The Roman Forum: the ancient heart of the Eternal City.
BlogoItaliano has already mentioned in passing both the Roman Forum and the Palatine hill, on whose slopes once stood the palaces of the emperors. However, this topic is far from exhausted, and we decided to return to it in more detail. In this article, you will learn about the history and the most interesting structures of the Roman Forum, its opening hours, tickets, and how best to organize your visit.
Useful tip: Before visiting, we recommend installing the most useful audio guide to the Roman Forum for iPhone or Android [link]. It will help you orient yourself on the territory of the archaeological complex, walk around its main sites, and learn their history and purpose.
On the map in the audio guide are already marked all the important objects, GPS will help you navigate easily, and audio stories work even without internet.
The first 5 points you can listen to for free, and the entire tour of 35 sites around the Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine, will cost only 5 Euros. This is much cheaper than even the most budget tours. You can download the app on your iPhone here, and the Android version is available here [link].
Let there be Rome and the Forum.
Linguists still have difficulty answering the question about the origin of the word “forum”. According to one version, it goes back to the Latin noun fores, “doors,” and the adverbs foris and foras, meaning “outside.
The fact is that earlier market squares – and the Roman Forum originally was – were located outside the city walls. That is, “outside”, behind “doors”. And what is a city as the ancients understood it? A few residential and administrative buildings and a temple behind a stone fence, locked at night.
During the day, all life was concentrated in the marketplace, where those foreigners who decided to sell or buy something were free to go. So the forum is a place of trade, conversation and discussion.
The Roman Forum in ancient times was a place of trade and discussion.
But first there was no forum, and was a marshy swamp between several hills, on which later spread out Rome, including the Palatine and the Capitol. There were burials along the perimeter of the marsh, at the bottom of the hills, as early as the eighth century B.C.
Only 2 centuries after the legendary founding of Rome (in 753 BC) the swamp was drained. Ditches were constructed for sewage, and construction began on a vast drainage system called the Grand Cloaca. It is worth noting that the ancient drainage system, which is more than a millennium and a half old, copes well with the removal of water to this day.
The resulting vast area was filled in and began to build up, first rows of stores and sanctuaries of Vesta, Saturn, Vulcan, and soon the administrative and public buildings – and thus emerged the Roman Forum, without which today imagine the Italian capital, and perhaps the entire history of the ancient world is impossible.
The Roman Forum: the remnants of former grandeur that survived to this day
Construction on the Roman Forum was going on continuously: some buildings were replaced by others. And for different reasons: because of fires, invasions of unfriendly tribes or as a result of the so-called “curse of memory” imposed by the Senate.
Remembrance was cursed in the same way as sometimes in our own times: monuments and palaces were destroyed, a strict ban was imposed on mentioning the name of the state traitor in any context. For example, the equestrian statue of Domitian, which stood in the middle of the Roman Forum, was dismantled after the death of this controversial emperor.
Not much has survived on the forum to this day.
Few structures of the Roman Forum have survived to this day. Until 1860, local residents stole stones of the majestic temples for their own needs, and in the once thriving economic center of the city grazed herds of goats and cows.
The only building that has survived is the Curia, the meeting place of the Senate of the Roman Empire. However, it is only a reconstructed copy of the ancient structure.
During the time of Mussolini the Curia was greatly reduced. Inside only the imposing stone floors are preserved from the antiquity.
The Curia is the only restored building of the Roman Forum
Even today we can still see the relief towers (figures from captured enemy ships) that were installed on the lecterns for orators.
Next to the Curia was the Comitium, an open place for assemblies. Over time, more and more temples and basilicas built up the comitium, until a small area was left, separated from the Curia by a large black stone.
The black stone (lat. Lapis Niger) is said to mark the burial place of Romulus, the founder of Rome
The Black Stone is another attraction of the Roman Forum. Legend has it that Romulus, one of the founders of the Eternal City, was buried here under the black stone.
The Golden Mile and the Center of the Earth
The Golden Mile, which was the reference point for all Roman roads and distances, and the navel of the Earth, which according to ancient legends and beliefs helped to establish communications with the underground forces.
The famous Puppet of the Earth in the Roman Forum
Temples of the Roman Forum
Once magnificent temples of antiquity have reached our days in a deplorable state, most of them are now just a couple or three columns set on ancient foundations.
So appears the famous temple of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the family hearth, the patroness of fire. In honor of the goddess in the temple there was always a fire burning. The priestesses of the temple – Vestal virgins – were girls from noble families who kept the flames burning.
To the left of the temple of Vesta was the equally majestic temple of Antoninus Faustina, built by Emperor Antoninus in memory of his wife, Faustina, who died untimely in 141 AD. It was almost completely dismantled into stones, except that all attempts to knock down the majestic columns were in vain.
