Italy's Roman Forum

Europe - Editor - 27 October 2011

Italy's Roman Forum

Once the seat of a world power, Rome is a city abounding in history and grandeur. The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum in Latin, Foro Romano in Italian) was the economic, political and civic hub of the city during the Republican era, retaining its significance during the Imperial era as a monumental zone. Today the Forum's archeological excavations and architectural ruins are a popular attraction for visitors to Rome and certainly worth adding to your itinerary.

Situated in the valley formed between Capitoline Hill and Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum is a rectangular plaza bordered by many ancient government and religious buildings. This area was a grassy wetland at first, but was drained during the 7th century when the Cloaca Maxima sewer system was constructed. Various shrines and temples were constructed to the southeast of the forum, including the Temple of Vesta and the Regia, or royal residence. To the northwest the Shrine of Vulcan and Umbilicus Urbis were built, later becoming the assembly area, or Comitium, of the Republic. It was here that the Senate and Republican government had its beginning.

Soon the area was filled with government offices, temples, tribunals, memorials, statues and the Senate House. The most notable basilicas of the time were the Basilica Aemilia and Basilica Sempronia. The Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Concord and Temple of Saturn also date to the Republican era. In time Julius Caesar commissioned the construction of the Bascilica Julia and Curia Julia. This revived forum saw Romans gathering in large numbers to engage in religious, commercial, judicial and political undertakings.

During the Imperial period, political and economic focus became centered on the Basilica Ulpia and Trajan’s Forum. This period saw the construction of the Arch of Augustus, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the Basicilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum. Over time the Roman Forum suffered damage during battles between rival factions. Once the Roman Empire fell in the west, the area was abandoned, with some of the buildings being used as churches.

Systematic excavations of this site began in the 20th century. The ancient streets have now been largely restored, with many of the ruins from the Imperial period visible. Amongst the ruins of temples that can be seen are the Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, Temple of Caesar, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and Temple of Romulus. The Basiclia Aemilia, Basilica Julia, and Basilica of Mazentius and Constantine are also discernable. Other buildings that can be seen are the Regia, Curia Julia, Portico Dii Consentes, Tabularium, Tullianum and Atrium Vestae, amongst other structures. Part of exploring the ruins of the Roman Forum is a visit to the Forum Museum, where travelers will find a collection of architectural items and sculptures. Visitors will also be able to get an idea of what the Forum and Imperial Fora looked like through reconstructions at the museum.


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