Lecture 14 - The Mother of All Forums: Civic Architecture in Rome under Trajan

author: Diana E. E. Kleiner, Classics Department, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: Aug. 16, 2010,   recorded: March 2009,   views: 3832
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

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Professor Kleiner analyzes the major public architectural commissions of the emperor Trajan in Rome. Distinguished by their remarkably ambitious scale, these buildings mimic Trajan's expansion of the Roman Empire to its furthest reaches. Professor Kleiner begins with Trajan's restoration of the Forum of Julius Caesar and proceeds to the Baths of Trajan. Situated on the Oppian and Esquiline Hills, these Trajanic baths follow the basic model of the earlier imperial Baths of Titus but increase the size of the complex several times. Most of the lecture focuses on the famous Forum and Markets of Trajan, built on land that the engineer and architect Apollodorus of Damascus created by cutting away part of the Quirinal Hill. The Forum of Trajan consists of a large open rectangular area, a basilica, Greek and Latin libraries, and a temple dedicated to Trajan after his death. Between the libraries stands the celebrated Column of Trajan with a spiral frieze commemorating the emperor's military victories in Dacia (modern Romania) and reaching a height of 125 feet. The brick-faced concrete Markets of Trajan climb up the hill and form a dramatic contrast to the marble forum. The lecture concludes with a brief discussion of the Arch of Trajan at Benevento, which depicts scenes of the emperor's greatest accomplishments and the first representations of his successor, Hadrian.

Reading assignment:

Claridge, Amanda. Rome, pp. 17-18 (historical background), 161-169 (Forum of Trajan), 170-172 (Markets of Trajan), 288-290 (Baths of Trajan)

Ward-Perkins, John B. Roman Imperial Architecture, pp. 84-95


The lectures in HSAR 252 are illustrated with over 1,500 images, many from Professor Kleiner's personal collection, along with others from a variety of sources, especially Wikimedia Commons, Google Earth, and Yale University Press. Some plans and views have been redrawn for this project. For specific acknowledgments, see: Lecture 14 - List of Monuments and Credits [PDF]

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 Robert Huber, September 24, 2011 at 11:03 a.m.:

I just wanted to mention to Dr. Kleiner that, since I live in Rome and teach art history at the Temple Rome Campus, beneath Palazzo Valentini behind Trajan's Column there is a recent permanent exhibition of two gorgeous late antique Roman domus.

Their position indicates that the temple previously believed to have once stood behind Trajan's Column, in light of these recent finds, is misleading if not totally false despite what the ancient source says.

In addition, the presence of such late antique domus with their extraordinary opus sectile marble floors, is an occasion to celebrate just how our perception and understanding of classical Rome is constantly being updated.

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