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Roman Forum, Rome
Roman Forum history
The history of the Roman Forum dates back thousands of years. According to tradition, the birth of the Roman Forum is closely linked to the battle between Romulus, the first king of Rome controlling the Palatine Hill and his rival, Titus Tatius who occupied the Capitoline Hill.
A place for reasoning
The legend states that the battle between the rivals was stopped by the prayers and cries of the Capitoline women, which made the men lay down their weapons and try negotiations instead. As the site of the Forum lied in between the two hills, it became the designated place for the two people to meet and discuss. This is the reason why many places where discussion are held today, be it online or offline, are called forums.
An innovative solution
The area next to the Capitoline Hill was in ancient times a marshland. In order to make the ground more easily buildable, one of the world’s earliest sewage systems was constructed; the Cloaca Maxima.
After the sewage was built, the area quickly developed into the home of several markets and places of social activity. With this, another step was taken towards what would become the center of one of the greatest empires in the history.
A center of power
As time passed, the use of the forum as a market place diminished as the city grew. Instead, more public buildings were constructed around the square in which it became a natural centre for the growing town. In order to make room for forum expansions, many surrounding buildings were demolished, even several privately owned homes.
During its peak, more or less all economic and judicial buildings were located on Forum Romanum. The forum was also one of the most important religious centers of Rome, as it housed several sacred basilicas and temples. The majority of the structures were built during the reign of Julius Caesar and his successor Augustus.
The Forum was not only a place for meetings and discussions, but it also has a history of violence and destruction. Several battles between rivaling factions has taken place around the Forum, often followed by vicious fires.
The majority of the Forum temples were abandoned after the ban of non-Christian cults in the late 4th century. Some of the temples fell in ruin while others became converted into churches. The final blow was dealt to the Forum during the sacking of Rome in year 410, in which the majority of the buildings were destroyed. The once so great Forum Romanum collapsed together with the Empire it was built to serve.
The cattle field
During the Middle Ages, the area was mostly buried under earth and debris. Several of the old ruinous buildings were used by shepherds and their cattle, which gave the area the nickname “Campo Vaccino” – “the cattle field”. Just like many other ancient Roman buildings, the Forum became partly used as a quarry for new building projects. Today’s respect of Rome’s ancient buildings did not exist during these grim times.
This changed in the early 19th century, when archaeologists under the Napoleonic regime started excavating parts of the site. Around 100 years later, much of the Forum Romanum had been revealed.
These excavations showed that the Forum was built in many separate layers. Due to its location, both flooding of the Tiber River and erosion from the surrounding hills cased the ground level on the forum to rise several times. Instead of removing all debris, they Romans simply paved it over.
This meant that several of the later additions to the Forum had to be removed in order to restore it back to its original street level wherever possible. With this accomplished, the historic center of power and the very heart of the ancient Roman Empire had been brought back to life.
Why visit the Roman Forum ?
The Roman Forum also goes by its Latin name, Forum Romanum and some simply call it the Forum. This is truly one of the most unique places in the world, where one can find the excavations of several ancient Roman buildings in the middle of modern Rome.
The Forum contains several magnificent monuments, such as the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Vesta and the church of San Luca e Martina. However, there are more than 10 temples and basilicas at the site as well as several arches so visitors will have a quite a lot to do.
An important site
Today, the Roman Forum is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. It is actually still subject to excavations but the majority of the parts are open to visitors.
Some of the best views over the forum are from the terraces of Campidoglio at the western end of the Forum. From there, visitors can get a complete view over site and all the way towards the Colosseum. It is a mighty view and one can only imagine how it grand it must have looked at the time of Rome's splendor.
Roman Forum location
The Roman Forum is located between the Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy. The cemetery is situated in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum. For the exact location of the Roman Forum, check out the location map to the right.
Roman Forum resources
Interactive location map. For a larger and more detailed map, check out our Italy map.
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