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Roman Forum, Rome

Photo © Google Earth. View all images in our Roman Forum Photo Gallery.
Photo © Nick Leonard.
Photo © Google.
Photo © Nicholas Thompson.

Rome's Roman Forum is one of the most important historic sites in the world. The public heart of the "Eternal City" throughout the Republic and the Empire, its varied structures range in date from the 5th century BC to the 7th century AD.

History

The Roman Forum was first used as a market by Etruscan kings in the 6th century BC. The forum became especially important during the Republican period, when many temples and public buildings were erected on the site. The Roman emperors added more monuments and temples, and some of these were converted into churches after the establishment of Christianity in the 4th century.

The Forum fell into disuse and ruin in the Middle Ages. The stone of the monuments was quarried for use elsewhere and the area was used as a cow pasture. Excavations of the ancient forum began in the 18th century and still continue today.

What to See

Good general views over the Roman Forum can be had from the steps from the back of the Palazzo Senatorio, the Capitoline Hill behind the Arch of Septimus Severus, and the terrace of the Palatine Hill.

Listed below are some of the most notable monuments in the Roman Forum, in alphabetical order by name. Some monuments have separate articles as well - follow the links for more details.

Dating from 203 AD, the Arch of Septimius Severus celebrates the emperor's victories in modern-day Iran and Iraq. Covered with reliefs of battle scenes, the arch is located at the west end of the Roman forum, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill.

The Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito) stands in a slightly elevated position on a spur of the Palatine Hill at the entrance to the Forum. Now cleaned and restored, the arch was erected in 81 AD, shortly after the emperor's death, to celebrate the 70 AD sack of Jerusalem after the great Jewish revolt. It is decorated with reliefs depicting Roman soldiers carrying away treasures from the Jewish temple. Full article...

This massive brick building with coffered ceilings served as the public law court under Emperor Maxentius (306-10 AD) and his successor Constantine, the first Christian emperor. It was the original home of the famous colossal statue of Constantine that is now on display in the Capitoline Museums. Early Christian churches were based on the design of Roman basilicas like this one, and it is said that Michelangelo studied the Basilica of Maxentiuswhile designing the dome for St. Peter's Basilica.

The Column of Phocas was erected in 608 AD in the Roman Forum in honor of a brutal Byzantine centurion who ruled as emperor from 602 to 610 after assassinating Emperor Maurice and his five sons. In 610, two years after this column was erected, Phocas was deposed and tortured to death.

The column is mostly a reused monument from the 4th century, which itself had recycled the column from an earlier monument. The fluted Corinthian column is made of Proconnesian marble and rises 50 Roman feet (14.8m) high. Its Corinthian capital is in a mid-2nd-century style. The only elements added in 608 AD were an inscription and the statue of Phocas at the top (now missing).

The dedicatory inscription on the north side of the monument's pedestal reads:

Discovered in 1547, the Decennalia Base (Base dei Decennali) has been re-erected near its original position in the Rostra of the Imperial Forum. It is part of a set of five honorary columns erected in 303 AD for Diocletian's first visit to Rome on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his reign and the 10th anniversary of the Tetrarchy (a four-emperor system).

The columns were monoliths in pink Aswan marble; fragments can be seen on the ground north of the custodian's hut. The middle column had a statue of Jupiter, the others carried statues of the four emperors.

All four sides of the base are decorated with high-quality reliefs in Proconnesian marble. The front side shows two winged Victories holding a medallion reading "Happy Tenth Anniversary of the Caesars."

The left side depicts a procession of Roman senators in ornately folded togas; the right shows a bull, sheep and pig being led to sacrifice. On the back is the emperor making a sacrifice as he is crowned by a winged Victory and the gods Mars, Roma and Sol Invictus look on.

Now partially reconstructed next to the Temple of Vesta, the House of the Vestal Virgins was the residence of young priestesses tasked with tending the sacred flame. Flanked by statues of women, it is a rectangular structure with a rectangular pool inside. Chosen from Roman patrician families at a young age, the virgins served at the temple for 30 years: 10 to learn; 10 to perform her duties; and 10 to teach novices. The women enjoyed high status in Roman society, but suffered severe penalties for failing to perform their duties. If a vestal virgin let the flame go out, she was flogged by the high priest; if she lost her virginity, she was buried alive.


