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About Rome

8 things to know about ancient Roman forum

Octtavian Augustos  he was the first emperor but he had not forgotten about Caesar and had a temple built in his honor, it occupied the center of the forum and certainly there was a statue inside. The front had a terrace and a niche with an altar where Caesar was cremated, a few meters from the podium from which Marco Antonio made the his famous speech were the symbols of his defeat: the beaks of the ships that Octavian had defeated at Actium.


Augustus also had his own forum built and will be venerated in a beautiful temple, covered with precious marble with gilded bronze statues. All the statues and bas-reliefs were painted, if an ancient Roman could visit the museums where ancient works are kept today he would be shocked to see that all the colors have been lost. (See Augustus of Prima Porta)

Over the centuries the forum became the symbolic center and place of glorification of the dead emperors. In the central part there were 7 large columns to honor important people; today remains that of the Byzantine emperor Phocas who had donated the Pantheon to the pope. Last monument erected in the forum in 608 d. C. in the already medieval period, Italy was a kingdom of the Goth barbarians engaged in the war against the Byzantines.

Others are the symbolic monuments in the forum, venerated and sacred.

"Pliny the Elder narrates that three sacred trees dominated the square at the center of the Roman forum were a fig tree, under which the she-wolf Romulus and Remus would be suckled, the vine and the olive tree, that is, the wine and oil to symbolize strength and the sap of Rome. "

One of the most ancient and mysterious monuments of the forum is the Lapis Niger one of the least known, at the time of ancient Rome this point was sacred since according to tradition it would be the tomb of Romulus. It is a U-shaped altar with a base for a statue next to it and a stone with an inscription in the archaic Latin alphabet which turns out to be the oldest Latin inscription ever found and it is a curse. Evoking the infernal divinities, the inscription cursed anyone who dared to violate this place, here was buried Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome who, according to legend, was killed right here.



In the Republican age, the whole area overlooking the part was buried, fenced and covered with a black marble floor, hence the name Black stone.

Also in this northern part there was another place of reference for Rome, the golden milestone, the starting point of all the consular roads that branched into the Empire, a fragment of the base remains but it was a large cylindrical covered stone. of gilded bronze from here began a road network of one hundred thousand kilometers that connected the various provinces of the empire.

When it is said that “All roads lead to Rome” it should be said that they lead to the miliarium aureum or rather that they start from it! The Via Trionfale still follows this concept today, the house numbers refer to the distance from the Capitol and it is perhaps the only road in Italy to measure a distance, the house numbers reach 14500 ...

In the forum there was a very special symbolic place, near the Arch of Septimius Severus this semicircular structure was the umbilicus urbis, the center of the Empire and was the 0 point of their world. They thought there was a point of contact between the world of the living and that of the dead, the so-called mundus that perhaps was on the Palatine but we have no certain evidence ... It was a cavity whose end could not be seen, for 3 days the year


 it was left open to let the souls out and food and clods of earth were thrown inside in memory of the founding of the city.




In the Forum there is certain evidence of another place considered a link with the afterlife, the Lacus Curtius, now full of earth but originally it was a deep crack in the ground (due to a fault that extends along the entire hole).

The best known access to the afterlife, however, was not in Rome but near Pozzuoli was Lake Averno a basin of volcanic origin, the sulphurous fumes kept animals away and the plants did not grow ... it had a ghostly aspect and from here Virgil in the Aeneid sends his hero to the world of the dead.


