Topographies of demonstration in the late Republican and Augustan Forum Romanum



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This report investigates the relationship between demonstrations and the built environment of the Forum Romanum. As one of the chief loci for the creation of public discourse in Rome, the Forum Romanum was a prime target for demonstrations. An in-depth evaluation of late Republican demonstrations within the Forum reveals how demonstrations sought to create alternative discourses. Late Republican demonstrators often incorporated the topography of the Forum into their demonstrations, either for strategic or symbolic reasons. Demonstrators were particularly concerned with the occupation of the Forum and restricting access to the speaker’s platforms. In doing so, demonstrations attempted to legitimate their own goals and objectives by equating them with the will of the people. The Augustan transformation of the Forum Romanum disrupted this established Republican topography of demonstration. Changes in the built environment limited the effectiveness of a demonstration’s ability to occupy the Forum. Entrances to the Forum were narrowed to impede the movement of demonstrators. Speaker’s platforms were insulated from the assembled crowd. A number of redundant measures, including surveillance and legal remedies, ensured that a new topography of demonstration did not form. These changes to the Forum Romanum participated in Augustus’s larger ideological program by prohibiting the creation of discourses opposed to the Augustan message.