Rome
Roman Forum from above Jeremy Vandel

The Roman Forum

Along with the Palatine and the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is part of Italy's most visited archaeological circuit. No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to this majestic complex in the heart of the Eternal City.

The Forum Romanum, known in ancient Rome as Forum Magnum, was the meeting place of the citizens and the center of the entire Roman civilization. The inhabitants went there to participate in administrative, political, economic, and religious matters that concerned the community.

After functioning practically non-stop for more than a millennium, what remains of the Roman Forum today can be viewed in the archaeological zone that also includes the Palatine and the Colosseum.

History of the Roman Forum

Unfortunately, little remains of what was once the center of Roman civilization (until this role was taken over by the Imperial Fora). Like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum was later used as a source of building materials and until the 19th century, the land was even used for grazing cows.

Monarchical period (753 - 509 BC)

Around the 8th century BC, the valley where the Forum is located was originally swampy and unsuitable for settlement. The upper part of the nearby hills was inhabited by ethnic groups of Sabine and Latin origin.

In the area of Tuscany, north of the Tiber lived the Etruscans who traded with the Greeks south of the peninsula. The Latin and Sabine villages formed an obligatory passage for trade routes, causing a gradual cultural fusion.

Until that time, the valley was used as a necropolis. Around the year 600 BC, King Tarquinio Prisco, of Etruscan origin, had the Cloaca Maxima built. This was a large-scale project that drained the valley and allowed the surface to be paved with pounded earth.

This created a rectangular public square where citizens could meet and participate in various activities. The Forum became the center and origin of Rome.

Throughout history, the Roman Forum has expanded with beautiful buildings, monuments, and new conquests. The most archaic monuments, such as the Comitium (public space), the Lapis Niger (sanctuary), the Vulcanal (sanctuary), the Regia (royal house), the Curia Julia (senate building), and the Temple of Vesta, belong to the royal period when monarchical power prevailed.

Republican Period (509 - 27 BC)

In the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, the Roman Forum retained its importance and continued to expand, even though later renovations make it difficult to determine exactly how it was divided and what it looked like.

During the first phase of the Republic, important temples were consecrated, such as the first on the Forum, the Temple of Saturn (498 BC), and the one of Castor and Pollux (484 BC).

In the last centuries of the Republican period, important changes took place at the Forum. The numerous conquests and expansions of the empire led to the construction of great monuments, which made Rome an authentic metropolis that could compete with the Hellenic kingdoms east of the Mediterranean.

During this phase, the Curia was rebuilt as the Curia Julia, in honor of Julius Caesar, who had commissioned the work. Other important buildings erected during this phase were the Tabularium (an archive and place where official documents were kept) and the basilicas Porcia (184 BC), Aemilia (179 BC), Sempronia (169 BC), and Opimia (169 BC).

Imperial Period (27 BC - 476 AD)

During this era, the Forum Romanum underwent a major expansion. The process began with Julius Caesar at the end of the Republic and continued with the emperors Augustus, Vespasian, Nerva, and Trajan. The extended area is now known as the Imperial Fora.

At the end of the Republic, the political function of the emperor was strengthened and the activity of the Forum shifted to the Palatine, where the imperial palace was located. Thus the Imperial Forum lost some of its prestige.

It did, however, remain the center of trade and financial activity. It also remained the ideal place to celebrate major imperial ceremonies, but ultimately it was no longer the place where the most important decisions were made.

It was mainly characterized by an intense reconstruction of the damaged monuments and the construction of new works such as the Arch of Septimius Severus.

It was also during this period, in the reign of Vespasian, that the Colosseum was built.

Medieval era (476 - 1492)

Despite the fall of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire was at its peak. In the year 608 AD, the last monument of the Forum was built—the Column of Phoca—dedicated to the Byzantine Emperor Flavius Phoca Augustus. Today, this column is still intact and represents the symbolic value of the last battle of the Forum Romanum.

During this period, although the memory of the Forum lived on, most of its monuments decayed into ruins. This magnificent architectural complex was slowly buried and with time it began to be used as grazing land for cattle and as cropland. As a result, it got the name Campo Vaccino or Campo delle Vacche, named after the animals.

Renaissance (1492 - 1789)

Ironically, the great admiration people had for classical antiquity was the cause of most of the destruction in the Roman Forum.

At that time, a kind of construction rage broke out and the Roman Forum was used as a quarry for (stolen) materials to be reused. Some temples that had been preserved in their entirety until then disappeared completely within a few months, turning the valley into a collection of ruins.

Contemporary age (1789 - present)

In the 18th century, after being forgotten for a long time, systematic archaeological excavations of the Roman Forum began. In the 19th century, priority was given to restoration and consolidation work to avoid affecting the few remains that were left.

Today, we can say that the Forum has kept its original structure more or less intact, despite the transformations that the area has had to undergo because of the excavations and the development of modern Rome.

