Basics on the Roman Forum
Buildings in the Roman Forum
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. It is thought to have been created as a result of a deliberate landfill project. The forum stood between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills in the center of Rome.
This artist's drawing of a reconstruction of the Roman Forum shows in the first spot -- to the left at the top -- the Temple of Jupiter. [Also see Picture of the Forum Plan During the Republic.]
- "On the Origins of the Forum Romanum," by Albert J. Ammerman American Journal of Archaeology (Oct., 1990).
For a description of the ruins and what is in the Roman Forum today, see About.com's Guide to Italy's What to See in the Roman Forum
Temple of Jupiter
Legend says Romulus vowed to build a temple to Jupiter during a battle of Romans against the Sabines, but he never fulfilled the vow. In 294 B.C., in a later fight between the same contenders, M. Atilius Regulus made a similar vow, but he carried it out. The location of the temple of Jupiter (Stator) is not known for sure.
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's "Aedes Jovis Statoris".
Basilica Julia is number 2 on the drawing. The name Julia doesn't mean a woman named named Julia, but refers to Julius Caesar. The Basilica Julia may have been built by Aemilius Paullus for Caesar starting in 56 B.C. Its dedication was ten years later, in 46, but it still wasn't finished. Augustus finished the building; then it burned. Augustus rebuilt it and dedicated it in A.D. 12, this time to Gaius and Lucius Caesar. Again, the dedication may have preceded completion. A sequence of fire and rebuilding of the marble structure with wooden roof was repeated. The Basilica Julia had streets on all sides.
Dimensions: 101 meters long X 49 wide.
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Basilica Julia.
Temple of Vesta
The hearth goddess, Vesta, had a temple in the Roman forum in which her sacred fire was guarded by the Vestal Virgins, who lived next door. Today's ruins come from one of many re-buildings of the temple, this one, by Julia Domna in A.D. 191. The round, concrete temple stood on a circular substructure 46' in diameter and was surrounded by a narrow portico. The columns were close together, but the space between them had a screen, which is shown in ancient illustrations of the temple of Vesta.
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's The Temple of Vesta
The building in which the king Numa Pompilius is said to have lived in. It was the headquarters for the pontifex maximus during the republic, and located directly northwest of the Temple of Vesta. It was burned and restored as a result of the Gallic Wars, in 148 B.C. and in 36 B.C. The shape of the white marble building was trapezoidal. There were 3 rooms.
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Regia
Temple of Castor and Pollux
Picture of the ruins.
Legend says this temple was vowed by dictator Aulus Postumius Albinus at the Battle of Lake Regillus in 499 B.C. when Castor and Pollux (the Dioscuri) appeared. It was dedicated in 484. In 117 B.C., it was rebuilt by L. Cecilius Metellus Dalmaticus after his victory over the Dalmatians. In 73 B.C, it was restored by Gaius Verres. in 14 B.C. a fired destroyed it except the podium -- the front of which was used as a speaker's platform, so the soon-to-be-emperor Tiberius rebuilt it.
The temple of Castor and Pollux was officially the aedes Castoris. During the Republic, the Senate met there. During the Empire, it served as a treasury.
A trapezoidal building for storing state archives. The palazzo Senatorio is in the background on the site of Sulla's Tabularium in this photo.
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Tabularium
Temple of Saturn
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Aedes Saturni
Temple of Vespasian
This temple built to honor the first Flavian emperor, Vespasian, by his sons Titus and the Domitian, is described as "prostyle hexastyle," with length of 33 metres and width of 22. There are 3 surviving white marble columns, 15.20 metres high and 1.57 in diameter at the base. It was once called the temple of Jupiter Tonans.
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Temple of Vespasian
Temple of Concord
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Concordia
Column of Phocas
The Column of Phocas, erected August 1st, A.D. 608 in honor of Emperor Phocas, is 44 ft. 7 in. high and 4 ft. 5 in. in diameter. It was made of white marble with a Corinthian capital.
Statue of Domitian
Platner writes: "Equus Domitiani: a bronze equestrian statue of [Emperor] Domitian erected in the forum in 91 A.D. in honour of his campaign in Germany [and Dacia]." After Domitian's death, as a result of the Senate's "damnatio memoriae" of Domitian, all traces of the horse had disappeared; then Giacomo Boni found what he thought were the foundations, in 1902. Subsequent work on the strata in the area has given insight into the development of the forum.
- Lacus Curtius: Platner's Equus Domitiani
- "(Re)locating Domitian's Horse of Glory: The 'Equus Domitiani' and Flavian Urban Design," by Michael L. Thomas; Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome (2004)
A speakers' platform in the forum. It is called the rostra because it was decorated with the prows (rostra) of ships taken at Antium in 338 B.C.
Photo of the Rostra
Reference: Lacus Curtius: Platner's Rostra Augusti
Arch of Septimius Severus
Photo of the Arch of Septimius Severus
The triumphal arch of Septimius Severus was made of travertine, brick, and marble in 203 to commemorate the victory of Emperor Septimius Severus (and his sons) over the Parthians. There are three arches. The middle archway is 12x7m; the side archways are 7.8x3m. Over the side ones (and on both sides) are large relief panels narrating scenes from the wars. Overall, the arch is 23m high, 25m wide and 11.85m deep.
A basilica was a building where people met for matters of law or business.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Antoninus Pius built this temple in the forum, to the east of the basilica Aemilia, to honor his deified wife, who died in 141. When Antoninus Pius died 20 years later, the temple was re-dedicated to the two of them. This temple was turned into the Church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda.