ikono is very proud to present you one gem among the rich cultural treasures of the eternal city Rome: the Trajan’s Markets, which today are hosting the Museum of the Imperial Fora.
Trajan’s Markets, located near the Imperial Fora, are a complex of buildings and ruins going back to the early II century AD. The Imperial Fora were erected in the heart of the ancient city over a period of 150 years spanning Caesar’s rule to Trajan (the Forum of Caesar, 46 BC; the Forum of Augustus, 2 BC; the Temple of Peace, 75 AD; the Forum of Nerva, 98 AD; and the Forum of Trajan, 112 AD). The Trajan’s Market preserves many traces of its past lives as a medieval fortress, with the still standing Torre delle Milizie, a seventeenth-century convent and a barrack, which was discovered in the 1930s during the Mussolini era.
Trajan’s Markets were not a trade centre, as its modern name seems to indicate. In fact, the various rooms were used for activities supporting the administrative and judicial work that took place in the Imperial Fora, and were believed to have been used as offices and archives.
The site is a masterpiece of Roman engineering: Entirely built in bricks and divided by public roads, the structure is perfectly adapted to the natural environment. It rises six levels from the Forum, all levels are connected by steep stairs. The ceilings are diverse in form and culminate in the Great Hall, made up of six cross vaults. The windows in the facade of the Grand Hemicycle are framed with uniquely shaped architectural bricks.
Today, the upper part of the monument houses the Museum of the Imperial Forums, which exhibits the architecture and sculptural decoration of the site. The Imperial Fora were an extraordinary set of monumental squares, porticoes and temples. The Forum’s marble architecture is today partly reconstructed thanks to the discovery of original fragments, with casts and modular additions in stone.
Accessing the museum, the visitor enters the central space of the Great Hall, and is welcomed by a reconstruction of the attic of the porticoes of the Forum of Augustus. The space is decorated with caryatids (female sculpted figures functioning as an architectural support) and clipei (shields) carrying the image of bearded deities. The rooms looking into the central space on the ground floor of the museum accommodate the museum’s duty rooms (hosting ticket office, library and cloakroom) and the section introducing the Imperial Fora, which presents each of the Fora’s five main parts by a significant piece. These include the head of Constantine, the imperial statue in military armor from Trajan’s Forum, the frieze with Cupids originating from the Forum of Caesar, and the fragment of a gilt bronze foot from a statue depicting Victory from the Forum of Augustus. The last two rooms of the lower floor are devoted to the vestiges of the Forum of Nerva, hosting a bas-relief depicting a Province, as well as the Temple of Peace, which presents a huge porphyry basin and a small bronze portrait of Chrysippus.
The upper floor of the Great Hall hosts the section of the Forum of Caesar, where visitors can admire panels with Cupids and vine branches deriving from the rich decoration of the temple of Venus Genetrix, which has been reconstructed within the Trajan period.
On the opposite side, a section is dedicated to the Memory of Antiquity. Here, the plastic model of the Forum and vestiges of the Temple of Mars Ultor from the Forum of Augustus, including the stunning capital with Pegasi (winged horses), can be found. Copies of architectural and scholarly drawings from the Italian Renaissance accompany them.
Continuing on to the Central Block, fragments of the colossal statue of Augustus guide the visitor through the section of the Forum of Augustus. Here, one of the niches has been reconstructed with sculptures of Summi Viri (renowned men).
The museum is not yet complete with the section of the Forum of Trajan due to be re-opened, and set up upon completion of its restoration. Similarly, the North and the South Room at the ends of the Great Hemicycle will be directly connected to the ancient remains of the complex.
Text by Museum of the Imperial Fora inside the Trajan’s Markets. For more information please visit the museum’s rich website.