The archaeological zone of the Roman Forum is undoubtedly worth a visit. Let your imagination wander: imagine what the basilicas used to look like, how the temples were filled with offerings, and how the voices of the Senate sounded while hearing the footsteps of the soldiers in the background parading along the Via Sacra.

Buildings and monuments of the Forum

As mentioned earlier, the Forum is full of majestic buildings, works, and monuments from different periods of Roman history. Some of the most relevant are listed in the historical section of this article and will be further explained below.

Comitium

During the time of the Roman Republic, the patricians and the plebeians were in power. The patricians were the elite and met in the Curia (the senate hall), the most western building on the Roman Forum.

The plebeians (ordinary citizens) met outside on the Comitium for the comizi curiati (popular assemblies), the public part of the square in front of the Curia. Also, the people were addressed there from the Rostra, the pulpit of the Roman consulate.

Vulcanal

The Vulcanal (also called Shrine of Vulcan) was a sacred altar built in honor of Vulcanus, the Roman god of fire. It was built in the 8th century BC and is located west of the Comitium. According to legend, the shrine was built on the spot where Romulus and Titus Tatius made peace between the Latins and the Sabines.

Originally, the Vulcanal was an outdoor altar surrounded by various monuments. For example, there was a sculpture of a quadriga placed by Romulus after his victory over the city of Caenina. Later, a statue of Romulus was also constructed next to it.

The Vulcanal had a political function during the Imperial period as a gathering place for the citizens. This was before the Comitium and the Rostra were built and also served as a stage for public speakers.

Regia

The Regia (royal residence) was a two-part structure built by the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius. It was located along the Via Sacra at the edge of the Roman Forum. It originally served as the residence of the Roman heads of state and later as the office of the Pontifex Maximus, the highest religious official in the city.

The interior was divided into three rooms with access from the courtyard to the middle room. It was burned and restored in 148 BC and again eight years after the death of Julius Caesar in 36 BC. The second restoration was done in marble by Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus.

Curia Julia

In the area of the Comitium, there was originally the Curia Hostilia, the oldest senate building in Rome, founded by Tullus Hostilius (the third king of the city). The structure was destroyed by a fire in 53 BC and subsequently rebuilt by Sulla’s son.

In 44 BC, when Julius Caesar redesigned the Forum, the Curia Hostilia was demolished to make place for the Curia Julia—in honor of Julius Caesar. It’s probably the best-preserved monument of the Roman Forum, as Pope Honorius converted it into a church in the 7th century.

Tabularium

This is a monument on the Campidoglio hill (behind Piazza del Campidoglio), of which only three of the original ten arches are still visible. The building was intended as a state archive, a place where public acts, senate decrees, and peace treaties were kept, some engraved on bronze tablets—hence the name Tabularium.

Built in 78 BC by Consul Quinto Lutazio Catulo, it’s one of the few monuments from the Republican period that remain in good condition. Nowadays, the upper part—renovated by Michelangelo—houses the offices of the Municipality of Rome.

Lapis Niger

Despite being one of the city’s most important monuments, the Lapis Niger (black stone) is less well-known. This is because this magnificent work is not accessible to visitors due to extensive restoration work.

The Lapis Niger is an underground sanctuary, covered with a black marble slab, a stone’s throw away from the Curia. Its origin is a mystery, but for the Romans of the Imperial period, the following two stories were known. According to one myth, this was the tomb of Romulus, the first king of Rome. According to another story, it was the tomb of Osto Ostilio, Romulus’ bodyguard.

Inside the monument are a tomb, an altar, and a column. On the tomb is written one of the oldest inscriptions handed down to us in Latin. It describes that whoever dares to open the tomb of the king will be cursed.

Temple of Vesta

This is one of the oldest temples in Rome. It’s a small round building at the eastern end of the Roman Forum, along the Via Sacra, next to the Regia and the House of the Vestal Virgins.

In the Temple of Vesta, the virgin priestesses were responsible for keeping the sacred fire burning, dedicated to the goddess Vesta. It was only accessible to the king and the priestesses.

From the restoration carried out in 1930, using original materials from the same temple, six columns currently remain.

House of the Vestal Virgins

In the Atrium Vestae lived six noblewomen who were required to serve the temple of Vesta for 30 years. The huge building had three floors and 50 rooms built around a rectangular atrium with a double pond. In the eastern corner of the house was a statue of Numa Pompilius, the founder of the Vesta cult.

The house was built at the foot of the Palatine, where there was a sacred forest. During the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, the forest—including the House of the Vestal Virgins—and other surrounding buildings were destroyed. After this, the house was rebuilt and inhabited until Emperor Theodosius I forbade the cult at the end of the fourth century.

The house continued to be used by members of the imperial and papal courts until the 11th or 12th century. Today, excavated statues of the Vestal Virgins are displayed around the atrium.

