Overlooked by Piazza del Campidoglio, Michelangelo’s superb Renaissance style piazza in Rome, the Roman Forum is not just one of the top tourist sights praised by all visitors of the capital nowadays. The Roman Forum is the central nucleus of ancient Rome, the later city having been built around it. The importance of the forum for the city, the republic and, later, for the empire, was reflected by the fact this was the place where most of the political, social and commercial life of the city took place. It’s not for nothing that the ancient locals of Rome used to call it the Forum, or even Forum Magnum, underlining its uniqueness amongst all the other ancient forums of the capital.

The forum was built following a design by Vitruvius, being home to a handful of important buildings and monuments, such as the Arch of Septimus Severus (dedicated to the emperor’s victories in Asia Minor in the 3rd century), and the Arch of Titus (located, as compared with the Arch of Septimus Severus, at the opposite end of the forum, and depicting scenes of Titus’s army plundering a Jewish temple of Jerusalem).

Other highlights not to be missed out by visitors of the Roman Forum refer to the vestiges of the Temple of Saturn. The temple was built in the year 17th BC, and later served as repository where the Roman Senate would store huge amounts of treasures. The Temple of Saturn is also the place where the legendary Saturnalia (one of the most awaited holidays of ancient Rome) were born. The best preserved edifice within the Roman Forum refers to the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, built by the emperor in the honor of his beloved wife in the year 141 AD, but also well worth a visit are the House of the Senate (or the Curia) and the Basilica of Maxentius, also called the Basilica of Constantine. The latter was built in the 4th century AD and, despite its name, it was not used to religious purposes, but as a court of law. It remains one of the largest and most impressive structures inside the Roman Forum, hinting on the taste for monumentality of the ancient Romans.

But one can not leave the Roman forum without making sure they also visit sundry other vestiges (nowadays, more or less adequately preserved), such as the ruins of the Regia (the ancient residence of the kings of Rome), the unparalleled Temple of Vesta (Aedes Vestae) and the neighboring House of the Vestal Virgins (Atrium Vestae).

Visitors must keep in mind most of the highlights of the Roman Forum are vestiges of structures which were rebuilt or, in all cases, changed in respect to their original design. But what matters is the venue remains one of the most important archeological sites in Rome, on a par with the Imperial Forums, with the Coliseum and, just to cite yet other two examples, with the Pantheon and with Circus Maximus. Also of note is the fact these vestiges managed to survive the passage of time, and, even if later in the course of history they were used as cow pastures and even quarries, they remain one of the most important sources on the basis of which one can make an idea about the life of the ancient Romans. Thus, their tourist value lies precisely in their historical significance.

Roman Forum (Forum Romanum / Foro Romano)
Foro Romano, Rome, Italy