From 1997 to 2003 the Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory (CVRLab) created a digital model of the Roman Forum as it appeared in late antiquity. The notional date of the model is June 21, 400 A.D.

The purpose of the modeling project was to spatialize information and theories about how the Forum looked at this moment in time, which was more or less the height of its development as Rome's civic and cultural center. The digital model includes over twenty features (buildings and major monuments) filling up the western zone of the Roman Forum from the Temple of Vesta and Temple of Antoninus and Faustina on the east to the Tabularium facing the western slope of the Capitoline Hill.

Thanks to archaeological campaigns that started in the early nineteenth century and which continue to the present day, these features can be seen in Rome today and constitute one of the city's most important archaeological sites. Their state of preservation varies from fair to poor; and the ruins seen today represent a mixture of different phases in the life of the Forum. As a result, understanding the Forum is a challenging task not only for tourists but also for scholars. Almost as soon as the new excavations started bringing the ancient remains to light, archaeologists such as Canina, Huelsen, Gatteschi, and Gismondi started to create graphic and physical reconstructions of how the Forum might have looked at specific moments in time. The CVRLab digital model, created with the help of an international Scientific Advisory Committee, is the latest example of this perennial project.

From the time the modeling project was conceived, the investigators intended to present their results to students, scholars and the general public. The digital model of the Forum can be viewed on various hardware and software platforms. These range from simple static views that can be displayed on a computer monitor to dedicated visualization theaters costs hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

With generous support from the National Science Foundation, the CVRLab was able to create this Web site about the digital Forum model from 2002 to 2005. The purposes of this site are: (1) to use the Internet to permit free use and easy viewing of the digital model by people all over the world; (2) to provide documentation for the archaeological evidence and theories utilized to create the model; and (3) to offer basic information about the individual features comprising the digital model so that their history and cultural context can be readily understood.

Terms of use

Creative Commons License

All original material on this site is copyrighted by the University of California Los Angeles and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. For all other materials, please contact the copyright holder.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Project credits

Project investigators

Bernard Frischer (principal investigator)

Diane Favro (co-investigator)

Web application and database design

Ewan Branda

Web development team

Tom Beresford , Renee Calkins , Teresa Chen , Shawn Gupta , Chris Johanson , Algis Kalvaitis , Anna Kovatcheva (proofreader) , Christina Patterson , Rebeka Vital


Bernard Frischer

Editor of primary and secondary sources

Jane W. Crawford

Advisory Committee for the Web site

Christine Borgman (UCLA)

Gregory Crane (Tufts University)

Russell Scott (Bryn Mawr College)

Advisory Committee for the Model

Dean Abernathy (UCLA, University of Virginia)

Carla Amici (University of Lecce)

Diane Favro (UCLA)

Bernard Frischer (UCLA, University of Virginia)

Fulvio Cairoli Giuliani (University of Rome "La Sapienza")

Russell Scott (Bryn Mawr College)

Institutional sponsors

Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory

UCLA Academic Technology Services

UCLA Experiential Technologies Center

UCLA Institute for Social Science Research

Financial sponsors

Web site: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0218811.

Digital models: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Creative Kids Education Foundation, Intel Corporation, Kirk Mathews, Microsoft Corporation

Copyright permissions

Bernard Frischer: digital photographs of buildings and monuments in the Roman Forum today.

Harvard University Press: excerpts of ancient Greek and Latin authors published in The Loeb Classical Library.

The Johns Hopkins University Press: excerpts from L. Richardson, jr. A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London: 1992).

Nicholas Purcell generously allowed us to use his articles on the Roman Forum

L. Richardson jr. generously allowed us to use his article on Roman Topography.

Aerial photograph of the Roman Forum copyright 2005 by Google Earth/Digital Globe.

Web application platform

Ruby on Rails Web Framework

Jakarta Tomcat (application server)

MySQL Database

Ferret (Ruby Search engine)

Jena Semantic Web Framework