Roman Forum

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum (Foro Romano) was the center of the civic and economic life in Republican times and Imperial period. The site was crossed by the Via Sacra, which led to the Capitol Hill and served as the route of the triumphal parades of victorious generals laden with loot and accompanied by rows of prisoners.

According to historians, people first began publicity meeting in the open-air Forum around 500 BC

The area of the Roman Forum housed many important religious, political and social activities and was home to many ancient temples, statues and monuments. Nowadays it is considered one of the most famous tourist sites in the world, which attracts more than 4.5 million visitors per year. Previously, there was the ancient former royal residence, the Regia from 8 century BC, the Temple of Vesta from 7 century BC, and the complex of the Vestal Virgins. However, these structures were reconstructed after the rise of imperial Rome. In 179 BC, the new Basilica Aemilia was created and all judicial activity moved there. 130 years later, Julius Caesar built the Basilica Julia and Curia Julia, so both judicial offices and the Senate became based there.

People gathered on the Forum for commercial, political, judicial, and religious aims

Later, the Forum Romanum was extended with structures as the Trajan’s Forum and the Basilica Ulpia. The last construction was finished on this site in 312 by Constantine the Great and it was the Basilica of Maxentius.

History

The Roman Forum was developed gradually over centuries. Originally, its site was a lake with waters from the surrounding hills. Consequently, it was drained in the 7th century BC by the Tarquins with the building of Cloaca Maxima. It was a huge covered sewer system connected to the Tiber River. Historically, the creation of the Forum is related to Romulus, the first king of Rome, who lived on the Palatine Hill, and his rival, Titus Tatius, who lived on the Capitoline Hill. An alliance between them appeared after combat had been stopped by cries of the Sabine women. Moreover, the Forum was outside the walls of the Sabine fortress, located through the Porta Saturni. However, these walls were destroyed when two folks became joined.

Rome’s second king, Numa Pompilius (715-673 BC) begun the cult of Vesta. Thus, the house and temple of Vesta were created along with the city’s first royal palace, the Regia. The following king, Tullus Hostilius (r. 673-642 BC) made the borders of the Comitium and it became the place where the Senate would meet. During the Republican period, all judicial and political issues in the city were still solved on there. To create more space, the Senate decided to expand the open area between the Comitium and the Temple of Vesta. Previously, private houses covered this area, but the Senate bought them and made for public use.

ancient Roman Forum

Earliest Forum temples are The Temple of Saturn (497 BC) and The Temple of Castor and Pollux (484 BC), while the first basilicas were built in 184 BC by Marcus Porcius Cato

In the 80s BC was the period of the dictatorship of Sulla and many works were done on the reconstruction of the Forum. Consequently, the Comitium was lost because of increase of Curia and changes made by Julius Caesar until his assassination in 44 BC. The same year happened Marc Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar from the New Rostra and the public burning of Caesar’s body on the site in front of the Rostra. Later, the Temple to the Deified Caesar was built on this place by his great-nephew Octavius (Augustus), who became the first Emperor of the Roman Empire. Moreover, after Caesar’s death, Augustus finished projects of his uncle, so the Forum acquired its final form. Such structures as the Temple of Divus Iulius and the Arch of Augustus were added in 29 BC.

In 110 AD, the Trajan’s Forum was built. Thus, much economic and judicial activities transferred to the Basilica Ulpia. Also, the Arch of Septimius Severus was added near the Capitoline Hill, which commemorated the Parthian victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons. Later, Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305) was the last who reorganized and refurbished the Forum. He added a renewed Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, and the Curia. Since the previous version of Curia was burned, the one built by Diocletian can still be seen today. Importantly, during the reign of Constantine the Great, the Basilica of Maxentius was completed in 312 AD, which became the last major expansion of the territory of Forum. The political focus was moved to the Forum until the fall of the Western Roman Empire almost two centuries later.

Medieval Period

The Medieval period is notable for the dramatic decrease in Roman population: from 750-800.000 to 450.000 in 450 to 250.000 by 500 AD. Moreover, in the 6th century some of the old structures located on the territory of the Forum began to be transformed into Christian churches. In 608, the Column of Phocas was erected near the Rostra, dedicated in honour of the Eastern Roman Emperor Phocas. It was the last monumental addition made to the Roman Forum. Later, by the 8th century the whole area was surrounded by Christian chruches. Many structures were dismantled, recreated and used for the construction of castles and feudal towers. In the 13th century these constructions were torn down, so the area became a dumping ground.

