The Forum Romanum is situated in the valley between the Palatine Hill and the Capitol and consists of an almost trapezoid-shaped square that stands between the Regia and the Rostra on the short sides and the Basilica Aemilia and the Basilica Julia on the long ones. An extension of the northern part is represented by the Comitium. The squarewas conceived as a place for commercial exchanges and political and judicial activities, situated in a point where important roads (Via Sacra, Vicus Tuscus, Vicus Iugarius, Clivus Capitolinus, and Argiletum) converged.
.Originally the zone was partly marshy and used as a cemetery starting from about the tenth century BC, as testified by tombs discovered in 1902 in the burial ground. Ruins of huts and ceramic material found next to the archaic burial ground lead to think that dwelling places were disseminated there already in the second half of the eighth century. The most ancient monuments of sacred character, attributed by tradition to the first kings of Rome, date back to the second half of the sixth century BC. The temple of Saturn and the temple of the Dioscuri were built at the beginning of the Republic (509 BC). The first tribune for speakers situated between the Forum and the Comitium probably dates back to the fifth century BC. Four basilicas intended for the administration of justice and the conduction of business were built in the second century BC. The Forum was submitted to further changes under Caesar and later Augustus. The travertine floor that is still visible dates back to the Augustan Age. Many honorary monuments were erected in the area of the Forum in the Imperial Age; the last of which is the column dedicated in 608 AD to emperor Foca. The Forum was then abandoned and filled in by a thick layer of earth, becoming a pasture known as Campus Vaccinus. Some temples were transformed into churches, allowing their preservation in the course of time. During the Renaissance the area of the Forum Romanum was used as a marble and stone quarry.
Arch of Titus - This arch was erected in 81 AD by emperor Domitian in memory ofhis brother Titus to celebrate his victories against the Judaeans. Decorated with Greek marble slabs, the monument has a single opening flanked by four semicolumns with capitals.
Basilica of Maxentius - This basilica was built between 306 and 312 AD by emperor Maxentius and completed by emperor Justinian. Originally five wide passageways led to a huge hall consisting of a nave and two aisles separated by marble columns. The only column that survived was removed in 1613 and placed in front of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. In the apsis of the central nave Constantine erected a gigantic statue of himself with arms, legs and head made of white marble and the rest of gilded bronze. The head and one foot are exposed in the Capitoline Museums.
Temple of Venus and Rome - This temple was built in 135 AD by emperor Hadrian who probably also designed it and then completed by emperor Antoninus Pius. Rich in columns, it occupied an area of 330 by 480 feet and enclosed two cells that were rebuilt by Maxentius in 310 AD after a fire.
Balnea - This is a complex of small thermae situated near the Temple of Heliogabalus and Vigna Barberini, just off Via Sacra.
Temple so-called of Romolus - This building was once considered a temple dedicated to the memory of Romolus, the son of emperor Maxentius who died very young in 309 AD and was deified by his father. Today it is indicated as theTemple of Jupiter Stator.
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina - This temple was built in 141 AD by Antoninus Pius in honor of his dead wife Faustina and after the death of the emperor itwas dedicated also to his memory. It stands on a high podium preceded by stands (rebuilt with bricks) at the center of which are the ruins of the altar. The atrium consists of ten marble columns. The cell was consecrated as the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda in the eleventh century.
Temple of Caesar (of of Divine Julius) - This temple was built by emperor Augustus in the place where Julius Caesar's body was burned and where Marcus Antonius pronounced his famous funeral oration. Only a few ruins remain, including a round altar that was probably built in the place where the funeral pire was arranged.
Regia - Attributed by tradition to king Numa Pompilius and probably a residence of the Tarquinii. In the Republican Age the Rex Sacrorum, the Pontifex Maximus and the other Priests performed their duties here. The Regia was destroyed by a fire in 64 AD and rebuilt on its original design in 36 AD by Domitius Calvus to demonstrate its sacredness.
Round Temple of Vesta - This building was built as the "hut of the sacred fire " probably with wood, straw and wickers and reconstructed in 191 AD by Julia Domna, wife of emperor Septimius Severus. It had a circular plant and was covered by a roof with a hole on the top to let out the smoke of the sacred fire. It was encircled by twenty columns, three of which remain today. Here were kept the sacred objects bound with the fortunes of Rome, which by tradition Aeneas had brought from Troy.
Temple of the Castores (or Dioscuri) - Dedicated to the cult of Castor and Pollux, this temple was inaugurated in 484 AD and restored several times. The facade faced the Forum and the temple consisted of nineteen columns (three of which remain today). In this building where the Senate once met, weights and measurements were controlled. Bankers, exchangers and barbers had shops at the foot of the podium, among the plinths of the columns.
