The Roman Forum was to Rome what the Acropolis was to Greece – the political, religious, social and commercial epicentre of the empire. Centuries of plunder and neglect have reduced this impressive archaeological site to little more than building ruins and dilapidated columns but it still hints at the glory days of ancient Rome.
The Roman Forum, or Foro Romano, was the monumental centre of ancient Rome and was first developed in 7BC. The once-bustling square was flanked by some of the most important religious and political buildings in the city including the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Basilica Emilia, the Curia, the Temple of Vesta, Ara Cessbare, the Arch of Titus and Septimius Severus, the ruins of which can be viewed today. Its importance lessened after 4AD when the exquisite marble from the temples was plundered with the area eventually used as cow pasture during the Middle Ages.
Of what remains, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was completed in 141AD and dedicated to Empress Faustina and later to Emperor Antoninus Pius. Basilica Emilia was built in 179BC and was originally a 100m-long public hall with a two-storey façade. Across the Via Sacra, which traverses the square, lies the Curia – the Roman Senate headquarters which underwent several incarnations under different emperors before being used as a church in the Middle Ages. The Lapis Niger, a piece of black marble said to be hiding Romulus' tomb, lies in front of the Curia. The Arch of Titus was erected in 81AD to celebrate the victories of Vespasian and Titus against Jerusalem, while the Temple of Vesta was where the vestal virgins, priestesses selected from noble families, tended to the sacred flame.
The Roman Forum can be visited as part of the two-day combined ticket with the Colosseum and Palatine Hill for €12. To get to the site, the closest metro station is Colosseo. From the station, it's an 11-minute walk down Via del Colosseo, left onto Largo Corrado Ricci and right onto Via dei Fori Imperiali. Turn left at Via di San Pietro in Cacere, right onto Clivo Argentario and then left into Via della Curia.