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  The Roman Forum

 
 

 

The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) was the political and economical centre of Rome during the Republic. It emerged as such in the 7th century BC and maintained this position well into the Imperial period, when it was reduced to a monumental area. It was mostly abandoned at the end of the 4th century.

The Roman Forum is located in a valley between the Capitoline Hill on the west and the Palatine Hill on the south.

The importance of the Forum area is indicated by the presence of many of the central political, religious and judicial buildings in Rome. The Regia was the residence of the kings; the Curia, was the meeting place of the Senate; and the Comitium and the Rostra, where public meetings were held. Major temples and sanctuaries in the Forum include the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Saturn and the Temple of Vesta. Commercial and judicial activities took place in the basilicas, the two remaining are the Basilica Aemilia and the Basilica Julia. Due to the political importance of the area there were also numerous honorary monuments.

The Forum was crossed by the Via Sacra, which led to Capitol Hill and served as route of triumphal processions of victorious generals followed by war prisoners. The oldest section of the Forum, built in Republican era, stretched from the opposite side of the Valley to the edge of the Capitol Hill while the entrance on the Colosseo square leads to the most recently built section which dates from Imperial Age. On the Via Sacra the Titus Arch is one the best preserved ancient monuments and was built in honor of Titus after his death.

The current image of the Forum is a result of the changes made by Julius Caesar as pontifex maximus and dictator, which included the construction of the Basilica Julia where the Basilica Sempronia stood, the building of a new Curia and the renovation of the Rostra, the speakers platform. Caesar didn't see all his plans realized before his death, but most was finished by his successor Augustus, including the Temple of Divus Julius, dedicated to Caesar deified.

In imperial times the importance of the Forum as a political centre diminished, but it remained a centre of commerce and religious life. The Basilica of Maxentius from the 4th century is one of the last major additions to the Forum.

The Column of Phocas was the last monument to be erected in the Forum in 608 CE, but at this time the area was already half in ruin.

The Forum suffered damage and destruction repeatedly. When political strife in republican times deteriorated into violence, the Forum would regularly be the scene of fierce fights between rivaling factions, often followed by destructive fires. Fire was always a problem in ancient Rome, and parts of the Forum burnt down several times, the worst fire being in 283 CE. Later the Forum suffered destruction and pillage at the hands of invaders. Most of the buildings on the Forum were destroyed completely in 410 CE, when the Ostrogoths of Alaric sacked the town. Many religious sites were abandoned and fell in ruin after the ban of non-Christian cults in 394 CE.

After the fall of the empire in the west, the area was abandoned. A few buildings were converted into churches, including the Curia, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the Temple of Divus Romulus; the rest was left to shepherds and their animals.

Many of the buildings served as quarries for other construction sites in the city during the renaissance and later, and gradually dirt piled up to 5-7 m above the street level of antiquity, covering all but the tallest ruins. This difference can be seen clearly on the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda (Temple of Antoninus and Faustina), where the door now sits halfway up the wall. It used to be level with the ground.

Archaeological excavations began in 18th century, but the site has only been excavated systematically in the 20th century. Many of the later additions to buildings and monuments have now been removed and the original street level has been restored over large parts of the Forum.

The site of the Forum is still subject to excavations, and several parts of the Forum cannot be visited, but the whole area has the status of an archaeological site, open to visitors.

To receive additional information regarding the Roman Forum please contact our concierge: Valentina