The Forum of Trajan, also known as Forum Ulpium, is the largest and most monumental of the Imperial Forums of Rome, and the last in chronological order.
Built by the emperor Trajan with the spoils of war from the conquest of Dacia, and inaugurated in 112, the forum was arranged parallel to the Forum of Caesar and perpendicular to that of Augustus.
The building of the new monumental complex, commissioned by Trajan himself, required extensive excavation work, involving the elimination of the saddle that connected the Capitoline and Quirinale Hills, and closed the valley of the Fori Imperiali towards Campo Marzio.
At the same time, the Mercati di Traiano (Trajan’s Markets) were built, a complex of buildings with mainly administrative functions, linked to the activities that took place in the forum.
The project of the new complex is attributed to Apollodorus of Damascus, who accompanied Trajan in his military campaigns in Dacia.
The complex, which measures 300 meters in length and 185 meters in width, includes the Trajan’s Markets, the Basilica Ulpia, a porticoed courtyard with the Trajan’s Column and the Ulpian Library. All the buildings of the Forum were covered with marbles and stuccos, and adorned with sculptures and frescoes.
The actual forum consisted of a vast rectangular square with porticoes on both sides, closed at one end by the Basilica Ulpia and decorated by the colossal equestrian statue of Trajan. The square was paved with about three thousand rectangular slabs of white marble.
The Basilica Ulpia, whose name derives from the emperor’s nobility, closed the north-western side of the square with its long side. It was the largest basilica ever built in Rome. It measured 170 meters along the major axis and almost 60 meters along the minor axis.
Behind the Basilica Ulpia, there were two rooms symmetrically arranged on the sides of the courtyard, known as the Ulpian Library.
In the narrow courtyard between the two rooms, closed by the back wall of the basilica, is the Trajan’s Column, the only element of the forum almost intact today. The column is a work of rare beauty and originality on which, under the guidance of the great architect Apollodorus of Damascus, numerous sculptors worked to build 155 scenes and 2,500 figures. The column was inaugurated in the year 113.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Colosseo, on the Metro Line B, located about 700 meters away, or about 10 minutes on foot. The closest bus station is Fori Imperiali/Campidoglio, located near the forum, on the bus Lines 51, 85 and 87.