This is what the Roman forum looked like

The Roman Forum was once the beating heart of the mighty and resilient Roman Empire. It was the nerve center of the known world. Today it is one of the main attractions of modern Rome. But what one is greeted with today is only a shadow of what it once was and it can be hard to fathom what it looked like in its heyday.

Located next to the Colosseum, you’ll find plenty of other ancient Roman ruins that really tell the story of the ancient Eternal City. A visit to the Roman Forum is a central part of any weekend itinerary in Rome. What did the Roman Forum look like?

What is the Roman Forum?

It was the center of daily life in Rome, it was where you heard criminal trials, where you saw triumphal processions, where people gave public speeches, where you watched matches of gladiators, where elections were taking place, etc.

Citizens of ancient Rome called it the Forum Magnum or simply the Forum and was originally a marketplace.

The forum was filled with monuments and statues of some of the Eternal City’s greatest men. Some have even claimed that the Forum is the most famous meeting place in the world.

  • Location: Between the Palatine Hill and the Capitol

The Forum is also where part of Rome’s earliest history began. Many of the city’s oldest structures were located here – some of them date back to the days of the Old Roman Kingdom. Some of the ancient structures included:

  • Management: The former royal residence from the 8th century BC
  • Temple of Vesta: From the 7th century BC

It is here that one would have found many of the greatest monuments and temples of Rome.

Related: This Is Rome’s Most Picturesque Neighborhood (And What To Do When Visiting)

The Forum in Imperial times

The final Forum form was completed by Auguste. He built the Temple of Divus Iulius and the Arch of Augustus.

  • Center: The Forum became the political, commercial and social center of the Empire

During the early Imperial era, much of the economic activity moved to Trajan’s Forum. Within Trajan’s Forum was the much larger and more extravagant Basilica Ulpia.

A significant expansion of the Forum came during the reign of Constantine the Great with the completion of the construction of the Basilica of Maxentius. The basilica was the largest building in the Forum and the last Roman basilica built in the city. This had the effect of focusing much of the political attention on the Forum until the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

  • Cluttered: Over time, the forum became crowded with temples, memorials, statues, government offices and the Senate

Notable buildings in the forum today

According to Lonely Planetsome of the most important buildings (or ruins of buildings) that can be seen today are:

  • Arch of Septimius Severus: Added in 203 AD
  • Temple of Saturn: Built in 467 BC. AD, rebuilt in the 1st century BC. AD, an important temple that also served as a public treasury
  • Arch of Titus: Built AD 81 to celebrate the Roman defeat of the Jews in AD 70 with the sack of Jerusalem – said to be the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
  • The Curia: The meeting place of the Roman senate

The Curia Julia is Rome’s third named senatorial house. It was built in 44 BC by Julius Caesar but completed by Augustus in 29 BC. Today it is one of the few Roman structures that continues to survive mostly intact. It has been saved and restored through the ages thanks to its transformation into the Basilica of Sant’ Adriano al Foro in the 7th century.

Related: A New Ancient Roman Sanctuary Has Been Discovered (And Other Ancient Sites Every History Buff Must Visit In Rome)


The Roman Forum today

After the fall of Rome, the Forum fell into disrepair, and eventually it was once again used as pasture. Unfortunately, over the centuries much of its stone and marble has been reused for other projects in the city.

  • Cow field: In the Middle Ages it was known as Campo Vaccino (or field of cows)

Today, the ruins of the Roman Forum are impressive – but equally puzzling. It’s worth rebuilding what the Forum looked like so you can know what you’re actually looking at.

It may be worth getting a guidebook to really bring these ruins back to life of what was once truly awe-inspiring.

It’s strange to think that the once bustling center of Rome was originally a marshy cemetery. We just encountered a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments. While the ruins can be impressive, they don’t do much to bring life back to what the Forum once was.

  • Visitors: About 4.5 million visitors come to the forum every year

Next: A travel guide to Rome: 10 things to know when planning your trip

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