Temples

The Roman Forum includes existing and former buildings, memorials and other important structures from its 1.400 years of active use (8th century BC – 600 AD).

Temple of Saturn

temple of saturn in Rome

The Temple of Saturn (Tempio di Saturno) was an ancient Roman Temple dedicated in honour to the god Saturn. It stands near the Capitoline hill. It is said that the temple was built in 497 BC. Even today, you can see the inscription on its pediment: “Senatus Populusque Romanus incendio consumptum restituit”, meaning “The Senate and People of Rome restored (the temple) consumed by fire.” Moreover, in Roman mythology, Saturn ruled during the Golden Age and was always associated with wealth. Thus, his temple housed the treasury (aerarium) with the Republic’s reserves of gold and silver. However, later, the aerarium was moved to the nearby Tabularium, which was the building with all important archives.

Temple of Vesta

temple of vesta in the roman forum

The Temple of Vesta (Tempio di Vesta) was an ancient building near the Regia and the House of the Vestal Virgins in the Roman Forum. It had Greek architecture with twenty Corinthian columns, marble, and a central cella with famous circular footprint.  In addition, all temples to Vesta were round with entrances facing east. It was a symbol of connection between Vesta’s fire and the sun as sources of life. The Temple of Vesta dates to 7th century BCE and it is believed that it was constructed by Numa Pompilius. 

Temple of Jupiter

The Temple of Jupiter Stator is a former sanctuary on the slope of the Capitoline Hill. According to the legend, it was founded by Romulus after he promised to construct it during a battle between Romans and Sabines. On the spot of the battle, Romulus founded the temple, probably near the Porta. However, the temple was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. 

Tabularium

Tabularium of Roman Forum

The Tabularium was the records office with laws and official deeds of ancient Rome with offices of many city officials. Located near the Capitoline hill, below the Temple of Jupiter and with Temples of Vespasian and Concord in front of it, the Tabularium’s construction was ordered around 78 BC by the dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. However, it was completed by Quintus Lutatius Catulus, who was consul in 78 BC. In the Middle Ages, a fortress was built over the remaining part of the Tabularium, which was later transformed into the Palazzo Senatorio. Thus, since then the construction has been adopted for city’s administration activities.

Arches

Arches were an architectural invention throughout the period of Roman Empire. Moreover, triumphal arches were used to celebrate victories of wars.

Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito) is a 1st century triumphal arch, located on Via Sacra. It was built in 82 AD by the Emperor Domitian after the death of his older brother Titus. The arch commemorates victories of the emperor, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. 

Arch of Titus

The arch served as the model for many triumphal arches in the world that were erected in the 16th century. Also, the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was taken from the Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus symbolizes the Jewish diaspora. The menorah depicted on it was the model for the menorah used on the emblem of the state of Israel.

Arch of Septimius Severus

arch of Septimius Severus Roman Forum

The Arch of Septimius Severus (Arco di Settimio Severo) is a white marble triumphal arch constructed in 203 to commemorate the Parthian victories of emperor Septimius Severus and his sons, Caracalla and Geta. After the death of the emperor, his sons became emperors, but Caracalla had Geta assassinated in 212. Moreover, all Geta’s memorials were destroyed. The arch was made from a travertine with dimensions of about 23 meters in height and 25 meters in width. There were two sets of reliefs: the first with four large panels on each side of the attic, while the second with eight panel set into the inner side of the four archways.

Tickets and Opening Hours

If you are going to visit the Roman Forum, which is one of the most ancient and important sites of Rome, you will need to buy an entrance ticket, which includes visit to the Colosseum and Palatine hill. Of course, the best option is to book an individual guided tour to discover Roman Forum statues, buildings and monuments, remainings of ancient palaces on the Palatine hill, smart structures inside the Flavian Amphitheater and recognize interesting historical facts about ancient Rome. Also, Colosseum to Roman Forum walking tours give a possibility to skip-the-line with the same ticket price.

