The Roman Forum still sits in the centre of Rome. For centuries it was the most important part of the world’s biggest empire. The ruins of many great buildings can be seen, as well as some very well preserved monuments and arches. For the lover of antiquity it makes a stunning visit and is the highpoint of any trip to Rome.
The Arch of Titus
Entering the forum from via Gregorio the visitor first comes across the Arch of Titus, standing proudly above the surrounding ground level as the road level was higher 2000 years ago. Domitian built the arch to commemorate his brother Titus, in particular his victory in the Jewish war of 70-71AD. This is made apparent by the arch’s decoration with Jewish goods looted from the Temple and brought back to Rome.
The Temple of Saturn
The Temple of Saturn was built using Ionic columns on a raised podium. It was already the oldest shrine at the start of the Republican period, being originally built in 497BC. The remains we see today date from the restoration of 283AD after a fire.
Temple of Vesta
A never-ending flame burned in the round temple to signify the eternal life of Rome. The current building dates from the late 2nd century AD. Corinthian columns surrounded the cylindrical space, with a frieze that was made up of images of items used in sacrifices.
House of the Vestal Virgins
The Vestal virgins were chosen when they were six years old and had to serve faithfully in the temple for thirty years. They had a life of luxury, but If they broke their vow of chastity they were buried alive. The courtyard below gives a sense of the superlative house in which the young women lived. It was a kind of convent, although the girls were not contained inside and were allowed out. Such was their position in society that if a condemned man met a Vestal Virgin on the day of his execution he was spared.
Arch of Septimius Severus
Balancing the arch of Titus at the other end of the Forum is the Arch of Septimius Severus, dating from 203AD and celebrating his own victory over the Parthians. Originally it would have had bronze statues on the top.