At the heart of Rome, is a plaza surrounded by ruins of numerous significant ancient government buildings. The Roman Forum– widely known by its Latin name ‘Forum Romanum,’ was once a center of daily living. Now a historic tourist attraction, for centuries the rectangular shaped forum was a venue for triumphal processions, elections, public-speeches, criminal trails and a lot more. The history of the Roman Forum can be traced back to the era of imperial Rome.
‘Rome was not built in a day’ and similarly, even the Roman Forum developed gradually over the years. Initially, the site was a marshy lake which sustained the waters draining from the nearby hills. The flooding of the Tiber – the third longest river in Italy, and erosion of the surrounding hills raised the floor of Forum, ever since the days as early as the era of Roman Republicans. With the help of innumerable excavations, archaeologists have discovered traces of human activities on the floor even 3.6 meters above the sea level.
The beginnings of the Forum are connected with the first king of Rome – Romulus, and his rival – Titus Tatius. The valley of the Forum was between their settlements, and thus it was established as their meeting point for an alliance. The original forum was however only an open area market which had grown into a marketplace over the years. The second king of Rome – Numa Pompilius, being a follower of Vesta began its establishments like the temple and house. Regia was named as the first royal palace of the city.
During the Republican and Imperial times, the plaza served as a venue for the Roman Triumphs – the public celebrations held for the success of military commanders. The generals who emerged victorious used to enter into the city of Rome, through the Triumphal Gate, then walked counterclockwise around the Palatine hill, and proceeded from the Velian Hill into the Forum. The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, situated on the Capitoline Hill, was one of the most significant temples of Ancient Rome, and it was where the long victorious walk concluded, while the ground of the Forum ensued luxurious public banquets. Sustaining numerous religious temples, spectacular religious ceremonies were also held during the era.
The Forum was rearranged when it was under the hands of ever-growing Curia and the much famous Julius Caesar. Subsequent to the Civil Wars and death of his uncle, Augustus Caesar improvised the forum, which included the construction of Temple of Divus Iulius and the Arch of Augustus. There is a lot that the forum has witnessed, including death of Roman Emperor Galba in 69 AD. During the reign of Constantine, the Great, the Basilica of Maxentius (312 AD) was constructed. It was the last significant expansion of the Forum complex.
It was the medieval age which saw the collapse of the establishments. Arduous efforts were made to keep the palatine structures of the Roman Forum intact, yet there was only a little success. During the 6th century, many of the old structures were transformed into Christian churches. On August 1st, 608, the Column of Phocas – the last monumental addition was erected before the Rostra, in honor of the Eastern Roman Emperor Phocas. But in 665 AD, the Emperor Constans visited the city and stripped off the lead roofs hence exposing the buildings to degradation.
After the 8th century, feudal towers and castles were built after the dismantlement of the structures, which were also torn down in the 13th century, making the location a dump. The ground level was once again raised owing to the erosion, and the debris was covered.
The structures that survive either as a whole or as parts include the Cloaca Maxima, the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Vesta, Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of the Deified Caesar, the Mamertine Prison, the senate house of Curia, the Temple of Romulus, the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Septimius Severus.
The Roman Forum has inspired numerous visual artists through the years and presently, it witnesses over 4.5 million visitors in a year. It is one of the well-known tourist destinations of Italy, entailing a vast history buried under its ground.