The Roman Forum was the center of ancient Rome, and today is one of most complex ruins in the world. In this post I’ll continue to highlight selected important buildings in the Forum. Read part 1 on the Forum here.
Just across the way from the ruins of the temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestals are 3 huge columns rising into space, seen in the picture above. They are all that is left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. It was an important structure for centuries. It was originally built in 484 BC, but reconstructed a few times. These columns are from the rebuilding by Tiberius in 6 AD. In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were the twin sons of Zeus. Though it was dedicated a Temple, it served many other functions. It was an important meeting place for senators throughout the centuries. There was also a podium in front of the imposing temple where decrees were read aloud.
Across from the Temple of Castor and Pollux are the foundational remains of one of the largest buildings in the Forum, the Basilica Julia. It was built by Julius Caesar on top of another huge basilica, burned to the ground shortly after in a great fire and eventually re-dedicated by his successor Augustus 20 years later. The Basilica Julia housed the courts of law and was a space for banking and government offices. It was also a favorite meeting place for ancient Romans, with shops and gathering spaces. It was as big as a football field, 3 stories high with an enormous open space in the center. Ancient accounts describe it as a place bustling with people and noise. The entire outside was built with roman arches and decorated with statues facing the center of the Forum. It’s the place where Emperor Caligula allegedly had money thrown off the roof to the people below because he loved to watch them fight for it.
The Curia Julia
Across the open plaza from the Basilica Julia was the most important government building, the Curia or the Curia Julia, the house meeting space for Roman senators. The Curia burned down and was rebuilt many times throughout Rome’s history. Today, it is one of the only roman buildings still standing in Rome. Last rebuilt in 283 AD, it survives because it was converted into a church in the seventh century.The Curia Julia also bares the name of Julius Caesar, who commissioned its reconstruction but was assassinated before its completion. Augustus also completed the Curia. The building is an example of Roman dimensional precision in architecture, exactly 2/3 as wide as it is long with a hight equal to 1/2 of the combined length and width. The front portico is gone today, and long ago the marble facing was removed from the walls, but the intricate floor survives and is still visible. The Curia has recently been restored, and is fascinating to see.
Directly in between the Curia and the Basilica Julia stands another well preserved distinct feature of the Forum. The Arch of Septimius Severus was built, as arches often were (see the article on the arch of Titus here), to commemorate the military victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and was dedicated in 203 AD. It’s a huge gateway into the Forum close to the Capitoline Hill and the Temple of Saturn, and remains in good shape today because it was largely buried underground throughout the middle ages when dirt filled the forum. Impressive carvings are seen all the way around it, as well as an inscription on the top. Originally, it was gilded with bronze letters along the inscription and large bronze statues on the top. When Septimius Severus died, his sons Caracalla and Geta became joint emperors. Caracalla eventually had his brother killed and erased his name and image from the arch.
More to come…