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A Rome Holiday Attraction: The Roman Forum

Sep 3, 2008
The Forum Romanum or "The Roman Forum" can be found between Capitoline Hill and Palatine Hill and it represents one of the most phenomenal sites of archaeology on the planet. Even before the first century, The Roman Forum was well established as the center for culture and politics for the Roman Empire.

The Roman Forum was under construction for literally hundreds of years but by the seventh century BC, it was already an important center of culture for the Empire. By the beginning of the first millennium, the Roman Forum began to take on its final form under the guidance of Octavian, the son of Julius Caesar.

The Forum is more than one building but in actuality dozens of temples, arches, businesses and other structures that were so extensive that it was frequently referred to as Forum Magnum or The Great Forum by people who knew it well. The Forum was originally built on marsh land that had been drained for this purpose. It provided a central meeting place for trade, legal discussion and negotiation, as well as debate and dialog about the great social and philosophical issues that the citizens and royalty of Rome had on their minds.

After the infamous fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Roman Forum went into decay due to lack of upkeep. By the time the Middle Ages came along, farmers grazing their cattle on the site had little awareness of the significance of the site. It wasn't until the Renaissance that historians discovered the Forum again. A project to restore and repair the Roman Forum was undertaken in the 18th century and that project is still active to this day.

Because of that restoration work, much of the glory of this ancient public venue has returned to what it was when it was in full use during the days of the Roman Empire.

Archaeologists have lovingly rebuilt and repaved the streets, and removed the growth and debris that centuries of neglect have left there. The transformation is so profound that it is open to the public to tour even today. But if you plan a trip to see the Roman Forum, you will not be able to get to see it all in one day. But even if you can only allocate one morning to seeing the site, you will come away with a sense of awe at the glory of the Roman Empire that is evident in this restored site.

A great example of the huge scale that the wealthy Roman Empire was capable of bringing to a project like this is the Temple of Venus and Roma. This temple is luxurious and massive because it was built specifically for Emperor Hadrian's use. It is on a fabulous plateau from which you can see the Roman Colosseum in the distance.

Just as impressive is the Temple of Concord. In 367 this temple that was dedicated to peace took its place in the western quadrant of the Forum. At the peak of the Forum's glory, this temple was full of expensive statues made of silver and gold. Even after restoration today, it is striking evidence of the skills and abilities of the Roman builders.

Temples abounded in the Forum including Temples to Castor, Pollux, Vespasian, Saturn and many others and the ability of Roman builders to construct such a vast diversity of temples is a testimony to the vision, the leadership and the ability of Roman architects to make that vision a reality. In addition to the temples, the Forum had many other kinds of buildings as well.

Many of the walkways are lined with arches, including the Arch of Septimus Severus and Titus. The Romans invented and perfected the arch, and no one has improved on that design for at least 1000 years.

Politicians of modern times still like to make speeches from The Rostra in the Roman Forum. If you take a moment on your visit to stand under the Rostra, you may feel time slip away and for a moment you are standing there in those ancient times. Another site not to miss is a shrine known as the Black Stone or the "Lapis Niger" because it is another example of the creative abilities of Roman architects. The Via Sacra shrine is also another example of their amazing abilities.

On a trip to Rome, you really have not experienced the true history of the area until you have given a day to touring the Roman Forum and taking in some of these sites. It will give you good perspective not only on the ability of early civilized man to accomplish great things but also on mankind's ability to lose it all if we are not careful.
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