Forum of Augustus - History and Facts | History Hit

Forum of Augustus

Rome, Lazio, Italy

The Forum of Augustus was built by the Roman emperor to celebrate avenging Caesar at the Battle of Philippi and defeating his assassins.

Peta Stamper

24 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus or ‘Foro di Augsto’ in Rome was built by its namesake, Emperor Augustus following the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. In this battle Augustus, together with Mark Anthony, emerged victorious over Cassius and Brutus, the assassins of Julius Caesar.

To celebrate this success the emperor built the forum and dedicated it to Mars, the Roman god of war. The Forum of Augustus thus featured a grand temple of which the columns and steps can still be seen today alongside a regal statue of Augustus.

Forum of Augustus history

After the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC when Augustus – then Octavian – and Marc Anthony avenged the assassination of Julius Caesar, Augustus vowed to build a temple honouring Mars. When he became Princeps of Rome in 27 BC (‘first man’ of the Senate) under the name Augustus, he planned to build a temple in a new forum named for himself.

Augustus harnessed social propaganda by creating an image of himself in Caesar’s likeness and fulfilling the dictator’s wishes to create the temple to Mars Ultor, ‘greater than any in existence’. The land upon which the new forum was built was already owned by Augustus, but he would need more.

Securing more land without force took time, and the forum and its temple were eventually inaugurated in 2 BC, albeit incomplete, 40 years after Augustus first vowed them. Not only housing the temple, the Forum of Augustus provided an alternate social and political space besides the crowded Roman Forum.

Before battles generals would set off from the Temple of Mars after a ceremony and later dedicate their spoils to Mars at the altar. The space was also lined with over a hundred statues of notable Roman men, inscribed with their achievements, including Augustus and reinforcing his lineage. The forum was also where Augustus’ lost standards were returned from the Parthians.

Tiberius added 2 triumphal arches to the Forum of Augustus in 19 AD to honour Drusus the Younger and Germanicus. However, by the 4th century the forum was in decreasing use, seriously damaged during earthquakes and wars. In the 9th century, a Basilian monastery was established on the ruined temple.

Forum of Augustus today

Today, only ruins of the Forum of Augustus remain, most notably 3 marble columns from the Temple of Mars, towering 15 metres high. The concrete base of the temple is well-preserved as is some of the podium, lined with marble slabs originally decorated with bronze scenes. The podium has a chamber cut into it during the Middle Ages to act as a burial vault.

While you can grab an audio guide to explore the forum, there are also spectacular light and sound displays in the evenings that help visitors envision what the forum looked in its heyday.

Getting to the Forum of Augustus

Located in the ancient heart of Rome, the Forum of Augustus is easily found on foot along the Via Alessandrina. Buses 85 and 87 stop at Fori Imperiali, outside the forum, and buses 75, 117, nMB just round the corner at Cavour/Ricci. The nearest Metro stop on MEB and MEB1 is Cavour, an 8 minute walk away.

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