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The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum

In the valley situated among the three hills, the Palatine, the Capitoline and the Esquiline, there are monuments of the greatest importance for the history of Rome, There took place the most remarkable and famous events handed down to us, by the legend and the historical sources. For a visit it is necessary to remember that these are remains of several epochs: ten centuries of history have left here their marks,

The visit' to the Forum can he started before going down, from the entrance situated near Via dell'Impero, from the street under the Capitol. On the right there is the Carcere Tulliano (Tulliano jail) an ancient well afterwards transformed into a horrible prison. There died the enemies of Rome (Vercingetorix and Jugurta) and where according to the Christian tradition, were imprisoned St. Peter and St. Paul. Under a first room going through an opening of the floor there is the jail· with a water source which the legend attributes to a miracle of St. Peter.

There follows an area, immediately under the big wall of the Tabularium, with the base of· the temple of the Concord built by Camillus in 367 B. C. to commemorate the end of the strife between the patricions and the pebleians, the Temple of Vespasian with three columns in marble, built in 79 A. C. and dedicated to Emperor by his two sons Titus and Domitian.

Going on there is a colonnade behind which there were twelve rooms, 'with, statues dedicated to the principal gods of the Roman religion, the Porticus Deorum Consentium.

The ancient road going up to the hills of the Capitoline is the Clivus Capitolinus which went as far as the Temple of Jupiter situated on the top. Coming now from the principal entrance there are on the right the remains of the Basilica Aemilia, a large building with a colonnade, many times restored and then destroyed in 410 by a fire at the time of the Gotic invasion. On the floor we can see the traces of coins melted with fire. Before the Basilica we can see the Sacellum Cloacinae, a small circular enclosure which has the shape of a temple dedicated to Venus; at the entrance of the Cloaca Maxima it can be seen through the Basilica. Then the visitor goes on towards an area interesting for some very ancient monuments standing in the ancient Comitium, the little square where in the early times there took·place the first meetings of the public life of Rome.

It is also interesting to visit the lapis niger. Under this floor of black stones there was according to the legend the tomb of Romulus.

Probably it is only a simple commemorative ex-voto. Below there are some remains of the most ancient Latin inscription, which, may be meant to portray of a cred ceremony performed by a King (?).

On the right of the Comitium there stands the Curia, the Roman Senate changed in the Middle Ages to a church and nowadays quite restored to its former shape. It was rebuilt after many a fire and restored by Augustus and at last by Diocletian, it is a rectangular hall which they entered through a staircase. The floor is in precious marbles, on which there lay the wooden seats of the senators. The wall!;! are' adorned with nooks with columns of alabaster.

In the central wall there was the statue of Victory, removed by the emperor Gratian in 382. At the NW west corner of the Forum we admire the grandiose Arch of Septimius Severus, erected in remembrance of the victories over the Arabians and on the Partians, illustrated with the four large paintings on the lesser arches.

Opposite to the Arch in the Forum square there are the storied-shelves of Trajan which are very interesting bas-reliefs reminding the benefits of the Emperor to the Roman people and specially to poor children and orphans, and the condonation of taxes. To observe in the inside faces the three animals of the solemn sacrifice· (the pig, the sheep, the bull). On the left there are the Rostra, a platform from which the political orators spoke; they were adorned with columns and statues.

Behind the Rostra there is a circular construction in bricks, the Umbilicus Urbis Romae, the ideal centre of the city and the Miliarum Aureum, a column on which there where written in golden letters the distances between Rome and the principal towns of the Empire. Near it, under a shed, there are the remains of the very ancient Volcanal, an altar erected to Vulcan by Titus Tazio. Going on towards the West, there are the eight large columns of the Temple of Saturn within which the public Treasury was held in custody. In the IV century A. C. it was restored after a fire, according to the inscription of the architrave. At the foot of the Temple of Saturnus we can see the pavement of the Sacred Way, which coming from the Arch of Titus (Summa sacra via) passed ,through the Temple of Caesar (middle) and at last went through the square of the Forum (ima sacra via).

Beyond the temple the road took the name of Capitoline Low-hill and went as far as the temple of Jupiter on the top of the hill.

Going back to the Forum square the visitor sees the remains of two basis of equestrian statues (Domitian and Constantine and a paved area remembering the. Lacus Curtius, an ancient gulf where it is said, there hurled down (in horseback the noble Sabinus Mezzio Curzio to save his country in danger, with his sacrifice.

The area of the Forum is limited towards west by seven basis of columns; 'more towards the center there is the. Column of Foca, dedicated to this Byzantine Emperor by pope Boniface IV to thank him for the gift of the Pantheon. Going on the Sacred Way, on the right, there are the remains of the grandiose Basilica Julia built by Julius Caesar in 46 B. C. and destined to the discussion of civil processes, many times destroyed and restored. To remark on the steps of the stairs the popular games graffiti. After the Basilica the visitor goes through Vicus Tuscus, separating ii from the grandiose Castor Temple, famous for the three large Corinthian columns, erected in 484 B. C. to commemorate the protectors of the city, Castor and Pollux, who helped the Romans in the victory against the Tarquins at Lago Regillo.

