Roman Forum or Forum Romanum in its original language, is the ruin in form of a rectangular plaza which is surrounded by the ruins of several important government buildings from ancient Roman Empire. Often refered as Forum Magnum or simply Forum by people at that that time, this piazza is located in the heart of Rome city, in a small valley between Palatine and Capitoline Hills.
For centuries, the piazza had been the center of public life for Rome citizens. It was the place where public speeches, criminal trials, gladiatorial matches, criminal trials, elections, triumphal processions, and any other public events were held including commercial trading. For its vital role in Roman civilization, the Forum is often dubbed as the most celebrated meeting place in the world for the entire of human history.
The Forum was facing the northwest to southeast. Surrounding the Forum, there are ruins of numerous important structures of Roman Empire including shrines, temples, and royal residences. One most important role of the Forum in the past was as a marching place for victorious generals. The march was then ended in the Temple of Jupiter.
The History of Roman Forum
The legend says that the original Forum was built on a low-lying, grassy wetland which is drained in the 7th century BC by a giant sewer system called Cloaca Maxima. The sewer system disposed all the water into Tiber River. Because the area of the valley now had been dry, it provided a perfect meeting place for people from various directions.
The Forum was built just outside the Sabine fortress. The fortress was then destroyed soon after the building of the Forum to give chance to it to become a meeting place. There, the Forum then became the center of civilization with more and more people coming and staying.
Numa Pompilus, Rome’s second emperor, built the temple of Vesta around around 700 years BC. The area was then converted into a Curia Hostilia by Tullus Hostilius and paved by Tarquinius Priscus in 600 BC.
A larger gathering place was needed following the rapid development of Rome’s citizen. The Senate began expanding open area by purchasing private places to be turned into public places. Some renovations were also done.
By 500 BC, the first Forum temples were built. They were the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and the Temple of Concord. More sacred buildings, governmental buildings, and public buildings were built later throughout the Roman Forum history. It also had witnessed many important events in Rome history such as the famous speech of Cicero in 63 BC, Marc Anthony’s funeral oration for Caesar, and the assassination of Galba, a Roman Emperor, in 69 AD.
An attempt of excavation was just made late in the 18th century as a respond to copied inscriptions which was made in 16th century. A basic excavation attempt by a cardinal by draining it and building an Alessandrine neighborhood over it was a made although to a very minimum result. It was the excavation done by Carlo Fea and his fellow archeologists in 1803 which marked the beginning of Roman Forum modern excavation.
The Architectures of Roman Forum
There are so many ancient sites to see in Roman Forum from ancient temples, ancient Roman government buildings, to basilicas. Below here, we will take a closer look to some of them.
Niger Lapis is probably the most important historical site in Roman Forum. It was believed as the exact place where the first emperor of Rome, Romulus, was killed. The name Niger Lapis itself is translated into “black stone” in English, which refers to a grave stone. Today, the area is surrounded by railings to keep visitors from getting too close.
There is a remnant of one of the greatest sewer in the ancient world, Cloaca Maxima. The sewer system was built to cope with the yearly problem of flood. The drainage system successfully drained the valley and disposed the water to the Tiber River. It is said that Tarquin Kings in the 6th century BC created another great sewer system which was inspired by the original Cloaca Maxima.
Curia Julia was a government building which was once used as the place where the senate assembled. The building is in rectangular shape constructed from red bricks with one main door and three identical windows on its higher floor.
Curia Julia was built by the third emperor of Rome and was burned down four times. The last reconstruction was done by Diocletus in 283 AD. The building was then turned into a church in the 7th century but no major changes were done to its structure.
Temple of Saturn
The Temple of Saturn was among the first temples which were built during the Etruscan kingdom in 487 BC. The ruins of the temple show that it was used as the state treasury or Aerarium, the house of banners of legions, and senatorial decrees.
Emperor Augustus placed a tall column called the Milliarum Aureum which served as the zero point of Rome.
Temple of Antonius and Faustina
Temple of Antonius and Faustina is another proof of how a husband’s love for his wife. Built by Emperor Antonius in 141 AD for his deceased wife Faustina, the temple was renamed to be the Temple of Antonius and Faustina twenty years after the emperor’s death. In the 7 century, the temple was turned into a church named San Lorenzo.
Basilica Aemilia is the oldest basilica in Roman Forum. It was constructed in 179 BC by Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Marcus Fulvius Nobilor. The main purpose of this basilica was simply to provide a place for business and administration activities that took place outside when it was raining. Unfortunately, the basilica was destroyed by fire during the Sack of Rome incident in 410 AD.
The Roman Forum Today
The Forum may seem to be a mess when you look at it for the first time. However, you will be able to easily imagine how those ruins were once forming a magnificent ancient Rome meeting place. In 2008, the modern concrete covering Lapis Niger was damaged by heavy rains.
However, archeological excavation, restoration, and preservation are still being done as it is one of major tourist destination site in Rome.
Visiting Roman Forum
It was once free to visit the Roman Forum. However, now visitors would need to purchase a single Colosseum ticket that can be used to enter the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
The ticket price is €12,00 for adults and €7.50 for concessions. Free admissions are applied to European citizens under 18 and over 65 years old. You can order this ticket in advance through their official website as a €1,50 booking fee is applied.
Below here are the opening times of Roman Forum for the whole year.
The Forum is open every day of the year, excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and opens at 08.30 AM. Closing time is one hour before sunset, as follows:
Last Sunday of March to end August, 07.30 PM
September, 07.00 PM
October, 06.30 PM
November to February 15th, 04.30 PM
February 16th to March 15th, 05.00 PM
March 16th to last Saturday of March, 05.30 PM