Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mars Ultor-the avenger-and Augustus!

Sunday snippets!

Wikimedia Commons
This past week on my FutureLearn #FLVirtualRome course we were looking at Political Architecture- specifically in the ancient Forum and the Imperial Fora. We also had to consider the impact that various Emperors had on 'look' of the city of Rome. It was a great week and makes me want to blog about every single building. Though that won't happen immediately, here's the first of my observations of the Imperial Fora buildings- on the Forum of Augustus and the Temple of Mars Ultor.

To give a sense of where the remains are to be found in Rome these old maps have helped me place the Forum of Augustus relative to what is still left to view in 2017. 

(Most images are from Wikimedia Commons, the URLs at the end of the post)  

Wikimedia Commons
(The red marks above on the image show the placing of the Arch of Augustus.)

The Forum of Augustus, and the Temple of Mars Ultor, Rome

Augustus of Prima Porta Vatican Museums
According to the Roman writer Suetonius, on the eve of the Battle of Phillipi (42B.C.) Octavian vowed to build a Forum and a temple to Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger) in Rome. He also vowed to avenge the assassination of Julius Caesar (d. 44 B.C.), his adoptive father. When his forces along with those of Mark Anthony defeated those of Brutus and Cassius the following day I’m sure his resolve to build the temple was doubled.  

As Emperor, Augustus completed numerous building projects in Rome that were begun by Julius, including the Forum of Iulius (Caesar), and he restored approx. 82 other temples. He imported many obelisks from Egypt and placed them around the city along with many statues in his own likeness. The building of the Forum Augustus and its associated Temple to Mars Ultor began to take shape somewhere around 20-15 B.C. They were designed to rival the Forum Iulius (Forum of Ceasar).

Forum of Augustus- Temple of Mars Ultor (Nancy Jardine)

First the land for the Forum Augustus had to be purchased at a huge cost, said to be 1 million sesterces and was paid for from the spoils of recent wars in Germany, Spain, Dalmatia and Egypt

The building work took many years after the site was excavated and was dedicated in 2 B.C. even though the Temple to Mars Ultor wasn’t quite finished. It’s not clear why the dedication ceremony was rushed but it has been speculated that it was done to match other special events of the year like the Ludi Martiales of May 12th, one of the new games started by Augustus. Or it may also have been chosen to augment the ceremony of the toga virilis for Lucius, one of the adopted sons of Augustus, Lucius being his heir. Receiving the toga virilis at fifteen meant Lucius was conferred as a consul, a role which he held for around 5 years. 
Wikimedia Commons

During the dedication ceremony of the Temple of Mars Ultor, 260 lions were slaughtered in the Circus Maximus, along with gladiatorial combat during which Lucius' brother Gaius took part with other youths, and there was a spectacular naval battle scene between  the Persians and the Athenians. It was also noted that 36 crocodiles were slaughtered in the Circus Flaminius which was flooded for the occasion – possibly another showcase for those unable to cram into the Circus Maximus or maybe held at a different time.
Italian unknown artist 17th century Wikimedia Commons
The Temple of Mars Ultor was said to have been crammed with military paraphernalia, including the sword of Julius Caesar and the reclaimed honour standards which had formerly been lost to the Parthians and were regained by Augustus.

Three towering Corinthian columns still remain and there are traces of vivid coloured marble that adorned the Forum floor. Traces can been seen in one corner of a huge statue of Augustus that was some 40 feet high- though I wasn't able to access that during my trip.

Some of the forum lies beneath the current highway created by Mussolini and should that ever be removed, it may be that fragments of the Forum of Augustus still lie beneath the road foundations.  
Roman Forum 1870s Feelix Bonfils (1831-1885)

As well as looking at historical details as recorded by ancient poets Virgil, and Ovid, and trying to absorb the factual details of the buildings recorded over the millennia, I've also tried to research as much as possible about the artwork created over time in paintings, drawings and photographs showing different stages of deterioration of the ancient buildings. I love looking at the different interpretations and try to piece together what I say on my own visit in May 2016 and what the artists have left available to study.
Claude Lorrain -painted c. 1634

Do you like making comparisons, as well? What do you think of the attached images? Which is your favourite representation of the Forum of Augustus and the Temple of Mars Ultor? 

It's time now for me to do some more of my current writing. Who knows which Forum building I might tackle next. (:-) insert smiley face) 




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