on December 5, 2009
Roman Forum was the political, social and religious centre of the ancient Rome. Later on, the area was used as a ready-made marble quarry, supplying the construction stone for much of the later buildings. Since the 18th century's renewal of interest in antiquity, the area of the Forum has been more systematically excavated, but to the casual visitor, it still remains a most fascinating, rambling patchwork of ruined temples and basilicas (Roman basilicas were secular buildings, where legal cases were heard). The Forum is a captivating site and a delight to just walk about and explore (though you can hire a guide, and there are some information panels). At the western end of the Forum stands the Arch of Septimius Severus, arguably the most attractive of Rome's triumphal arches, despite, or maybe because of its decorative artwork being severely eroded. Next to the arch are remains of the Rostra - a raised platform for public speakers. It's from this dais that Mark Antony made his "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech. Via Sacra extends from here east towards the Capitol. Of many buildings just a few columns and ground-level walls remain, others have been rebuilt in modern times, adapted for new uses or incorporated into new Christian buildings. Perhaps the most striking example of the latter is the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, which incorporates - nay, which looks like it has been built inside the portico of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina. It's a building that invites a double take, a building that looks like a folly or a joke, or a result of a time-wrap clash of structures. And yet, there it stands, a baroque facade behind a 2nd century columns. Further along the Via Sacra . The remains of the house of the Vestal Virgins draws attention with its central pond full of water lilies and goldfish, flanked by a row of mostly headless statues: a restful and somehow melancholic site, with the remains of vast building that surrounded the inner courtyard clearly distinguishable around. Further on, the sheer scale of the public buildings of Ancient Rome can be contemplated in the huge arches and vaulted ceilings of Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. At the western end of the Forum, a Baroque church with a Romanesque bell tower rises from inside the colonnade of Hardrian's giant temple to Rome and Venus. Past the western edge, the famous Arch of Constantine stands between the Forum and the Colosseum. As the whole of Rome, the Forum is a palimpsest of the living history of the city, demonstrating clearly its continuous development and renewal. The site isn't clearly fenced off and the entrance is free, as it should be to what has always been a public space.
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