Nestled in a valley between Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Roman Forum still impresses, just as it must have centuries ago when it was the centre of Roman public life.
During my tour of the Roman Forum, I was engrossed in its rich history and fascinated by the remaining structures. Walking along the ancient streets, in the shadow of Roman monuments, the Forum quickly became one of my favourite places to visit in Rome.
About the Roman Forum- History, Purpose, Buildings
Over 900 years, buildings, temples and monuments were constructed in the forum that would serve as ancient Rome’s political, commercial and religious hub. Many of Rome’s most important structures, such as the Curia (Senate house), Temple of Saturn, and Arch of Septimius Severus were located on the Forum.
Numerous elaborate celebrations were also hosted in the Roman Forum. It was the final destination for celebratory military processions, called Triumphs, that would enter the city at the Triumphal Gate, circle around Palatine Hill and proceed into the Forum.
The Forum’s importance eventually declined after the fall of the Roman Empire. The site fell into ruin and was plundered, not by invaders, but by the Romans themselves. Precious marbles and stones were taken from the Roman Forum buildings and used to build new palaces, monuments, and churches. The site later became known as Campo Vaccino (“cow field”) after its use as pasture land during the Middle Ages.
Interest in the Roman Forum returned during the Renaissance, as architects and artists looked to classical antiquity for inspiration. Excavations began in the 18th and 19th centuries and are still ongoing.
Tour of the Roman Forum- Notable Monuments and Buildings
There are so many incredible buildings and monuments in the Roman Forum that it’s almost overwhelming. In addition to being a great place to see Roman ruins, the Roman Forum is also one of the best places to learn about Rome’s history.
These are a few highlights that stood out for me during my tour of the Roman Forum.
Arco di Settimio Severo (Arch of Septimius Severus)
Built in AD 203, this 68 foot high arch was erected in honour of Emperor Severus and his two sons Caracalla and Geta. It commemorates their two victories against the Parthians and is regarded as one of Italy’s major triumphal arches.
On both sides of the arch there is a dedication to Emperor Severus and Caracalla. The name of Septimius’ other son, Geta, was removed after he was assassinated by his own brother, Caracalla, in his quest to be sole Emperor after their father’s death.
Beside the arch is the umbilicus urbis, a stone which marks the symbolic centre of ancient Rome and to which all distances in Rome were measured.
Temple of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar was the first Roman resident to be officially deified by the Senate. After his assassination, he was granted the title Divine Julius and in 29 BC, Augustus had a temple dedicated in his honour. The temple was built on the site where Caesar’s body was cremated and Mark Antony read his famous speech. Today, all that remains of the temple is the altar.
This civil basilica was a two-storey portico, 100 metres long and lined with shops. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, it was almost completely plundered for its precious marbles during the Renaissance.
Temple of Castor and Pollux
Castor and Pollux were twin brothers, the sons of Zeus and Leda. Together they are known as the Dioscuri, also the twins of Gemini. As legend holds, these Heavenly Twins astoundingly appeared to Roman troops during an important battle against the Tarquins.
The last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, waged war against the young Roman Republic in an attempt to regain his throne after being exiled. Roman dictator, Aulus Postumius Albus, promised to build a temple to the Dioscuri if Rome were victorious in the battle. On the battlefield, Castor and Pollux appeared as two horseman and aided the Romans to victory. Afterwards, the twins appeared again at the Roman Forum to announce the victory.
Holding true to promise, a temple was built to honour Castor and Pollux on the site of their appearance in the Roman Forum.
Temple of Saturn
The Temple of Saturn is one of the most important ancient Roman temples. Established in 497 BC, the temple was used as the state treasury. During Caesar’s rule, large reserves of gold and silver were stored here, along with the official scale for weighing metals, and the state archives. All that remains of this grand building are eight columns and the partially preserved pediment.
Column of Phocas
This column was built to honour Eastern Roman Emperor Phocus, who had generously donated the Pantheon to the Church. The Column of Phocas was the last monument built at the Roman Forum.
Final Thoughts About My Visit to the Roman Forum
When I think about my trip to Rome, my mind always reminisces about my tour of the Roman Forum. Fascinating and beautiful, the Roman Forum had me spellbound as I imagined life in ancient Rome.
Visiting the Roman Forum not only introduced me to some of Rome’s greatest monuments, but it strengthend my love for ancient ruins and archaeological sites. The Roman Forum is definitely worth visiting and I would return here again on a future trip to Rome.
Tips for Visiting the Roman Forum
Location and Getting There: The Roman Forum is located in the historic heart of Rome, near the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. To get there, take the metro to Colosseo station.
Admission: Entrance to the Forum is included in the combined ticket for the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.
Learning About the Site: When I visited, there was very little information displayed on site so be sure to bring a good guidebook, rent an audio guide, or join a tour of the Roman Forum. Without these it will be very difficult to know the significance of what you are looking at.
Buy Digital Tickets to the Roman Forum
For quick and convenient access to Rome’s ancient monuments, here is a trusted site where you can buy digital tickets and have them immediately delivered to your smartphone (no need to print).
- Tickets for Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill (valid for 2 days)
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Accommodations in Rome
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Are you planning a visit to Rome, or just interested in learning more about the Eternal City? You may find these posts helpful:
- Escaping the Crowds of Rome- Off the Beaten Path
- The Colosseum- Iconic Symbol of Rome
- Palatine Hill- Founding Place of Rome
- Trevi Fountain- Everything You’ve Wanted to Know
- Ostia Antica- Harbour City of Ancient Rome