Ancient Roman Forum: a unique open air museum

If you walk around Rome you will end up, at some point, facing what it seems to be a hole in the ground with another town in it. That’s exactly what you’re looking at: behold the greatness of the Ancient Roman Forum (or Fora, to be more precise), the ancient pulsing center of Rome in the Empire Age.

Your Rome Segway Tour will bring you there short after the departure, letting you take a glance at this magnificent memory of greatness: now we’re descending into its streets and try to imagine it as it was!

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A complex of five grandly conceived complexes flanked with colonnades, the Fori Imperiali contain monuments, law courts, and temples. The complexes were tacked on to the Roman Forum, to accommodate the crescent need for administration buildings and grand monuments of an enlarging State.

The first building encountered in this impressive complex is the Forum of Caesar. This piazza was built for Julius Caesar himself. The piazza has two porticoes on the east and west sides, while a temple dedicated to Venus Genitrix dominates the far end.  Next is the Forum of Augustus. It was built for Emperor Augustus together with the temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger, in Latin). In a vow made to the god, the Emperor promised to build the temple if he won the Battle of Philippi (42 BC). He actually won, however, it was only inaugurated 40 years later and was part of a second monumental piazza, that named after Augustus.

Does it look like every emperor wanted to build his own Forum? Well, that’s correct. The other squares are dedicated to Nerva and Trajan, while the Temple of Peace was Domitan’s idea: other started the constructions but most often didn’t see their ending. So every following emperor had to finish the work and, of course, leave a trace of himself. That’s why there are so many squares in a relatively small area, so many monuments, so many temples. Rome emperors were a bit self centered but hey, they were actually the gods on earth of the world they knew!

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And after all this history, it’s time for a juicy legend.

It’a story that even the most important Ancient Rome’s historian, Titus Livius, knew. It takes places a few after the foundation of the city, right in the Fora but even before they existed, when there was only a damp. During one of the famous battles between Romans and Sabins (started because of a kidnapping, history says), a legendary commander of the Sabins’ legions, Metius Curtius, threw himself forward and saved its battalion: he actually fell in a quicksand poll and died there, avoiding this way a bitter conclusion to the fight. The place where he felt was called “Metius Curtius’ Lake”, Lacus Curtius. Once the romans started to reclaim the land, they filled with terrain the hole and declared it holy. It’s not over: during another wartime, the holy pit suddenly reopened after a thunderbolt fell on it. It was Gods’ Anger! They had to sacrifice something really really important to calm them. Only Marcus Curtius, a valiant soldier, understood God’s will: the most important thing Rome had were its army: so he threw himself into the pit, and his sacrifice saved the romans just like Metius saved the Sabins. Then came Caesar and the Forums, they constructed over everything and the memory faded.

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A great and almost forgotten legend… that might be true: it seems that Curtius’ Lake has been found!