Forum of Caesar (Forum Iulium) – discreet ambitions of a dictator, meaning a square in his own honor

Forum of Cesar, remains of the Temple of Venus Genetrix

Forum of Cesar, remains of the Temple of Venus Genetrix

The Forum of Caesar is one of four antique squares which was named after its founder. It was created by Julius Caesar in 54 A.D. and was located in direct contact with Forum Romanum. It was 160 meters long and 75 meters wide, being surrounded by a double colonnade. The size of this undertaking was indeed enormous for those times – in order to complete it part of Capitoline Hill was flattened, the building of the Curia was moved, while the land itself is said to have cost a fortune. In order to finance the works, gold acquired during Caesar’s Gallic War was used.

Forum of Cesar, remains of the Temple of Venus Genetrix
Forum of Caesar, model, Museo della Civiltà Romana
Forum of Caesar, in the background Church of Sant Luca e Martina
Temple of Venus Genetrix, reconstruction, Museo dei Fori Imperiali
Statue of Julius Caesar at via dei Fori Imperiali
Forum of Caesar seen from Forum Romanum
Forum of Caesar, remains of the Temple of Venus Genetrix
Forum of Caesar, in the background Church of Sant Luca e Martina
Frieze depicting the Erotes from the Temple of Venus Genetrix, Museo dei Fori Imperiali, pic. Wikipedia, author Carole Raddato
Roman forums, pic. Wikipedia, author 3coma4
Forum of Caesar, in ancient times
Forum of Caesar in medieval times

The Forum of Caesar is one of four antique squares which was named after its founder. It was created by Julius Caesar in 54 A.D. and was located in direct contact with Forum Romanum. It was 160 meters long and 75 meters wide, being surrounded by a double colonnade. The size of this undertaking was indeed enormous for those times – in order to complete it part of Capitoline Hill was flattened, the building of the Curia was moved, while the land itself is said to have cost a fortune. In order to finance the works, gold acquired during Caesar’s Gallic War was used.

 

A dominant element of the forum was the Temple of Venus Genetrix, the patron goddess of the Julia family, from which Caesar came. Reportedly, he promised to build it before the Battle of Pharsalus  against Pompey the Great that was to decide who would rule Rome. The battle was won by Caesar and he kept his promise, even expanding on it by building the forum, although that was done more to honor himself rather than the goddess, whom he owed his victory to. The temple itself had the form which was typical for Roman structures of the type, it was set on a high podium and had a portico decorated with a row of columns and a broad cell also surrounded by columns. In the apse, as is written by the chronicler Cassius Dion, there was a sculpture of the goddess and other sculptures, among them that of Cleopatra.

The square was also adorned with a statue of the victorious leader mounted on a horse – the conqueror of Galls, as well as two fountains. Such an exaltation of Caesar very discreetly comes out of the shadow of the times of the Republic, when it was impossible to imagine any kind of cult of a leader. It is a mark of a new era – of cult of the emperors, which will develop in the following decades during the reign Octavius Augustus still rather modest, but later in full splendor and with a tendency to deify subsequent Roman rulers. The dictator Caesar held his ambitions in check and limited the cult of his own persona to the horse-mounted statue, but the temple devoted to the patroness of the family gave a clear signal, which direction politics would go, and along with it Roman art as well.

Caesar did not live to see the temple and forum completed, works were not finished until after his death in 44 B.C.

The forum was renovated during the reign of Emperor Trajan, when another monumental complex (Trajan’s Forum) was built next to it. Further modernization took place during the reign of Emperor Diocletian.

The forum, which was overgrown with weeds and ruined during the Middle Ages and modern times, was to have been brought back to life by Benito Mussolini, who to a large extent identified with both Caesar and Augustus. Unfortunately only a part of it was excavated, the rest was occupied by the imposing via dei Fori Imperiali – a broad street leading from Palazzo Venezia to the Colosseum.
Only scant remains of the Forum of Caesar survived until the present. These are three columns with part of the entablature, shafts of the columns of the old colonnade as well as single artefacts collected at the nearby museum (Museo dei Fori Imperiali –Mercati di Traiano).