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Video transcript

we're standing on a terrace looking out over Rome and more specifically over Imperial fora a forum is something that you could find in any Roman city it's a civic space it was an administrative center it was a commercial center and it was a political and social center so there was a long tradition of forums going back to the period of the ancient roman republic and that's what we see in the space called the Roman Forum today and then Julius Caesar starts a new tradition he builds his own forum the main area of the forum got too busy and Caesar wanted to showcase his own political power and so beginning with Caesar we get a series of forums built by various emperors there were quite a number there was the forum of Augustus there was the forum of Domitian which became the forum of nerva including the one we're looking over now which is the forum of Trajan but Trajan had a problem the real estate was already filled with de fora of the previous Emperor's and so he turned to his architect his engineer Apollodorus of Damascus and Apollodorus was tasked with removing the hill that was in the way or at least a good portion of it in order to build the forum unfortunately what we see now are the foundations and the ruins and the walls of medieval houses that were built on that earlier classical structure perhaps archaeologists in the future will one day decide to dig deeper and to discover what remains of the forum of Trajan but we can see an area that was excavated that was Trajan's and that's the area of the basilica ulpia Trajan's forum is almost the size of all of the Imperial fora put together it was incredibly extravagant there was an enormous ceremonial entranceway that led into the space of the forum we think that at the top was a sculpture of a chariot pulled by six horses with the Emperor Trajan followed by the goddess of victory and then once you entered the space of the forum's in the center was an equestrian sculpture a sculpture showing Trajan on a horse to get an idea of what that looked like we can think of the equestrian sculpture of Marcus Aurelius that survived and this enormous space would be flanked by huge lobed areas which are called eggsy Drey but as we looked for we would look at one flank of the largest Basilica in Rome the Basilica Oh Pia imagine a public space filled with niches with sculpture in them relief carvings freestanding sculpture commemorating the great emperors and politicians and military leaders of ancient Rome there were beautiful colored marbles in the paving stones as well as in the structures themselves and that's beautifully exemplified by the Basilica opiate now it's called the Basilica Oh Pia because that's Trajan's family name when we look at we can at least see part of the enormous Basilica there would have been columns on all sides and they would have extended beyond the area that has been excavated and then beyond that you went through yet another entranceway there were two libraries in either side one for Greek literature one for Roman literature and in the middle was the column of Trajan the column of Trajan looks really lonely today but they were building surrounding it in fact the Greek and Latin library were designed with porches so that you could get a great view of the relief carving on the column of Trajan the column of Trajan is in extraordinarily good condition considering that the rest of this area has been destroyed Trajan expanded the Roman Empire to its largest borders he was a great military general when you looked at the column of Trajan the point was to see the story of Trajan's great military exploits specifically the two campaigns which lasted over several years where he defeated the Dacians Trajan was obviously proud of his military endeavors and his expansion of vampire threw out his imperial forum Trajan had sculptures of captured nations showing the Dacians is quite noble as a formidable adversaries it was easy to recognize the Dacians because they looked very different from the Romans they wore fringe shawl they had a beard and long hair and so anyone looking at the sculptures could easily tell these were the defeated foes and there was a sense of the correctness of what the Romans had done everywhere at one looked you saw sculptures of the Romans conquering their enemies and his success of the Dacians funded this monumental building campaign so when you approach the forum you would see the equestrian sculpture and then the column of Trajan and on top of the column of Trajan now we see a sculpture of st. Peter but originally there's a sculpture of Trajan the pillar is 125 feet tall and it marks the height of the hill that was removed by Apollodorus of Damascus in order to build the forum here in it so it speaks to the Romans interest in making nature subservient to man's will so we have the forum beyond that the Basilica Ulpia beyond that the libraries with the column in the center and beyond that Trajan had planned a temple temples were always part of forum complexes the Trajan died before he could build it but it was built by the succeeding Emperor Hadrian who built it in honor of the deified Trajan so this Imperial forum with its large open courtyard with its Basilica with its libraries with its column with its temple would have been a civic space it would have been a ceremonial space but just adjacent to it built into the hill and in part helping to hold the hill up is the markets of Trajan and most of this area survives intact and is a museum today so often when we think of ancient Roman architecture we think of forums we think of temples but in fact the Romans were extremely adept at building dense multi-story buildings very much like our modern shopping malls or apartment buildings and this is because the Romans perfected the use of concrete so let's go inside and look at some of the spaces in the markets of Trajan you