Roman Forum

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a historic area in the center of Rome, Italy that served as the center of city life in ancient Rome. It was the heart of political, religious and social activity for many centuries.

The center of ancient Rome

Roman Forum was a place for a variety of social activities including political gatherings, commerce, religious ceremonies, court proceedings, and cultural events. It was furnished with numerous temples, basilicas (buildings for administrative and judicial proceedings), columns, monuments, and other architectural structures.

The Roman Forum epitomized the importance and grandeur of the Roman Empire. However, over time it was abandoned and covered with heaps of soil and ruins. Archaeological excavations conducted in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made it possible to partially restore and study this historical complex, which is now one of the main tourist attractions in Rome.


After the expulsion from Rome in 509 BC of the last king Tarquinius the Proud, known for his tyranny, new republican institutions were formed and the forum was enriched with new buildings. In time, emperors built their own fora, one more powerful than the other.

The first settlements of peasants and shepherds appeared on Palatine Hill long before Rome was founded. Palatine was good because the only convenient crossing of the Tiber was nearby.

Through the ford at the island of Tiberinus from the south carried salt and other goods to the Etruscan cities in the north, and therefore control of the crossing gave an advantage over the southern neighbors. The port on the Tiber and the market it created set the vector for the development of the northwestern sector of the future city.

The legendary founder of Rome and its first king – Romulus (reign in 753-716 BC). The twins Romulus and Remus were grandsons of the legitimate king of the city of Alba Longa (founded c. 1152 BC by the son of Aeneas from the royal family of Troy) Numitor and children of his daughter Rhea Silvia, a Vestal, and, judging by myths, the god of war Mars. The date of the foundation of Rome is considered April 21, 753 BC, when Romulus plowed a furrow around the hill Palatine, marking the boundaries. The citizens of Latium from Alba Longa who came with him settled within these boundaries. But there were not enough people, so Romulus set aside the Capitoline hill for all comers, be they runaway slaves or brigands, promising them the privileges and rights of citizens. People began to flock, and they were mostly men of such a variety that none of the neighboring tribes did not want to give for “this rabble” their daughters. The problem of lack of women Romulus solved cardinally: organized a holiday with competitions and treats, called neighbors-Sabinyan from the hill Quirinal and in the middle of the feast gave the signal to grab their women, and unarmed men chase away. And there would have been a war (in reality, the Romans were at war with the Sabines), if the poor Sabine women, torn between filial affection and duty to their husbands, did not rush between the enemies and not persuaded to conclude a peace agreement. They say that the truce between the Romans and the Sabines was concluded just on the site of the future Roman Forum in the deserted marshy lowlands between the hills: Palatine and Velia on the south side, the Capitol in the west, Esquiline and the slopes of the Quirinal and Viminal. Allegedly at that time the valley was also declared “a place for trade and general meetings”. Although this lowland, formerly used for burials by the inhabitants of the nearby hills, ceased to be a swamp only after it was drained by the drainage canal of the Great Cloaca (and today functions as a storm drain). Ovid describes the place as follows: “Where the Forum now stands, there were only muddy marshes – which were enlarged by the overflows of the river. On the site of the now vanished Lake Curtius now stand dry altars. Once it was nothing but a lake. The Velabre, where the triumphal processions to the Circus now take place, was once nothing but a wasteland of willows and reeds.”

The Cloaca Maximus, connected to the drainage system, was laid out in Rome under the fifth king Lucius Tarquinius (Ancient) Prisca (ruled from 616 to 579 B.C.). Then the first tamped earth roads were laid, the Roman Forum was paved and its first buildings appeared: trade shops, oratorical tribunes, buildings for public ceremonies, religious festivals, elections to offices and magistrates, sentencing of convicts… As the forum was built, it gradually turned into the place that everyone knows about from history textbooks: the commercial, judicial, religious and political center of ancient Rome. And Rome itself for VII-VI centuries. BC. turned into a large, beautiful and rich city, trading with Carthage, Asia Minor and Greece.

