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:''This page refers to the main forum in the center of Rome. See Imperial forums or Other forums in Rome (below) for other forums in Rome and other Roman provincial cities.''
:''See Forum (Roman) for the type of building.''
The Roman Forum, also known by its original Latin designation (Forum Romanum, Foro Romano), is located between the Palatine Hill and the Capitoline Hill of the city of Rome, Italy. Citizens of the ancient city referred to the location as the "Forum Magnum" or just the "Forum". It is part of the centralised area around which the ancient Roman civilization developed.
The oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located in or near the Forum. These include its ancient former royal residency the Regia as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, both of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome. The kingdom's earliest shrines and temples were located on the forum's western edge. These shrines developed into the Republic's formal Comitium, where the Senate, as well as Republican government began. The Senate House, government offices, Tribunals, religious monuments, memorials and statues cluttered the area. Over time the archaic Comitium would be replaced by the larger Forum, moving government to the Basilica Aemilia. 80 years later the Basilica Julia would be built along with the new Curia Julia moving both the judicial offices and the senate itself. The Forum would serve as the new city square where the people of Rome could gather for political, judicial and religious ritual in greater number. The Forum became the economic hub of the city, as well as the center of the Kingdom, Republic and Empire.
Eventually all economic and judicial business would transfer away from the Forum to larger and more extravagant structures. After the building of Trajan's forum, economic and judicial activity transferred to the Basilica Ulpia. Shortly before the empire split in two, Constantine built the Basilica of Maxentius with the last major expansion of the Forum. This returned the political center to the forum before the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The ancient Greek ''plateia'' (πλατεία), a public plaza or town square, was the model utilised as the basis to the Roman forum. Its basilicas, although originally designed as government offices, were the bases of the first elaborate Christian churches. The architecture of the temples and judicial buildings of the Roman forum can be seen copied in many of today's modern government structures that are still arranged around a central public space.
Because of its location, sediments from both the flooding of the Tiber River and the erosion of the surrounding hills have been raising the forum floor for centuries. As the ground around buildings began to rise, residents simply paved over the debris that was too much to remove. Excavations in the 19th century showed one layer on top of the other. The deepest level excavated was 3.60 meters above sea level. Archaeological finds show human activity at that level with the discovery of carbonised wood.
The original Forum began as an open air market near the Comitium, but out grew its day to day shopping and marketplace needs. As Politics, judicial matters and trials began to take up more and more space, forums throughout the city began to emerge to expand on specific needs of the growing population. Forums for cattle, pork, vegetables and wine specialised in their niche products and the associated deities around them.
Map of the Roman Forum, from Samuel Ball Platner's ''The Topography and Monuments of Ancient Rome'' (1904) (altered for clarity)
The area of the Forum was originally a grassy wetland. It was drained in the 7th century BC by building the Cloaca Maxima, a large covered sewer system that drained into the Tiber River, as more people began to settle between the two hills.
According to tradition, the forum's beginnings are connected with the alliance between Romulus, the first king of Rome controlling the Palatine Hill, and his rival, Titus Tatius who occupied the Capitoline Hill. Accordingly, an alliance formed after combat had been halted by the prayers and cries of the Sabine women. Because the valley lay between the two settlements, it was the designated place for the two peoples to meet. Since the early forum area was mostly pools of stagnant water, the only accessible area was the northern part of the valley which was designated as the Comitium. It was here that the two parties laid down their weapons and formed an alliance.
The forum was outside the walls of the original Sabine fortress, which was entered through the Porta Saturni. These walls were mostly destroyed when the two hills were joined.
The second king, Numa Pompilius, is said to have begun the cult of Vesta, building its house and temple as well as the Regia as the city's first royal palace. Later Tullus Hostilius enclosed the Comitium around the old Etruscan temple where the senate would meet at the site of the Sabine conflict. He is said to have converted the temple into the Curia Hostilia close to where the Senate originally met in an old Etruscan hut. In 600 BC Tarquinius Priscus had the area paved for the first time.
During the Republican period the comitium continued to be the central location for all judicial and political life in the city of Rome. However, in order to create space, as well as a larger gathering place, the senate began expanding both the forum and Comitium by purchasing existing private homes and removing them for public use. Building projects of several consuls and emperors repaved and built onto both the Comitium and the Forum.
Many of the traditions from the Comitium such as the popular assemblies, funerals of the nobility and games were transferred to the forum. Gaius Gracchus is credited with or accused of disturbing ''mos maiorum'' ("custom of the fathers/ancestors") in ancient Rome. A long held tradition of speaking from the elevated speakers' Rostra facing north towards the senate house to the politicians and assembled elite put the orators back to the people assembled in the Forum Romanum behind the Comitium. A tribune known as Caius Licinius was the first to turn away from the Roman elite towards the people in the forum, an act repeated later by Gracchus. This began the tradition of ''locus popularis'', where, even young nobles were expected to speak from the Rostra.
The fifth century saw the construction of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. The temple of Concord was added in the fourth century BC, possibly by Marcus Furius Camillus. The Basilica Aemilia is a Republican structure but had several names after its initial dedication in 179 BC. In 78 BC,the Tabularium was built by order of M. Aemilius Lepidus and Q. Lutatius Catulus.
Over time the Comitium was lost to the ever-growing Curia and to Julius Caesar's rearrangements before his assassination in 44 BC. After Caesar's death Octavius finished the work and the focus shifted to the Forum. The relationship between the Comitium and the Forum Romanum eventually faded from the writings of the ancients. It is last written of in the reign of Septimus Severus.
