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Forum Romanum – View Toward the Palatine Hill

The Very Centre of the World

Occupying the small valley, that lies between the Palatine and the Capitoline hills, the Roman Forum, could indeed have once been said to have been the very centre of the world. The saying is that – “All roads lead to Rome” – well it is also a  fact that the milestones of these Roman roads began their counting from  the Roman Forum.

In its long history. stretching back to around the eighth century BC, the Forum Romanum has been many things –  Cemetery, Market place, Commercial Hub, Meeting place, Place of Worship, Centre of Government, Triumphal Parade Ground and finally just a sad stone quarry, looted over the centuries  for easy access to marble and other kinds of dressed stone blocks. Sadly the mosaic masterpieces that would have originally graced the floors and walls of the palaces and  temples of the gods have now entirely disappeared – victims to the ravages of time and the degeneracy of a lesser age.

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Forum from Palatine – Curia/ Senate House (left) – Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (right)

The Cloaca Maxima

The site of the  Forum Romanum was originally  a swamp or water meadow, but it was  drained by the digging of the Cloaca Maxima, in the time of the Etruscan kings, which led off the ground water to the river Tiber. The Cloaca Maxima (trans: Greatest Sewer) would originally have been just an open ditch, but in time it became the main sewer of Rome and was lined with dressed stone and given a vaulted roof of stone blocks. By the end of the first century AD  the Cloaca Maxima had been much increased in size as it had become the mainstay of Rome’s much vaunted water bourne sewage system and needed to accomodate many connecting branch lines and all of the run off from the City’s eleven great aqueducts. In Augustus reign the Cloaca Maxima carried so much water that Marcus Agrippa, the famous general and lifelong friend of Augustus, who was water commissioner at the time, was able to inspect it, by having himself rowed up the conduit in a boat. Today, although much reduced in size,  it still continues to function as a main rainwater drain for the city.

Entrance to Cloaca Maxima

Service entrance to Cloaca Maxima, beside the Temple of Julia.

The Most Ancient Ruins

The Forum itself was originally an Etruscan cemetry, but by the reign of the Tarquin kings and long before the birth of the Roman Republic in 509 BC , it had already become  the  City’s market place and was the gathering area for all civic affairs. The earliest buildings were  set up near the Spring of Joturna. The tradition has it that the second Etruscan king, Numa built the original temple to the goddess Vesta and set up his royal palace – the Regia beside it. The Assembly of the people – the Commitium was also established nearby. This oldest part of the Forum is to be found just below the steps of the much later constructed Temple of Antoninus and Faustina.  The  Sacred Way running from the Arch of Severus toward the Arch of Titus in the east, bends slightly at this point to avoid the ancient site of the Regia.

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The second century AD temple of Antoninus and Faustina

– now a Christian Church –

with the  remnants of the far more ancient Regia in the foreground.

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The Arch of Septimus Severus from the Capitoline Side

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Detail of the Arch of Septimus Severus

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Rear of Septimus Severus Arch

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The Temple of Saturn

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Looking Along the Sacred Way Towards the Arch of Titus

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Detail Under the Vault of the Arch of  Titus

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Looking Across the Basilica of Julia towards the Temple of Castor and Pollux

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Palace of Domitian

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Arch of Constantine (just outside the Forum Romanum)

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Constantine’s Arch from the Colusseum