The Basilica Ulpia on the Forum Trajani at Rome


The basilica Ulpia may be seen as a sequel to the provincial scheme of Ruscino. In fact, in many provincial towns fora were built with an incorporated basilica. The Basilica Ulpia is the monumental elaboration of this scheme.
The construction of the Forum Trajani (or Forum Ulpium) was started under the reign of Domitianus, finished by Trajanus and partly dedicated in 113 A.D. The architect was Apollodoros of Damascus.
The forum consisted of two complexes along a south-east - north-west axis, separated by the monumental basilica in the middle. Throuogh entrance in the curved south-east side one reached an open square flanked on the right and left sides by colonnades behind which opened hemicycles. The side opposite the entrance was closed by the monumental building of the basilica. The second half of the forum was reached only through the basilica. It started with the huge column of trajanus flanked by two libraries. At the end of the axis the temple of Divus Trajanus was built which has never been excavated.

Like all basilicas this basilica consisted of a large colonnaded hall partly open to the forum. The entrance was formed by a kind of triumphal arch whith a central porch of four columns above which a quadriga is placed. On the left and right sides we see smaller entrances, also with porches of two columns. The attic above the entrances was adorned with a relief frieze representing scenes of the Dacian wars. These reliefs can be seen today in the Arch of Constantine, erected in 315/316 A.D. Indeed, the destruction of forum and basilica started early in the 4th century and fragments were reused in different buildings all over Rome.

The central nave has 18 x 6 columns and is surrounded by double aisles. The short sides are conceived as hemicycles lined with an addorsed colonnade dividing the wall into shallow bays suitable for the installation of book shelves. In fact, these hemicycles were the Bibliotheca Ulpia, a library that replaced the older library of Asinius Pollio on that place.
The upper parts and roofing of the building present a series of problems in the use of columns, windows, clerestoreys and it not certain whether there was a second stoey as is suggested in the reconstruction above. As it appears today it was essentially a single-storey building.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A.BoŽthius - J.B.Ward-Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture, Harmondsworth, 1970
F.Coarelli, Guida Archeologica di Roma, Verona, 1974
L.Richardson Jr., A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Baltimore-London, 1992



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