Roman Forum

Roman Forum

This page refers to the main forum in the center of Rome. See Imperial forums or Other forums in Rome (below) for other forums in Rome and other Roman provincial cities.
See Forum (Roman) for the type of building.

The Roman Forum, (Latin: Forum Romanum) sometimes known by its original Latin title, is located between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill of the city of Rome. It is the central area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed. Citizens referred to the location as the "Forum Magnum" or just the "Forum".

The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city are located in the forum, including its ancient former royal residency the Regia and the surrounding complex of the Vestal virgins. The Old Republic had its formal Comitium there where the senate, as well as Republican government began. The forum served as a city square and central hub where the people of Rome gathered for justice, and faith. The forum was also the economic hub of the city and considered to be the center of the Republic and Empire.


The area of the forum was originally a grassy wetland. It was drained in the 7th century BCE by building the Cloaca Maxima, a large covered sewer system that drained into the Tiber River, as more people began to settle between the two hills.

The second king, Numa Pompilius, is said to have begun the cult of Vesta, building its house and temple as well as the Regia as the city's first royal palace. Later Tullius Hostilius erected the Curia and enclosed the Comitium. In 600 BCE Tarquinius Priscus had the area paved for the first time.

Over time the Comitium was lost to the ever-growing Curia and Julius Caesar's rearranging of the forum before his death in 44 BC. After Caesar's death Octavius finished the work.

Many of the forum's temples are from either the kingdom or the Republican era. Many have been destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Excavation and preservation

An anonymous 8th century traveler from Einsiedeln (now in Switzerland) reported that the Forum was already falling apart in his time. During the Middle Ages, though the memory of the Forum Romanum persisted, its monuments were for the most part buried under debris, and its location was designated the "Campo Vaccino" or "cattle field," located between the Capitoline Hill and the Colosseum. The return of Pope Urban V from Avignon in 1367 led to an increased interest in ancient monuments, partly for their moral lesson and partly as a quarry for new buildings being undertaken in Rome after a long lapse. Artists from the late 15th century drew the ruins in the Forum, antiquaries copied inscriptions in the 16th century, and a tentative excavation was begun in the late 18th century.

Sequences of remains of paving show that sediment eroded from the surrounding hills was already raising the level of the forum in early Republican times. Originally it had been marshy ground, which was drained by the Tarquins with the Cloaca Maxima. Its final travertine paving, still visible, dates from the reign of Augustus.

A cardinal took measures to drain it again and built the Alessandrine neighborhood over it. But the excavation by Carlo Fea, who began clearing the debris from the Arch of Septimius Severus in 1803, and archaeologists under the Napoleonic regime marked the beginning of clearing the Forum, which was only fully excavated in the early 20th century.

Remains from several centuries are shown together, due to the Roman practice of building over earlier ruins.

Structures within the Forum

The ruins within the forum clearly show how urban spaces were utilized during the Roman Age. The Roman Forum includes a modern statue of Julius Caesar and the following major monuments, buildings, and ancient ruins:




Other structures

  • Regia, originally the residence of the kings of Rome or at least their main headquarters, and later the office of the Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Roman religion.
  • Rostra, from where politicians made their speeches to the Roman citizens
  • Curia Hostilia (later rebuilt as the Curia Julia), the site of the Roman Senate
  • Tabularium
  • Gemonian stairs
  • Clivus Capitolinus was the street that started at the Arch of Tiberius, wound around the Temple of Saturn, and ended at Capitoline Hill.
  • Umbilicus Urbi, the designated centre of the city from which and to which all distances in Rome and the Roman Empire were measured
  • Milliarium Aureum All roads were considered to begin from this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point.
  • Lapis Niger, a shrine also known as the Black Stone
  • Atrium Vestae, the house of the Vestal Virgins
  • A processional street, the Via Sacra, linked the Atrium Vetae with the Colosseum. By the end of the Empire, it had lost its everyday use but remained a sacred place.
  • Column of Phocas, the last monument built within the Forum
  • Tullianum, the prison used to hold various foreign leaders and generals.

Other forums in Rome

Other fora existed in other areas of the city; remains of most of them, sometimes substantial, still exist. The most important of these are a number of large imperial fora forming a complex with the Forum Romanum: the Forum Iulium, Forum Augustum, the Forum Transitorium (also: Forum Nervae), and Trajan's Forum. The planners of the Mussolini era removed most of the Medieval and Baroque strata and built the Via dei Fori Imperiali road between the Imperial Fora and the Forum. There is also:

Other markets were known but remain unidentifiable due to a lack of precise information on the function of the sites. Among these, the Forum cuppedinis, was known as a general market for many goods.

External links

Comprehensive sites

Primarily visual

Primarily text

  • Forum Romanum (at LacusCurtius; article in Platner's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome)

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