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Antiquity Unearthed as Rome Celebrates Augustus



Lucy David


Celebrations commemorating the 2000th anniversary of Emperor Augustus’s death continue in Rome with the opening of an ancient street in the Roman Forum following a four-year restoration.


The Vicus Iugarius formed part of a salt trade route to the Tiber, and in Imperial times became the main artery linking the Roman Forum to the Campus Martius. According to sources left by ancient writer Livy, historians also believe that the Vicus Iugarius was the main road through which triumphs and processions entered the Forum. Although its name is associated with yoke-makers, it is more likely to have derived from the road’s height and the fact that it traces a route along Capitoline Hill.


Rome’s ancient urban space has seen a revival over the course of the 2014 anniversary celebrations, with the re-opening of the Baths of Diocletian after a six-year, €6.5 million restoration. Originally spanning more than 13 hectares, the monumental bath complex included a 3500-square-meter swimming pool, gymnasium, and libraries, and could accommodate up to 3000 people at the same time. In September the partially restored Villa of Livia Drusilla opened to the public to allow visitors to enjoy a space used by Augustus and his third wife Livia Drusilla for rest and relaxation throughout their 51-year marriage.


The great-nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, Augustus not only brought peace and prosperity to an empire marked by 50 years of insurgencies but managed to avoid his adopted father’s fate through masterful PR and political nous. The Roman Empire was born as a result of his skilful diplomacy and management, and it expanded under his 40-year leadership to cover the whole of the Mediterranean basin, from Greece to the Maghreb, Turkey to Spain and into Germany, coinciding, in the words of curators involved in the anniversary events, “with the birth of a new artistic culture and language that continue even today to lie at the very root of Western civilisation.”


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