The Roman Forum

 The-Roman-Forum

THE ROMAN FORUM
: next to the Colosseum!
A thousand years before Christ, this area was a swampy valley, furrowed by streams running down to the bottom of the adjacent hills, the burial place of the Latin tribes. Recently in the area of the Curia, urns were found da- ting back to the Iron Age (1500 B.C.). During the last period of the Tarquinii monarchy (VI century B.C.), the swamp was drained and the water channeled into the “Cloaca Maxima,” the great sewer system of Rome, which still works today. With the transition from Monarchy to Republic in 509 B.C., this area became the center, the heart of the political life of Rome (the Roman Forum, and more precisely in the Curia, where the Senate met), where trade took place, and social organi- zation and religion flourished in the city. In the seventh century A.D. the forum was abandoned because of the Greek-Gothic wars, and many of the buildings were transformed into churches, convents and monasteries. Some of the buildings were used as material quarries and stables for animals.
Interest in this area so rich in history increased again in the nineteenth century.
 Archaeological excavations began in 1803 and with Napoleon’s strong push for the project, work continued between 1809 and 1814, and finally systematically during the 30’s under the Mussolini administration.
Here is the recommended route to visit the Roman Forum.The visitors meet on the right toward the bottom of Palatine Hill.

Roman-ForumTHE ARCH OF TITUS
This arch was built on the Velia, a small hill that connected the Palatine to the Esquiline, 15 years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It was built in memory of the military triumph of Titus during the Jewish wars. Inside, in the keystone, you can see a basrelief representing the apotheosis of Titus being transported to heaven by an eagle and deified. On the bottom left it is possible to see the triumph of the emperor and to the right the spoils of war: the Menorah’s seven-branched candlestick and the silver trumpets of the Temple of Jerusalem, the so-called Chazzozerot Kesef. The Menorah disappeared from Vespasian’s Temple of peace of during the sacking by the Visigoths in 410 A.D.
To the right of the arch is the Church of Santa Francesca Romana, which occupies part of the Temple that Hadrian dedicated to the Goddess of Rome (see the Temple of Venus and Rome). Going down “Via Sacra”, otherwise known as the path of the “Triumphs”, on the right we have:

THE BASILICA OF MAXENTIUS-CONSTANTINE in the Roman Forum

The last great basilica built in Rome. It was started by Emperor Maxentius and completed by Costantine in 312 A.D. The structure, with three naves supported by massive brick pillars flanked by columns, was decorated with gigantic statues. From these statues it is possible to see the remains of the atrium of the Palace of the Conservatives in the Capitoline Museums (the remains of the statue of Constantine). The basilica was a building for civil activities (commerce, administration of justice, currency exchange and a meeting place). The prototype is Greek. In fact, “basilica” means “portico of the king,” the “ stoà basileios.” At the end of the Punic Wars (second century AD), the Romans imported this type of basilica from Athens. With Constantine, after the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. which formalized Christianity, the basilica became the model place of worship for the Christians.

THE TEMPLE OF ROMULUS

This structure was dedicated to Romulus, the son of Emperor Mazentius who drowned in the Tiber River in 307 A.D. It is a round shaped temple; in the sixth century A.D. the hall behind the temple was transformed into the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian. The door is original, made of bronze and dates back to the fourth century A.D., and so is the lock which is from the same period and still works perfectly.

The Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina
This temple was built in the honor of the adoptive parents of the Emperor Marco Aurelius. The temple was later dedicated by Antoninus Pius in 141 AD, in memory of his wife Faustina. In 161 A.D. the building was also dedicated to the Antoninus Pius newly deceased. In the seventh century A.D. the temple became a church dedicated to San Loren- zo in Miranda, for the association of pharmacists. In 1602, due to problems with the land, the church underwent some renovations in Baroque style com- pleted by Torriani. The current access is at street level outside the Forum.

THE BASILICA AEMILIA
 and the Roman Forum

This is the second basilica built in Rome in 179 B.C. after the Basilica Porcia of 185 B.C. Along the outside opening, there were many handicraft shops. You can still see the dividing walls. The remains date back to the fifth century A.D. The basilica was burned in 410 A.D. by the Visigoths under King Alaric.

THE ALTAR OF CAESAR

The temple built in 29 B.C. by his nephew Octavian, better known as Augustus (meaning protected by the Gods in all of his acts), is the place where Julius Caesar’s body was cremated and was worshiped as a God. Inside, on the tufa stone where Caesar’s body was burned, to this day, on March 15 of each year flowers are placed in his honor. He was the first politician to be deified. Behind the Altar of Cae- sar are the remains of the “Regia”, an ancient place dating back at least to the seventh century B.C., what remains today of this work is a reconstruction dating from around 36 B.C. The Royal Palace, residence of the “Rex Sacrorum” the authority responsible for sacred ceremonies, later became the office of archives of the “Pontifex Maximus” and a meeting place for various associations of priestho- od such as the “Salii”, the “Fratres Arvales” and the “Pontifex”.
To the left of the Altar of Caesar we have:

THE HOUSE OF THE VESTALS AND THE TEMPLE OF VESTA
The temple of Vesta is a circular building, of which only a small part remains. It was dedicated to the Goddess Vesta, goddess of fire and the hearth. The Vestals were a sacerdotal college of women founded by Romulus or Numa Pompilius and first consisted of three or four virgins and then later six or seven. The Vestals were recruited for cooptation by Pontifex Maximus between six and nine years of age, from the most illustrious families of the Roman aristocracy. They remained in office for thirty years: ten years of apprenticeship, ten years of service and ten years as a teacher. Their purpose was not only to preserve the sacred fire, but also to prepare the “mola salsa,” a toasted grain flour with salt to be used for the sacrificing of animals (the term sacrifice comes from the term “mola salsa”), to conserve the objects connected to the foundation of Rome and its testaments. They had consular dignity, which were accompanied by the fasces, they had reserved seats in public performances, they were freed by the father, and if a condemned man met a vestal he was pardoned. They could not be killed cruelly, in case of a loss of physical purity and ritual, they were buried alive outside the city. Their home was a large two-story house surrounded by a garden porch and central basin. The remains which we see now are remakes of the Severan Era of 191 A.D.

