Constructing dynastic legitimacy : imperial building programs in the Forum Romanum from Augustus to Diocletian

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2001-12

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Thomas, Michael Louis

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This dissertation studies five Roman emperors––Augustus, Domitian, Antoninus Pius, Septimius Severus, and Diocletian––who were responsible for major architectural additions to the Forum Romanum. Nestled between the Capitoline and Palatine hills, the Forum was the political center of Rome since the city's beginnings. It housed the senate house, or Curia, as well as the city's two major basilicas, the Basilica Julia and the Basilica Aemilia. It also was the location of the Rostra, or speaking platform. Equally important were the religious aspects of the Forum; the Shrine of Janus and the Temples of Concordia, Castor, Saturn, and Vesta were located in the Forum; just outside the Forum were the dwellings of the Vestal Virgins and the Pontifex Maximus. The Forum was also the site of numerous key events in the history and mythology of Rome. The Forum Romanum was perhaps the one area where an imperial commission could still share, or visually appropriate, the history of both Republican and Imperial Rome. I argue that the individual building programs of these five emperors in the Forum Romanum harnessed the Forum's history and tradition. The commission of -viibuildings, statuary, and inscriptions was part of a larger discourse of legitimacy in Roman politics; this discourse involved both visual and textual representations as well as temporary ritual and oratory, all of which validated the Roman conception of power and its role in the lives of Romans. I submit that by choosing the Forum Romanum as a place for this aspect of Roman legitimacy, emperors were not only following traditions that date to Rome’s beginnings, but also emphatically placing their names into the city’s most visible urban space. Through the construction of new monuments and the restoration of venerable structures in the Forum, these emperors not only left the mark of their munificence in the public's memory, but also forged their name into the topography of ancient Rome. This study utilizes the archaeological, inscriptional, numismatic, and textual records to reconstruct how the Forum looked and––above all––how it functioned because of these emperors' programs.

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