Forum Romanum

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“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”

It was here in the Roman Forum, Rome’s oldest public square, where Cicero delivered his ringing speeches, perhaps with Catiline’s face flashed before his closed eyes and words spoken with such vehemence, echoing through the ages… It was here where Marc Antony delivered his famous funeral speech…It was here where Augustus was named the first emperor of the Roman Empire…It was here where the Senate met and the most powerful men of the ancient world cast their bold visions or theatrical illusions while planning to transform the world in Rome’s image, which seemed to be their natural yearning of the time.

As early as 500 BC, this area had already been the central gathering place and when Rome grew to become an empire, this became the center and most important part of the empire. The recreation center developed into a climax of a huge space for commerce, religion and government. An open square was ringed by different structures. Alongside temples, theaters, amphitheaters, baths, rows of shops, government buildings were built, such as the senate house and a court of law which they used from 800 BC to 600 AD. The Roman Forum was the lifeblood of Rome for 1,400 years!

The Romans placed its imprint to all of their conquered territories through the system of government, architecture and the creation of Roman Forum replicas on the centers of such territories.

 

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These are the only remaining three pillars of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, which was built in 484 BC in gratitude to the twin brothers of Helen of Troy for helping the Roman army defeat the Etruscans in the Battle of Lake Regillus in 499 BC. The columns and cornice were added when the temple was rebuilt in 6 AD.

 

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I was drawn to these closed green doors…and not because of what could possibly be behind them…but because of the fact that these are the original bronze doors from the time it was built in the 4th century!

This Temple of Romulus was commissioned by Emperor Maxentius and dedicated it to his son Valerius Romulus after his death in 309. This had become a part of the church of Sainti Cosma e Damiano since the 6th century.

 

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During those glorious days, this House of the Vestal Virgins, must be standing like royalty on a beautiful street. The grounds might have groves, gardens and fountains. It was said that this had 50 rooms with some having large windows overlooking a beautiful courtyard with statues.

The vestal virgins were priestesses who tended the flame in the Temple of Vesta, a sacred shrine dedicated to the goddess of the hearth. That flickering flame, so sacred as if the gods sent forth the flame to give life to Rome! Its the symbol of perpetual life of the State…its extinction, the symbol of doom – for the State shall be doomed to perish to eternal darkness.

So the six virgins should keep the fire of Vesta burning in the round temple…at every waking moment! Such a perpetually critical, or rather bizarre undertaking in the humdrum of a vestal virgin’s life! They were not permitted to go out and would be whipped by the high priest if the sacred flame died out.

The Vestal Virgins were selected from noble families at the age of 6-10 years and served for 30 years. It was a great honor to be one as they had high status. Losing their virginity while in service meant being buried alive in the underground chamber! They could only marry after they’ve fully fulfilled their 30 year service.

 

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“If you will give me victory in this battle, then I will officially become a Christian.”

Constantine had a vision – he saw a cross in the sky and the words “hoc signo vince” meaning “by this sign win your victory”. Then he marked the shields of his men with the first two Greek letters of Christ’s name, chi and rho. He won the battle…and attributed his victory to divine intervention.

There are shallow and deep reasons for a motive to action…and definitely, Constantine’s was a strange one, for the supreme motive to Christianity!

This Arch of Constantine, which is one of Imperial Rome’s last monuments, was built by the Roman Senate in 315 AD to commemorate Constantine’s victory in 312 AD over his co-emperor Maxwntius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge.

Since Nero’s reign, Christians had been persecuted but with the first Christian emperor, there came a union of the Church and State. In 313 AD, Constantine co-authored the Edict of Milan which decreed tolerance for Christianity in the empire. Constantine tried to marry the two institutions. Under his reign, Christian clergies were brought into the service of the State.

He developed an old Greek city into a new city to become a “second Rome” or “the new capital”. He called this Constantinople, which we now call Istanbul and dedicated it to the Holy Trinity and Mother of God.

Constantine the Great was baptized on his deathbed by the bishop of Nicomedia. He was buried at Constantinople in his church of the Apostles.

 

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The Arch of Titus, built in 81 AD by Emperor Domitian to commemorate the military triumph in Jerusalem of his father Vespasian and brother Titus.

 

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The Arch of Septimius Severus, was built in 203 AD to commemorate the victories of Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons Caracalla and Geta in Parthia, which is now called Iran and Iraq.

 

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These are the remains of what used to be a grand 100 x 30 meters Basilica Aemilia which was built in 179 BC and used as a public hall for businessmen, moneylenders and tax collectors.

 

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The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, built by Antoninus Pius in honor of Empress Faustina, his deified wife.

Antoninus Pius was a Roman Emperor who ruled for 23 years, from 138 to 161. He was one of the Five Good Emperors who reigned in succession during the Roman Empire’s most glorious days, from 96 to 180 AD, with the ff. emperors:  Nerva (96–98), Trajan (98–117), Hadrian (117–138), Antoninus Pius (138–161), and Marcus Aurelius (161–180),

The temple is now combined into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda.

 

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This imposing edifice is called the Tabularium. Its architect, Cornelius, did not include representation of human figures in his design when he built this in 78 BC but instead used a plain wall space with arches divided by semi-detached columns and large entrances, which was fitting for its main purpose, a repository for the official State archives. It also housed the offices of many city officials.

So just like any modern national archives building, documents such as treaties, official deeds or laws were stored here…The only difference is the archives here were in bronze tablets!

 

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4 Comments on “Forum Romanum

    • That’s a possibility. Oh, we’ll never know… But there are men, perhaps raised by God, who shine like guiding lights and leave indelible imprints in history.

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