Basilica Julia - This basilica was built by Julius Caesar in 54 BC on the site of the Basilica Sempronia after its destruction and then dedicated to him. It was completed later by emperor Augustus. It was rebuilt after a fire in the year 2 BC and restored for the last time in 416 AD. The Basilica consisted of a two-story building with a nave and four aisles and a huge central hall. It hosted the four sections of the Roman Court of Assizes held by 105 judges, called the Centumviri.
Santa Maria Antiqua and the Domitian Buildings - This complex constitutes the link between the Forum and the Palatine Hill. It consists of a huge hall of Domitian's Age, "tabernae" of Hadrian's Age and another uncovered square room from which three entrances lead to a hall formed by a central room with a quadriportico and three rooms behind it. This last part was transformed into the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in the sixth century AD.
Horrea Agrippiana - This work is dated back to the Augustan Age and consists of a square two-story monumental tuff building with wide rooms that face a huge courtyard with porticoes and other smaller rooms. It was built by Agrippa to beused as storerooms (horrea), as commemorated by an inscription that can still be seen in one of the central rooms.
Basilica Aemilia - This is the only Republican Basilica to survive. It was built in 179 BC by the censors Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior. It was initially called Fulvia or Fulvia Aemilia and was restored several times by members of the Aemilia Gens, from which it took its definitive name. The facade consisted of a two-story portico with sixteen arches on pillars with semicolumns. Behind the portico were the shops, from which three arched entrances (the one that is complete is of the modern age) led to a majestic hall divided in naves by marble columns. The plaster cast of a tract of the frieze that decorated the trabeation with scenes of the legendary origin of Rome is placed next to the outer wall. The ruins of the more ancient Basilica are still visible on the western side.
Curia - By tradition this building was founded by king Tullius Ostilius and rebuilt in 80 BC by Silla. It was moved from its original site to its current position by Caesar. It was completed by Augustus in 29 BC and restored by Domitian in 94 AD. It was last redone by Diocletian around 283 AD. The facade presents three large windows and a monumental door whose wings are a copy of the original ones moved in 1660 to the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
Arch of Septimius Severus - This arch was erected at the foot of the Capitol in 203 AD, on the tenth anniversary of the ascent of emperor Septimius Severus to the throne and dedicated by him to his son Caracalla. The two facades are encircled by a high attic (originally surmounted by a quadriga with the emperorand his son), inside which are four rooms that can be accessed through a staircase. On the two sides of the attic there is a large inscription with a dedication to Septimius Severus and Caracalla. Scenes of the two campaigns against the Partii are represented on the panels above the smaller arches.
Portico of the Consenting Gods - This building consists of eight rooms placed side by side and preceded by a portico with twelve columns and Corinthian capitals. The statues of the most important Gods of the Greek and Roman pantheon were probably situated in some of the rooms. The building dates back to the Flavian Age and was restored in 367 AD.
Rostra - The semicircular stands used as a tribune for the orators were decorated with the rostra, the bronzer ams removed from the ships after the victorious battle of Antium (338 BC). They were moved here from the area of the Comitium during the the demolitions made by Caesar and inaugurated in 44 BC, shortly before his death. The building today consists of part of the semicircular stands at the entrance, some ruins of the interior and the facade. On the northern side there is a brick addition that dates back to 470 AD.
Temple of Saturn - This temple was started around the end of the Royal Age and was inaugurated between 498 and 497 BC and entirely rebuilt in 42 BC. A forepart leaned on the front of the facade (all that remains is the threshold of the door that opened towards the Forum) where the State Public Treasure was kept.
Temple of Vespasianus and Titus - All that remains of this temple are three columns on the north-eastern side. The staircase leading to the entrance and part of the podium date back to the nineteenth century. Emperor Titus started the construction of the temple in honor of his father Vespasianus, but died before it was completed. His brother the emperor Domitian completed the works of the temple and dedicated it to Vespasianus and Titus.
Column of Foca - This is the last monument of the Forum Romanum. The column was dedicated in 608 AD to Nicephorus Foca, the Byzantine emperor who donated the Pantheon to Pope Boniface the Sixth. The Column is more ancient in origin (it dates back to the second century AD) and is surmounted by a Corinthian capital.
Via Sacra - This Via (Sacred Road) was the path followed by the victorious leader (dux) through the Forum towards the Capitol. It was called Sacra because according to the legend it was covered by Romolus and Titus Tatius after entering the pact of alliance at the end of the war between the Romans and the Sabines. Solemn religious ceremonies with sacrifices were held there every month.