Forum of Nerva – an unfinished work of a condemned emperor

Forum of Nerva, in the background via Cavour

Forum of Nerva, in the background via Cavour

This forum does not generally draw any special attention. It is located at the outlet of via Cavour. In the past it constituted a string of buildings, set between Forum of Augustus and a complex of the Temple of Peace (Templum Pacis), which was a supplement to the other forums located there. On the south it was bordered by Forum Romanum and the Forum of Caesar.

Forum of Nerva, in the background via Cavour
Preserved slab with an image of Minerva at the Forum of Nerva
Roman forums, pic. Wikipedia, author 3coma4
Two columns and a slab with an image of Minerva, Forum of Nerva
Forum of Nerva, remains of columns surrounding the forum

This forum does not generally draw any special attention. It is located at the outlet of via Cavour. In the past it constituted a string of buildings, set between Forum of Augustus and a complex of the Temple of Peace (Templum Pacis), which was a supplement to the other forums located there. On the south it was bordered by Forum Romanum and the Forum of Caesar.

     

The forum itself was exceptionally narrow, being 45 meters wide and 120 long. This is as much space as Emperor Domitian was able to find to create a complex of buildings here. Initially it was known as Forum Transitorium (meaning transit), since it connected all the other forums into one whole. The undertaking was not completed during the emperor’s lifetime. It was to be another work commemorating the emperor and the Flavius dynasty, whose ambition it was to be remembered for order in the empire, good morals and imposing buildings. After the harsh punishment, which he was subjected to after death, meaning removing his name from the public space (damnatio memoriae) the forum which he funded also changed its name.

The works were competed in the year 97 A.D., during the reign of Domitian’s successor – Emperor Nerva and it is from him that the forum took its name. Today it is barely visible, since it is covered with a wide communications artery (via dei Fori Imperiali). However, in the past, in its upper part, near a well-preserved wall separating the forum from Suburra, there was a small temple of Minerva, the goddess of art and crafts – one of the most worshipped goddesses of ancient Rome, who along with Jupiter and Juno made up the so-called Capitoline Triad. The narrow space which was left to the builders did not provide them with the opportunity to create a colonnade surrounding the forum. That is why along its longer sides cryptoporticos were built, the columns were placed near the walls and topped off with an entablature. On the narrow side in the south, a passage was created set out between the Curia and the Basilica Emilia at Forum Romanum.

Today the remains of the Forum of Nerva are part of the podium of the Temple of Minerva and the remains of the colonnade – two Corinthian columns supporting a frieze with an attic and the wall found right behind them. The frieze was decorated by the personifications of virtues of Roman women, as was fit with the ideology of the traditionalist Domitian, as well as the figure of Minerva herself (attic). The rest was demolished, which was carried out in the XVII century. Pope Paul V from the Borghese family ordered the material from the temple to be used as building blocks for the monumental fountain (Fontana dell’Acqua Paola) found on Janiculum Hill (Gianicolo), as well as a mortuary chapel to commemorate his family (Cappella Paolina) in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.