The Roman Forum was once the beating heart of the powerful and resilient Roman Empire. It was the nerve center of the known world. Today, it is one of modern Rome's major attractions. But what one is greeted with today is but a shadow of what it was once and it can be hard to get an understanding of what it looked like in its heyday.

Located next to the Colosseum one will find many more ruins of ancient Rome that really tell the story of the ancient Eternal City. Visiting the Roman Forum is a central piece of any weekend itinerary while in Rome. What did the Roman Forum look like?


What was the Roman Forum?

It was the center of daily life in Rome, it was where one would hear criminal trials, see triumphal processions, where people would give public speeches, see gladiatorial matches, where elections were held, and more.

The citizens of ancient Rome referred to it as the Forum Magnum or just as the Forum and was originally a marketplace.

The forum was filled with monuments and statues of some of the Eternal city's greatest men. Some have even claimed that the Forum was the most celebrated meeting place in the world.

  • Location: Between Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill

The Forum is also where some of Rome's earliest history began. Many of the oldest structures of the city were here - some of these dated back to the days of the old Roman Kingdom. Some of the ancient structures included:

  • Regia: The Former Royal Residence From the 8th Century BC
  • Temple of Vesta: From The 7th Century BC

It was here that one would have found many of Rome's grandest monuments and temples.

Related: This Is The Most Scenic Neighborhood In Rome (And What To While Visiting)

The Forum In Imperial Times

The final form for the Forum was completed by Augustus. He constructed the Temple of Divus Iulius and the Arch of Augustus.

  • Hub: The Forum Became The Political, Commerical, and Social Hub of The Empire

During early Imperial times, much of the economic activity moved out to Trajan's Forum. In Trajan's Forum was much larger and more extravagant Basilica Ulpia.

A significant expansion of the Forum came under the reign of Constantine the Great with the completion of the construction of the Basilica of Maxentius. The Basilica was the largest building in the Forum and the last Roman basilica built in the city. It had the effect of resorting much of political focus to the Forum up until the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

  • Cluttered: Over Time The Forum Became Cluttered With Temples, Memorials, Statues, Government offices, and The Senate House

Notable Buildings In The Forum Today

According to Lonely Planet, some of the more significant buildings (or ruins of the buildings) that one can see today are:

  • Arch of Septimius Severus: Added in 203 AD
  • Temple Of Saturn: Built 467 BC, Rebuilt In The 1st Century BC, An Important Temple That Doubled As The State Treasury
  • Arch Of Titus: Built AD 81 To Celebrate The Roman Defeat of the Jews In AD 70 with the Sack Of Jerusalem - Said to Be The Inspiration For Arc de Triomphe in Paris
  • The Curia: The Meeting Place of the Roman Senate

The Curia Julia is the third named senate house of Rome. It was built in 44 BC by Julius Caesar but completed by Augustus in 29 BC. Today it is one of only a handful of Roman structures that continue to survive mostly intact. It was saved and restored through the ages due to its conversion into the basilica of Sant' Adriano al Foro in the 7th century.

Related: A New Ancient Roman Shrine Has Been Discovered (And Other Ancient Sites All History Buffs Need To Visit In Rome)


The Roman Forum Today

Following the fall of Rome, the Forum fell into disrepair, and eventually, it was used once again as pasture land. Unfortunately, over the centuries much of its stone and marble was repurposed for other projects around the city.

  • Cow Field: In The Middle Ages It Was Known As The Campo Vaccino (or Cow Field)

Today the ruins of the Roman Forum are impressive - but equally confusing. It is well worth taking a reconstruction of what the Forum used to look like so that one can know what one is actually looking at.

It may be helpful to get a guide to really bring these ruins of what was once truly impressive back to life.

It is strange to think that the once-bustling center of Rome was originally a marshy burial ground. One is just met with a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments. While the ruins may be impressive, they do little to bring to life what the Forum once was.

  • Visitors: Around 4.5 Million Visitors Come To The Forum Every Year

Next: A Travel Guide To Rome: 10 Things To Know While Planning Your Trip