Beliefs and superstitions

Many people wore bronze phalluses around their necks, bearers of life and fecundity ... over time this shape has transformed into the horn that we carry today. The Romans were extremely superstitions and performed many propitiatory rites in order not to antagonize the divinities. In the morning it was important that the strings of the shoes were intact, if one had tripped on the threshold it would have been a bad omen ... at the table one was careful not to pour oil and salt and wine because it was badly worn they were riches not to be wasted. The Romans attached great importance to propitiatory and purification rites. In the Parioli district in 1999 an important discovery was made, 10 meters below the street level a basin was found, what remains of the sacred source dedicated to the Nymph Anna Perenna. Here the ceremonies in his honor were held and at the bottom were also found some disturbing figurines modeled with a mixture of honey, milk and flour stored in lead containers one inside the other and sealed with resin by hand. The prints were studied and belonged to a woman. Roman law prohibited black magic, that intended to harm one's neighbor and the penalties were severe but love spells were allowed. A wax figurine was used, symbol of the person to be influenced who was approached to the fire and melted, as well as the heart of the loved one would have melted, in the second part a clay figurine was used that with fire hardened as well as the heart of the loved one. loved one would harden to anyone else. Potions and filters were also in vogue. The amulets were widespread with particular regard to the red coral which was thought to be the congealed blood of the Medusa's head according to the Greek myth, Perseus was able to behead it using the reflection of his image in the shield. Thus, using the blood of those who petrified with their eyes, they protected themselves from the evil eye.

Two thousand years ago it was in the Roman forum that the justice of Rome was administered within huge structures of which only ruins remain, right here the fate of many people was decided there are those who have been declared innocent, those guilty and sentenced to death in the Colosseum or sent to break stones in the quarries. Today the courts were demolished in the Middle Ages but on the stairways you can still see the games engraved in the marble, they are the lusory tabules used by those who wanted to pass the time like our chess or fillet; that's all that's left of the courtrooms. What did these classrooms look like? Two huge buildings were built in the forum: the Basilica Emilia and the Basilica Giulia the largest in the forum and at the time were used for commercial and judicial affairs.



On the

stairways it was easy to see false witnesses waiting to be hired for some trial ...

Very little remains of the Basilica Giulia, under it there is an environment excavated by archaeologists and we know that the Sempronia Basilica was built on a previous basilica of the Republican era, which in turn stood on the house of Scipio Africano, at the bottom of the room there is it is a very narrow gallery with a roof-shaped ceiling which used to be a water conduit, there is an arterial water draining system.



Source of Giuturna

The most famous water source in Rome, near the House of the Vestals who went here to draw water for their sacred celebrations. The monument was studied by archaeologists but below there are many tunnels not yet investigated. The ancient conduits were as wide as corridors and large enough to accommodate a standing man. The ventilation shafts were real manholes. The pedarole provided support for the feet and elbows and were used to climb the pipes. In the subsoil it is possible to reconstruct the various layers and the changes that have taken place over the centuries.

Digging among the temples, the ancient face of the forum was discovered, it was a swamp and here the inhabitants of the primitive inhabitants buried their dead; Skeletons of children were found inside tree trunks and surrounded by funeral objects, bowls, amphorae and small objects dating back to the 9th century BC. in the Protohistoric era. The Forum did not yet exist there was a humid valley where the clans that controlled the ford of the Tiber Island buried their dead, the area was covered by dense woods and marshes. In 1905 Giacomo Boni (Venetian architect) discovered the necropolis next to the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and he was responsible for the enhancement of the forum as an archaeological site. It was he who brought to light the Ara of Caesar, the Fonte di Giuturna or the Lapis Niger and other monuments; he fought for their protection. He died in 1925 and did not participate in the heated discussion on the opening of the Via dell’Impero which, with a pickaxe, cut the area of ​​the holes in two. Under the direction of Boni between 800 and 900, innovative excavations were conducted in many respects and carried out with a scientific method. The first aerial photos of the forum were taken thanks to the use of the balloon in 1899 used by the military genius. The excavations brought to light many finds from the most ancient eras including hut cinerary urns thanks to which we now know the homes of the first Romans, but the most enigmatic find was found in the center of the Forum near Lake Curtius, two skeletons of the end from the Bronze Age (1200-1000 BC) an adult man in a hare and a 14-year-old girl killed with a blow to the head suffering from down syndrome which at the time inspired fear. Can we think of human sacrifices? It is an enigma because such an ancient dating would force us to backdate the occupation of the valley of the forum and not all scholars agree.

In the late royal era under the Tarquini, the entire area was drained from the marshes with the construction of the Cloaca Maxima and was paved, the memory of the necropolis was lost.