#17.3: The Fig Tree

Ok now, notice the two trees growing alongside the 'Surdinus Inscription' in the middle of the Forum. They are the Ficus (fig tree), Olea (olive tree) and also notice a very small vine growing there that is the Vitis (grapevine). Here's a photo. They were planted in the 1950's and there is also a small modern plaque with a Pliny the Elder inscription, I believe the one about these type of trees and vine being planted in medio foro (middle forum) at the Lacus Curtius.

Ok I get all kinds of conflicting info about what this modern Fig tree represents and its location. But there was one major historic fig tree founded in the myth of Rome's beginning. We have two Fig trees in the ancient Comitium but the biggie was the one which was magically transported here from the base of the Palatine/banks of the Tiber River by Attus Navius. This was the Fig tree that the infants Romulus and Remus' floating basket got entangled in alongside the river and where the she-wolf found them. That mythical tree was called the Ficus Ruminalis and very sacred. Now another Fig tree also in the Comitium was supposedly named after Attus Navis and called the Ficus Navia and stood by his statue. [Myths are cool but somewhere in early Roman history they almost certainly did have a real Fig tree growing in the Comitium with this myth attached to it]

So I'm going with Attus magically transporting this fig tree to the Comitium but doesn't get his own fig tree later on. Because they are either one in the same (a myth name mix-up) or long after the sacred fig tree and Attus are dead this is just a renamed replacement tree. Because Tacitus calls the Ficus Navia the 'Arbor Ruminalis' which probably means a direct descendant or replacement for the long dead Ficus Ruminalis. Also Tacitus said "its death was taken as an portent of some future event and a new one replanted by the priests. In 58 AD, during the reign of Nero, the tree did die but then revived and put forth new shoots". And later we get ancient writers saying there is a Fig tree (and olive tree and grapevine) in the middle Forum with Pliny saying *at* the Lacus Curtius which some seem to believe it was *in* Lacus Curtius enclosure.

I'm going with 'next to' the Lacus Curtius which has been the lone main fixture in the Forum for centuries (also used as a reference point for Galba's assassination). And I'm going with only one Fig tree representing for centuries the long dead and very sacred Ficus Ruminalis which was probably moved when the Comitium was repaved and the main political focal point moved from there to the Rostra?

Now right in front of you just on the other side of the fence there is a sunken area where you can see three layers of the Forum's pavement. The top is from Augustus, below that is from Julius Caesar and below that from Sulla, so all those pavings come from the first Century BC. And where the modern Fig, Olive and Grapevine grow that is a square area that wasn't paved in ancient times and was left just dirt. Seems to me that would be *the* place to plant two trees and a vine in ancient times! So I'm going with that location and the Fig Tree representing the sacred Ficus Ruminalis because why else would they plant a damn Fig Tree *in* *the* *middle* of the Roman Forum :-) . Remember "conflicting info" so I'm just going with what to me seems logical.

The ancient olive tree and grapevine just seem to have grown there naturally or even if they were planted they have no special significance, only the Fig tree would have been considered sacred. You can see a Fig tree on both of the 'Plutei of Trajan' (remember in the Curia) and next to it on a pedestal is the Statue of Marsyas which we will get to next (that's a large wineskin on his back).

For more information and photos, please see The Three Trees in A Tourist in Rome.

Next: #17.4: Statue of Marsyas
[Home]   [Disclaimer]                       copyright (c) 2012-2024 by Jeff Bondono (email: Jeff.Bondono@gmail.com)                         [Walter's Tours of Ancient Rome]