IL FORO ROMANO (THE ROMAN FORUM)
“For perjurers, try the Comitium. Liars and braggarts hang around the Shrine of Cloacina: rich, married ne’er-do-wells by the Basilica. Packs of prostitutes there too—but rather clapped-out ones. In the Fish-Market members of dining-clubs. In the Lower Forum respectable, well-to-do citizens out for a stroll; in the Middle Forum, flashier types, along the canal. By the Lacus Curtius, you’ll find bold fellows with a tongue in their head and a bad intent in their mind—great slanderers of others and very vulnerable to it themselves. By the Old Shops, the money-lenders—they’ll make or take a loan. Behind the Temple of Castor, there are men to whom you wouldn’t entrust yourself. In the Vicus Tuscus are men who sell themselves. In the Velabrum you’ll find a baker or a butcher or a fortune-teller—or men who will do a turn for you or get you to do a turn for them.” Plautus Curculio, 470–482
FORO ROMANO DESCRIPTION Your trip to Rome must include a visit to the Roman Forum. Once the center of the Roman world, the Foro Romano became an abandoned cow pasture and quarry. Lucky for us, this abandonment enabled the preservation of the urban design of the Forum as the foundation of buildings and the roads were covered and protected for hundreds of years. Plan for a long visit, there is much to see and to explore. Walking along the Via Sacra on which so many Roman parades took place and contemplating the exact spot on which Julius Caesar was cremated is an unequaled living history experience.
ARCH OF SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS “The Arch of Septimius Severus, erected in 203 CE, stands in Rome and commemorates the Roman victories over the Parthians in the final decade of the 2nd century CE. The triple triumphal arch was one of the most richly decorated of its type and even today, although badly damaged, it stands in the Forum Romanum as a lasting and imposing monument to Roman vanity.” Mark Cartwright https://www.ancient.eu/article/502/the-arch-of-septimius-severus-rome/
ARCH OF TITUS “Located at the highest point of the Via Sacra which leads to the Roman Forum, this triumphal arch, with only one passageway, commemorates Titus’ conquest of Judea which ended the Jewish Wars (66-70). Engaged fluted columns frame the passageway, the spandrels depict Victories in relief, the attic contains an inscription (see below) and the internal faces of the passageway depict in relief triumphal processions (see below). The arch was erected posthumously, after Titus had already become a “god.” May Ann Sullivan https://www.bluffton.edu/homepages/facstaff/sullivanm/titus/titus.html
BASILICA JULIA “Named after Julius Caesar, who dedicated it in 46 BC from the spoils of the Gallic War, the Basilica Julia was completed by Augustus but burned shortly afterward and was not rededicated for another twenty years, in AD 12. It again was rebuilt by Diocletian after the fire of AD 283 and later restored by Gabinus Vettius Probianus, urban prefect in AD 416…The Basilica housed the civil law courts and tabernae provided space for government offices and banking.” http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/romanforum/julia.html
BASILICA OF MAXENTIUS AND CONSTANTINE “The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, the greatest of the Roman basilicas, covered about 7,000 square yards (5,600 square m) and included a central nave that was 265 feet (80 m) long and 83 feet (25 m) wide.1 Only about a third of the original structure still stands. The vaulted roofs and concrete materials caused the Basilica to more closely resemble a traditional Roman bath than a basilica.” http://omeka.wellesley.edu/piranesi-rome/exhibits/show/basilica-of-maxentius-and-cons/architecture
COLUMN OF PHOCAS “The Column of Phocas is located on the main square of the Forum Romanum, in front of the Rostra. It is a honorary column dedicated to the byzantine emperor Phocas, erected in 608 BCE by the exarch, the byzantine governor, making it the last addition to the Forum in Antiquity.” René Seindal http://sights.seindal.dk/sight/166_Column_of_Phocas.html
CURIA (SENATE HOUSE) “And certainly, the senate house in particular should be built above all so as to enhance the dignity of the town or city. And if this senate house is going to be square, then whatever its length, its height should be half again as much. If, on the other hand, it is to be oblong, then the length and width should be added together, and half this measure should be given over to the height of the senate house up to the level of the ceiling coffers.” Vitruvius De Architectura (V.2.1)
HOUSE OF THE VESTAL VIRGINS “Let us recall to life the silent ruins; let us vivify these halls, these porticoes, with the presence of maidens clad in snow-white garments, which reflected, as it were, the purity of their minds and souls; in the very prime of beauty, youth, and strength; daughters of the noblest families; depositaries of state secrets, confidants of the imperial household, and faithful keepers of the sacred tokens of the Roman Commonwealth.” Rodolfo Lanciani Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries. Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1888.
PORTICO DII CONSENTES (PORTICO OF THE HARMONIOUS GODS) “Between the facade of this temple and the slope leading to the Tarpeian rock several rooms were found in 1834 with a portico of cipollino columns of the corinthian order and capitals ornamented with trophies and victories. The capitals and work of the columns evidently belong to the commencement of the III century the time of Septimius Severus…An inscription over the portico indicates that these rooms contained statues of the «Dii Consenti» which were replaced by Pretestatus, the Prefect of Rome in the year 368 of the Christian era. The « Dii Consentii were the twelve great Gods placed by Euuios in the following order. Juno , Vesta, Minerva, Ceres, Diana,Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Neptune, Vulcan, Apollo.” Antonio Nibby and Mariano Vasi Nibby, Antonio and Vasi ,Mariano. New Guide of Rome and the Environs: According to Vasi and Nibby. Rome. English Reading Room, 1849.
