ca. 96 AD


  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from the south-east.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from the east.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from the north-east.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from the north-west.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from the west.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from the south.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. Topographical overview.
  • The Forum in ca. 96 AD. View from above.

The direct successors of Augustus, namely the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero), hardly made any changes to the appearance of the Forum after 14 A.D. by adding their own buildings. Thus, the Forum was preserved in its newly fashioned Augustan guise, as a representational stage for the Julii: This was a wise decision by Augustus’ descendants, because they too greatly profited from the omnipresent staging of the new ruling dynasty of the Julii on the Forum (see Augustan II).

However, when Nero, the last ruler of the Julio-Claudian family, was overthrown in 68 A.D. and the Flavians arose as the new Imperial dynasty in 69 A.D., the possibilities on the Forum opened once again. The new Flavian Emperors (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian), who stayed in power until 96 A.D., tried – in a similar vein to Caesar and August before them – to write themselves into the physiognomy of the Forum. In order to retain the Imperial seat, this constituted a “vital” action back then: Because the new dynasty had attained power as the victors in a bloody civil war, they had to legitimize their claim to power all the more fervently and seek the loyalty of the people and the Senate. The Flavians accomplished this feat ingeniously by constantly making explicit comparisons to the first Emperor Augustus, portraying themselves as his equal and then deriving the legitimacy of their reign from this ideological proximity to Augustus. In their construction policy they accordingly attempted to supplement the big buildings of Augustus with their own Flavian ones and thus build a magnificent Flavian Rome alongside the grand Augustan one. Precisely in the case of the Forum Romanum this proved to be essential: In light of the omnipresence of the dynasty of the Julii a “Flavian answer” had to be given.

But the circumstances on the Forum had changed considerably by that time. While vastly more open spaces had been available under Augustus for the erection of new, representative buildings (because it was easier at the time to simply tear down and rebuild the older constructions), the Flavians were confronted with a forum that was already extensively densely populated by buildings and monuments of Augustus and his family. Yet still they managed to make their mark through two major buildings on the Forum that was so heavily influenced by Augustus, and thus to showcase the presence of their new dynasty, thereby seeking to engage in a dialogue with the Julii on an equal footing.

The first major mark they made was the Temple of Vespasian in the south-west corner of the Forum. Just like Augustus had once built Caesar a temple on the Forum, Titus and Domitian also built their deceased father Vespasian a temple. Thus the deified and worshipped founding father of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty was given an adequate response by the founding father of the Flavian Dynasty, who had likewise been deified. And because both temples were situated on the two narrow sides of the Forum, opposite each other (the Temple of Caesar, centrally arranged on the east side, and the Temple of Vespasian, shifted slightly southwards on the west side), both dynasties were visibly related to one another and engaged with one another in a direct dialogue.

The second major mark that Domitian made also engaged in a dialogue with its Augustan counterpart. However, these structures did not coexist side by side on the Forum, rather, the Flavian monument replaced the Augustan monument by pushing it out of the Forum. The dialogue here became a controversy. In honor of his military victories, Domitian received a colossal equestrian statue, the Equus Domitiani, placed right in the middle of the Forum. The appropriation of the Forum area was an inevitable development, because the Rostra Augusti had lost their exclusive status as the sole space for the erection of Imperial honorific statues under Nero and thus were no longer apt to be the stage for an ambitious representation by the ruling Emperor. Prominent precursors had pointed the way to this solution: The occupation of the center of a square with massive honorific statues had already been demonstrated and made acceptable by the configurations of the adjoining Forum of Caesar and Forum of Augustus. And Augustus himself had occupied the middle of the Forum area with a victory monument – three Columnae rostratae, meant to honor his victory at Actium, appear to have stood there on the Augustan Forum, where now the equestrian statue of Domitian towered. These honorific columns of Augustus were relocated by Domitian to the Capitoline Hill so that he himself could be portrayed in the middle of the Forum square.

With respect to topography both constructions of the Flavians on the Forum constitute only two single interventions into the physiognomy of the square – in contrast to the comprehensive reconfiguration of the Forum under Augustus with the aim of establishing the omnipresence of the Julii. But the two interventions of the Flavians were cleverly chosen and allowed them to engage in an ambitious and successful dialogue with the preceding dynasty of the Julii. Of course, the architectural presence of the Flavians did not last. When the last Flavian Emperor Domitian was overthrown in the year 96 A.D., his colossal equestrian statue in the center of the Forum was torn down – and only the modestly situated Temple of Vespasian was left intact, which ensured that the history of the Flavians remained present on the Forum for the near future.



Printed Version

Cited as: Muth, Susanne. „Flavian“, digitales forum romanum, http://www.digitales-forum-romanum.de/epochen/flavisch/?lang=en/ (downloaded on the day/month/year)


Selected Bibliography

F. Coarelli, I Flavi e Roma, in: F. Coarelli (Hrsg.), Divus Vespasianus. Il bimillenario dei Flavi (Mailand 2009) 68-97 (75-83).

D. Fredrick, Architecture and Surveillance in Flavian Rome, in: A. J. Boyle – W. J. Dominik (Hrsg.), Flavian Rome. Culture, Image, Text (Leiden – Boston 2003) 198-227.

K. S. Freyberger, Das Forum Romanum. Spiegel der Stadtgeschichte des antiken Rom (Mainz 2009) 86-90.

P. Gros, La Roma dei Flavi. L´architettura, in: F. Coarelli (Hrsg.), Divus Vespasianus. Il bimillenario dei Flavi (Mailand 2009) 98-109 (104).

T. Hölscher, Das Forum Romanum, die monumentale Geschichte Roms, in: E. Stein-Hölkeskamp – K.J. Hölkeskamp (Hrsg.), Erinnerungsorte der Antike. Die römische Welt (München 2006) 100-122 (117-118).

H. Knell, Bauprogramme römischer Kaiser (Mainz 2004) 137-147.

F. Kolb, Rom. Die Geschichte der Stadt in der Antike (München 1995) 375.

S. Muth, Auftritt auf einer bedeutungsschweren Bühne: Wie sich die Flavier im öffentlichen Zentrum der Stadt Rom inszenieren, in: Christiane Reiz – Norbert Kramer (Hrsg.), Tradition und Erneuerung. Mediale Strategien in der Zeit der Flavier. Kolloquium Rostock 9.-12. Oktober 2008 (Berlin 2010) 485-496.

S. Muth, Historische Dimensionen des gebauten Raumes. Das Forum Romanum als Fallbeispiel, in: O. Dally – T. Hölscher – S. Muth – R. Schneider (Hrsg.), Medien der Geschichte – Antikes Griechenland und Rom (Berlin – New York 2014) 285-329.

J. Packer, Plurima et amplissima opera: Parsing Flavian Rome, in: A. J. Boyle – W. J. Dominik (Hrsg.), Flavian Rome. Culture, Image, Text (Leiden 2003) 167-198.

M. Torelli, Culto imperiale e spazi urbani in età flavia. Dai relievi Hartwig all’Arco de Tito, in: Ch. Pietri (Hrsg.), L’urbs. Espace urbain et histoire (Ier siècle av. J.-C. – IIIe siècle ap. J.-C.) (Rom 1987) 563–582 (572, 574-575, 579-582).

P. Zanker, Forum Romanum. Die Neugestaltung durch Augustus (Tübingen 1972) 26-27, 50-51.