The Forum of Trajan

The Forum of Trajan


(music) – [Steven] We’re standing at a terrace looking out over Rome and more specifically,
over the Imperial Fora. – [Beth] A forum is
something that you could find in any Roman city. It’s a civic space. – [Steven] It was an
administrative center, it was a commercial center, and it was a political and social center. – [Beth] So there was a
long tradition of forums going back to the period of
Ancient Rome and Republic and that’s what we see in this space called the Roman Forum today. – [Steven] And then Julius
Caesar starts a new tradition. He builds his own forum. – [Beth] The main area
of the forum got too busy and Caesar wanted to showcase
his own political power and so beginning with Caesar, we get a series of forums
built by various emperors. – [Steven] There were quite a number. There was the Forum of Augustus. There was the Forum of Domitian, which became the Forum of Nerva. – [Beth] Including the
one we’re looking over now which is the Forum of Trajan. – [Steven] But Trajan had a problem. The real estate was already
filled with the fora of the previous emperors. And so he turned to his architect, his engineer, Apollodorus of Damascus. And Apollodorus was tasked
with removing the hill that was in the way or at
least a good portion of it in order to build the forum. Unfortunately, what we see now are the foundations and
the ruins and the walls of medieval houses that were built on that earlier classical structure. – [Beth] Perhaps
archaeologists in the future will one day decide to dig deeper and to discover what remains
of the Forum of Trajan. But we can see an area that was excavated that was Trajan’s and that’s the area of the Basilica Ulpia. – [Steven] Trajan’s
Forum is almost the size of all of the Imperial Fora put together. – [Beth] It was incredibly extravagant. There was an enormous
ceremonial entrance way that led into the space of the forum. – [Steven] We think that
at the top was a sculpture of a chariot pulled by six horses with the Emperor Trajan followed
by the Goddess of Victory. – [Beth] Then once you enter
the space of the forum, within the center was
an equestrian sculpture, a sculpture showing Trajan on a horse. To get an idea of what that looked like, we can think of the equestrian sculpture of Marcus Aurelius that survived. – [Steven] This enormous
space would be flanked by huge sloped areas
which are called exedrae. But as we look forward,
we would look at one flank of the largest basilica in
Rome, the Basilica Ulpia. – [Beth] Imagine a public
space filled with niches with sculpture in them, relief carvings, free standing sculpture
commemorating the great emperors and politicians, and military leaders of ancient Rome. – [Steven] There were
beautiful colored marbles in the paving stones as well as in the structures themselves. And that’s beautifully exemplified by the Basilica Ulpia. Now, it’s called the Basilica Ulpia because that’s Trajan’s family name. – [Beth] When we look
out, we can at least see part of the enormous basilica. There would have been
columns on all sides. – [Steven] And they would
have extended beyond the area that has been excavated. – [Beth] And then beyond
that, you went through yet another entrance way. There were two libraries on either side; one for Greek literature and
one for Roman literature. And in the middle was
the Column of Trajan. The Column of Trajan
looks really lonely today, but there were buildings surrounding it. – [Steven] In fact, the
Greek and Latin library were designed with porches, so
that you can get a great view of the relief carving
on the Column of Trajan. The Column of Trajan is in
extraordinarily good condition considering that the rest of this area has been destroyed. – [Beth] Trajan expanded
the Roman empire to it’s largest boarders. He was a great military general. When you look at the Column of Trajan, the point was to see the story of Trajan’s great military exploits, specifically the two campaigns which lasted over several years where he defeated the Dacians. Trajan was obviously proud
of his military endeavors and his expansion of the empire. – [Steven] Throughout his Imperial Forum, Trajan had sculptures of captured Dacians, showing the Dacians as quite noble as formidable adversaries. – [Beth] But it was easy
to recognize the Dacians because they looked very
different from the Romans. They wore fringed shawls,
they have beard and long hair. And so anyone looking at the sculptures could easily tell these
were the defeated foes and there was a sense of the correctness of what the Romans had done. Everywhere one looked, you saw sculptures of the Romans conquering their enemies. – [Steven] And his
success over the Dacians funded this monumental building campaign. – [Beth] So when you approach the forum, you would see the equestrian sculpture and then the Column of Trajan. And on top of the Column of Trajan, now, we see a sculpture of St. Peter, but originally, there’s
a sculpture of Trajan. – [Steven] The pillar is 125 feet tall and it marks the height of
the hill that was removed by Apollodorus of Damascus in
order to build the forum here. So it speaks to the Roman’s interest in making nature
subservient to man’s will. – [Beth] So, we have the forum, beyond that, the Basilica Ulpia, beyond that, the libraries
with the column in the center, and beyond that, Trajan
had planned a temple. Temples were always
part of forum complexes, but Trajan died before he could build it, but it was built by the
succeeding Emperor Hadrian who built it in honor
of the deified Trajan. – [Steven] This Imperial Forum with it’s large open courtyard, with its basilica, with its
libraries, with its column with its temple, would
have been a civic space. It would have been a ceremonial space, but just adjacent to
it, built into the hill, and in part, helping to hold the hill up, is the Markets of Trajan
and most of this area survives intact. – [Beth] And it’s a museum today. – [Steven] So often, when we think of Ancient Rome and architecture, we think of forums, we think of temples, but in fact, the Romans were
extremely adept at building dense, multi-storey
buildings very much like our modern shopping malls
or apartment buildings. – [Beth] And this is because the Romans perfected the use of concrete. So let’s go inside and
look at some of the spaces in the Markets of Trajan. (music)

Danny Hutson

9 thoughts on “The Forum of Trajan

  1. Dang.  Where was this video two weeks ago when I was covering this material in my class?  Thanks for the great overviews, as always.

  2. I can almost see the ancient Romans hustling and bustling through the markets. Thanks for making these ruins come alive.

  3. The following is delivered lighthearted. 🙂

    I gather people who came here are familiar with history to some extent.

    Just imagine trying to explain an internet forum to say, Pliny the elder. 🙂

    "It's a place where people gather in separate places. At the same time, but in different times, at that same time." :o????

    Put that in your book, Pliny! 😀

    I'm likely too ineloquent??? 🙂

    I don't mean to single out Pliny the elder. I recall liking him in his book. The younger seemed okay too I suppose. I never met them though. 🙂

    Funny thing, the younger's letter remains in my memory as if heard at a dinner party.

    For those who don't know to what I refer, check the internet. 🙂

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