Temple of Saturn

Besides the Temple of Vesta, the Temple of Saturn (the god of grain and agriculture) is one of the oldest sanctuaries in the Roman Forum. It was built between 501 and 498 BC and, although dedicated to the god Saturn, it was used in the Republic primarily as a treasury and archive of official state documents.

According to mythology, Saturn was chased from Olympus by Jupiter/Zeus and left by ship for Lazio. Here he taught the king and his people how to cultivate their land, which brought them prosperity, joy, and peace. In gratitude for this, he was appointed as a fellow king, and his reign was also called the Golden Age.

The remains of the temple (8 columns) are located in the southwestern part of the Roman Forum, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, near the Basilica Julia.

Temple of Castor and Pollux

This temple is also known as the Temple of the Dioscents. It was a temple dedicated to the twins Castor and Pollux from ancient Rome, who were descended from Greek mythology.

It was built as a tribute to their victory in the battle of Lake Regillus in the year 495 BC. The remains of this temple are among the most outstanding of the Forum Romanum.

Currently, three Corinthian columns of 12 meters high remain, located between the Basilica Julia and the House of the Vestal Virgins.

Temple of Romulus

The Temple of Romulus is located between the Temple of Antoninus & Faustina and Basilica Maxentius. Originally forming the entrance to the Temple of Peace, Emperor Maxentius later reused it as a temple in memory of his son Valerius Romulus, who died at a young age in 309 AD.

Theories about the temple’s name are contradicting. Some claim it was the temple of the Penates (guardian spirits of a family or the State), but lately, experts link the building to the temple of Jupiter Stator. According to legend, the temple had been founded by Romulus on the site of the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women.

As for the structure, the circular temple was built entirely of brick, covered by a dome and preceded by a facade accentuated by a concave shape in which four niches had been opened for four statues. The bronze gate is one of the few remaining Roman doors and has a mechanism that still works.

Temple of Caesar

After the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar in 44 BC, which occurred during a meeting of the Senate, his body was moved to the Regia and prepared for funeral rites. In 42 BC, a shrine was erected at the site of the cremation in his honor. Shortly thereafter an altar and marble column were built with the inscription “Parenti Patriae” which means “Father of the Fatherland”.

Caesar’s heir Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) had a temple built on the site of the column dedicated to his great uncle. This was the first deification of a deceased Roman leader. On August 18, 29 BC, the temple was inaugurated by Octavian—including major games.

Although Caesar’s temple is largely lost, images on ancient coins show that it had six columns in the front. The 3.5-meter high extended podium at the front, has a semicircular opening in which the altar Rostra ad Divi Iulii stood. This was probably the place where Caesar was cremated.

Temple of Venus and Roma

In 121 AD, the Temple of Venus and Roma was designed by Emperor Hadrian—a lover of art and architecture. He dedicated it to the goddesses Venus Felix (Lucky Venus) and Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome). Although the temple was inaugurated by Hadrian in 135 AD, it wasn’t completed until 141 AD under the supervision of Emperor Antoninus Pius.

It’s the largest temple in ancient Rome and stretches across the area between the Basilica Maxentius and the valley of the Colosseum. For its construction, material from the Domus Aurea, among other monuments, was used. The gigantic statue of Nero that stood there at the time (made of bronze and over 35 meters high), had Hadrian decided to dedicate to the god of the sun and moved it to a spot next to the Colosseum with the help of 24 elephants.

The temple contained two symmetrical cellae (temple chambers), in which each stood the statue of a goddess on a throne. One statue was of Venus—the goddess of love and the mythological mother of Aeneas. The other was of Rome—the goddess who symbolized the Roman state.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

The temple erected in 141 AD is easily recognized by the large inscription on the architrave: “To the divine Antoninus and the divine Faustina by decree of the Senate” (DIVO • ANTONINO • ET DIVAE • FAUSTINAE • EX • S • C).

This is the temple that Antoninus Pius had built for his wife Faustina. The part of the inscription dedicated to the emperor seems to have been added later after she died and was deified in 141.

The temple is located north of the Regia, between the Basilica Aemilia and the temple of Divo Romolo. It stands on a high platform of peperino blocks (a type of volcanic rock used by the Romans in their constructions), preceded by a staircase. The pronaos (front of the temple) remains almost intact with its ten large columns. In the center are the remains of the ancient altar and the cellae display the image of griffins on its two main sides.

In the seventh or eighth century, the temple was transformed into a catholic church, dedicated to San Lorenzo in Miranda (St. Lawrence), who is said to have been sentenced to death in this place. In 1536, the church was partly demolished and the side chapels were removed to restore the appearance of the ancient temple before the visit of Emperor Charles V. The church visible today was rebuilt in baroque style in 1602 by Orazio Torriani.

Temple of Vespasian and Titus

The Temple of Vespasian and Titus is located at the north end of the western side of the Roman Forum, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. It’s dedicated to Emperor Vespasian, who was deified after his death on June 23, 79.

