The Forum- Area publica

The Forum

The status of the Colonia Iulia Equestris required that it should have installations in keeping with the standards of the Roman metropolis, in order to ensure the political, judicial, economic and religious administration of the town and its territory.  It was the forum, a monumental collection of several buildings, that fulfilled this function.  It was divided into two separate parts by one of the town’s main streets: the area sacra, where religious ceremonies relating to civic life were held, and the area publica (basilica and porticoes), for the town’s secular public activities.  A Roman town was generally built round its forum.

Area publica

This was the town’s political, legal, administrative and economic centre.  It comprised the basilica, two large porticoes and a central courtyard.  It was here that the judicial and civic decisions that regulated public life were taken.  The basilica was located in this part of the forum.  The floor of one of the porticoes in the area publica was decorated with a large mosaic, known as the “Artemis mosaic”, depicting a procession of aquatic divinities, discovered in 1932.

The Artemis Mosaic

The mosaic was discovered in 1932 when work was being done in the Boldrini property behind the Grand-Rue.  It was exhibited in the courtyard of the Castle from 1938 to 1997 when the work on restoring the Castle required it to be moved.  It has unfortunately not yet been decided where it will be shown.

This very large mosaic (7.10 by 3.60 metres) depicts a single figured scene – a rarity in our regions.  Although only partially preserved, we can guess at a scene with a wealth of characters in addition to a large area of geometrical motifs. One of the figures, of which only a leg and an arm with a bow can be seen, was interpreted, when the mosaic was discovered, as Artemis (or Diana), the goddess of hunting.  Although it has always been known as the Artemis mosaic, it in fact depicts a marine procession, in which the main protagonists are certainly Neptune, sovereign of the seas, and his wife Amphitrite.

Dating probably from the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century, it adorned the public part of the forum, very likely on a building with a direct architectural link to the great north portico.  The choice of the marine theme, with no equivalent anywhere else in our regions, suggests artistic influences from North Africa, where marine processions were very much in fashion at that time.

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