Located behind the Arch of Septimus Severus, the Lapis Niger ("Black Stone") is an ancient black marble stone indicating a sacred place. It was traditionally said to be the tomb of Romulus, but is now known to be a sanctuary of Vulcan.

Built in the early 6th century AD, the Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano (Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian) is the oldest church in the Forum. It adjoins the Temple of Jupiter Stator (which can be viewed through a glass wall in the back) and features original early Christian mosaics in the apse. Entrance is from the Via dei Forii Imperiali above the Forum. Full article...

The church of Santa Maria Antiqua was built in the Forum around the middle of the 6th century, maybe under the papacy of Justin II (565-78). Converted from existing Roman structures, the church housed a venerated icon of Santa Maria Antiqua, which is now in the church of Santa Francesca Romana. In the 8th century, its interior was richly adorned with Byzantine-style wall paintings.

Dedicated to the Emperor Antoninus (d.161 AD) and his wife Faustina (d.141 AD), this well-preserved temple retains 10 large columns of its pronaos (porch) approached by a flight of steps. It was converted into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda in medieval times and received a Baroque facade in 1602.

Located across the Via Sacra from the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina/San Lorenzo in Miranda, the Temple of Julius Caesar retains just a curved wall with a roof. Built in 29 BC by the Emperor Augustus, it probably stands on the site where the Caesar's body was cremated after his assassination in 44 BC.

Located next to the Temple of Vespasian, the Temple of Concord was built in the 4th century BC to commemorate a peace agreement between patricians and the plebs. It was reconstructed by Tiberius (7 BC -10 AD).

The Temple of Castor and Pollux (or Temple of the Dioscuri) was originally built in 484 BC and rebuilt by Tiberius in 6 AD. According to Greek and Roman mythology, Castor and Pollux were twin sons of Leda and Zeus (Jupiter) - Castor was born mortal and Pollux immortal. Three columns and part of the architrave stand today. Full article...

Dating from the 4th century AD, the round Temple of Jupiter Stator (a.k.a. Temple of Divus Romulus) is almost entirely intact and retains its original bronze doors (early 300s AD). Visitors may not enter the temple, but its excavated interior can be clearly viewed from a full-length glass wall in the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano.

Located at the west end of Roman Forum, the Temple of Saturn was originally erected in 497 BC and later rebuilt in 360-80 AD. It served as the public treasury and was the focus of the popular December festival of Saturnalia. Today it consists of eight columns of the pronaos, or porch, standing on travertine blocks. Some of the substructure below the temple stairs can be seen; this may have been where the treasury was housed. Full article...

Only three Corinthian columns remain of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus at the west end of the Roman Forum. It was built c.80-85 AD to the deified emperors Vespasian (d. 79 AD) and Titus (d. 81 AD). Full article...

The Temple of Vesta was a small round temple recalling the huts of the original Latin settlers of Rome. It enshrined a sacred flame symbolizing the perpetuity of the Roman state, which was carefully tended by the Vestal Virgins. Also housed inside was a statue of Pallas Athena known as the Palladium, said to have been taken from Troy by Aeneas.

Quick Facts on the Roman Forum

Site Information
Names:Foro Romano; Roman Forum; Roman Forum, Rome
City:Rome
Country:Italy
Categories:Ancient Cities; Temples
Faiths:Ancient Roman
Feat:Change of Religion
Styles:Roman
Dates:5th C BCE-7th C CE
Status:ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Rome, Italy
Coordinates:41.891955° N, 12.486595° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of the Roman Forum

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Roman Forum. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (April 16, 2008).
  2. Amanda Claridge, Judith Toms, Tony Cubberley, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press, 1998), 61-146.
  3. Alta Macadam and Ellen Grady, Blue Guide Central Italy with Rome and Florence, 1st ed. (Somerset: Blue Guides Limited, 2008), 31-37.
  4. Roman Forum (Foro Romano), Palatine Hill (Palatino), and Palatine Museum (Museo Palatino) - Frommer's Rome

More Information

Article Info

Title:Roman Forum, Rome
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:12/06/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-roman-forum/italy/rome
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