Titus had the shrine built and dedicated to his deceased and deified father Vespasian. However, Titus himself only ruled for a few years. After he died in 81 AD, the temple was completed by his brother Domitian, who then dedicated it to Titus. The temple was the first major addition to the Roman Forum since the time of Emperor Augustus.

The building was 33 m long and 22 m wide with a hexastyle portico (with six columns) in Corinthian style. The columns were 1.57 m wide and 13.2 m high. Today, only three columns of marble remain, with a small part of the architrave decorated with various sacrificial objects (a knife, an axe, etc.).

Temple of Peace

Between 71 and 75 AD, Vespasian ordered the construction of the Templum Pacis (also known as the Forum of Vespasian) in honor of Pax, the goddess of peace.

When he and his son Titus had won the Jewish War in Judea and Galilee, he believed he had restored peace in Rome. With the spoils of war from Judea, he could easily cover the cost of building the temple.

The Temple of Peace was inaugurated in 75 AD and in addition to worshipping the goddess of peace, it was also used to display the stolen Jewish art treasures and other spoils of war.

At the end of the second century, in 191 AD, the temple burned down and was reconstructed afterward by Emperor Severus. He was probably also the one who commissioned the Forma Urbis Romae. This large marble city map of Rome was hung in the Aula of the temple in the early 3rd century.

What was once one of the most beautiful structures in Rome slowly disappeared in the Middle Ages under the rising ground level. Above ground, the auditorium where the Forma Urbis hang was preserved and eventually rebuilt into the Santi Cosma e Damiano Church.

Arch of Septimius Severus

This imposing arch was commissioned by the Senate in 203 AD in honor of Emperor Septimius Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta. The inscription on the monument refers to two glorious deeds of Septimius Severus that marked the first years of his reign.

Not only had he secured the end of the civil war, within which he had prevailed against his opponents and secured the imperial throne (193 and 195-197 AD), but he had also won the war against the Parthians (195 and 197 AD), which led to the establishment of the new provinces of Mesopotamia and Osrhoene.

The square of the Comitium is bordered by this triumphal arch, a monumental structure characteristic of the Roman era, located on the side of the Comitium and the Regia. It was used for a purification ritual whenever the army returned from a victory. When they passed under the arch and set foot on the holy ground of Rome again, the general and the army were cleansed from the blood of their enemies.

After the death of Septimius Severus, his sons became co-emperors. It was a difficult collaboration, ending with Caracalla ordering his brother Geta to be killed. After this, he decided to remove his brother’s name and proof of existence from all inscriptions, statues, and images present in the arch.

Arch of Titus

In the eastern part of the Roman Forum, on the northern slope of the Palatine, there’s a triumphal arch with a single bow. It was built by the Senate in memory of Emperor Titus after his death in 81 AD.

Four marble semi-columns can be seen on the facade. The main decoration of the arc is on the inside. On the west side, the work features an inscription in which the Emperor is called a divus (god) by the Senate. Deified because of the Jewish war he waged as sovereign in Galilee, which destroyed Jerusalem, after which he was received in triumph after his return to Rome.

On the left side of the arch, for example, you see bearers carrying items that had been captured during Titus’ battle against the Jews. In this case, silver trumpets and the seven-armed candelabra, the most important symbolic objects in the conquest of Jerusalem.

Basilica Porcia

In ancient Rome, basilicas weren’t religious buildings. Rather, they were a meeting place for citizens where financial transactions took place, trade was conducted, and court decisions were made.

The Basilica Porcia is the oldest basilica of the Forum, built in 184 BC by the famous military and political leader M. Porcio Catone (better known as Cato the Elder or Cato the Censor).

In the late Roman republic, it was a central political building, where—among other things— the tribunus plebis (the people’s tribune) represented the interests of the plebeians (the common people) towards the patricians (the elite).

In 52 BC, a fire spread in the Comitium during the funeral of Clodius, caused by his followers. The ruins of the building were probably demolished in the same year and the basilica wasn’t rebuilt.

Basilica Aemilia

The Basilica Aemilia was built in 179 BC and is the only one of the Republican basilicas to have remained. It was constructed under the supervision of the censors Marco Emilio Lepido and Marco Fulvio Nobiliore. Because the construction was handled with so much care, especially by the last-mentioned censor, the basilica was also called the “Basilica Fulvia.”

After several restorations by members of the gens Aemilia—one of the oldest patrician houses in Rome—the work received the name “Basilica Aemilia” and later “Basilica Paulli”, after the Aemilius-Paullus branch of the family. These restorations took place in 78, 54, 34, 14 BC and 22 AD, during the reign of Tiberius.

Basilica Opimia

In 121 BC, the consul L. Opimio inaugurated the Basilica Opimia, which he had ordered to be built. The basilica was located next to the new temple of Concordia, also built by Opimio.

The history of the basilica is closely linked to that of the temple which was demolished and rebuilt during the reign of Augustus (7 BC - 10 AD). As a result, more area became available for new buildings and led to the demolition of the Basilica of Opimio.

