A Rome Holiday Attraction: The Roman Forum

by Leon Kammer

The Forum Romanum or “The Roman Forum” can be found between Capitoline Hill and Palatine Hill and it represents one of the most phenomenal sites of archaeology on the planet. Even before the first century, The Roman Forum was well established as the center for culture and politics for the Roman Empire.

This amazing Forum took hundreds of years to build but by the seventh century BC it was already in place as a major part of Roman culture. It was Octavian, Julius Caesar’s son, who saw the Forum reach its final form early in the first century AD.

Because the Roman Forum consisted of not one but a dozen temples, arches and other buildings, it earned the right to also be called by many “The Great Forum” or Forum Magnum. The location was originally marsh land that the designers drained and utilized to build an important cultural melting pot for social interaction, legal discussions, political discourse and religious activities for royalty and citizens of Rome alike.

After the Roman Empire fell in the early fifth century, the Roman Forum fell into such decay that, by the Middle Ages, the grounds had become pastures for grazing cattle. It took the Renaissance to discover the area again and to set in motion one of the longest restoration projects in history, which began early in the eighteenth century and is still ongoing right now.

Because of that restoration work, much of the glory of this ancient public venue has returned to what it was when it was in full use during the days of the Roman Empire.

Teams of volunteers and archaeologies have restored the paved streets and cleaned up the debris left by centuries of decay so the Forum can be enjoyed by you and I. But if you include the Roman Forum in your tourist plans, it will take more than a day to see this vast facility. But even a few hours at the site will give you a real feel for what life at the height of Rome’s might must have been like.

To get an idea of the ambitious scale that the Romans always brought to projects of this size, one just has to look at the “Temple of Venus and Roma”. This massive temple in the Forum was designed and built by Emperor Hadrian himself, and from a vantage point on a tall plateau, it has a perfect view of the majestic Colosseum.

Almost as amazing is the Temple of Concord. This temple is devoted to peace and upon its completion in the western quadrant of the Forum in 367 BC, it became a popular site for Roman citizens. At one time the Temple of Concord was rich with expensive statues adorned with gold and silver but even now it stands as a testimony to the power and prowess of the mighty Roman Empire.

There are dozens of other structures to explore in the Forum, including the Temples of Pollux, Saturn, Vepasian and Castor. When combined with the huge diversity of buildings, you can get a real feel for what the Roman architects and emperors wanted from this ambitious project. But the Forum is about so much more than just a collection of temples.

Beautiful arches make strolling the walkways of the Roman Forum a delight. These arches were the creation of the Romans and they are so elegant and functional that nobody could improve on them for centuries to come. Two examples not to be missed are the Arch of Septimus Severus and the Arch of Titus.

The Roman Forum was also a place for political dialog and The Rostra was a perfect place for a Roman politician to state his case. If you stand under the Rostra, you can get a feel for what it was like to live in those times. Along with temples, many shrines such as the Lapis Niger (or Black Stone) and the Via Sacra demonstrate the creative imagination that Roman builders were capable of bringing to a project.

To say you have really experienced Rome means that you have set aside some time to visit this amazing area of cultural life and inspect the amazing structures at the Roman Forum. As you stroll the walkways and take it all in, it may give you pause to reflect on all that man can achieve and all that can be lost just as easily.

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