  • The entrance fee is 12 euro per person and the ticket is valid for 48 hours
  • Visiting the Roman Forum is better in the morning time, so you will not spend time in queues
  • From January 2 to February 15, the amphitheater, Roman Forum and Palatine hill timings are from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm with last admission at 3.30 pm
  • From February 16 to March 15 from 8.30 am until 5 pm with last admission at 4 pm
  • From March 16 until last Saturday of March from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm with last admission at 4.30 pm
  • From the last Sunday of March to August 31, visiting hours are from 8.30 am until 7.15 pm with last admission at 6.15 pm
  • From September 1 to September 30 from 8.30 am to 7 pm with last admission at 6 pm
  • From October 1 to last Saturday of October, opening hours are from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm with last admission at 5.30 pm
  • From the last Sunday on October to December 31 from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm with last admission at 3.30 pm
  • Holidays are Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
  • Location: Piazza Santa Maria Nova, 53
  • You can purchase tickets online with the same admission fee + 2 euro for the reservation here
  • Also, you can download Roman Forum app or audio guide (audio guide is also available at the ticket office for additional 5 euro)
  • There is a night group tour available every year from 5 May until 28 October, where you can enjoy the Forum without crowds of tourists. It costs 20 euro per person with reduced entry price 18 euro
  • If you have more free time, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the most ancient museum in the world with important artefacts of Roman Forum excavations – the Capitoline Museums
  • Ticket offices location: from Palatine Hill located in Via San Gregorio 30; Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53
  • Here’s the map of the Roman Forum:

Map of Forum

Visiting Roman Forum with Kids

  • It is really hot in Rome in summer days, so better visit the Forum in the morning or in the late afternoon, since it is open-air area under the sun
  • Bring a bottle of water and snacks for children, since there are no shops on its territory
  • A sling or a baby carrier are better, don’t forget about cobbled streets of ancient Rome
  • Don’t worry, Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine hill are spacious and will be interesting for children
  • Wear comfortable shoes

Facts

  1. The speakers standed on the rostra (rostri) – a large platform, where they faced the north side of the comitium towards the senate
  2. In 318 BC, Gaius Maenius provided buildings in the Forum with balconies (maeniana) for the better view of the games for spectators
  3. The first basilica ever built in the area of the Forum was the Basilica Fulvia (184 BC), while nine years later was built the second one – the Basilica Sempronia
  4. The Tullianum was state prison of ancient Romans nearby the Forum
  5. The Roman Forum structures’ architecture considered as one of the main masterpieces in the history of the world
  6. The size of Roman Forum was 250 by 170 meters (820 by 560 feet)
  7. The Forum developed gradually over centuries
  8. The last major expansion of its territory was during the reign of Constantine the Great
  9. Archeological excavations of the Forum continue even nowadays
  10. Despite the fact that the Roman Forum was the main one, there were several other forums located throughout the city
  • Here’s 3D Model of the Forum:

3d model of Roman Forum

Apartments Nearby

Madonna dei Monti – beautiful accomodations only 1.1 km from the Colosseum and the Forum. There is free wi-fi, private bathroom, coffee machine, electric tea pot, flat-screen TV and other amenities. It is very convenient to live in this area of Rome for travelers interested in food, history, and architecture. 

Madonna dei Monti apartments in Rome

Nostromondo Apartmentsapartments and studios with four different addresses. Some of them are close to the Colosseum and Roman Forum, while others are close to Piazza Navona and Largo di Torre Argentina square. There are all amenities provided.

La casa dell’orologio di Palazzo Berardi – offers accommodations in the historic center of Rome. It is an amazing choice for travelers interested in Roman shopping, main points of interest, long walks and Italian food. The Colosseum and Roman Forum are in a 10-minute walk by foot. 

La casa dell'orologio di Palazzo Berardi in Rome

Appartamento Santi Quattrocharming apartment in less than 1 km from the Colosseum. There is a bicycle rental service available at the apartments. It is very convenients area for visitors of the Eternal City to explore Rome’s main gems and enjoy Italian real food.

The Inn At The Roman Forum

The Inn At The Roman Forum

The Inn at the Roman Forum – the hotel in Rome, Italy which has amazing reviews from its visitors. It is located in the heart of ancient Rome with walking distance of the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Moreover, it actually houses ruins inside the property. There are modern rooms and rich breakfast offered every morning. Also, travelers love this hotel for its location, service and spacious and clean rooms.

Have you ever visited the Roman Forum and Colosseum? Tell us about your experience in comments! 🙂

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Author: Kate Zusmann

For the last five years I live in Rome, Italy. Recently, I've graduated from the American university of John Cabot with major in communication and minor in entrepreneurship. I have a passion for writing, traveling, and exploring new things.

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