Basilica Sempronia and Basilica Julia

The Basilica Sempronia was built in 169 BC by censor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, father of the famous Gracchus and Tiberius. It’s said that to build Sempronia he had to demolish the site of the house of general and politician Publius Cornelius Scipio and some warehouses on the northeast side of the Forum.

On the site where the basilica Sempronia stood, Julius Caesar built the Basilica Julia in 54 BC for self-glorification. It was erected between the Temple of Saturn and the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Despite the fact that the work wasn’t yet completed, the basilica was inaugurated in 46 BC, two years before Caesar’s death.

The building was finished by his successor Augustus but suffered damage from a fire in 12 BC. After this, the basilica was rebuilt and renamed after Gaius and Lucius (Caesar’s adopted sons) but it remained known by its original name.

Today, the remains of the Basilica Julia (near the Temple of the Dioscuri) and the Basilica Aemilia (next to the Curia and the Lapis Niger) can still be seen.

Basilica Maxentius

The Basilica Maxentius (also called Basilica Nova or Basilica Constantini) is the last and largest Roman basilica built. At the beginning of the 4th century (308 - 312), Maxentius had begun construction but his victorious rival Constantine completed it with a few changes to the design.

Located at the northeastern end of Velia hill, it stood next to the abandoned Temple of Peace and the Temple of Venus and Roma, which Maxentius restored. The building was intended for the judicial activities of the magistrate. For a period of time the name of this building fell into oblivion, but thanks to research, its origins were identified again and it was once again known by its original name.

The basilica was characterized by the presence of a large central nave, separated by columns and pillars from the two side naves, with the original entrance on the east side. At the head of the nave was an apse in which was placed a 12 m high colossal statue.

Porticus Deorum Consentium

The Porticus Deorum Consentium (also known as the Area of the Dii Consentes) was a structure where the twelve most important Roman gods and goddesses were worshipped. These included six female goddesses and six male gods: Apollo, Ceres, Diana, Juno, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Venus, Vesta, and Vulcan.

The present building dates from the 2nd half of the first century AD and is probably the replacement of an older building, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. In 367 AD, the porticus was restored once more.

At the front of the structure are the Corinthian columns of the porticus, executed in white marble. Behind the colonnade are eight rooms measuring 4 m high and 3.7 m wide. The original location of the 12 statues of the gods has not been proven archaeologically.

The Porticus Deorum Consentium is located at the Capitoline end of the Roman Forum, between the Temple of Saturn and the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. Of the present structure, four columns and the architrave remain original, the rest was rebuilt in 1858.

Umbilicus Urbis Romae

This conical, brick building from the time of the Severians is located between the Rostra and the Arch of Septimius Severus. The monument was originally clad in marble and travertine. As the expression itself says in Latin, it’s “the Navel of Rome”, the center of the city.

The Umbilicus Urbis Romae has a small opening that gives access to an underground cavity, which was closed by a stone that blocked the passage. According to legend, the pit, which resembled the sky vault in shape, was the heart of the city and represented a gateway that connected the world of the living with the world of the dead.

The gate remained closed throughout the year except for three days (August 24, October 5, and November 8) when the two worlds were connected. These days were considered religious, so all public activities were prohibited on those dates.

Column of Foca

The last monument built on the Roman Forum, after the fall of the empire, is the Column of Foca (608 AD). The column was built in honor of the Byzantine Emperor Foca.

The column, constructed of white marble, still stands, but without the statue that was on top of it. It’s located between the Lapis Niger and the Basilica Julia.

Curiosities about the Roman Forum

Now that you know more about the history of the Forum and its main monuments and buildings, here’s a list of curiosities. Discover, for instance, how the Forum Romanum got its name, why a hugely popular festival was celebrated there every year, and what macabre performances took place at the site.

The origin of the name

Originally, the word “forum” was used to refer to the space around a house or a tomb. Later, the word was used to designate the political, religious, commercial, administrative, and cultural center of the city.

According to other sources, the origin of the Forum Romanum is derived from Latin, meaning “Roman market square.” This refers to the original function of the archaeological site where goods were brought to be sold.

The legend connecting Romulus and the Lapis Niger

The writer Pliny the Elder tells us that three sacred trees (a fig tree, a vine, and an olive tree) dominated the square at the center of the Forum.

According to the legend of Roman mythology, the twin brothers Romulus (founder of Rome and first emperor) and Remus, after being thrown into the Tiber in a feeder, were found by the wolf Lupa Capitolina and fed under the fig tree. Today, these trees have been replanted to commemorate the memory of this legend at the oldest site in the Forum, the Lapis Niger.

As mentioned before, in later times the Romans thought that this sanctuary was the place where Romulus was killed and buried. For this reason, we can assume that the ancient stone inscription was meant to curse possible desecrators and protect the tomb of the founder of the Eternal City.

