23 December 2017

2016 ITALY Rome 24 - Strolling the Roman Forum

Looking from an upper window of the Colosseum, we saw the buildings on Palatine Hill (original capitol of Roma). Downhill and to the right is the Roman Forum complex, our next stop. And what a beautiful day for strolling--blue sky and comfortable temps. Hoping my shoes will be comfortable, too. Lots more walking to do.
The Forum was actively in use from 800 BC through 600 AD, with the majority of structures built during the reigns of Julius Caesar and Augustus, his successor. It was the heart of Roman culture. Besides government buildings, there were markets, various businesses, temples, monuments, entertainment areas, and more.

After its peak, layer upon layer of dirt and debris accumulated over time. It transformed into an ignored part of the city where livestock grazed. Excavation began in 1803 and took over 100 years to complete. Today the grounds lie in majestic ruins, a testament to Roma's architectural ingenuity and beauty.

We walked past the Arch of Constantine (315 AD). This is the largest of the Roman arches. It celebrates the triumph of Emperor Constantine the First over Emperor Maxentius. From 293-313 AD Rome was ruled by four emperors (a tetrarchy), which caused chaos in the Empire. The battle between these two men ended the reign of multiple emperors and made Constantine the sole head of state.

We entered the Forum under the Arch of Titus, a first century memorial honoring that emperor. The style of this arch set the tone for future honorific arches.

We proceeded on basalt stepping stones laid in ancient days. Slaves to emperors had tread these very walkways for centuries. Once again the stones are used, now by modern-day visitors.

We continued up the Palatine Hill to an area overlooking the entire grounds of the Forum. Spectacular! Think of the next three pix as a panorama--top to the left, second in the middle, third to the right. The area measures 273 yards (250 meters) by 186 yards (170 meters).

The mid-left-side structure with three arches honors Emperor Septimius Serverus (193-211 AD). This monument was where excavation began. See the current day white "wedding cake" government building behind it.
There were pools and springs, and open areas for military parades and strolling.
See the Colosseum in upper right background. Basilica of Maxentius is structure with three large arches (more later).
Here is a photo from the grounds looking up to our original viewing spot on Palatine Hill. Yes, those are people looking down.

Imagine travertine and other colorful marbles covering all the building surfaces inside and out. Even some streets were paved with marble. None here now due to scavengers and "recyclers." Scarce red cinnabar was used for decoration. All very opulent for its day.
There were so many ruins it is hard to decipher what was what. But I will try to point out a few. The columns to the right are the entrance to the Temple of Saturn (497 BC), obviously dedicated to the god Saturn. In the Roman religion, he was the god of agriculture, abundance, wealth, and time. The state treasury of silver and gold and official scales were stored here. It is one of the oldest buildings in the complex.

Also, the Column of Phocas (on left). This Corinthian column is 44 feet (14.6 meters) tall and was the last addition to the Forum. It honors Emperor Phocas. In 608 AD, he was the leader in the Byzantine Empire (also knows as the Eastern Roman Empire). The exact occasion for this memorial is unknown, but may have had to do with a "donation" to the pope.

Temple of Vesta (the virgin goddess of earth, home, and family). Vestal virgins (Vesta's caretakers) were chosen between 6 and 10 years old and were "free of physical and mental defects." If it was discovered they lost their chastity, they could be buried alive. After serving 30 years, they were dismissed and could marry.

They lived in the nearby House of the Vestal Virgins. Their tasks included keeping a perpetual fire burning in the temple, fetching water from a special spring, and other menial tasks, but they also enjoyed luxuries and a high social status.
Temple of Castor and Pollux (495 AD), built in gratitude for victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus. These "twins" of Gemini were the twin sons of Zeus (or Jupiter) and Leda. The battle was a defeat over the expelled last king of the Empire, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, who was trying to retake his kingdom.

Caesar's Alter. This seems to be a gathering spot. After Julius Caesar was murdered by members of the Senate on the Ides of March (3/15/44 BC) at the Theatre Pompeii, his body was brought here. An alter was built to mark the spot.

Wasn't much to it at this point other than a "pile of nicely placed boulders." A canopy has been added to protect the memorable space. It is astonishing, however, to know the event is still remembered and the alter intact after all these years.

Basilica of Maxentius or Basilica Nova (New) (308-312 AD) (see previous photo of the structure). Here's a peek of the largest building in the Forum. This shows an outer wall and supports, which made up about ⅓ of the structure. Basilica meant large aisled hall at that time. This building was used as a combo court house, meeting place, and council chambers. Wrestling events for the 1960 summer Olympics were held here.

The big building in the back with tower is the Tabularium (78 BC). It was a government office building of sorts and also held the official records of ancient Roma. It is higher in elevation because it lies on Capitoline Hill. It is now part of the Capitoline Museum.

Temple of Diva (or divine) or Temple of Antonin and Faustine. Construction began by Emperor Antoninus Pius in 141 AD and honored his deceased wife Faustina. Later dedicated to both by Marcus Aurelius. At the bottom of the stairs (not in view) was an alter for sacrifices. I am assuming and hoping animal. It is currently used as a Catholic church.
Here are a few more pix of artful details and grandiose ruins found throughout.

Honestly, I could go on and on. The discoveries and information are endless. But at this point the blog entry is probably too long already. I'm not even going to offer recommended reading. Just look up Roman Forum and you will find tons. I'm going to do a little more research myself.

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