THE TEMPLE OF CASTOR AND POLLUX
(DIOSCURI – CASTOR AND POLLUCE)
Only three Corinthian columns remain of this structure, which are overarched by a restored architrave. The temple was built to celebrate the Discuri cult: in fact, in the battle of Lake Regillo in 496 B.C., aided by the Dioscuri, the Romans won against a coalition of Latin people. The present temple is a reconstruction from the second century A.D.
Who were the Dioscuri?
The Dioscuri were two mythological figures also present in Greek mythology. They were two twin brothers Castor and Pollux or the Polideuce sons of Zeus and Leda, best known as the Dioscuri, ie “sons of Zeus”, but also as the castores. They were sometimes regarded as the patron of poetry, dance and music. Among their many businesses, Castor and Pollux were two of the Argonauts, the heroes who took part in the search for the Golden Fleece. After the temple of the Dioscuri, “Vicus Tuscus”, we find the remains of the Basilica Julia, built in 170 B.C. by Censor Sempronius Gracchus, the father of the Gracchi tribunes, Gaius and Tiberius. In 55 B.C. the Consul Julius Caesar replaced it with a larger basilica.

CURIA OF DIOCLETIAN
 at the Roman Forum

Again on the right we find the Curia of Diocletian: the current brick structure is not the original, this once housed the Senate meetings of the Republican period. The Curia (the place where the Senate met) was located approximately where the Church of St. Luke and Martina (the Church of painters) now stands. Then during the first century B.C. Julius Caesar moved the Curia lower down, and finally, with Emperor Diocletian, in 305 A.D., it was completely rebuilt. The current door is a copy. The original door was moved and is used today as the main door of the Cathedral of St. John Lateran. The Curia of Diocletian hosts two panels carved in basrelief of the Trajan period (first century A.D.), the scene depicts the Emperor Trajan, who repays the Roman citizens’ debt with the public treasury. Another scene shows three animals that were sacrificed in religious ceremonies, the “suovetaurilia”, the pig (sus), the ram (ovis) and the bull (taurus). The floor is made of inlaid marble (opus Alexandrinum) of the fourth century A.D. The niche at the bottom, housed the statue of “Victory” placed here by Octavian in 31 B.C. and then removed by the Christian Senators in 402 A.D.

LAPIS NIGER (BLACK STONE)

The Lapis Niger was named after the black marble pa- ving slabs. The archaeological site was discovered by Boni in 1899, and was soon associated with the tomb of the founder of Rome, Romulus, or the place where Romulus had ascended into the heavens. Below the floor is an archaic temple of the seventh or sixth century B.C. Inside the temple is a stone wall mutilated with an inscription in Latin, similar to the Greek alpha- bet, ancient and difficult to translate.

THE ARCH OF SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS

This arch was built between 202 and 203 A.D. to ce- lebrate the military victories of Emperor Septimius Severus against the Parthians. The arch was also dedicated to his two children Geta and Caracalla. Later when Caracalla became Emperor, he had his brother’s name canceled from the arch (damnatio memoriae). The monument is considered a model of its kind for the harmony of proportions. Between the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Septi- mius Severus there are additional interesting architec tural structures including:

THE ROSTRA

The Rostra was a high platform where political orators gave their speeches in front of the people of Rome. They got their name from the “Rostra”, the tips of the ships captured by the Roman in 338 B.C. during the battle of Anzio.

THE TEMPLE OF VESPASIAN (DEIFIED EMPERORS)
Only three columns of this temple remain. The temple was built by the son of Vespasian, his successor, Titus in 87 A.D. and was completed by Domitian.

THE TEMPLE OF SATURN

The current version of the Temple of Saturn is composed of only eight columns which have survived the centuries. The remains of this temple date back to the reconstruction in the fourth century A.D. It was dedicated to Saturn, the god who introduced and taught agriculture to the Latins. Below the temple, underground, they kept a large supply of gold bars and silver that could be used in the case of a public emergency.

THE COLUMN OF PHOCAS

This column was the last honorary column erected in the forum in 609 A.D. It was in honor of the Byzantine emperor Phocas who in 608 A.D. for Pope Boniface IV tran- sformed the Pantheon, the first pagan temple, into a Christian Church.

THE TABULARIUM AND THE CAPITOL

The Capitol Hill closes the valley between the Forum. Currently the three arches of the ancient Tabularium (the State archive of ancient Rome in 78 B.C.), are part of the foundation of the Senatorial Palace, that of the city of Rome. To the right of the Tabularium, on Capitol Hill was the temple of Jupiter. Now we can see the remains preserved and exhibited in the Capitoline Museum and the Palace of the Conservatives.



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