What was the Roman Forum used for?

If you visit Rome today, you will see remaining structures of the hugely important Roman Forum still standing amongst ancient ruins.

The forum is regarded as one of the most significant meeting places and city centres in the world’s history. The story of its rise and fall remains one the most fascinating amongst historians and visitors to the site.

The Forum – located between Capitoline and Palatine Hills – was built on what was originally uninhabitable land. The Romans were able to devise a sewage system to remove excess water and build. They did not want to waste land. This sewer system is considered one of the world’s oldest.

The structure and the functions of the Roman Forum varied as time went on. Temples, rooms, arches, columns and structures were added and altered with each new reign or leader. These structures were continuously stolen from, destroyed and rebuilt over an extensive period.

The centre of daily life

Changing through many hands of power, the uses of the Forum were vast. Believed to have originally been built to honour Jupiter, and then Saturn, the Forum also functioned as the first bank of Rome. It was home to the Vestal Virgins. These 6–10-year-old girls were chosen to keep the sacred flame of Rome burning, and they vowed to do so for 30 years.

It was used as a field for gladiator battles prior to the Colosseum, and as a location for trials and executions for criminals. It was the burial place of Julius Caesar after his assassination, and his burial site can be seen today. Historians believe this could also be the final resting place of Romulus – the founder of Rome.

It transitioned overtime to become a thriving marketplace for Romans. Public and legal meetings were held here, and law courts and administrative offices were built. The Roman Forum saw the evolution of Romans into a civilised society.

It is believed Trajan’s Market – which has been well preserved – was one of the first shopping centres ever built. Romans could sell and buy goods here. They would meet at the open-air markets for business and pleasure.

The Roman Forum was a marketplace, had government building and administrative offices, carried religious significance, saw trials and execution as well as ceremonial events, and it was a commercial city centre. It is now visited by over 4 million people a year.

The Fall of the Roman Forum

Having seen so much change, and even more significant moments in the history of Rome, the Roman Forum fell along with the Roman Empire. Around 400AD, the Roman Forum was destroyed and stolen from. It suffered more damage from earthquakes, pollution and the elements. Large marble sections and pillars were stolen and used to build homes or traded.

Eventually, the Forum was covered and became cattle grazing fields, and was not rediscovered until early in the 1800’s. Excavation took over 100 years.

There is so much history held in this once massive and thriving structure, and archaeologists continue to make discoveries today about the Forum, even today. Anyone who visits the Roman Forum and wanders through the ruins will attest to the feeling as if they have stepped back in time. The lives of the Ancient Romans are studied in such detail. We are lucky to have remains of their building and lives to understand how they functioned as a society, so many years ago.

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