The Roman Forum, Rome (Forum Romanum)

Introduction

This archaeological site sits between the Victor Emmanuel II Monument and the Colosseum. The entrance to the Forum is on Via dei Fori Imperiali, and the nearest Metro station is Colosseo on Line 2.

You can move freely between the Roman Forum and neighbouring Palatine Hill even though they have separate entrances. Valid for two days, the entrance ticket to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill will also give you entry into the Colosseum. If you are not pre-booking your tickets, there are much smaller queues at the Forum and Palatine Hill than there are at the Colosseum.

You can easily spend a whole day if you want to fully explore the Forum, Palatine Hill and see the Colosseum. The Forum is a large area and it has little shade, and no cafes, so remember to bring some water with you.

Palatine Hill is one of the oldest parts of the city and is one of the seven Hills of Rome. From the hill, you can see views of the ruins of the Forum as well as the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus.

It is probably a good idea to get an aerial view before entering the Forum so you have some idea of the layout of the site. Another place with great views of the Forum is the roof of the Victor Emanuel II Monument (see my post Victor Emmanuel II Monument / Altare della Patria / Il Vittoriano for more information).

History

The Romans drained an area that was originally marshland and turned it into a centre of political and social activity. The Forum used to be the centre of commercial, political and judicial life in ancient Rome.

The Basilicas were the largest buildings and were where legal hearings were heard. As Rome’s population grew, the Forum became too small, so Julius Caesar built a new one in 45 B.C. Many other emperors added to the buildings as well as erecting triumphal arches to themselves.

The Colosseum built just to the east provided entertainment after the business of the day.

Middle Ages

The Forum like much of ancient Rome fell into disrepair after the fall of the Roman Empire until eventually, it became pasture land. It was abandoned during the Middle Ages, and it gradually became buried. Local people plundered the area for marble and stone.

However, some of the temples were used for churches which preserved them.

What remains today is a mass of ruins which include: churches, temples, museums, arches, columns and various other ancient sites.

The area was excavated in the 18th and 19th centuries, excavations are still ongoing today. The ruins that have been uncovered date from many different periods of history.

The Roman Forum – West

The main areas of interest in the western area are:

The Temple of Vestpasian. Only three columns now remain of the original building.
Column of Phocas. This 13.5 m high column is one of the last monuments erected in the Forum, The column dates from AD 608 and was erected in honour of the Byzantine emperor Phocas, who had just paid a visit to Rome.
Temple of Saturn. This is one of the most prominent of the ruins, consisting of a high platform, eight columns and a section of entablature.
Rostra. These are the ruins of the platform used for public speaking.
Basilica Julia.
Named after Julius Caesar, who ordered its construction, this basilica was host to important law courts.
Arch of Septimius Severus. This triumphal arch is one of the best-preserved monuments of the Forum. The arch was erected in AD 203 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the accession of Septimus Severus.
Santi Luca e Martina. This was an early Medieval church that was rebuilt in 1640.
Curia. This is a modern reconstruction built on the site of the chamber of the Roman Senate.
Basilica Aemilla. This was originally a large colonnaded hall built in 179 BC. The Basilica was rebuilt a number of times. It was burned down in AD 410 when the Goths sacked Rome.
The Temple of Julius Caesar. This was erected in his memory by Augustus on the spot where Caesar’s body was cremated.
Temple of Castor and Pollux. This was a temple to the twin sons of Jupiter. The section of cornice and the three columns supporting it date from the rebuilding of the temple in 6 AD.

Roman Forum – Picture Gallery

Roman Forum – East

The barrel-vaulted ruins of the Basilica of Constantine dominate the eastern part of the Forum. There are some remains of other buildings but these are scanty. There are two churches in this part of the Forum. These cannot be reached from the archaeological area but they are accessible from the road outside.

The main areas of interest in the eastern area are:

The Regia. This was the office of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of ancient Rome.
Basilica of Constantine. The huge arches and ceilings give some idea of the original scale of the Forum’s public buildings.
Santa Francesca Romana. The church is named after a saint who looked after the poor in Rome in the 15th century.
Antiquarium Forense. This small museum houses many of the archaeological finds made in the Forum.
Temple of Venus and Rome. These extensive ruins are of a magnificent temple built in Ad 135 by Emperor Hadrian.
Arch of Titus. This is a 19th-century reconstruction which shows how the arch may have looked when it spanned the flagstones roadway of the Via Sacra.
Temple of Romulus. This domed building from the 4th century AD has survived as part of the Church of Santi Cosma e Damiano.
House of the Vestal Virgins. The priestesses who tended the sacred flame in the temple of Vesta lived here.
Temple of Vesta. This tiny temple has been partially reconstructed. The shrine to the goddess of the hearth was one of Rome’s most sacred. This was originally a circular building surrounded by a ring of 20 fluted columns. It dates from the 4th century AD and was partially reconstructed in 1930.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The portico of this temple, built in AD 141, has been incorporated in the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda.

Other things to do in Rome

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