The Saturnalia

The Saturnalia was a Roman pagan festival. It was first celebrated on December 17, 497 BC, during the inauguration of the Temple of Saturn (the Roman god agriculture). The rituals during the festivities were somewhat similar to what we know today as Christmas and Carnival.

During the festival, a large public banquet was organized and people sang, feasted, ate, and gambled. They also gave each other gifts such as candles, dolls, and masks. In the temple of Saturn, where an ivory statue of the god stood, a rope was tied around the feet all year round—which was loosened during the celebration so the god could join the great banquet.

Another notable ritual is that during the banquet, the roles of slaves and their masters were reversed. The slaves were allowed to dress up and were served by their masters. The social order was forgotten for a moment and the slaves could temporarily consider themselves free.

Originally the feast lasted one day but was gradually extended to seven days (from December 17-23).

The Vestal Virgins

As mentioned in the section about the Temple of Vesta, the Vestal Virgins were priestesses who participated in the cult of the goddess Vesta. Along with the emperor, they had exclusive access to the temple of Vesta, located on the Roman Forum.

They were responsible for keeping the sacred fire burning, which was never allowed to go out. In addition, they also had the task of collecting water from the sacred spring of the nymph Egeria, which was used for the cleansing of the temple.

The priestesses lived in the Vestal House and actively participated in the life of the capital and led a comfortable life, thanks to private donations and bequests. They also helped the poor and weak and were able to pardon the condemned. It’s said that the first vestal was the mother of Romulus and Remus.

The six virgins were chosen by Pope Maximus from a group of twenty girls between the ages of six and ten. Originally they had to come from noble families. In addition, the priestesses had to take a vow of chastity and could only leave the cult after 30 years. If the vow was not kept, they would be buried alive and their seducer would be flogged to death.

Macabre performances

The Rostra was a place where sacrifices were made to the gods and important speeches and verdicts were delivered by orators and magistrates. However, this place had another function as well, which was very common at the time, namely the display of the mutilated bodies of defeated enemies or political rivals. It was also common that only limbs or body parts were shown.

Although this seems cruel and unimaginable today, at the time this practice served as a warning to those who wanted to turn against the Romans but also as an expression of power and political authority of the Roman Imperium.

An example of this phenomenon is the struggle for power between Cicero and Mark Antony. When Cicero lost, his severed head and hands were publicly displayed at the Forum.

Tickets

All available tickets give access to the Palatine, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. Here’s an overview of the different types of tickets:

Ticket type
Price*
Validity period
SUPER access**
Details
Ticket typeRegularRegular + Audio guideRegular + Video guide“Full Arena Experience”“Full UndergroundExperience”
Price*€16.00€19.50€22.00€22.00€22.00
Validity period24h24h24h48h48h
SUPER access**NoNoNoYesYes
DetailsOne-time admission to the Colosseum and one-time admission to the Forum/Palatine area.Admission is the same as the regular ticket but with an audio guide.Access is the same as the regular ticket but with a video guide on a tablet.One-time admission to the Colosseum including the arena, plus one-time admission to the Forum/Palatine and the SUPER sights.Same as the “Full Experience Arena”, but with access to the underground section instead of the arena.

*Online tickets have a €2.00 booking fee.

**SUPER sights include Nero’s Cryptoporticus, the Palatine Museum, the Aula Isiaca with the Loggia Mattei, the House of Augustus, the House of Livia, the Temple of Romulus, the Santa Maria Antiqua, and the Domus Transitoria.

In addition, it’s possible to book a guided tour for the underground part of the Colosseum and the Arena. The cost of this upgrade is €9.00 and is only available as an option for the “Full Arena Experience” and the “Full Underground Experience”.

If you don’t want to book a guided tour, it’s possible to add an audio or video guide to your regular ticket for €6.00. They’re available in several languages and have high-quality content.

Points of sale

Tickets for the archaeological zone of the Forum Romanum, the Palatine, and the Colosseum can be purchased online or directly at the ticket offices on the day of your visit.

We recommend that you buy your tickets online. If you don’t, you’ll probably have to stand in line for a long time to get in. Moreover, you (usually) have the option to print your tickets in advance or pick them up at the ticket office where the queue will be shorter.

Buy your tickets for the archaeological zone of the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum here.

Discounts and free admission

  • Children under 18, regardless of nationality, have free admission to the archaeological area.
  • European citizens between 18 and 25 are entitled to the reduced rate of € 2.00 for each available ticket.
  • On the first Sunday of every month, admission to the archaeological site is free for everyone. However, take the long lines and crowds into account.

For all online tickets (including discounted tickets), a booking fee of € 2.00 must be paid.

Roma Pass

The Roma Pass is a tourist card that doesn’t require physical pick up and can be scanned from your phone at all attractions and museums. With the pass, you can get free admission to the Roman Forum, among other things.

