The Roman Forum stood for centuries as the center of Rome’s power, its influence and aura ebbing throughout the ancient city and beyond. Serving as a marketplace, open tribunal, and center of worship, this once uninhabitable swampland also saw countless scenes of sedition, scandals, and acts of political intrigue.
Today, this almost overwhelming collection of ruins that transcend generations of Roman history sit frozen in time, giving its thousands of daily visitors a glimpse of the Eternal City’s once beating heart.
From the fabled resting place of king Romulus to the plot of Julius Caesar’s assassination, specific locations within the Roman Forum are difficult to single out without the knowledge of a local expert; which is why we strongly suggest using one of our knowledgable guides so as to pick their brains on any burning questions.
However, read on to gain an introduction to some of the main sights of the Roman Forum!
The triumphant arches of the Roman Forum
Although many of the main sights of the Roman Forum can be overlooked in the monumental clutter, its arches break this mold. Built in 82 AD and depicting Rome’s spoils after emperor Titus’ conquest and sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Arch of Titus stands tall today after restorations that took place in the 19th century.
Within the original location of the Roman Forum is a second arch of grandeur. The Arch of Septimius Severus holds great significance in the fact that it proves the longevity of the area as a central aspect of the Eternal City. Completed in 203 AD, this white marble commemoration of victories over the Parthians proves the continuation of building upon the original site, despite Julius Caesar and his successors beginning to build upon a new site, the Imperial Fora, due to a lack of space.
Temples and churches in the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum began as a place of worship, a trend that continued for centuries regardless of religion; Pagan or Christian. In turn, the temples, churches, and other buildings within its parameters for that matter, multiplied to the point of architectural claustrophobia.
So, many Roman temples were repurposed into Christian churches; one of these being the Temple of Romulus. The temple, with its origins a source of scholarly division, may have been converted into the Christian Church of Saint Cosmas and Damian, but its ancient bronze doors remain even today.
→ Extra insight: Together with the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, one can gain a real understanding of how Rome was built on top of its previous constructions, with more recent additions sitting above the more ancient base level.
Through the ruins of the Roman Forum, we can retrace the history of the city to the beginning of the Kingdom of Rome. Some ruins, such as the House of the Vestals and Domus Publica, can be traced as far back as the 7th century BC. Larger constructions with known dates of construction then joined these earliest developments just two centuries later, including the Temple of Saturn which can be dated to 497 BC!
The Roman Forum’s political buildings
The main sights of the Roman Forum are not, however, simply religious. As Rome’s political and judicial hub, the area saw its fair share of meetings, speeches, and even executions. One building to keep an eye out for is the Curia.
Rebuilt and repurposed over the years, the Curia remains extremely well preserved. Home to the Senate, this nondescript building may go unnoticed by many without knowledge of its deep Roman roots. Commenced by Julius Caesar upon the site of the previous Curia Hostilia, the project would take until 29 BC to be completed.
Elsewhere, Julius Caesar’s Basilica Julia (again a construction that would not be finalized until after his death) was a central location for both civil law courts and tabernae (shops), providing a home for governance as early as the 1st century AD.
→ Visit the Roman Forum with our Small Group Colosseum & Ancient Rome Tour!
Discover the main sights of the Roman Forum together with us!
Obviously, this is not an extensive list of the wonders that can be found within one of the Eternal City’s most intriguing areas… we have not even covered the ancient shrine of Lapis Niger!
However, entering the Roman Forum with an introductory knowledge of its landmarks and ruins will go a long way in enriching your experience there. After all, without knowing the relevance and importance of each relic, artifact, and ruin, how can we bring the story of Rome to life?
At Walks Inside Rome, we have been providing tours of the Roman Forum for over two decades. Our expert, local guides will be able to single out these specific sights, and paint a picture through engaging conversation, untangling the jumble of seemingly endless landmarks. Send us an email or visit our website to find out more about our complete catalog of Roman Forum tours!