Julia was built in 44 BC, when Julius Caesar replaced the restored
Curia Cornelius Faust Cornelius Sulla, who herself replaced the more
ancient Curia Hotilia. Caesar did this to redesign both spaces
within Komitas and the Roman Forum. However, this work was
interrupted by the murder of Caesar at the Theater of Pompey, where
the Senate met temporarily, until the work was completed. The
project was ultimately completed by Caesar's successor, Augustus
Caesar, in 29 BC.
Curia Julia - one of the few Roman buildings, which is still preserved mainly untouched due to its transformation into the Basilica of Sant Adriano al Foro in the 7th century and a few late restorations. However, the roof, the upper facades of the side walls and the rear facade are modern and belong to the reconstruction of the deconservation church in the 1930s. Curia was later restored by Emperor Domitian in 94 AD e., and then the emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century. Inside you can see two panels that were removed from the rostra for preservation. One depicts a meeting with a simple woman with a child, the other depicts the act of burning tax documents. Thus, Guy Julius Caesar eliminated all the debts of Roman citizens.
The building owes its name to the assemblies of
the "curiates", that is of the citizens gathered according to the
curiae, which took place in the Comitium; here was the first curia
of Rome, the Curia Hostilia, built according to legend by Tullo
Ostilio, third king of Rome. After being damaged in a fire in 52 BC
it was restored, but shortly after Julius Caesar began the
construction works of the Forum of Caesar, which affected the whole
area of the Forum: both the Rostra and the Curia were rebuilt in a
more scenic position, with a more monumental structure.
The building that took the name of Curia Iulia, and which is still visible today, was completed and inaugurated by Octavian on August 28, 29 BC. Restored under Domitian in 94, it was rebuilt again by Diocletian following the fire of 283 during the reign of Emperor Carino. In the Curia there was also the altar of Victory.
At the time of King Theodoric, the meetings of the Senate were still held in the Curia, which survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but was then reduced to a shadow: at that time the building was no longer called by its classical name of Curia, but with that of Atrium Libertatis. The name Atrium Libertatis was taken from a nearby building, probably destroyed or used for other uses already before the 6th century, and independent, where in ancient times the liberation of slaves took place. With the fall of the Gothic reign of Theodoric, the Curia was abandoned.
In 630, during the pontificate of Pope Honorius I, the building was transformed into a church, taking the name of Sant'Adriano al Foro. The church was decorated with Byzantine frescoes, still partially visible, and equipped with a bell tower; it was then restored in Baroque style by Martino Longhi the Younger in 1653. Thanks to these vicissitudes the Curia was not demolished and today it is one of the best preserved late antique buildings in all of Rome.
After a long debate that passed from historians - at the beginning of the twentieth century - to the parliamentary halls, the Curia between 1930 and 1936 was involved in the excavation campaign of the Forum and on that occasion it was decided to bring the important building back to its profane aspect: the church was deconsecrated, depriving it of all subsequent additions to the Diocletian era.
The appearance of the Curia had previously been
misunderstood on the basis of a drawing by Antonio da Sangallo the
Younger, who had portrayed it as a set of buildings composed, in
addition to the main building, by a Chalcidicum, a Secretarium Senatus
and an Atrium Minervae.
The Chalcidicum in reality must have been nothing more than the colonnaded portico in front of the Curia, also represented on a coin from the Augustan era; the Secretarium Senatus, which was erroneously referred to as the secretariat, was actually a special court for senators and was established only in the late imperial era, probably by adapting one of the tabernae of the nearby Forum of Caesar; finally, the Atrium Minervae would have been nothing more than an erroneous designation of the Forum of Nerva.
Recent studies, supported by excavations, have instead ascertained the presence behind the Curia of some environments, generally identified as the Atrium Libertatis.
The Curia was contiguous to the Forum of Caesar, so much so that it seemed an appendage (certainly not a casual position, with which the dictator probably wanted to emphasize his patronage over Roman institutions). The building that can still be admired today has a rectangular plan, with four external pillars on the sides that act as buttresses. The two facades are crowned by tympanums; on the main one there are three arched windows and a single portal profiled in travertine; on the sides of the portal there are also some medieval burial niches. The bronze entrance portal from the Diocletian era is a copy of the original, which was brought to San Giovanni in Laterano in the 17th century.
The large internal compartment respects the
proportions recommended by Vitruvius for the curias, according to which
the height must have been about half the sum of length and width (the
current measurements are 21 meters high with a base of 18 x 27 meters).
The considerable height is to be recognized as a probable device for
acoustics. The wooden roof is obviously modern and in ancient times it
was with flat beams.
The flooring has been partially rebuilt with ancient marble according to the Diocletian era layout, as well as the architectural decoration of the walls, marked by niches that housed statues, framed by columns on shelves. The Byzantine paintings, on the other hand, visible above all on the counter-façade, date back to the transformation into a church in the seventh century.
The hall is divided into three sectors, with three wide and low steps on the right and left, where the approximately three hundred seats for the senators were located.
On the back wall, between two doors, is the base for the presidency, where the base of the statue of Victory is also located. This statue on which the senators swore loyalty to the Republic had been brought to Rome from Taranto by Octavian and was an object of particular symbolic devotion for the Roman institutions. It was the subject of a bitter controversy between Christians and pagans at the end of the 4th century. It was removed for the first time in 357 by Emperor Constantius II, a fervent Aryan, but was relocated to the Senate during the reign of Julian. In 382 Graziano, accepting the requests of Ambrose of Milan, bishop of the then capital of Pars Occidentis, again had her removed from the hall. There followed in 384, under the reign of Valentinian II, the dispute between Ambrose of Milan and Quintus Aurelius Simmaco, a pagan senator and fierce opponent of Christianity who, from praefectus urbi, worked hard for the reintegration of the Ara in the Senate. On the death of Valentinian II, the altar was placed again in the hall by Eugenio (392-394) to be definitively removed in 394 by Theodosius after the victory at Frigido over Eugenio.
Today inside the Curia two large reliefs are exhibited, found in the center of the Forum and called Trajan's plutei or anaglyphs. They are perhaps balustrades of a tribune, probably erected in place of the equestrian statue of Domitian and it appears less likely, albeit according to rather persistent beliefs, that they were part of the Rostra. Scenes from the principality of Trajan are represented:
the one on the left has a Scene of the amnesty of citizens' debts (incomplete);
the one on the right has The institution of alimenta (low-interest agricultural loans for the support of poor children).
The scenes are particularly interesting because they take place in the Forum, of which they give a rare ancient representation: you can recognize in both the statue of Marsyas next to the Ficus navia, formerly the center of the square, and the southern side of the same. In the one on the left you can see (from the right) the Rostra, the temple of Vespasian and Titus (with the Corinthian order), an arch, perhaps from the Tabularium, the Temple of Saturn (Ionic), the void of the Vicus Iugarius and the arches of the basilica Giulia. In the one on the right you can see the continuation of the basilica Giulia, the arch of Augustus, the Rostrums of the temple of the Divine Julius; the emperor is depicted in front of the basilica Julia seated on a podium, perhaps the same from which the reliefs come. On the reverse of both are depicted the sacrificial animals of Roman solemnities: pig, sheep and bull.