The most important buildings of the ancient Roman Forum include the Regia, the first “house of kings”, according to legend, was built by the second Roman king Nulus Pompilius (715-673/72 B.C.), the Comitium, a place in the Roman Forum where people’s meetings – comitia – took place, and the Curia, the seat of the Senate. The imperial forums of Caesar, Augustus, Vespasian, or Mira, Nerva, or Transitorium (a passageway between the forum of Mira and the forum of Augustus), and Trajan were symmetrical, as far as possible of correct rectangular shape, inscribed in one system of coordinates. They were symbols of imperial ideology, created to glorify and exalt emperors. They were decorated with magnificent triumphal arches and columns, statues, temples, basilicas, schools and spacious libraries.

During the Republican period, the forum continued to be the political and judicial center of the city. To expand it beyond the square between the comitia and the temple of Vestalok, the Senate bought up nearby private houses and plots and put them to common use. On the newly formed public space were built a temple of Saturn with a treasury (497 BC), a temple of Castor and Pollux (484 BC), a tribune for orators, known after 338 BC as rostrums. On the site of the market in 367 BC was laid the temple of Concordia, around the central square – three basilicas – Porcius, Sempronia and Aemilia (II century BC), used as a place for commercial transactions, civil and judicial sessions; completed the ensemble of the city archive Tabularium (78 BC).

Cardinal changes took place not only with the forum: after the Punic Wars (the war between Rome and Carthage (264-146 BC) the whole layout of the city was revised. From west to east, the Sacred Road of Ancient Rome (via Sacra) ran through the entire Roman Forum, the site of the triumphal processions of the Republic and Empire, beginning at the Field of Mars and ending at the Capitol. As for the columns and honorary statues praising the political elite, they from the beginning of the IV century BC. they put so many that they overflowed the forum and most of them had to be moved to another place by the decision of the censors in 158 BC. In the 80-ies BC. under Sulla were carried out large-scale work to raise the level of the square by almost a meter and paving it with marble slabs.

The Republican Forum in many respects inherited the traditions of the comitia: holding popular assemblies, funerals of noble citizens, competitions, games and gladiatorial fights (in the forum the spectators were placed on temporary tribunes under sunshades). Here important decisions were made and significant political events took place. But after cardinal reforms in the I century BC (the extension of Roman citizenship to the free population of all Italy), the system of commissions experienced a crisis: under Sulla limited, and under Augustus died out their judicial functions, and by the end of the I century AD died out and legislative functions. Thus, although under Caesar a new large complex of buildings was added to the forum, and under Augustus all the dilapidated buildings were repaired and the temple of the Divine Julius and new rostrums of the Divine Julius, two arches in honor of victories over the Parthians and Antony and the portico of Gaius and Lucius Caesar were completed, the forum itself lost its importance along with its original functions (in the imperial period the people’s assemblies ceased to decide anything).

In the imperial era, in the neighborhood of the ancient Roman forum literally one after another were erected imperial forums: Caesar’s (architectural complex attached to the central square in 46 BC), Augustus (42-2 BC), Vespasian, or Peace (75 AD), Nerva, or Transitorium (passable between the forum of Peace and the forum of Augustus, begun under Domitian in the 50s AD, completed under Nerva in 97 AD), and Trajan’s (107-113).

When the Roman Empire fell, the forums fell into disrepair, the buildings began to be razed for stone, and earth was spread from the hills into the lowlands. In the Middle Ages, cattle were grazed on this place, which was renamed the Cow Field… What can be seen today in the center of Rome is the result of many years of painstaking work by archaeologists and restorers.

General Information

  • The historic center of Rome and the Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Founding of Rome: 753 BC.
  • Construction of the main sites of the Roman Forum: VII-VI centuries BC.
  • Construction of the Imperial Forums: from 50 BC to 115 AD.
  • Language: Italian.
  • Ethnic composition: Italians.
  • Religion: Catholicism.
  • Currency unit: euro.
  • Nearest airport: Rome International Airport.

