Saturday, February 1, 2014

Roman Forum

The Roman Forum occupies the valley between the Capitoline, Esquiline, and Palatine hills. The land is wide and flat, originally in the middle of the various small villages that grew into the city of Rome. The land was ideal for social, political, and economic exchanges between the people. As the area grew in importance, temples and civic buildings began to spring up, as well as markets. By the first century BC it was the thriving heart of the city.

J runs into the Forum from the Arch of Titus

Just beyond the Arch of Titus to the right is the Santa Francesca Romana, a church named after a 15th century saint who took care of poor people locally.

Santa Francesca Romana

Roof detail

Beyond the Arch of Titus to the left is the Palatine Hill along with the ruins of some baths.

Bath ruins and the Palatine Hill

The forum has many ruins, some so ruinous that they are only the foundations of previous buildings. For example, this "podium of a temple" was used for a temple after Nero's fire and later probably a medieval tower, though all that is left is the foundation's outline.

Podium of a Temple (at least that's what the sign says)

Further on is the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. Remember that the original Roman basilicas were public buildings where legal matters were dealt with; only later did the term come to a purely religious meaning. The remaining arches are huge and give an idea of the fantastic scale of the building in its heyday.

Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius

After Nero's fire, the area around the Palatine Hill was redeveloped. Emperor Vespasian built a warehouse that was turned into a marketplace by Emperor Domitian a few years later. The market would have had two levels and stores would include food shops, so basically it was an early mall.

Horrea Vespasia

The Temple of Romulus was built by Emperor Maxentius in AD 307 in memory of a son who died in childhood. It was later converted into an entrance for the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian. The bronze door is original and the lock still works!

Temple of Romulus

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was first dedicated by the Roman Senate to Faustina in AD 141, though when her husband Antoninus died in 161 his name was added. This temple has also been integrated into another church, San Lorenzo in Miranda.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Augustus erected a temple to Julius Caesar on the spot where he was cremated. The area is rather modest considering his impact on the world and the more massive buildings surrounding it.

Sign at the entrance to the Temple of Julius Caesar

Inside--not much at all

The Curia is where the Roman Senate met. It was first built by King Tullus Hostilius, then rebuilt by Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus. After a fire in AD 283, Diocletian rebuilt it; after Alaric sacked Rome, it was turned into the church of Sant'Adriano in 630.

Side shot of the Curia

Curia entrance

Inside the Curia

Former imperial statue

The Curia houses some works found in the Forum. Most striking are the bas reliefs from Trajan's time depicting the destruction of tax records and the institution of the alimenta, the distribution of food to needy Roman children. The backs of the reliefs depict animals, probably on their way to be sacrificed.

Destruction of tax records

Doling out the alimenta

Animals going to sacrifice

Another bas relief

To the right of the Curia is the Basilica Aemilia, a large meeting hall that was destroyed in the 400s.

Basilica Aemilia

The western end of the forum has the ruins of a few more temples and the Arch of Septimius Severus.

Temple of Vespasian, Arch of Septimius Severus, Temple of Saturn

The Roman Forum is quite extensive and could take up a whole day if visitors wanted to. J and L entertained themselves by climbing over whatever parts they could (not many) and inventing the "stepping stone race" game that became an on-going activity for the trip. Many of the streets have large, flat, irregularly-shaped stones. The children would step from stone to stone, racing to the other end. Often they raced and beat the adults. I guess we old folks, like old buildings, don't always make it to the end.

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