Tarun’s cousin in London had given us a good guidebook to Rome, and it contained an artist’s depiction of the Forum Romanum in its heyday. I still remember the picture: soaring columns, magnificent façades, wide steps leading up to temples to virtually every Roman god and goddess. It must have been a memorable sight, and even though only its ruins remain now, it’s still one of Rome’s most impressive areas.
We walked from the Colosseum, past the intricately carved Arch of Constantine, up the hill to the Forum Romanum. The entrance to the Forum is yet another arch- the Arch of Titus, not quite as ornate as that of Constantine, but richly carved nevertheless. The Arch of Titus stands more or less at the top of a low hill, and the path beyond it dips into a shallow, wide bowl across which spreads the Forum. The path is dusty, stony in places, and bordered by trees and shrubs. When we arrived, in the late afternoon, a few crows were hopping about among fallen blocks of marble. Atop some of the columns sat roosting gulls.
Paths lead here and there, off to the left and the right, to each of the monuments in the Forum. We checked out some of them, reading diligently from our guidebook (you’ll need one, unless you’re part of a guided tour- there are no signs to say what the ruins are, or how they’re significant). The best-preserved of the monuments is the imposing Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, a huge building with massive columns; it dominates the right side of the Forum as you walk away from the Arch of Titus. Next to the Temple is another interesting temple, this one dedicated to one of the two legendary founders of Rome: the Temple of Romulus. It’s an unusual round building.
Further on, to the left stand three slender columns- all that remains of what was once the Temple of Vesta. A sacred fire used to be kept burning here in ancient Rome by the Vestal Virgins, the much respected maiden priestesses of the goddess Vesta. Similar to the Temple of Vesta is another set of white marble columns- not quite so elegant, but again on the left. These are the ruins of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and opposite the temple is an opening into the Cloaca Maxima, the largest sewer in Rome. Beyond the temple, also on the left, are the broad steps of the Basilica of Julius Caesar, a temple built by Augustus Caesar to honour Julius.
Climbing up a slope, we came to the other end of the Forum Romanum- past the ruined Temple of Saturn, and up to the stunningly ornate and well-preserved Arch of Septimus Severus. Our walk through the Forum took us a leisurely hour, and by the end of it, we were truly impressed. This, like the Colosseum, is something that has to be experienced to be believed.