Roman Forum

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Coordinates: 41°53′33″N 12°29′09″E / 41.892534°N 12.485715°E / 41.892534; 12.485715

The Roman Forum (Latin: Forum Romanum, Italian: Foro Romano) is a small open rectangle surrounded by the ruins of ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this marketplace as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of triumphal processions and elections, venue for public speeches and nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city's great men. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history.[1] Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archeological excavations attracting numerous sightseers.

Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Kingdom's earliest shrines and temples were located on the southeastern edge. These included the Vulcanal (Shrine of Vulcan) and the ancient former royal residence, the Regia (both 8th century BC), as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, both of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome. Other archaic shrines to the northwest developed into the Republic's formal Comitium, where the Senate — as well as Republican government itself — began. The Senate House, government offices, tribunals, temples, memorials and statues gradually cluttered the area. Over time the archaic Comitium was replaced by the larger Forum and the focus of judicial activity moved to the new Basilica Aemilia (179 BC). Some 130 years later, Julius Caesar built the Basilica Julia, along with the new Curia Julia, refocusing both the judicial offices and the Senate itself. The Forum then served as a revitalized city square where the people of Rome could gather for commercial, political, judicial and religious pursuits in ever greater numbers.

Eventually much economic and judicial business would transfer away from the Forum to larger and more extravagant structures to the north. After the building of Trajan's Forum (110 AD), these activities transferred to the Basilica Ulpia. The reign of Constantine the Great saw the division of the Empire into its Eastern and Western halves, as well as the construction of the Basilica of Maxentius (312 AD), the last major expansion of the Forum complex. This returned the political center to the Forum until the fall of the Western Roman Empire almost two centuries later.

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