Roman Forum

The Roman Forum in Italy
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The Roman Forum is a large, rectangular plaza located in the center of the city of Rome, Italy. The forum is surrounded by the ruins of a number of extremely important ancient government buildings. Many of the oldest and most important Roman structures were located directly near the Forum, which started originally as a marketplace, but developed into a place for politics, business, and entertainment.

It is located in the middle of a small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills.

The Roman Forum was the center, literally and figuratively, of Roman public life for hundreds of years. A wide array of events occurred at the Roman Forum, including elections, speeches, processions, trials, and even gladiator matches. The Forum has been referred to as the most celebrated meeting place in the world.


Marcus Varro explains that the name of the Forum Romanum comes from the Latin verb conferrent, because people bring issues to court; conferrent is based on the Latin ferrent, referring to where people bring merchandise to sell.

The forum is sometimes referred to as Forum Romanum. It is also (occasionally) called Forum Romanum vel (et) magnum.


Archaeologists believe the establishment of the Roman Forum was the result of a deliberate and large-scale landfill project. Early monuments located there include the carcer 'prison', an altar to Vulcan, the Lapis Niger, Temple of Vesta, and the Regia.

The valley of the Roman forum was once a marsh with cattle paths. It would become the center of Rome only after drainage, filling, and building the great sewer or Cloaca Maxima. The Tiber floods and Lacus Curtius serve as reminders of its watery past. The 6th century Tarquin kings are held responsible for the creation of the great sewer system based on the Cloaca Maxima.

Lacus Curtius

Near the direct center of the forum was the Lacus Curtius. Lacus Curtuis, despite the name, was not a lake. It was instead a mysterious pit in the ground that was said to have been a widening chasm. Lacus Curtius is connected, in legend, with the Underworld. It was the site where a general might offer his life to appease the gods of the Underworld in order to save his country. Such an act of self-sacrifice was known as a devotio 'devotion'. Incidentally, some think the gladiatorial games were another devotio, with the gladiators performing the self-sacrifices on behalf of the city of Rome or, later, the emperor. The exact significace of the Lacus Curtuis to the Roman people is unknown.

The site is now largely filled in, covered up, and paved over. It is marked by the remnants of an altar.

Some Other Significant Places in the Roman Forum:

  • Pool of Curtius
  • Shrine of Janus Geminus
  • Lapis niger
  • Senate House
  • Imperial Rostra
  • Temple of Concord
  • Golden Milestone
  • Umbilicus Urbis
  • Temple of Saturn
  • Temple of Castor and Pollux
  • Shrine of Joturna
  • Basilica Aemilia
  • Porticus - Gaius and Lucius
  • Basilica Julia
  • Temple of Julius Caesar
  • Temple of Vespasian
  • Arch of Septmius Severus
  • Portico of the Consenting Gods
  • Column of Phocas