Roman Forum: Most spectacular ancient complex

Amazing Europe | | October 21, 2010 at 12:05 am


Considered as among the important religious and historic destinations on Earth, the Roman Forum is the site of several superb edifices that are from the times of the 5th century B.C. to 7th century A.D. It is a complex where the historic events complement the ancient religious beliefs. Originally, the site of the Roman Forum was a market in the early 6th century B.C. It was only in the times of the Republican period that it attained sculptural attention to build temples and other public monuments. Later, a majority of these edifices were then converted into holy churches.

Roman Forum tours

But as usual, anything not permanent when tries to reach the sky has to fall on some day or the other and the same holds true for this Roman Forum too. It saw its downfall in the Middle Ages when it was set to ruins and the monument stones were stolen for other great edifices. Sadly, the area finally turned out to be a cow meadow.

Although there are many monuments here that are worth a watch, but due to lack of time, I asked my guide to take the tour of the important and most remarkable ones. You too can do so by paying the admission fee of €9.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, is from 203 A.D and is seen at the west end. It was made to mark the Septimius’ successful invasion of the lands today known as Iran and Iraq. Even today, the arch holds its adorning reliefs of fighting scenes. One more arch is visible on the Palatine Hill, which is known as the Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito) that was built in 81 A.D. Perched in a bit raised way at the Roman Forum’s entrance, the arch marked the ransack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The reliefs of the Roman troops grabbing the treasures of the Jewish temple are seen on it even today.

Arch of Septimius Severus

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine dates back to 310 AD and is a giant structure of brick that was once the home of the famous figurine of Constantine and a public court when the Emperor Maxentius and Constantine used to rule. The Column of Phocas (608 AD) denotes the cruel act of the awful Byzantine king who slew Emperor Maurice along with his five sons. Consequently, Phocas was given a death sentence just after two years of its construction. This column exhibits the Corinthian style and was made from the Proconnesian marble.

Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

Now, it was the turn of one of the top draws at the site – the Decennalia Base of the 4th century A.D. This is the rebuilt version that stands besides its original location in the Rostra. This one along with the four more honorary columns commemorates the first trip of Diocletian to Rome after 20 years of his rule. While it was built from monolith pink Aswan marble, its sides are greatly decorated with superb marble reliefs. The side facing us boasts a medallion that states “Happy Tenth Anniversary of the Caesars.” The left side depicts a parade of Roman senators, while the right shows a scene of pig, sheep, and bull being sacrificed. Lastly, the rear facet indicates the monarch’s sacrifices been performed after crowned by a winged Victory.

The small and round Temple of Vesta gained its popularity due to a holy flame that denoted the permanence of the Roman state whose care was taken by the Vestal Virgins. Just close to this shrine is the House of the Vestal Virgins – the place where the young priestesses used to stay to monitor the sacred flame. Its rectangular structure still bears a few women statues even today. The selected virgins were supposed to take care of the temple for 30 years of which each 1/3rd part was reserved for learning, doing the duties, and teaching the new ones respectively. If at all they fail, they used to be punished severely. For instance, if virginity was lost, she was cremated alive or if the flame somehow blew, she was being beaten badly.

Temple of Vesta

The Temple of the Dioscuri from the 5th B.C. is actually famous as the Temple of Castor and Pollux. As the name suggest, it was devoted to the immortal Pollux and mortal Castor – the twin sons of Leda who was the consort of Zeus (Jupiter) as per the Greek mythology. Its three columns are still visible today.

The round Temple of Jupiter Stator from the 4th century B.C, also known as the Temple of Divus Romulus is fortunately fully unbroken. Check out its earliest bronze doors from the 300s A.D. You might not be allowed in the temple, but view its discovered interior from a glass wall nestled at the Santi Cosma e Damiano church.

The Temple of Saturn from the late 5th century BC was the home of treasures. Seen at the west tip, it was where the public treasury was preserved. The temple was also the venue of famous festival of Saturnalia held in December. Currently, you can see its eight columns standing on travertine chunks.

Temple of Saturn

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