The Forum in a room. Stone landscapes in Imperial Rome

Event

14 March 2018

Roman Forum


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To celebrate the Second National Landscape Day, the Parco archeologico del Colosseo used modern technologies to recount the history and significance of the discovery of the historical reliefs, known as the Plutei of Trajan, now preserved in the Curia Iulia.

The door of the Curia, which faces Piazza del Foro, was opened virtually: in a sort of digital trompe l’oeil, the image of the square today on the south-west side was transformed into the way it appeared in the late 19th century, at the moment when the two marble reliefs were found between the Comitium and the column of the Emperor Phocas. From here, the visitors, in a sort of time travel, were taken inside the Curia, where the lines of light drew the reliefs, outlining the monuments and the landscape that form the backdrop to the scenes depicted: the central bay of the Arch of Augustus, the Rostra adorned with the prows of ships, the Temple of the Dioscuri, the eastern part of the Basilica Iulia, the wild fig tree (perhaps the same Ficus Ruminalis under which, according to legend, the she-wolf suckled the twins Romulus and Remus), and the statue of Marsyas, these last being symbols of the continuity of the empire and freedom.

In the foreground appeared a scene rich in social and political values: a liberal donation to the people by the emperor, perhaps the same policy of the alimenta Italiae instituted by Trajan, a measure of public welfare to support young people. The scene forms a pendant to the one narrated on the second relief, the cancellation of back taxes, again set against the backdrop of the fig tree and the statue of Marsyas, the west side of the Basilica Iulia, the Temple of Saturn, an honorary arch and the Temple of the deified Vespasian. In these reliefs, the fig tree is the only natural element in a landscape that by this time was dominated by monumental buildings, the result of intense and continuous building work.

The technological images were accompanied by guided tours, held in Italian and English, conducted by the archaeologists of the Parco archeologico del Colosseo, who recounted the historical reliefs and the urban landscape of the Forum as it appeared in the early 2nd century CE.

For the occasion, a small-scale reproduction of the relief of one of the plutei, made specially for the event, was available for tactile exploration.