The Roman Forum, also known as Forum Romanum in Latin, is located at the center of Rome, Italy. This site is a location of important political, religious, and social activities. An impressive sprawl of ruins, the forum was ancient Rome’s showpiece center, a grandiose district of basilicas, temples, and vibrant public spaces.
The site is situated in a low-lying land and is rectangular shaped. It is situated between Palatine and Capitoline Hill and was home to many of the city’s most impressive monuments and temples.
Roman Forum’s Early History
Ancient Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, and later Remus was killed by Romulus and named Rome after himself. Initially, Forum served as a marketplace but over time it became much more versatile and functional because public affairs were held there.
It gradually developed through many centuries. Statues, basilicas, arches, and other buildings were constructed and gatherings were accommodated.
Roman Forum Functions
Out of all the forums in Rome, Roman Forum was the most significant. It was a multi-purpose site which accommodates various functions such as:
- Public speeches
- Criminal trials
- Gladiator matches (before the Colosseum was built)
- Social gatherings
- Business dealings
- Public meetings
- Religious ceremonies
- Educational events
- Buying, selling, and trading of items
Important Site in the Forum
Several important structures such as buildings, statues, and monuments were built in the forum. While some temples were built to honor men, others were constructed entirely for god.
Some of the structures in the Roman Forum are:
Senate House: Also known as “curia”, the senate-house served as the political house for various political events for the Roman senate. Curia was rebuilt several times and in the 7th century, it was converted into a church.
Temple of Saturn: Built around 498 B.C, one of the earliest temples in the Roman Forum was The Temple of Saturn. Rebuilt years later, the current ruins date back to 42 B.C. The god of agriculture, dedicated to Saturn, was used as a treasury, Rome’s money was managed and kept.
Arch of Titus: Built by Emperor Domitian to honor his brother, Emperor Titus, the victorious in the siege of Jerusalem.
Temple of Vesta: A circular-shaped temple dedicated to Vesta, the goddess of hearth, home, and family.
The Rosta: A platform that people could stand on to give speeches.
Temple of Castor and Pollux: Temple was dedicated to the Roman twin demigods, Castor and Pollux, underwent several construction phases, and completed in about 484 B.C.
The Sacra Via: The main road ran through Roman Forum and connected the various important. This street stretched to the colosseum, which was walking distance from the forum. Primarily, it served as a pathway for ceremonies and processions.
Roman Architecture and Art
The Roman Forum because of consistent reconstruction had merged architecture forms from different areas. Design and construction influences can be seen from each period. Greek designs highly influenced Roman architects, but signature structures such as triumphal arches, domes, basilicas, Roman baths, and amphitheatres were created by Romans using materials ranging from concrete to marble.
The ruins of the Roman Forum were a source of inspiration for the artists. The sites were also mentioned in historical literature. Ancient Rome was the setting of several of William Shakespeare’s works. Painters became interested in the romanticism of the ruins, and cartographers and engravers created views of the ruins and restored plans of the ancient city.
Decline of the Roman Forum
North of the forum had more elaborate structures where a lot of economic and political events began to take place. Constantine’s reign saw the last expansion of the forum in 321 A.D.
The decline of the Roman Empire witnessed the fall of ancient buildings with it. The land that was once Roman Forum was reduced to a pasture for grazing animals known as “Campo Vaccino” which meant a cattle field and was an overgrown, neglected field.
Excavating the Forum
The Roman Forum was rediscovered by Carlo Fea. It was completely excavated in the 20th century. Romans built over the ruins and as a result remains from several centuries were found there.
Roman Forum Today
The Forum is a popular tourist spot. Excavations are still going on in and around the forum. The remains, though mysterious in several ways, offer unprecedented insight into the Roman civilization.
Despite being a relatively small space, the Roman Forum was the center of the functioning and the identity of Rome. It played a key role in creating a communal focal point where various members of the different socio-economic communities could gravitate.
The centralized space was where community rituals that served a large purpose of group unity were performed and observed. The elites reinforced social hierarchy through the display of monumental art and architecture.
Even though Roman Forum changed over time, it remained an important space and had symbolic importance. Ancient Romans were extremely loyal to the ancestral practices and traditions.