Roman Forum, Rome Foro Romano
No other site in Europe is so pregnant with history as the Roman Forum. Although the surviving remains give only a very inadequate impression of the splendor of the Forum in ancient times, this area at the foot of the Capitol and the Palatine, with its columns still standing erect or lying tumbled on the ground, its triumphal arches and its remains of walls, still have the power to impress, for it was here during many centuries that the fate of Europe was decided.
Roman Forum Map
Address: Largo Romolo e Remo 94, I-00186 Rome, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-6pm; Closed: Sat
Transit: Metro: Colosseo (line B); Bus: 11, 27, 81, 85, 88, 97.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
From the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) a broad flight of steps leads up to the temple of Antoninus Pius and his wife Faustina. The temple was built by resolution of the Senate in A.D. 141 in honor of the deified Empress, and was also dedicated to Antoninus after his death. This is recorded in the inscription "Divo Antonino et Divae Faustinae ex S(enatus) C(onsulto)". Of the temple there survive six columns with Corinthian capitals along the front and a number of columns along the side. In the 12th century the temple was converted into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. On the occasion of the Emperor Charles V's visit to Rome in 1536 the columns were disengaged from the medieval masonry.
Temple of Castor and Pollux
The Dioscuri - Castor and Pollux - are the subject of numerous myths, partly of Greek and partly of Etruscan origin, featuring healings (in association with the god Aesculapius), beautiful women (including Helen of Troy) and horsemen with their horses. The first temple of Castor and Pollux was built in 484 B.C. by the son of the dictator Aulus Postumius in thanksgiving for the defeat of the Tarquins, which was attributed to the help of the Dioscuri. According to legend, after the victory Castor and Pollux rode to Rome and watered their horses at a spring in the Forum, the Lacus Juturnae (the position of which has been located). The temple was rebuilt in the reign of Tiberius (A.D. first century), and of this temple there survive three Corinthian columns 12m/40ft high, popularly known as the "Three Sisters".
Temple of Saturn
The first temple in the Forum was dedicated to Saturn, a god who was probably of Etruscan origin but was adopted by the Romans and worshipped as the supreme god. Built about 497 B.C., soon after the expulsion of the Tarquins, the temple was one of the most important and most venerated of republican Rome. It was several times destroyed by fire (the last occasion being in the A.D. fourth century) but was repeatedly rebuilt. It is represented by eight columns with Ionic capitals, now much weathered. Under the Republic the state treasury was kept in this temple. The celebration of the Saturnalia, observed annually on December 17th, started from the temple of Saturn. Adjoining the temple is a fragment of the Miliarium Aureum, the "Golden Milestone" which was the starting point of the Via Sacra and all the Roman consular roads. On the stone, in golden figures, were inscribed the distance from Rome to the various provinces of the Empire.
Arch of Septimus Severus
It was a regular practice for the Senate and people of Rome to set up triumphal arches in honor of victorious Emperors and generals, and in A.D. 203 this arch, opposite the church of Santi Martina e Luca, was erected in honor of Septimus Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta after their victories over the Parthians and various desert tribes. On the arch, 23m/75ft high and 25m/80ft wide, are four marble reliefs with vigorous representations of episodes from these wars, the figures standing out prominently from the background. Goddesses of victory with trophies and a large inscription proclaim the glory of the Emperor and his sons (though the name of Geta was later erased). Other features of the arch are: The base of a column commemorating the 10th anniversary of Diocletian's accession. The remains of the Rostra, the ancient orators' platform, which was originally decorated with the prows (rostra) of captured enemy ships.The position of the Umbilicus Urbis, the "navel" or symbolic center of Rome.
The Curia, meeting-place of the Roman Senate, is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in the Forum. The first such building was erected in the time of the kings, and thereafter rebuilding was frequently necessary as a result of fires and other forms of destruction in the time of Sulla, Caesar, Augustus, Diocletian, Julian and Apostate, etc. Finally in the seventh century the Curia was converted into a church and was thus preserved from further destruction. Borromini adapted its bronze doors to serve as the main doorway of St John Lateran. The Curia, a plain and unornamented building both externally and internally, was stripped of later accretions between 1931 and 1937. It is now sometimes used for special exhibitions. The building measures 27x18m/90x60ft internally, and could seat some 300 senators. It preserves fragments of a colored marble floor. Here, too, are displayed the Anaglyphs of Trajan, two travertine slabs with reliefs depicting the Emperor and the people of Rome.
Temple of Vesta
In ancient times the Temple of Vesta in the Forum - there is another temple of Vesta in the Forum Boarium - contained the "Sacred Fire" which was guarded by the Vestals (virgins selected from the best families in Rome). The six priestesses served in the temple between the ages of 10 and 14. The Romans attached great importance to this "eternal fire"; on the first day of the new year (March first) they put out the fires in their houses and lit new ones from the flame in the temple of Vesta. The present remains, dating from the time of Septimus Severus (A.D. 193-211), indicate that the temple was circular, with 20 slender columns supporting the roof. Archeological investigation has established that there was an opening in the center of the roof to let out the smoke from the sacred flame.
House of the Vestals
Adjoining the Temple of Vesta was the house of the Vestal virgins, also built by Septimus Severus. It consisted of a large atrium, the lodgings of the priestesses, and various offices. The plan of the building, with remains of the foundations and numerous statue bases, can be readily identified. It is known from the works of Latin writers that the sacred Palladium (an image of Pallas Athene), which Aeneas was said to have brought from Troy to Latium, was preserved in the House of the Vestals.
Column of Phocas
In front of the Rostra in Rome is a Corinthian column 13.8m/45ft high, erected in A.D. 608 in honor of the Byzantine Emperor Phocas and in recognition of his presentation of the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV for conversion into a church.
Outside the Curia, protected by a low roof, is a block of black marble, under which, according to Roman legend, is the tomb of Romulus, founder of Rome. Close by is a stele, excavated in 1899, with the oldest known Latin inscription.
Arch of Titus
At the end of the Forum farthest from the Capitol is the Arch of Titus, the oldest of the Roman triumphal arches, erected after Titus' death by his successor Domitian. Titus, son the Emperor Vespasian, was the Roman general who captured Jerusalem in the year 70 and thus put the final seal on the defeat of the Jewish people in Palestine. The reliefs on the arch, which has a single passageway, depict this event, and also the victorious general's triumphal procession to the Capitol. Titus (who became Emperor only in the year 79) is shown in his chariot accompanied by the goddess of Victory with a laurel wreath and by the booty brought back from the Jewish War - the seven-branched candlestick, the table with the shewbread and trumpets from the treasury of the Temple.
Santa Maria Antiqua Church
As its name indicates, the church of Santa Maria Antiqua (badly damaged and rarely open to the public) is the oldest and the most important Christian building in the Forum. Converted from a building of the Roman Imperial period in the sixth century and richly furnished by various eighth century Popes (John VII, Zacharias and Paul I), the church thereafter fell into a state of dilapidation before being restored in the 13th century. This extensive complex at the foot of the Palatine hill is of interest for its architecture and for its wall paintings, ranging in date between the sixth and eighth centuries.
More Roman Forum Pictures