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Roman Forum: All You Need to Know Before You Go

An imposing, albeit slightly chaotic cluster of ruins, the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum), was once the heart of Roman social, political, and religious life. In its prime, the forum was a magnificent site of temples, commerce, elections, processions, criminal trials, and gladiator matches. Today, it showcases remains from centuries of local history as Romans often built over their own achievements of the past. Even in its ruin, however, it doesn’t fail to inspire and amaze and is the perfect gateway to all of the Roman Forum history.

Roman Forum History

Originally, the location of the forum was a low-lying marshland. As more and more people started to settle in the valley, they constructed “Cloaca Maxima.” This was an extensive sewer system that exited into the Tiber River and helped to drain the area. With the growth of Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, the square became the city's social and political hub. On the other hand, legend has it that the Forum is a result of an alliance between Romulus the mythical first king of Rome who controlled Palatine Hill and his rival Titus, the king of Capitoline Hill.

After The Fall of the Empire

Sure, the Roman Forum enjoyed a lucrative status for centuries. But, like many other Roman developments, the Forum, too, crumbled into ruin after the fall of the Roman Empire. Eventually, it ended up serving as pastures for cattle. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the area was known as the “Cow Field” (Campo Vaccino) and most of the valuable stone and marble was plundered for other constructions.

Rediscovering the Glory

From the 17th to 19th century many artists and architects studied the Forum to explore Roman architecture and way of life. However, it wasn’t until 1803 and the excavation of Arch of Septimius Severus by Carlo Fea that the Forum started to be cleared of debris. The official government-regulated excavation began several decades later, in 1898, and continues to this date.

What to see in Roman Forum

To experience Rome is to experience its history and how best to do this, but by visiting the Roman Forum. Here you step into the epicenter of the former Roman Republic. The ruins are an archaeological imprint that point to the political, cultural and intellectual glory of Italy, both past and present. A few of the main points of interest include Arch of Septimius Severus, Temple of Julius Caesar, Basilica Aemilia, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Saturn, and, the Column of Phocas.
For a magnificent view of the entire Roman Forum, climb up the Palatine Hill! 

  • Via Sacra 

A great way to explore the Roman Forum history is to walk the Via Sacra (Sacred Road), which begins from the top of Capitoline Hill and leads down, past some of the Forum’s most famous sites, to the Colosseum. The Via Sacra was the main street of ancient Rome. Used as the traditional route of Roman Triumph, it used to celebrate the military successes of Roman commanders in the service of the Roman Empire. 

  • Arch of Septimius Severus

Beginning from Capitoline Hill, at the northwest end, you can take in the Arch of Septimius Severus which is one of, if not the most, impressive monuments of the Forum. Dating back to 203 AD, the monument, which stands at 21 meters high, was built to commemorate the victories of then Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus, over the Parthians. Made of Peloponnesian white marble collected from the sea of Marmara, the arch tells the story, through the now 4 weathered reliefs carved into it, of Severus’ war with the Parthians.

  • Temple of Saturn

To the right of the Arch of Septimius Severus, you will find the Temple of Saturn. Legend has it that it was built on top of an altar, constructed by Hercules, for the God of Sun. All that remains since its construction in 497 BC are 8 columns. But, the temple is one of the oldest sacred places in Rome and was used as a repository for the state's treasury. It was also the site of the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, a festival not unlike modern-day Christmas that was celebrated with a banquet, gift-giving, and general all-around merrymaking. 

  • Column of Phocas

Through the arches and again on the right side of the Via Sacra is the Column of Phocas. This is a significant building in the Roman Forum’s history as it was the last monument to be built in the Forum. The fluted Corinthian column stands on a brick socle and was dedicated in 608 AD to the Byzantine Emperor, Phocas. At the base of the column, there is an inscription commemorating Phocas who may have earned this honor in donating the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV. However, two years, in 610, after having the column dedicated to him, Phocas was overthrown and murdered.  

  • Temple of Castor and Pollux

Further down the Via Sacra, there is the Temple of Castor and Pollux as well as the Arch of Titus. Castor and Pollux, known together as Dioscuri, were, according to Greek and Roman mythology twins and demigods. Credited as being excellent horsemen and hunters, the Dioscuri were worshipped by both the Greeks and the Romans. The temple, which was built in 495 BC, stands on the site where Castor and Pollux are said to have appeared to announce the victory of the Roman Republic against the last King of Rome. Unfortunately, the fire that ravaged large parts of the Roman Forum in 14 BC destroyed much of the temple. However, Tiberius rebuilt it in 6 AD and the remaining 3 Corinthian columns which you can see today are from this structure.

  • Arch of Titus

Linking the Colosseum to the Roman Forum is the awe-inspiring Arch of Titus. So distinct and powerful in its stature, the Arch of Titus has influenced many modern day commemorative triumphal arches including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and New York’s Washington Square Arch. It was built in 81 AD to commemorate the victory over Judea by Titus, the story of which is told through the reliefs that depict Titus’ triumphal march back to Rome carrying the spoils of war.    

Tips for visiting the Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a sprawling collection of the former republics most significant architecture and a definite for anyone looking for things to do in Rome. Here are our top tips to help you get the drop and make the most of your visit.   

Colosseum and Roman Forum Skip the Line Tour



What is Included? 

The access to the Roman Forum is included in the price of the ticket to the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. While your visit to Colosseum will likely have a fixed time of entry, you are free to explore the Forum whenever and for as long as you wish. The ticket is valid for 48 hours meaning you can take in the sights and leisurely pace.

  • Ticket Prices

Tickets prices for adults range from €12 to €20 depending on the type of thicket (regular or skip-the-line). EU citizens between the ages of 18-25 are eligible for a discount while for those below the age of 17 and above the age of 65 admittance is free. 

Early Morning Tickets: Colosseum, Roman Forum - Very Fast Access



  • Accessing the Roman Forum

There are three points of entry to the Roman Forum:

  1. The first, via the Via dei Fori Imperiali, has lines with a wait of approximately 15 minutes.
  2. The second is opposite the Colosseum and has the longest wait time.  
  3. However, if you walk 5 minutes down the road to Via de San Gregorio you can enter the Forum via its third entry, the Palatine entrance, which is often the quietest.        

  • Read up beforehand or sign up for a Tour

While there is plenty to see and explore, you can find very little information on the site. If you don’t know what you are looking for or at, you can miss out. We recommend bringing along a detailed guidebook or, better still, booking a Colosseum Underground Tour.

For those interested in more personal experience, there are a number of great private tours. You can get the lowdown on the all the sites and chat Roman history with an official guide and expert in archaeology, art or history. Sound like your thing? Learn more here:  

  • Beware of the sun!

 When you’re visiting the Roman Forum it’s important to remember that it is an open space that provides little in the way of cover or shade and the city of Rome in the summer can be very hot. To beat the heat we recommend visiting in the morning or mid-afternoon. Be sure to pack a bottle of water, sunscreen and a hat

  • Quieter time for your visit? 

Although the Forum is often very busy, package deal tour groups do generally organize their tours to finish by 15.00. So, if you’re looking to beat the crowds and for a time when the Roman Forum looks the loveliest, head out in the afternoon. But, be aware, the Forum opens every day at 8.30am and closes an hour before sunset.     

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