26: The Forum of Julius Caesar
This area, at the side of the Capitoline Hill, was the border between two of the ancient tribes and a site for burials roughly 3,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that at times there were also huts, a forge and in the 6th Century BCE, it was the site of a large house – potentially that of a king. The major redevelopment of this site happened after Julius Caesar prevailed in his civil war with Pompey and reclaimed his position as Consul. He then began a major overhaul of the Roman Forum replacing some of its older buildings and enlarging it into this area behind the Curia. Acquiring the buildings, land and levelling the whole site would have been an extremely expensive undertaking but Caesar had amassed a huge fortune from the spoils of his campaigns across Europe and, in particular, in Gaul. Excavations have revealed that the space provided a vast open colonnaded court that focused attention on the Temple of Genetrix that stood on the north western short side of the square. The temple had been promised by Caesar the evening before the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BCE as his forces prepared to engage directly with Pompey’s troops. Caesar’s promise was made in a late attempt to win favor with Pompey’s preferred deity, Venus Victrix. Although significantly outnumbered, Caesar won the battle but failed to capture Pompey who fled to Egypt only to be subsequently executed by the young Pharaoh Ptolemy. In the end Caesar didn’t keep his word and instead dedicated the building to the Julian family’s preferred deity Venus Genetrix. Never one to miss an opportunity for self promotion, in the center of this courtyard was a military equestrian statue of Caesar in the style of Alexander the Great riding Bucephalus. It was likely twice normal size. This new Forum was dedicated to Caesar in September 46 BCE to celebrate his combined victories over Gaul, Egypt, northern Africa and The Kingdom of Pontus (which is part of what we now know as Turkey).