Roman Forum

Country Italy
City Roma

Roman Forum Photo Gallery

Roman Forum
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Roman Forum
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Roman Forum
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Roman Forum
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Roman Forum
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Roman Forum Description

The Forum was known as the heart of the Ancient Rome. It occupies a large part of the valley between the four main hills of the great city. We find the Capitoline Hill in the west and the Palatine Hill in the south; the Quirinal Hill protected it from harsh northern winds, and the sun shone over the Forum each morning as it rose over the Esquiline Hill. Across the valley, the hallowed Velabrum creek flowed into the Tiber. This was initially a market square built after the draining of the local marshes, where the natives of numerous nearby settlements had once disposed of their dead, by the Etruscans and Tarquin the Elder. Later on, it became a public gathering place—some of these gatherings led to civil unrest and uprising. The oldest constructions found here by historians and archaeologists are pagan altars, some of which have survived, albeit in a very decrepit state.

The ruins we see today belong to the construction designed by the Roman architect Vitruvius, with a 3:2 length-to-width ratio. During the long Republican period, a number of administrative buildings, daises for public speakers, and a courthouse were built here. The Forum was the crux of the social, cultural and economic life of the ancient Romans. Travelers coming to Rome today can see a large number of ancient historical structures here, such as the Temple of Saturn and the Via Sacra, or the Sacred Road, the culminating venue for the celebratory military processions known as Triumphs, and the road taken by the Roman Emperors as they traveled to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill in the full regalia of their office.

One of the most interesting buildings we find here is the Temple of Antonius and Faustina dating from the Imperial period. However, only eight columns remain of the original temple built by Emperor Antoninus Pius in 141 and dedicated to his late wife Faustina.

Visitors may also be interested in the triumphal Arch of S eptimius Severus at the northwest end of the Forum between the Curia and the Rostra. It was erected in 203 to commemorate the triumphs of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, in the two campaigns against the Parthians of 194/195 and 197-199. The arch is almost 21 meters tall, 23.3 meters wide and 11.2 meters deep. It was built of brick and travertine and then covered in marble.

Roman orators favored a special spot on the rock next to the arch for the delivery of their orations. Nearby we can see the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, deified emperors of the Flavian dynasty, famous for the revival of the Great City after decades of coups and civil unrest; next to it stands the Temple of Saturn, the location of the treasury in the Republican period. This temple is the historical location of the famed pagan festival known as the Saturnalia. Around it we see the impressive Basilica Julia, named after Julius Caesar, the temple of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), as well as the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins, which has undergone a major reconstruction.

Near the fourth-century Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine we find the Arch of Titus. The scenes depicted upon it are rather noteworthy—in particular, the procession of triumphant Roman warriors carrying a menorah looted from the Second Temple, which was completely destroyed by Titus in his brutal suppression of the Great Revolt of Judea in 70 A. D. Oddly enough, Titus had nonetheless acquired the reputation of one of the most righteous rulers of Rome, and is widely cited as deploring the day when he would reach noon without performing a single “good deed,” which he deemed to be unworthy behavior for a ruler. His contemporaries believed him to have ascended into heaven upon his death.

The Arch of Titus has provided the general model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the sixteenth century—perhaps most famously it served as the inspiration for the 1806 Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, and the National Memorial Arch in Pennsylvania, USA, built in 1910. The Arch of Titus was built by Emperor Domitian in 81 A. D. to commemorate the Roman victory in the war against Judea and to glorify his elder brother. Previously, the famed “Golden House” of Nero stood on this site. In antiquity, the bronze statue of Titus crowned by Victoria, the goddess of victory, stood above the arch. The Arch of Titus has the height of 15.4 meters and the width of 13.5 meters, while the depth and the width of the arch span equal 4.75 meters and 5.33 meters, correspondingly. The arch was built of Pentelic marble brought all the way from Attica. The inscription on the face of the arch reads: “The Senate and the People of Rome to the late revered Titus Vespasian, Augustus, son of the late revered Vespasian.” Unfortunately, this marvel of architecture suffered some damage in the Middle Ages when it was made part of the fortifications. In 1821 it was restored, albeit rather sketchily, at the initiative of Pope Pius VII, with an inscription on the wall to commemorate this event. Unlike the other buildings in the Forum, the Arch of Titus can be admired without buying a ticket.

The Forum can be accessed from the side of the Via dei Fori Imperiali or the side of the Capitol. It is open to the public during the following hours, depending on the season: 8:30 to 17:00 in March, 8:30 to 19:15 April to August, 8:30 to 19:00 in September, 8:30 to 18:30 in October, and 8:30 to 16:30 November to February. The Forum can be reached by Metro (Colosseo station, Line B) or by streetcar #3 (the Parco del Celio stop).

Roman Forum video guide

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