Climate and weather

  • Mediterranean.
  • Average temperature in January: +8°C.
  • Average temperature in July: +22.4°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: 665 mm.


  • Service sector: excursion tourism.


  • Haemonius Terrace.
  • Temple of Saturn.
  • Temple of Vespasian and Titus.
  • Arch of Septimius Severus.
  • Curia of Julius.
  • Rostras.
  • Basilica of Aemilia.
  • The square of the forum.
  • Basilica of Julius.
  • Temple of Caesar.
  • Temple of Castor and Pollux.
  • Temple of Vesta.
  • Curia Julia.
  • The “navel of the city”.
  • Golden Pillar.
  • Lapis Niger.
  • Basilica of Maxentius.

Fun facts

  • When the Romans defeated and devastated Alba Longa (the hometown of Romulus and Remus) in the 7th century BC under the third king Tullus Hostilius, all its inhabitants were relocated to Rome. King Tull was famous for the fact that under him the population of Rome doubled and the city went beyond its borders.
  • According to legend, the mother of Romulus and Remus, Rhea Silvia, was the daughter of King Numitor. When he was overthrown and imprisoned by his younger brother Amulius, the legitimate heirs were eliminated: son Numitora disappeared while hunting, the daughter was forced to become a vestal, condemning her to celibacy. When four years later the Vestal suddenly gave birth to twins (by Mars), Amulius was furious and ordered to put the boys in a basket and throw them into the Tiber. It is known that the basket nailed to the shore at the foot of the Palatine Hill, where they were fed by a she-wolf. This hill would become the nucleus of future Rome.
  • The tombstone of Lapis Niger was discovered by archaeologist Giacomo Boni in 1899 between the Triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus and the Curia. Ancient sources say that this is the site where Romulus was killed. On the stele are the oldest surviving Latin inscriptions (dating from the 6th century BC).
  • In the southeastern part of the forum near the Regia was the Sacred Precinct of Vesta with the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Women. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the domestic hearth. In the temple the Sacred Fire was constantly maintained. Initially it was guarded by the king’s daughters, who were later replaced by six vestal priestesses. In the priestesses were chosen girls 6-10 years of noble origin, their status gave honor and many privileges. However, if a vestal broke her 30-year vow of chastity, she was killed – buried alive in the ground.
  • The Golden Pillar (Golden Mile Stone) of gilded bronze, from which all the main roads of the Roman Empire began and counted the distances to the most important cities and capitals of the Roman provinces, was installed in the forum by order of Emperor Augustus in 20 BC Near stood the “navel of the city” – a small temple, symbolizing the center of Rome and the world, that is, the lands subject to Rome.
  • The wide avenue Fori Imperiali (Imperial Forums) mercilessly cut through the Imperial Forums in the 1930s on Mussolini’s orders specifically for Fascist military parades from the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia.
  • The Forum of Vespasian, designed by architect Rabirius, was also called the Forum of Peace and was built to honor the victory in the Jewish War. In the depth of the square stood the temple of the goddess of Peace, around him – the buildings of libraries. Contemporaries wrote: “Vespasian spent on this incredible funds, which only allowed him his personal treasury and what he got from his successors.
  • The Rostral Tribune was the most famous place for public performances. Its base was decorated with the ram noses of enemy ships (rostrum) captured by the Romans in 338 BC at Antsium during the Latin War of 340-338 BC.
  • The enormous three-bay Septimius Severus Arch was built in 203 AD to honor Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, who successfully fought the Arabs and Assyrians. After the death of his father, Caracalla killed his brother and had his name removed from the arch, but the holes for the pins holding the letters are still visible. The arch once still had a quadriga with three statues (depicted on Roman coins, but not preserved), but it is still decorated with 4 reliefs 3.92 x 4.72 m depicting episodes of the war with Parthia.
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