History of Ancient Rome > Buildings in the Roman Forum
Area and Archaeology of the Forum Romanum
The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) began as a market place, but became the economic, political, and religious hub, town square, and center of all Rome.
Ridges connecting the Capitoline Hill with the Quirinal, and the Palatine with the Esquiline, enclosed the Forum Romanum. It is believed that before Romans built their city, the forum vicinity was a burial area (8-7th C. B.C.). Tradition and archaeological evidence support dating the building of certain structures (the Regia, Temple of Vesta, Shrine to Janus, Senate House, and prison) to before the Tarquin kings.
After the fall of Rome, the area became pasture.
Archaeologists believe the establishment of the forum was the result of a deliberate and large-scale landfill project. Early monuments located there, whose remains have been found, include the carcer 'prison', an altar to Vulcan, the Lapis Niger, Temple of Vesta, and the Regia. Following the 4th century B.C. Gallic invasion, Romans vowed and later built a Temple of Concord. In 179 they built the Basilica Aemilia. After the death of Cicero and the nailing of his hands and head in the forum, the arch of Septimius Severus, various temples, columns, and basilicas were built and the ground paved.
Cloaca Maxima - The Great Sewer of Rome:
The 6th century Tarquin kings are held responsible for the creation of the great sewer system based on the Cloaca Maxima. In the Augustan Age, Agrippa (according to Dio) carried out repairs to it at private expense. Forum building continued into the Empire.
The Name of the Forum:
quo conferrent suas controversias, et quae vendere vellent quo ferrent, forum appellarunt (Varro, LL v.145)The forum is sometimes referred to as Forum Romanum. It is also (occasionally) called Forum Romanum vel (et) magnum.
Shrine of Janus Geminus:
Political Core of the Republic:
There were 2 curiae, the one, the curiae veteres was where priests attended to religious matters, and the other, the curia hostilia, built by King Tullus Hostilius, where senators cared for human affairs. Varro attributes the name curia to the Latin for 'care for' (curarent). The Imperial Senate House or Curia Julia is the best preserved forum building because it was converted into a Christian church in A.D. 630.
Nearby was a platform for foreign ambassadors called the Graecostatis. Although the name suggests it was the place for Greeks to stand, it was not limited to Greek ambassadors.
Temples, Altars, and the Center of Rome:There were various other shrines and temples in the forum, including an Altar of Victory in the senate, a Temple of Concord, the imposing Temple of Castor and Pollux, and on the Capitoline, the Temple of Saturn, which was the site of the Republican Roman treasury, of which remnants from a late 4th C restoration remain. The center of Rome on the Capitoline side held the Mundus vault, the Milliarium Aureum ('Golden Milestone'), and the Umbilicus Romae ('Navel of Rome'). The vault was opened three-times per year, the 24 of August, 5 of November, and 8 of November. The Umbilicus is thought to be a round brick ruin between the Arch of Severus and the Rostra, and was first mentioned in A.D. 300. The Miliarium Aureum is a pile of stones in front of the Temple of Saturn set up by Augustus when he was appointed Commissioner of roads.
Source: Aicher, James J., (2005). Rome Alive: A Source-Guide to the Ancient City, Vol. I, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
"The Roman Forum as Cicero Saw It," by Walter Dennison. The Classical Journal, Vol. 3, No. 8 (Jun., 1908), pp. 318-326.
"On the Origins of the Forum Romanum," by Albert J. Ammerman. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 94, No. 4 (Oct., 1990), pp. 627-645.
Some Significant Places in the forum Romanum
- Pool of Curtius
- Shrine of Janus Geminus
- Lapis niger
- Senate House
- Imperial Rostra
- Temple of Concord
- Golden Milestone
- Umbilicus Urbis
- Temple of Saturn
- Temple of Castor and Pollux
- Shrine of Joturna
- Basilica Aemilia
- Porticus - Gaius and Lucius
- Basilica Julia
- Temple of Julius Caesar
- Temple of Vespasian
- Arch of Septmius Severus
- Portico of the Consenting Gods
- Column of Phocas