Below is an overview of all the benefits of the Roma Pass:

  • Free entrance to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine (incl. audio guide).
  • Free entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica (incl. audio guide).
  • 20% discount on museums, including the Galleria Borghese and the National Museum of Rome.
  • 20% discount on canal cruises, including the Hop-on Hop-off Cruise and the Rome Dinner Cruise.
  • 20% discount on bike tours, excursions, and guided tours.
  • Free skip the line ticket to the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel.
  • A free one-way ticket to the center from Ciampino or Fiumicino Airport.
  • Free Hop-on Hop-off bus ticket (valid 24 hours).

You can buy your Roma Pass via this website.

Opening hours

The Roman Forum opens every day of the year, except January 1 and December 25.

It usually opens at 8:30 hr and closes between 16:30 hr and 19:00 hr, depending on the season. The ticket counter closes one hour before closing time.

Due to COVID-19, the opening hours have changed. Please, visit this website for the up-to-date opening hours of the Forum Romanum.

Useful tips for your visit

  • Remember that the Roman Forum, the Palatine, and the Colosseum are part of one archaeological zone— the available tickets allow access to all three sites.
  • Unlike the Colosseum, there are usually no long queues to enter the Roman Forum or the Palatine. However, it’s recommended to book your ticket online in advance.
  • If you have to choose a time for your visit (online ticket), it’s only for access to the Colosseum. For the Roman Forum and Palatine, this isn’t necessary.
  • It’s highly recommended to spend at least 2 hours visiting the Roman Forum. To get the most out of your visit, you could also take a guided tour.
  • On sunny days, keep in mind that there are few shady spots in the area. Bring a hat or cap, for example, to protect yourself from the sun.
  • Prepare for waiting times to enter. Due to crowds or mandatory security checks with metal detectors, it may take a little longer to get in.
  • Small and medium-sized backpacks are allowed but must go through the security check.
  • Don’t forget your passport or identity card. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed to enter the archaeological zone.

Location of the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is located between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia, in the valley separating the Capitol and the Palatine.

The current surface of the archaeological area of the Roman Forum exceeds 100 thousand square meters and extends about 600 meters along the Via dei Fori Imperiali.

Consult the map with details of the entrances and exits of the Roman Forum and Palatine.

Entrances and exits

Here’s a list of ways to enter and exit the Forum:

  • The main entrance (and also exit) of the Roman Forum, along Via dei Fori Imperiali.
  • The main entrance (and exit) of the Palatine, along Via di San Gregorio, south of the Colosseum.
  • The exit along Via Sacra, next to the Arch of Titus and in front of the Colosseum.
  • The exit near the Capitol, behind the Arch of Septimius Severus, on the west side of the Forum.

Remember that the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine are part of one large archaeological zone.

How to reach the Roman Forum

Thanks to its excellent location in the heart of Rome, it’s very easy to reach the Roman Forum by foot or public transportation.

By subway

The nearest metro station to the Roman Forum is the Colosseo station on line B. At the exit of the station, you need to turn right and walk for about 6 minutes, towards Via dei Fori Imperiali, to reach the main entrance of the Roman Forum.

A one-way ticket (BIT) for a subway ride costs €1.50, but there are also different types of passes available.

By bus

You can use one of the following city bus lines to reach the Roman Forum:

Line
Closest entrance*
Details
Directions
Line75818587117118
Closest entrance*Roman ForumPalatineRoman ForumRoman ForumRoman ForumRoman Forum and Palatine
DetailsThis line connects Piazza dell’Indipendenza with the southern part of Trastevere. The stop on Via Cavour is a few meters from the main entrance to the Forum.This line is convenient to reach the entrance to the Palatine. It connects eastern Rome with the Vatican via the Colosseum and Via di San Gregorio.This line connects Termini to the south-east of Rome, with a stop near the main entrance along Via dei Fori Imperiali.This line connects Termini to the southeast of Rome, with a stop near the main entrance along Via dei Fori Imperiali.This line passes by the Colosseum and Via dei Fori Imperiali. The Via Cavour stop is closest to the main entrance of the Roman Forum.This line passes the Palatine Hill, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia, and the Circus Maximus before arriving at the Villa dei Quintili in the southern suburbs of Rome.
DirectionsSee directionsSee directionsSee directionsSee directionsSee directionsSee directions

*As mentioned earlier, the Roman Forum and the Palatine are part of the same archaeological area. If you enter through one of the main gates, you’ll be able to access both areas from the inside.

City buses have the same tickets as the metro, trams, and urban trains in Rome. A single trip with a BIT ticket costs €1.50. The available passes are also valid for buses.

By tram

There is no tram stop at the main entrance to the Roman Forum, but there are a few nearby:

Line
Closest entrance*
Details
Directions
Line38
Closest entrance*PalatineRoman Forum
DetailsThe stop is next to the Colosseum, from there you can walk to the Roman Forum in 5 minutes. This line connects Trastevere with the Villa Borghese area.The Piazza Venezia stop is a 5-minute walk from the main entrance to the Roman Forum. The line leads to the southwest of Rome and passes Trastevere.
DirectionsSee directionsSee directions

*As mentioned earlier, the Roman Forum and the Palatine are part of the same archaeological area. If you enter through one of the main gates, you’ll be able to access both areas from the inside.

