Roman Forum Tour

Jessica Kastello | Latin

Welcome to the Roman Forum!

The Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) began as a market place, but later became the economic, political, and religious center of Rome. Today I will take you on a tour of the following locations:


  • Golden Milestone
  • Arch of Septimius Severus
  • Arch of Titus
  • Temple of Saturn
  • Lapis Niger
  • Temple of Vesta


Many of these structures have been reconstructed over time due to fires, but even so, they have been worn down and today we see what remains of the great Roman Forum.

Golden Milestone

The Golden Milestone, or Miliarium Aureum, was a marble column with gilded bronze at which point all major roads of the Roman Empire diverged. The names of the major cities and their distances from Rome were inscribed on it. However, the measurements were taken starting at the city gates, not the Golden Milestone. Emperor Caesar Augustus had it built around 20 BC and intended it to be a reminder to those who passed it of the central nature of the Forum and how large the Roman Empire extended. The phrase "all roads lead to Rome" is a reference to the Golden Milestone.

Today, only the base of the column remains.


Statistics:

Height: 345 cm

Diameter: 1 m (column), 3 m (base)

Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus, or Arcus Septimii Severi, was a white marble triumphal arch with multiple passageways built in 203 AD and dedicated to the Parthian victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta.

After the death of Septimius Severus, his sons, Caracalla and Geta, became joint emperors. Then, Caracalla had his men assassinate Geta in 212 AD. Geta's memorials were destroyed and records of him were removed from public buildings and monuments, so inscriptions of Geta were removed from the arch.

Today, the Arch is mostly still standing.


Statistics:

Height: 23 m

Width: 25 m

Depth: 12 m

Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus, Arcus Titi, sits on the highest point of the Sacred Road in the Roman Forum and is quite popular because it is the oldest surviving arch in Rome. Emperor Titus's brother Domitian had the arch built in 82 AD in honor of the late Emperor Titus to celebrate his victory in Jerusalem.

The arch has intricate decorative relief sculptures depicting scenes including the spoils of the battles in Jerusalem and Titus's apotheosis, recognition by a deceased ruler's successor as having been divine/having god-like status.

The inscription on the front of the arch means: "The Roman Senate and People dedicate this to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian."

Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn, or templum saturni, was an altar originally built around the 497 BC for the Roman god Saturn and later, a temple was built around it. According to legend, Saturn guarded the treasure. At first, wealth was counted as grain, wool, oil, fruits, and later, the wealth was counted in precious metals--gold and silver bars and coins.

A statue of the god inside the temple was made of wood and filled with oil. The wooden legs were covered with bands of wool.

Most of the temple has collapsed, and only the front pillars remain standing from the third restoration, after a fire in 283 AD.

Lapis Niger

Lapis Niger means "The Black Stone" and is a rather mysterious ancient shrine with the oldest inscription in the Roman Forum. It was supposedly built in the 5th century BC of black stone, and later black marble.

The shrine consists of an altar next to a truncated column with an inscription on it that is partially buried under stone. The inscription is carved vertically in boustrophedon style, written left to right and then right to left, alternating back and forth like a series of switchbacks. From what can be interpreted, the inscription mentions a king, so the shrine could date back to the days of the first king of Rome, Romulus, and possibly be the king's tomb, and also curses anyone who dares to disturb it, which supports the tomb theory.

The Lapis Niger was used as a meeting place near the senate house where speakers would address the public.

Temple of Vesta

The Temple of Vesta, templum vestae, is a circular sacred temple supposedly built by King Numa, who founded the group of women known as the Vestal Virgins. The temple was dedicated to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth and home. They were tasked with guarding public treaties, imperial wills, state documents, the Palladium (statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war), and tending the sacred fire in the cella, the center of the temple. The sacred fire was to always be kept burning; however, in about 394 AD, Emperor Theodosius closed the temple and banished the Vestal Virgins. The flames were supposedly smothered, but the fate of the flames is unknown.