The Roman Forum is located between Capitoline Hill and Palatine Hill in Rome. Its first development started in the 7th century BC. Around the 5th century BC, the forum significantly expanded and became the centre of political, religious and public life in the ancient Roman empire.
The area was actually used before as a necropolis - an ancient cemetery. However, Rome was in need of space. So, the necropolis was moved. A system of drainage canals (Cloaca Maxima) was constructed to drain the marshland before the Forum was built. The ancient canals are actually still connected with today's modern system - so it is still in use.
With its temples, monuments and public marketplaces, it was the scene of public speeches, elections, law courts and gladiatorial fights. Being also the home of the Senate, it was the place where important political decisions and announcements were made. Walking between the archaeological remains it feels easy to imagine the former glory of this place!
Architecture & Art
In 1803, Carlo Fea started with the excavation of the Roman Forum. While the ruins of some ancient buildings can be easily identified others not so well because they are only fragments.
There's a lot to cover. Here's a list of must-sees:
Temple of Saturn: Used as the state treasury. Once home to a large statue of Saturn.
Arch of Septimius Severus and Arch of Titus: Used by the emperors to remind of their victories.
Curia Julia: House where the Senate assembled. Burnt down four times. In the 7th century, it became a church.
Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine: Large basilica that was started by Emperor Maxentius in 308. It was completed by Emperor Constantine who defeated Maxentius in 312.
House of the Vestals: Was home to the Vestal Virgins - the priestesses of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. The Vestals took care of the sacred fire that was not allowed to expire.
Via Sacra: Main street in the Forum on which triumphal processions took place.
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Fun & Interesting
In the Middle Ages, the area of the Roman Forum was not 'well treated'. Remains of ancient monuments were taken to construct other buildings. The area was covered with debris and at that time known as Campo Vaccino, meaning 'Cow Field'.
Especially during summer, it can get quite hot. Since you can hardly find any shadow it is a good advice to visit the Roman Forum in the morning hours. And bring comfortable shoes because the ground is a bit rough.
I also advise you to book tickets online. Usually, the tickets are sold as combi tickets that also allow access to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.
Last but not least, you shouldn't miss the view from the top of Palatine Hill. From there, you can nicely overlook the whole Roman Forum.