Almost all that remains of the ancient Forum Nervae (Forum of Nerva) are two fluted columns, known as 'Le Colonacce' ('the ugly columns'). The columns once formed part of the colonnade of a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva.
What survives of the frieze of the colonnade is carved with scenes of women spinning and weaving. Minerva was the goddess of weaving and crafts and appears in a relief in the attic story.
The frieze also depicts the tale of Arachne, a young woman who had such great skill on the loom that she thought she could challenge Minerva to a contest. Disguised as an old woman, Minerva warns Arachne not to enter the contest, but she is ignored. When the contest is complete, Minerva is enraged at the quality of Arachne's weaving and so she destroys it. She then turns her opponent into a spider, forever doomed to spin webs in dark places.
The forum was started in 96 CE by the emperor Domitian (r. 81-96), whose patron deity was Minerva, and completed a year later by his successor, the short-lived emperor Nerva (r. 96-98).
The Forum of Nerva, which was also known as the Forum Transitorium, was excavated in the 1920s and 1930s.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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