What is the Via Sacra?

The Via Sacra, also known as Sacred Way, was once the main street in the heart of the Ancient Roman City. When visiting the Roman Forum, you can see many ancient temples and ruins scattering the area. Most of these landmarks can be found lining one wide street, which is the Via Sacra. Stroll across the pages of time as you visit one of the most popular attractions in Rome.

History of Via Sacra

Via Sacra

The Via Sacra (or ‘Sacred Way’) was the main street to lead travellers and citizens into the main centre of business, known as the Forum. It was also used to establish the religious faith of Roman people to any newcomers, by displaying their temples at the Forum’s entrance. The street hosted celebrations for Roman victories, with triumphal marches following any war conquests. The marches started from the Via Sacra and headed into the Forum where it would end at the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on the Capitoline Hill. They always honour their religious beliefs in these marches as they believed the victory was due to the city’s prayers. The Via Sacra was at the centre of everything in Ancient Rome-as the heart of social, religious, government, and cultural importance.

What to See around Via Sacra?

  • The Colosseum

    If you stand at the eastern end of Via Sacra and face east you will be looking at one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world, the Colosseum. Sitting right next door to the Roman Forum, this ancient building is renowned for its violent past, hosting events and games to entertain the ancient Roman people. Alongside the famous gladiator fights, other events staged here include animal fights, musical performances, and naval battle recreations which the Colosseum had to be flooded for.

  • The Temple of Venus and Rome

    If you turn from the Colosseum and begin walking the Via Sacra you will see on your right the Temple of Venus and Rome. The temple was built in the 2nd century and was designed by Emperor Hadrian himself. Its construction began in 121AD but, although the temple was inaugurated in 135 AD by Hadrian, it was not entirely completed until 141 AD. Thought to be the largest temple in ancient Rome, it is an impressive structure overlooking the Via Sacra.

    The temple housed two statues within its walls; one of Venus, the goddess of love, and one of Roma, the goddess of Rome. They were both seated on thrones placed back to back so that Roma was overlooking the Forum to the west and Venus overlooked the Colosseum to the east. There was a lot of symbolism associated with this back-to-back placement. Venus was the goddess of Love and ‘amor’ spelled backwards is ‘Roma’, hence connecting the two goddesses further.

  • Arch de Titus

    Simply head down the Via sacra until you reach this ancient artefact. The Arch of Titus is a large arch, standing fifteen meters tall and 6 meters wide. It is one of the two oldest remaining arches in the forum. Being built following the death of Roman Emperor Titus in 81D. The brilliance of this arch is due to the decorations carved into its sides. These illustrations honour Titus and the victory in the war of Jerusalem. Make sure you take note of the centre inscribed, which translates to ‘The Senate and People of Rome, to Divus (meaning divine) Titus’.

  • House & Temple of Vestals

    The Temple and House of Vestals was the residence for the Vestal Virgins, the priestesses of the cult of Vesta. These ancient virgins were honoured in Roman society, thought to be very powerful beings, as they were in charge of protecting the city by honouring the Goddess Vesta. This was done by continuing to keep alight the magical fire given to them long ago. Wander through the remains and learn about these interesting women. Remaining artefacts, including statues and preserved building sections, can illustrate the fascinating secrets and daily lives of these priestesses.

  • Palatine Hill

    A short walk away is the Palatine Hill, home to the oldest part of ancient Rome. Bursting with ancient ruins, frescoes, and artefacts of the rich Romans. It was once the most prestigious neighbourhood in Rome. Trek up to the top of this historic hill and hear about the legendary tales of its inhabitants. With jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city, the hill is well worth the visit.

  • Basilica of Maxentius

    Basilica of Maxentius

    Further on the right are the giant remains of Basilica of Maxentius. The size of this incredible structure was to enforce the power of both the architecture and the emperor himself. The Basilica’s construction was started by Maxentius but was completed by Constantine who placed a 15m tall statue of himself at one end. The magnificent building would have been covered in marble when it was built however it has been removed over the centuries. If you look closely at the walls you will notice a series of small holes; these would have been where the clamps were placed to attach the marble to the walls.

  • Temple of Caesar

    This temple was erected as a shrine for the deified Julius Caesar. Following his assassination, his body was cremated on this site. After the cremation, his followers erected an altar which was soon torn down by those who wished his death. Emperor Augustus eventually ordered the temple to be built over the cremation site for his followers to continue to worship him.

  • Temple Saturn

    Looming over the Forum are the remains of the Temple of Saturn. The temple still has eight tall pillars and is one of the most iconic structures along the Via Sacra. It was first built in 498 BC and was rebuilt in 42 BC. Saturn was considered the god of wealth and a large statue of him would have been positioned within the Temple.

A walk along the Via Sacra will allow you to immerse yourself in the ancient history of the fascinating Roman Forum. The sites which line the street are iconic and beautiful and will leave you in no doubt of the awesome power and vision of the Roman Empire.

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