Again for the tram, you can use the BIT one-way ticket of €1.50 or one of the available passes.

By taxi

Cabs are the most convenient but also the most expensive way to get to the Roman Forum. A ride from Termini station takes just under 10 minutes and costs about €7.00.

In Rome, it’s difficult to hail a cab on the street. It’s best to go to a stand or order a cab over the phone or via an app.

There are also some things to keep in mind when hailing a cab. More details and tips on this can be found in our guide on the taxis in Rome.

By foot

The best way to explore Rome is by walking. The location of the Forum Romanum in the heart of the city is perfect. Thus, it can easily be included on a walking tour along with other sights in the area.

Nearby places of interest

As mentioned before, the Roman Forum is surrounded by other attractions. Here’s a list of sights you can visit within walking distance from the Forum.

Colosseum

The Flavian Amphitheater is the most important symbol of Italy and therefore definitely worth a visit during your stay in Rome. Each year, about six million travelers visit the ruins of the Colosseum, which are among the new seven world wonders.

Admission to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine is included in a single ticket.

The Colosseum is located on the east side of the Roman Forum (5-minute walk).

Palatine Hill

The Palatine is one of the seven hills of Rome and the first that was inhabited. Since the imperial period, it was the hill where the emperors built their palaces.

Here you can visit, among others, the remains of the residences of the House of Augustus, the Domus Tiberiana, the House of Livia, the Domus Aurea, the Farnesian Gardens, the Domus Transitoria, and the Hut of Romulus.

The Palatine is accessible from the Roman Forum. From the outside, there is an entrance 500 m south of the Colosseum (a 7-minute walk).

Arch of Constantine

Among the three Arches of Triumph that still exist in Rome, this is the best-preserved one. The striking monument was built in the early fourth century to commemorate the victory of Constantine I at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD.

It’s the last great monument of Imperial Rome and was inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of Constantine’s reign. It’s an imposing 21 meters high and 25.6 m wide and stood on Rome’s triumphal route.

The Arch of Constantine is located near the exit of the Forum (the one along Via Sacra, next to the Colosseum).

Imperial Fora

The Fori Imperiali consists of a series of monumental fora (public squares). They were built over a total period of 150 years, between 46 BC and 113 AD. Over the years, Caesar, Vespasian, Augustus, Nerva, and Trajan contributed to its development.

The Imperial Fora were built to replace the Roman Forum after it became too small due to strong population growth and could no longer fulfill its purpose as the center of Rome.

The entrance to the Imperial Fora is in the northern part of the Roman Forum, across Via dei Fori Imperiali (a 5-minute walk).

Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia with the Altare della Patria is among the iconic sights of Rome. It’s located at the foot of Campidoglio hill, where five of the city’s main streets intersect. It’s named after the nearby Palazzo Venezia, which was used as the embassy of the Venetian Republic in Rome.

A few sights in this square include Palazzo Bonaparte, the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, Palazzo Venezia, Basilica San Marco, and the bust of Madame Lucrezia.

Piazza Venezia is located west of the Roman Forum, on the other side of Via dei Fori Imperiali (a 5-minute walk).

Circus Maximus

Considered to be the largest sports stadium built by man, this archaeological area was the site of legendary entertainment activities for nearly a thousand years.

Most of the building is underground and there’s not much left to see above ground. However, through a virtual reality tour, you can discover what the circus used to look like. It’s definitely worth a visit.

The entrance to the Circus Maximus is 900 m south of the Roman Forum (an 11-minute walk).

Domus Aurea

The remains of the great palace that Emperor Nero ordered to be built in 64 AD can be visited in a virtual reality experience tour.

The virtual reality glasses allow you to explore Nero’s extravagant residence in all its glory and get an idea of what it would have looked like at the time.

The entrance to the Domus Aurea is 550 m northeast of the Forum Romanum (a 6-minute walk).

Ludus Magnus

The Ludus Magnus was the largest of the four ludi (gladiatorial schools) known from ancient Rome. The rectangular building complex was commissioned by Emperor Domitian (81-96) and completed by Hadrian (117-138).

The building was located in the valley between the Caelius and the Esquiline, east of the Colosseum—to which it was connected by a subterranean passage.

The Ludus Magnus can be reached by crossing the street from the east side of the Forum Romanum (a 7-minute walk).

Basilica of San Clemente

This intriguing building is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Pope Clement I. The first tier was built in the fourth century, making it one of the oldest Christian churches in Rome.

Over the centuries, three successive floors have been built over it, of which the top three can be visited. During a visit, you can admire (among other things) the underground temple of the Persian sun-god Mithras and numerous medieval frescoes.

The Basilica of San Clemente is 650 m from the Roman Forum (an 8-minute walk).