The Forum- Area sacra

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 sacra

The area sacra was concerned with everything involving religion.  In particular it contained a temple, an altar, a portico and a cryptoportico.  This was a long semi-subterranean gallery serving as a foundation to the three raised porticoes round the temple that marked out the area sacra of the forum.   Apart from its role as an architectural support, the precise function of this cool and shady gallery is not known.  It was completed around 50 AD.  A Carrara marble statue, very probably of the emperor Augustus, was discovered here in 1997.   The existence of the temple in the area sacra has now been confirmed by a few architectural remains.  It was probably dedicated to the cult of the emperor but this is a working hypothesis unsupported by evidence.  The columns visible today on the Esplanade des Marronniers come from the portico of the area sacra.

The “Roman columns” of the Esplanade des Marronniers

The columns and their entablature were set up on the Esplanade des Marronniers in 1958 when Nyon was celebrating its bimillennium.  They came originally from the partially raised portico of the area sacra in the forum, located in the centre of the town. The decoration of the entablature, carried out around the middle of the 1st century AD, shows artistic influences from southern Gaul.  Like most of the fragments of architecture found on the Nyon site the columns are made of limestone from the foothills of the Jura Mountains.


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