20: The Curia Julia
The Curia Julia is the third building in the Forum that was purpose built as the Senate’s meeting place and each bore the name of its financial sponsor. The custom of meeting in a Curia was believed to have begun in a temple where the warring tribes gathered and laid down their arms during the reign of Romulus. During the early monarchy, the temple was used by senators acting as council to the king. Tullus Hostilius was believed to have replaced the original structure after fire destroyed the converted temple – hence the first purpose built version is known as Curia Hostilia. This curia was enlarged in 80 BCE by Lucius Cornelius Sulla during his renovations of the comitium at which time it was renamed the Curia Cornelia. That building was lost in 53 BCE when the supporters of the murdered Publius Clodius Pulcher used it as the location of a funeral pyre to cremate his body and accidentally burned the whole place down. Subsequently, Julius Caesar’s major rebuild in 44BCE meant that the Senate sessions were temporarily convened in Pompey’s Theater located next to what is now the Campo dei Fiori. This is why the Theater became the venue of Caesar’s assassination as Caesar made his way there to a meeting of the senate. Caesar’s death delayed the new Curia’s construction which was eventually completed in 29 BCE by Augustus Caesar. This version, the Curia Julia, was remodeled by Domitian between the years 81 and 96. Then, in the year 283, it was heavily damaged by a fire. From 284 to 305, the Curia was rebuilt by Diocletian and it is the remnants of this building that we see today although it still carries the name Curia Julia.