Temple of Mars Ultor, in the back wall of the Forum of Augustus
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Two arches of the triple-arch dedicated by Augustus to Drusus, in the back wall
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Marble floor and steps in the Forum of Augustus, left of the Temple of Mars Ultor
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During the Middle Ages, the Forum of Augustus, being relatively low land surrounded by hills, became a swamp. The archway dedicated to Germanicus came to be known as Arco dei Pantani, the Arch of the Swamps, visible just to the right of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the 1st and 2nd photos below. The arch used to be open for the public to walk through. The 3rd photo below is from 1903. Isn't it interesting that the babes were once allowed much closer to the ruins than they are now, and how much excavation has been done since that picture in 1903? And even moreso, the 4th photo below (year unknown) shows that there were buildings on top of those marble floors in the Forum of Augustus! The 5th photo below shows the Arch of the Swamps from behind the back wall of the Forum of Augustus, on Via Tor De Conti.

    
Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, with the archway named Arco dei Pantani, which used to be open to pedestrians, to its right
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The Arch of the Swamps (arch dedicated to Germanicus by Augustus) to the right of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the back wall of the Forum of Augustus
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The Arch of the Swamps (Arco dei Pantani) in the Forum of Augustus, in 1903
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The Arch of the Swamps (Arco dei Pantani) in the Forum of Augustus
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The back of the Forum of Augustus, from Via Tor De Conti
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A peek through Germanicus' arch (the Arch of the Swamps) from the neighborhood side of the back wall of the Forum of Augustus provides the closest access to the columns of the Temple of Mars Ultor (1st, 2nd and 3rd photos below). The view from a little bit further away, along Via Baccina, is shown in the 4th photo below. What a spectacular view of the columns of the Temple of Mars Ultor behind the Arch of the Swamps!

    
Columns of the Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, from an opening in the back wall of the Forum, on Via Tor De Conti
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Capital at the top of a column of the Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, from an opening in the back wall of the Forum, on Via Tor De Conti
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Capital at the top of a column of the Temple of Mars Ultor, in the Forum of Augustus, from an opening in the back wall of the Forum, on Via Tor De Conti
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The view down Via Baccina, with the Arch of the Swamps at the end of the road, and the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus in the background
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If you find the time to get to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument, you can see the Forum of Augustus (and the other Imperial Fora) as in the 3 photos below. The Forum of Augustus can also be seen from the Palatine Hill (4th photo below). The view from Via dei Fori Imperiali at sunset is shown in the 5th photo below.

    
Forum of Augustus, Forum of Nerva, Via dei Fori Imperiali, Temple of Peace, Colosseum, and Roman Forum from the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument (mosaic of 6 images)
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Forum of Augustus, Forum of Nerva, Torre dei Conti and Via dei Fori Imperiali from the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument (mosaic of 3 images)
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Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva from the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument
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Torre de Milizie and the Forum of Augustus, from the Palatine Hill
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Torre de Milizie and the Forum of Augustus, from the Palatine Hill
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Trajan's Market (left), Casa dei Cavalieri di Rodi (House of the Knights of Rhodes) (center), Forum of Augustus (right), and Torre dei Conti (far right), at the Golden Hour, from Via dei Fori Imperiali (mosaic of 4 images). Via Alessandrina is the road between the camera and the identified ruins.
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