Monday, February 27, 2012

Exploring Rome: The Forum Holitorium

Just to the north of the Forum Boarium at the southwest corner of the Palatine lies the area known as the Forum Holitorium – ancient Rome’s vegetable market. It was, however, far more than a mere farmer’s market, including one of the oldest cult sites in the city, a theater, several major temples and a  likely location of the Porta Triumphalis, through which victorious generals entered Rome to celebrate their conquests.

At the south east corner of Vico Jugario and Via dell Teatro Marcello lies an excavation known as Area Sacra di Sant’ Omobono. The site, discovered (as so many others) in 1937, is one of the most complex in the city having as many as 17 occupational phases. The lowest layers date to the middle of the 7th century BC and contained the earliest known Etruscan epigraph in Rome.  By the 5th century the area was reorganized and began to take on a more Roman character with a pair of temples dedicated to Fortuna and Mater Matuta. The site remained an active religious center through the 2nd century AD and about beginning of the 6th century became a Christian cult center.

Area Sacra di Sant’ Omobono is currently an active research project being handled jointly between the University of Michigan, the Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali of the Comune di Roma, and the Università della Calabria. The UM website for the project is Sant'Omobono Project

Porta Carmentalis

Just across Vico Jugario to the north is a neat double archway called Porta Carmentalis. This gateway was originally part of the Servian Wall. 

North Façade of S. Nicola in Carcere
South Façade of S. Nicola in Carcere

Across Via del Teatro Marcello to the west is the  Basilica di S. Nicola in Carcere. This remarkable church is built over the ruins of three ancient temples (from north to south): Janus, Juno Sospita, and Spes. 

Underground S. Nicola in Carcare

In addition to the extensive re-use of ancient materials in the exterior walls, the basilica contains a large underground area. Admission to the underground area was 2 Euro at the time of our visit. 
As you leave S. Nicola in Carcere turn left and walk north on  Via del Teatro Marcello. Be sure to take a look at the north façade of the basilica as well as the ruins of the north temple and then continue to the Theater of Marcellus, about a block further on. 

Theater of Marcellus and Temple of Apollo
Dedicated to Augustus' nephew Marcus Marcellus. Marcellus stepped upon the Cursus Honorum as aedile in 23 BCE and with Augustus' assistance sponsored a spectacle and funded the theater. Unfortunately, he died soon after - at the age of 19 - a tendency that would become all too common among the first emperor's male relatives. The theater was adapted as a fortress in the middle ages, became a palace in the 16th century and today houses some no doubt very expensive apartments.

The area around the theater contains the remains of a number of public buildings, the most prominent of which are the three columns of the temple of Apollo. (The columns were re-erected in the 1930's.)There had been a cult of Apollo in this area since the 5th century BCE and the first Republican era temple was built about 431. The temple was rebuilt several times, finally by Gaius Sosius in 34 BCE. Sosius sided with Antony after Caesar's murder and led a Roman army in support of Herod. For his success in placing Herod on the throne in Jerusalem he was allowed a triumph. 

He began to rebuild the temple in 34, but when war erupted between Antony and Octavian, he stuck with Antony and had a good deal of success as a naval commander. He was captured following Actium and pardoned by Octavian. He is known to have attended the Secular Games in 17 as one of the Quindecimviri - a group of magistrates responsible for the Sibylline Books and the cults of foreign gods (like Apollo) that had come to Rome.

Barely visible just east of the remains of the Temple of Apollo is the podium of the Temple of Bellona. It looks more or less like what it is - a big rectangular mass of cement.

Porticus Octavia
 Immediately west of the Theater of Marcellus is the remains of the Porticus Octavia. Built by Augustus in honor of his sister it originally enclosed the temples of Jupiter Stator and Juno Regina as well as a library dedicated to Marcellus.

View Forum Holitorium in a larger map

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...