The Forum Romanum is one of the highlights of Rome. Its location in the city centre allows visitors to travel centuries back in time. Although the Forum may initially seem like a random collection of bricks, arches, pillars and statues, appearances can be deceiving: This was the centre of ancient Rome in its heyday. Below are some of the places on-site that are well worth a visit.
The Curia Julia, where the senate used to gather, is the oldest building at the Forum, and virtually the only one still intact. It seems incredible, but over time the building was destroyed by fire on more than one occasion. However, the building was rebuilt time and again, including once by Emperor Julius Caesar, which is where it got its name. In the Middle Ages, the building was used as a church, which is perhaps why it has survived the times relatively unscathed: Church buildings from ancient Rome were safe from destruction. Additionally, Italy’s former dictator Mussolini was a great admirer of the Roman Empire and stimulated major renovations.
The largest religious structure of Ancient Rome is the Temple of Venus and Rome. It was designed by Emperor Hadrian, devoted to the goddesses Venus (the goddess of love) and Roma (the goddess of eternal Rome). The building contained two sanctities with statues of the goddesses, each on one side of the magnificent white marble temple. In 2010 the temple was reopened to the public after almost 20 years of restoration work.
This building comes with a remarkable story. It was built in honour of Vesta, the goddess of fire. The holy flame in Vesta’s temple, which is still located on the Forum today, was maintained by three virgins who lived in the Aedes Vestalium (the House of the Vestal Virgins) and served the temple for a period of 30 years. Although they were highly respected, they paid a hefty price. If they lost their virginity, they would be buried alive. And if the holy fire should go out, Rome would perish and the virgins would be flogged in public.
More information on: www.forumromanum.org