Curia Julia: The Senate House Of Ancient Rome

The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum was the Roman Senate House of the Ancient Rome. The ruins of the building can be visited and accessed to through the archaeological area of the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy. The brick-building survived the test of time better than other landmarks in the forum, because in 630 AD the monument was converted into a Church dedicated to St. Adrian.

Curia Julia in the Roman Forum
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder
Location: in the Roman Forum
Tickets: Free to visit from Via Dei Fori Imperiali / Tickets needed from the Roman Forum
Accessibility: Partially Accessible
Kid-friendly Attraction

When was the Curia Julia built?

The Curia Julia was also one of the earliest buildings ever erected in the Forum. The original palace was destroyed and rebuilt several times. Founded by Julius Caesar in replacement of the earlier Curia Hostilia, the Curia Julia comprised a great hall for the Senate sessions, which was the actual Curia, and a smaller hall for secret reunions.

However, Julius Caesar never saw his project completed. In 29 BC the building was dedicated to Augustus. The Emperor elected the goddess Victory as the guardian deity of the Senate. An altar with a statue of the goddess was erected and placed at the center of the main hall. Later, Emperor Domitian restored the Curia and dedicated a chapel to the goddess Minerva, which was called “Atrium Minervae”.

Curia Julia: Features and Architecture

Thanks to a coin dated back to 28 BC, we actually know that the Curia featured a porch raised on a high podium in the front. Inside, the building featured a central hall flanked by three steps on either sides and five rows of chairs where the senators used to seat. Today the Curia is a red brick building. However, at the time of its splendor it must have been magnificent, with wide windows and marbles that reflected the light. The whole space must have been very well lighted.

The entrance portal shows two green bronze doors. These are just a copy of the original ones, which in 1600 were removed and transferred to adorn the Church of St. John in Lateran. Thus, you can still admire the doors on the second entrance to this Church.

Front view of Curia Julia, the Senate House of Ancient Rome
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

The Senate House of the Ancient Rome

During the Republican Age, the Curia Julia was the place where the most important decisions regarding both the internal and foreign policy of Rome were discussed and taken. Becoming a Senator was the last step in the carrier of the Roman ruling class. It was an honor reserved only to prominent figures, who were more than 32 years old and who had already held important offices and positions.

Ancient Rome Senators & Passing of a Motion

Recognizing a senator was pretty easy in Ancient Rome. Their outfit was unique, characterized by the red toga. Also, senators usually lived in beautiful, luxury houses on the Palatine Hill or just outside Rome.

Decisions were taken by majority vote, and senators moved from one side to the other of the great hall depending on an affermative or negative vote.

By the end of the Republican Age, senators actually lot most of their influence and their main job was basically reduced to ratifying the Emperor’s decisions. However, the Senate was the most enduring institution of the Roman history, that lasted until the collapse of the Roman Empire of the East.