Later, in the XI century, Catholic priests used the foundation and ancient columns to build a new temple in honor of St. Lawrence. It was this fact that contributed to the preservation of the colonnade within the Romanesque basilica.
Columns remained from both the Temple of Saturn and the Temple of the Dioscours. The latter was for a long time considered one of the important holy places of Rome. It was built in honor of the gods Castor and Pollux, the patrons of horses and riders and helpers in military battles.
An interesting fact is that during the reign of Caligula, the half-deconstructed temple of Dioscurus served as the main entrance to the emperor’s palace. This is how the ruler, whose name has become a nickname, decided once again to emphasize his divine origin.
The temple of the Dioscuros during the reign of Caligula was the entrance to the imperial palace
The temple of the goddesses Venus and Roma, the patronesses of Rome, was considered another important structure of ancient Rome. The gigantic structure, 145 meters long and 100 meters wide, was built by order of Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD.
Not only the immensity but also the uniqueness of the building was impressive: the two domes (tsellas) of the sanctuary were facing each other. The eastern cella has survived to this day because for a long time it was part of the later church of Santa Francesca Romana.
The Araca Tita appeared in the forum after the capture of Jerusalem
In the southeastern part of the forum, on the site of the burning of the body of the murdered Julius Caesar in the first century AD, another temple was built in his honor, the Temple of Caesar. Julius Caesar became the second deified Roman in the history of the Roman Empire, after the founder of the city, Romulus.
Thirty years later, on the forum appeared and the temple in honor of Emperor Vespasian, of which only ruins have survived to this day. The ruins include the last preserved temple of Concordia, Roman goddess of concord and reconciliation, built in the IV century.
There are three early modern basilicas within the walls of the Roman Forum. The largest, the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine served not only as a temple, but also as a meeting place for the City Council and as a venue for the Olympic Games.
The Basilica of Julius was the seat of the Roman Senate and the site of the trials, while the Basilica of Aemilius was the marketplace, the court, and the site of the civil assemblies. Unfortunately, we can now only imagine what these magnificent temples looked like.
The Basilica of Maxentius is the most imposing structure of the Roman Forum
The Triumphal Arches of Titus, Tiberius, and Septimius Severus are not badly preserved. They are especially popular with newlyweds. In Rome it is believed that if on the wedding day you drive along Via Gregorio along the ancient arches, your family life will be long and happy.
Among others, there are also the ruins of Regia, which was the seat of the Supreme Pontiff; the Tabularium, which housed the state archive of the Roman Empire; and the Mamertine prison, the oldest in the Holy City, where, according to legend, the Apostles Peter and Paul spent their last days.
The Tabularia (with a tower in the background) housed the Roman Empire’s archives
The last addition to the historical ensemble is the column of Phocas, erected in 608 in honor of the Byzantine emperor Phocas.
Address and access
Address: The Roman Forum is located near the Colosseum at Via della Salara Vecchia, 5/6, 00186 Roma
You can get here:
- by subway – line B, Colloseo station;
- City buses 60, 75, 84, 85, 87, 117, 175, 271, 571, 810, 850;
- by cab.
The Roman Forum is open daily, except for the major holidays of January 1, May 1, and December 25. Opening hours vary depending on the time of year:
- 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. the last Sunday in October through February 15;
- 8:30-17:00 a.m. February 16 through March 15;
- 8:30-17:30 a.m. March 16 through the last Saturday in March;
- 8:30-19:15 a.m. on the last Sunday in March through August 31;
- 8:30-19:00 a.m. Sept. 1-30;
- 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 through the last Saturday in October.
The box office closes one hour before the forum closes.
Tickets to the Roman Forum
As with other major attractions in Rome, the forum does not lack visitors. Want to get here a lot in winter and summer.
The situation is somewhat simplified by the fact that the tickets for the Forum, Palatine and the Colosseum are one. That is, for one ticket you can visit all three sights.
The best place to start is at the Forum. As a rule, the queues at the Forum box office are much smaller, and the ticket, as we noted above, is also suitable for the Colosseum.
Finally, you can also buy tickets in advance – through the Internet [at this link]. This will allow you to avoid queues and save a few precious hours. This is especially true if you are planning a trip to Rome in May or September-October.
A few euros overpayment for online purchase will turn into saved hours in the city. So don’t be greedy, or it will cost you more.
Excursions to the Forum and the Colosseum
But it is best to visit the Roman Forum with a guided tour or an individual guide. After all, every stone here breathes history, and you’ll simply miss most places without a guide.
See the current times and prices for guided tours on this page.
There is a lot to choose from, because in Rome there are more than 200 excursions in Russian. In addition, the service continues to work with Russian maps, even after February 2022. To navigate in all this diversity is not easy, so the links to the 2 most successful excursions to the Forum and the Colosseum are given below.