The legend relates that the two young men coming back from the battle watered their horses in the fountain of Juturna in the Forum, informing the citizens of the enemy defeat. The temple was rebuilt several times and its last reconstruction seems due to the Emperor Tiberius (6 k C.). The Fountain of Juturna is at the base of the temple; it is a square basin in marble on whose border there is . an altar with bas-reliefs representing the two Dioscuri, their sister Helene, Jupiter and Leda.

The water of the sanctuary was considered healthy for the sick.

Behind the Temple of Castor and Pollux there are the remains of the Temple of Augustus built by Tiberius and rebuilt by Domitian; it may be considered as a large entrance-hall to the Palatine. Soon after behind the source of Juturna there is the very ancient medioeval church of Santa Maria Antiqua built on the ruins of ail ancient pagan building, considered by some people the Library annexed to the Temple of Augustus, by others a meeting place and " the archives of Legionaries Oil leave. The Church is very interesting from the point of vue of the history of arts, for its paintings belonging to various epochs, from VII to IX century A. C.

They represent portraits of Saints and stories of the Old Testament (left aisle); in the little chapel at the end there is the story of the martyr of St. Quirico and St. Judith and a remarkable scene of the Crucifixion. In the apse there is a large figure of Christ with some heads of Saints. Coming back from the Source of Juturna and proceeding again towards the Forum the visitor leaves on its right the Oratory of the Martyrs, with medioeval paintings on the walls and in the apse, then the visitor goes through the base of the large Arch of Augustus, which was situated between the Castor Temple and the Temple of Caesar (I Divi Juli) built in 42 A. C. in the same place where the body of Julius Caesar was burnt.

The temple not very large had a facade with six columns facing the square of the Forum opposite to the Rostra. On the fore part the visitor still sees the base of the large equestrian statue of Caesar; an other statue was in the inside of the Temple.

Going on-through the Sacred Way on the right there are the Temple of Antoninus and Faustine with a portico with six columns in cipolin marble. This temple was quite covered with marble pIastres.

At present the area of the Temple is occupied by the Temple of St: Lawrence in Miranda.

On the right and opposite to the Temple there are the remains of the Regia Pontificis, where were kept the sacerdotal archives and on whose inside walls the list of all the most remarkable events (Fasti), the official calendar and the names of the magistrates, etc., were affixed.

Behind the Regia Pontificis, towards the Palatine, there is the large area dedicated to Vesta and to the Vestal Virgins.

In the little Temple of Vesta partially rebuilt with some fragment, the sacred fire was guarded: it was the symbol of the life of Rome and was never to be extinguished.

According to the tradition it was built by Numa Pompilio; many times destroyed by a fire, it was rebuilt at last by Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Severo.. By the temple there is the House of the Vestal Virgins. It was formed by a large central atrium, surrounded with a portico

and columns, with fountain-basins. The Vestal Virgins were six, presided over by a Vestalis Maxima; the statues of some Vestales Maximae are still se~n in the atrium. We observe near the entrance that the name of one of them has been erased probably because she turned a Christian and was struck from the lists. Then there are the Virgins' rooms and a large drawing-room in the end.

Going on along the Sacred Way, by the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina there is a very ancient burial-vault of the II century B. C. with crematory and inhumation vaults.

There follows the Temple of Romulus, the soil of Maxentius, an original construction whose bronze part has remained sound and whose lock stilI works.

Behind the temple. we 'seethe remains of the Temple of the Penates on whose walls there was affixed the map in travertine; some important remains of it are to be found in the Conservative Palace on the Capitol. Proceeding 'along there is the huge Basilica of Maxentius, founded by this emperor in tile year 308 A. C. and then, finished by Constantine. There is still a side with three large rooms (observe the ampleness of the vaults) and a part of the high apse, where there was placed a colossal statue of Constantine of which there are many remains, at present situated in the court-yard of the Capitoline palace. Before the huge pillars, which seem to have inspired Michael Angelo for those of St Peter there were eight columns. The last one was. taken away by Paul V and situated in the square of St. Maria Maggiore. On the right of the Sacred Way, recent researches have established that there is "a grandiose portico built by Nero with a very large entrance to his Domus Aurea".

On the top of the Sacred Way there stands the Arch of Titus to commemorate the victory over the Jews and the taking of Jerusalem. The Arch was restored by Architect Valadier and liberated from the Mediaeval constructions. The two bas-reliefs of the inside are very remarkable, one of them represents the quadriga of thriumph and the emperor crowned in the sky, the other one represents the removal of the Sacred objects taken from the temple of Jerusalem, among which the famous candelabrum with seven brackets. On the ceiling the emperor carried into the sky by an eagle.