Forum Romanum (The Imperial Period)

N. Purcell

FORUM ROMANUM (THE IMPERIAL PERIOD). The f. R. and the Roman revolution. There are three strands to the most far-reaching transformation of the f. R. in Antiquity, in increasing order of historical importance: the changing nature of governmental business which resulted from the institutional changes that accompanied the formation of a Mediterranean-wide Roman state; the imposition on the central public space of the city of standards of dignity and sollemnity which were incompatable with and implicated in the abandonment of the official public functions of the urban populace; and the evolution of new patterns of display and self-representation for a rapidly changing and, with the inception of the imperial political system, narrowing, power elite. Functionally, the forum of the middle Republic (despite the new architectural forms such as the basilicae which did something to make new provision) was poorly suited to the legal, administrative, and political needs of the new order (Ulrich 1993) on functions transferred to the forum Iulium, including divorce suits); politically, its role in popular politics was perceived as unseemly and, in the light of ever less controllable violence, potentially disastrous (though the f. R. retained its role as centre of popular disturbances); and in the calculation of visible esteem for the rulers of Rome it represented both an opportunity for legitimation of new claims and the challenges to outdo the glories of the builders of Roman success in the past.

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© Nicholas Purcell