Getting the Most Out of the Roman Experience
It would take days to thoroughly explore the entire city of Rome; around every corner, bits and pieces of history are hidden in streets, monuments, and old homes. It is without doubt one of the most historic places in the world. If you want to focus on a particular part of Rome, consider learning the details about the Roman Forum. “Why?” you may ask. “Isn’t that just a jumble of old ruins?” Well, unfortunately, most of the forum has been reduced to ruins in the past millennium, but each ruin tells a story, and each column had a specific purpose. Each spot explains a little more of the history of Rome. Get ready to explore the buildings of the “Forum Romanum” as you get ready for a fantastic trip to the Eternal City.
The Many Wonders of the Forum Romanum
It is impossible to know a pinpointed construction date for all the structures in the Forum Romanum, but we do know all the ruins date back to the BCs and early ADs. One of the ruins that stands out the most is the Temple of Castor and Pollux; you’ll recognize it by the three preserved columns that still stand, even though the rest of the temple has sunk into oblivion. Its origins date back to the late 5th century BC, and it was constructed after an important military venture. As time wore on, it was decided to start from scratch and make a bigger, more impressive temple; this happened twice in the course of its history. Most of the Temple of Castor and Pollux was then reconstructed in the early 1st century BC by Tiberius of Rome (the soon-to-be-emperor) and this is the building stage from which the remaining columns came.
Arches and Temples Lend an Air of Antiquity
One thing that Rome is certainly famous for is its arches. Located in the Forum, the Arch of Septimius Severus has guarded these buildings, first in their wholeness and now in their ruins, since the 3rd century. This elegant feat of engineering towers over the forum, carved intricately with many small details and stoic columns. Even people (important people, no doubt) have been carved into various portions of the arch. If you know a little bit of Latin or know someone who does, you might actually be able to make out part of the inscription.
Nearby you will find the Senate House, which dates from the late 3rd century and, thanks to restoration, looks as new as it did then. Like most of the Forum Romanum, this building has a long and tumultuous history. Its official name was the Curia Julia, and though it was destroyed in 283, it was soon brought back to life. It is one of the most intact buildings around the forum and is a great example of late Roman architecture. It was made into a church centuries after its second construction period. While walking around the Curia Julia, look for the Column of Phocas. Tall columns were another feature of Roman architecture, and this particular column, standing since the 600s BC, is a simple but graceful part of the forum.
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (there’s an impressive title) actually has quite a few walls still standing. Vandals and the ravages of time have failed to take down this elegant temple, and it has stood on this spot since the 2nd century. This is worthy of note since, when it became illegal for citizens of Rome to practice the official Roman religion, these temples were often targets. Standing at the base of the steps and looking up will endow the visitor with two thoughts; one, it is difficult to believe how small one tiny person feels next to the temple, and two, many buildings in America such as the Supreme Court are patterned after this type of Roman architecture. Rome was, in many ways, the predecessor of modern culture.
Why So Many Temples?
You may have noticed that most of the ruins in the Forum Romanum were once temples; the forum was the center of Rome in ancient days, and, just as churches are located in the main part of town in many of today’s modern cities, most of the temples of Rome would have been found near the forum. All that remains of the Temple of Saturn is eight huge white columns, a connecting piece at the top, and parts of the bottom walls. In the last decades of the BC era, the original building was obliterated and a new one took its place, and then, later, yet another temple sprang up on the same site. Builders decided to keep certain elements from the second temple.
Other Arches That Once Stood in the Forum
The Arch of Titus seems to be very much like the Arch of Septimius Severus at first glance, but there are differences. Age is one big difference; while the Arch of Septimius dates from the 200s AD, the Arch of Titus was probably built soon after 81 AD, although it is not certain when exactly it was constructed. Those of Jewish ancestry may dislike the history behind the arch; when Judea was conquered by the invading Roman armies, it was seen as a huge victory for the Empire. The glory Romans felt at achieving this goal led to the construction of the Arch of Titus. The Arch of Augustus, once located nearby, is no longer in complete form, and you may also see reference to the Arch of Tiberius although visitors aren’t able to view the remains.
Palatine Hill, the Circus Maximus, and Much More
These are some of the major sightseeing stops in the forum, but there are many more. Most of the places are a mere shell of their former selves, and in some cases there is hardly anything left at all. Research should tell you what once stood on these sites. While you are visiting Rome, take time to see more temples such as the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, as well as the Basilica Julia and the Rostra. Other parts of Rome that you should visit to immerse yourself in ancient history include the famous and venerated Coliseum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus where races were once held, and the once-upscale district of Palatine Hill. There should be at least a week to see all of ancient Rome, but if only a few days are available, try to see the Coliseum and the Forum Romanum.