Augustus Caesar is said to have stated "I found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble". What is true is that Octavian continued the building projects of his predecessor and began many of his own directly in the forum. After the death of Caesar and the Battle of Actium, the victor erected the Temple to the Deified Caesar an act of raising the status of his uncle to, not just a political position, but making him a god in the eyes of the Empire.
Rome: Ruins of the Forum, Looking towards the Capitol by Canaletto, 1742
In the 5th century AD the old edifices within the Forum began to be transformed into Christian churches. By the 8th century the whole space was surrounded by Christian churches taking the place of the abandoned and ruined temples.
After the 8th century AD the structures of the forum were dismantled, re-arranged and used to build feudal towers and castles within the forum area. In the thirteenth century these rearranged structures were torn down and the site became a dumping ground. This, along with the debris from the dismantled medieval buildings and ancient structures, helped contribute to the rising ground level.
Excavation and preservation
Original archeology sketch of the forum.
An anonymous 8th century traveler from Einsiedeln (now in Switzerland) reported that the Forum was already falling apart in his time. During the Middle Ages, though the memory of the ''Forum Romanum'' persisted, its monuments were for the most part buried under debris, and its location was designated the ''"Campo Vaccino"'' or "cattle field," located between the Capitoline Hill and the Colosseum. The return of Pope Urban V from Avignon in 1367 led to an increased interest in ancient monuments, partly for their moral lesson and partly as a quarry for new buildings being undertaken in Rome after a long lapse. Artists from the late 15th century drew the ruins in the Forum, antiquaries copied inscriptions in the 16th century, and a tentative excavation was begun in the late 18th century.
Sequences of remains of paving show that sediment eroded from the surrounding hills was already raising the level of the forum in early Republican times. Originally it had been marshy ground, which was drained by the Tarquins with the ''Cloaca Maxima''. Its final travertine paving, still visible, dates from the reign of Augustus.
A cardinal took measures to drain it again and built the Alessandrine neighborhood over it. But the excavation by Carlo Fea, who began clearing the debris from the Arch of Septimius Severus in 1803, and archaeologists under the Napoleonic regime marked the beginning of clearing the Forum, which was only fully excavated in the early 20th century.
Remains from several centuries are shown together, due to the Roman practice of building over earlier ruins.
Today archeological excavations continue along with restoration and continued preservation. Now a tourist destination in the city, the forum is open for foot traffic along the ancient Roman roads restored at a late Imperial level. In 2008 heavy rains caused structural damage to the modern concrete covering holding the "Black Stone" marble together over the Vulcanal.
Many of the Forum's temples date to the periods of the kingdom and the republic, although most were destroyed and rebuilt several times. The ruins within the forum clearly show how urban spaces were used during the Roman age. The Roman Forum includes a modern statue of Julius Caesar and the following major monuments, buildings, and ancient ruins:
* Basilica Aemilia
* Basilica Julia
* Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine
* Arch of Septimius Severus
* Arch of Titus
* Arch of Tiberius
* Arch of Augustus
* Regia, originally the residence of the kings of Rome or at least their main headquarters, and later the office of the Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Roman religion.
* Rostra, from where politicians made their speeches to the Roman citizens.
* Curia Julia (later reconstruction by Diocletian), the site of the Roman Senate.
* Tabularium, the records office of Rome.
* Portico Dii Consentes
* Gemonian stairssteps situated in the central part of Rome, leading from the Arx of the Capitoline Hill down to the Roman Forum.
* Clivus Capitolinus was the street that started at the Arch of Tiberius, wound around the Temple of Saturn, and ended at Capitoline Hill.
* Umbilicus Urbi, the designated centre of the city from which and to which all distances in Rome and the Roman Empire were measured.
* Milliarium Aureum After Augustus erected this monument, all roads were considered to begin here and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point.
* Lapis Niger, a shrine also known as the Black Stone.
* Atrium Vestae, the house of the Vestal Virgins.
* A processional street, the ''Via Sacra'', linked the Atrium Vestae with the Colosseum. By the end of the Empire, it had lost its everyday use but remained a sacred place.
* Column of Phocas, the last monument built within the Forum.
* Tullianum, the prison used to hold various foreign leaders and generals.
* The Lacus Curtius, the site of a mysterious pool venerated by Romans even after they had forgotten what it signified.
Other forums in Rome
Other fora existed in other areas of the city; remains of most of them, sometimes substantial, still exist. The most important of these are a number of large imperial fora forming a complex with the Forum Romanum: the ''Forum Iulium'', ''Forum Augustum'', the ''Forum Transitorium'' (also: ''Forum Nerva''), and Trajan's Forum. The planners of the Mussolini era removed most of the Medieval and Baroque strata and built the ''Via dei Fori Imperiali'' road between the Imperial Fora and the Forum. There is also:
* The ''Forum Boarium'', dedicated to the commerce of cattle, between the Palatine Hill and the river Tiber,
* The ''Forum Holitorium'', dedicated to the commerce of herbs and vegetables, between the Capitoline Hill and the Servian walls,
* The ''Forum Piscarium'', dedicated to the commerce of fish, between the Capitoline hill and the Tiber, in the area of the current Roman Ghetto,
* The ''Forum Suarium'', dedicated to the commerce of pork, near the barracks of the cohortes urbanae in the northern part of the campus Martius,
* The ''Forum Vinarium'', dedicated to the commerce of wine, in the area now of the "quartiere" Testaccio, between Aventine Hill and the Tiber.
Other markets were known but remain unidentifiable due to a lack of precise information on the function of the sites. Among these, the ''Forum cuppedinis'', was known as a general market for many goods.