ROSTRA (ORATORS PLATFORM) “A platform for public speeches in this commanding position on axis with the Forum square was part of Julius Caesar’s grand scheme of 46 BC, replacing one which with large dowel holes presumably held the rostra, the sharp bronze prows taken as trophies from captured enemy warships, which it had been customary to mount on public speakers’ platforms, hence the name, ever since the C4 BC.” Amanda Claridge Claridge, Amanda. Rome (Oxford Archaeological Guides) (p. 85). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.
TEMPLE OF ANTONINUS AND FAUSTINA “Antoninus et Faustina, templum: the temple built by Antoninus Pius on the north side of the Sacra via at the entrance to the forum, just east of the basilica Aemilia, in honour of his deified wife, the empress Faustina, who died in 141 A.D. (Hist. Aug. Pius 6). After the death of Antoninus himself in 161, the temple was dedicated to both together (Hist. Aug. Pius 13)…In the seventh or eighth century this temple, apparently in good condition, was converted into the church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda , the floor of which is about 12 metres above the ancient level. Excavations in front of the temple were undertaken in 1546, and in 1899 and following years, when the whole eastern side was exposed to view.” Samuel Ball Platner Platner, Samuel Ball. … The topography and monuments of ancient Rome. Boston, Allyn and Bacon, 1911.
TEMPLE OF DIVUS JULIUS “The Temple of Caesar (Aedes Divus Iulius or Templum Divi Iuli) was built by Augustus after the senate deified Julius Caesar after his death. The temple was dedicated August 18th, 29 BCE. It stands on the E. side of the main square of the Forum Romanum, between the Regia, Temple of Castor and Pollux and the the Basilica Aemilia. After Julius Caesar was murdered, his body was carried to the forum, near the Regia, which was his official residence as pontifex maximus. A funeral pyre was built and his body cremated. Initially a commemorative column was erected on the spot with a dedication to the “father of the fatherland”, but soon after Augustus started the construction of a temple for his adoptive father who the senate had declared a god. The temple was finished and consecrated in 29 BCE.” René Seindal http://sights.seindal.dk/sight/171_Temple_of_Caesar.html
TEMPLE OF DIVUS ROMULUS “The Temple of the Divus Romulus was the name given to a circular plan building of uncertain purpose erected by Emperor Maxentius on the Via Sacra and traditionally identified, due to an erroneous interpretation of depictions on coins, with the temple built by the emperor in honour of his son Romulus, who died at a young age and was deified. The construction, also identified as the Tempio dei Penati or as the audience hall of the prefecture, was more probably the monumental vestibule of the Templum Pacis at the rear. It has retained the original bronze portal framed by columns of porphyry and a richly decorated architrave. The rotunda is flanked by two rectangular apses connected to the central core. In the VI century, it became the entrance vestibule of the Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano, built on the site of the biblioteca of the Templum Pacis during the papacy of Pope Felice IV (526-530).” Futouring Lazio http://www.myvisita.it/en/poi-culturali/temple-of-romulus.aspx
TEMPLE OF SATURN “The Temple of Saturn occupies a very old site in the Roman Forum, where the cult of Saturn had been practiced for millennia.1 Repaired, reconstructed, and rebuilt many times, scholars estimate the original Temple of Saturn was dedicated approximately in 497 BCE, at the beginning of the Roman Republic. The Temple’s inscription refers to its restoration in approximately 460-480 CE, nearly a thousand years later.” http://omeka.wellesley.edu/piranesi-rome/exhibits/show/reframing-the-past/piranesi–the-temple-of-saturn
TEMPLE OF VESTA “The Temple of Vesta, with the House of the Vestal Virgins, formed a single religious complex (Atrium Vestae) connected to the Regia. In the building, which represented the hearth of the nearby house of the king, was a symbol of all the hearths of the State, where the sacred flame was preserved which was never to be allowed to go out since it was a symbol of the protection of the city by Vesta. In a recess of the temple, forbidden to anyone except the Vestal Virgins, sacred objects were preserved (including the Palladium, the archaic image of Pallas Athena that Aeneas brought from Tory) on which the fortune of Rome depended. Bearing witness to the antiquity of the cult, the temple was in a circular form like the huts of the original settlement.” Futouring Lazio http://www.myvisita.it/en/poi-culturali/temple-of-vesta.aspx
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Beard, Mary. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2015.
Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, 2010.
Kleiner, Diana E E. Roman Architecture: A Visual Guide. Yale University Press, 2014.
Korn, Frank J. A Catholic’s Guide to Rome: Discovering the Soul of the Eternal City. Paulist Press, 2000.
Macadam, Alta, and A. B. Barber. Rome. Blue Guides Limited, 2020.
Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Italy. Avalon Travel, 2019.
Testa, Judith. Rome Is Love Spelled Backward: Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal City. Northern Illinois University Press, 1998.
EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 14 April 2018
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