That unpaved Fig Tree area is also believed to be the location of the Statue of Marsyas, next to the Fig Tree most likely. Ok this one also has got my head spinning so I'll just wing it right or wrong just like the Fig Tree :-) .
Marsyas in fourth Century BC Greek Mythology is a Satyr who plays one of those flutes with two separate pipes (aulos). The Goddess Athena invented this flute but the other Gods made fun of the way her cheeks bulged out when playing it. She threw it away with a curse on it but Marsyas found it and played it. Athena finds out and kicks Marsyas' butt. *OR* Marsyas and the God Apollo have a 'Battle of the Bands' to see who is the best player. The winner gets to treat the loser anyway he wants to. The bad news for Marsyas is the Muses are in Apollo's pocket so he loses. Marsyas is flayed alive and his skin is nailed to a pine tree. In these stories Marsyas is arrogant (hubris) for messing with the Gods but later one of his minor personalities is known for intelligence and self-control.
Now this statue of Marsyas was depicted as Silenus. Silenoi were followers of the Wine God Dionysus who were depicted as balding, fat, thick lipped, squat nosed drunks. The Silenoi later merged into one single character called Silenus. Silenus was the teacher and faithful friend of Dionysus who was also the oldest, wisest and most drunken of all his followers. When drunk he had vast knowledge and the power of prophecy.
Bottom line: Marsyas and Silenus morph into an ugly old wise man who is a symbol of freedom and civil liberties and that was what the Statue of Marsyas in the Forum represented.
The statue's relief on the Plutei of Trajan shows him nude (usually he wore just sandals and a hat) and his right hand raised to signify freedom, his left hand holds a large full wineskin on his back and neck. This statue was where Emperor Augustus' nymphomaniac daughter Julia used to meet her lovers but Senaca claims she also sold her favors there at night. And as I mentioned before it's claimed that Julia once held a night time orgy on the Rostra. Pliny said she also placed a wreath of flowers (offering) on the statue which really ticked-off dad. This statue was often crowned with fresh flowers and once a man named P. Munatius was thrown into chains for stealing them (Pliny). I wonder was he drunk or trying to impress a girl :-) . Regardless, history has recorded his '15 minutes of fame' :-) . Martial said it was also a rendezvous spot for courtesans and also lawyers (well they do have a lot in common :-) ).
Ok there is another theory for this square dirt area in the Forum pavement but I don't buy it. Inscriptions point to a Praetor's Tribunal located in this area after it was moved from the Comitium when the Rostra was built. And it was built here by the pavement Inscription guy L. Naevius Surdinus. This wouldn't be extravagant just a Judge's chair possibly on a short wooden platform built on a stone base with maybe a short enclosure wall/fence around it. I guess what they are trying to say is, the stone base was later robbed leaving this square dirt void.
Myself I think if it was a base of finely cut stone blocks or marble it would have had a concrete foundation rather than a dirt foundation (heavy blocks would settle unevenly over the years). Also on the 'Right Plutei of Trajan' it shows the Statue of Marsyas, the Fig Tree, a couple of guys standing and a seated guy on a Tribunal at this end of the Forum. This in my opinion shows the three separate sites nearby one another.
Now look over to the Curia, remember the lone pedestal/base between the Curia and the Niger Lapis which you can just make out from here. This is the one from Maxentius who after being defeated by Constantine had his name erased from it. On top of the pedestal are holes for clamps to hold either a statue or column. One source believes that one of the famous bronze she-wolf statues was put here by Maxentius? This pedestal shows that times were tough (money and workmanship-wise) in the fourth Century. And even an important Imperial pedestal in a very high-profile location like this one was just reused from an earlier time. It was originally dedicated by the officials of the 'Fabri Tignuarii' (Carpenter's Guild) on Aug 1, 154 AD. You can see the long list of these official's names on two sides of the pedestal. I assume that perhaps those two sides were at least plastered-over with stucco to hid this? If not, it was pretty cheesy :-) ]Next: #17.5: Lacus Curtius