Temples and Triumphs
When you think of ancient Rome, the first images your mind conjures are usually of great stone buildings, with columned porticos, decorated arches and magnificent statues. To visit the Roman Forum in the centre of the modern city allows those images to take life before your very eyes.
Granted, a bit of imagination is required - but take a walk through the Forum’s enormous columns, ruined temples and grand state buildings, and you can really get the feeling that you are walking back through time. The Forum was the political and economic centre of Rome during the era of the Republic, and remained an important monumental arena during the Empire. It was down the ancient high street of Via Sacra through the Forum that Rome’s conquering military commanders would hold their triumphal processions, called the Triumphs, in order to commemorate and sanctify their victories.
The heart of Rome
The Forum is bursting with historic buildings. There are the Basilicas Iulia and Aemelia where judicial matters were handled, the Senatorial Rostra where Marc Antony delivered Caesar’s eulogy, the colossal and intricate Arch of Septimius Severus, the vast columns of the Temple of Saturn, and countless more fascinating fragments. The unassuming brick stump of the Umbilicus Urbis, the ancient ‘navel of the city,’ is the point from which all distances from Rome were measured.
After the Forum fell into disrepair in the Middle Ages, many of the buildings were quarried for use in other constructions. Eventually earth piled up to 7 metres above the ancient street level, and the area was even used as a medieval cattle field. It was not until the 18th century that the old Forum was excavated, uncovering the buildings’ lower portions and restoring the original ground level. Evidence of this change can be seen at the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (later the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda), which has a door halfway up the wall.
Three thousand years ago, this area was watery marshland. It was only by an incredible feat of engineering - the Cloaca Maxima, the city’s drainage system that still functions today - that the Romans were able to build the centre of the world’s mightiest empire. Its majestic remains are now one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, and an awe-inspiring sight for any modern visitor.