Forum (Romanum or Magnum)
Multipurpose civic space and symbolic center of the city
Reconstructed state: Building as first dedicated on site

Alternate names: Roman Forum, Forum Romanum, Forum Magnum

The Forum Romanum, considered ancient Rome's city center, is a piece of public land, approximately 250 m x 170 m in size, situated to the north of the Velabrum, to the east of the Capitoline Hill, to the north of the Palatine, and to the west of the Velia. In terms of the buildings found here at the peak of Rome's urban development, its main features included the temples of Concord, Vespasian, and the Porticus of the Dei Consentes to the west, the Temple of Saturn, Basilica Iulia, and Temple of Castor and Pollux on the south, the Temple of Vesta and the Regia on the east, and the Basilica Aemilia and Curia Iulia on the north. Geologically, the Forum was originally a basin consisting of colluvial and alluvial soil and descending to a low point of ca. 7 masl. A gully ran along its north side; a spring flowed on the south (the Spring of Juturna). Much of the area was swampy and prone to flooding when the future city started to be settled in the Iron Age. There is evidence of land reclamation projects in the archaic period. These entailed both channeling the waters of the swamp and raising the level of the lower areas to reduce the risk of flooding (see A. Ammerman, "On the Origins of the Forum Romanum," AJA 194 [1990] 627-645). The Forum was connected to the urban street grid by a number of streets, including the Argiletum, entering on the north side, the Vicus Jugarius and the Vicus Tuscus, entering on the south, and the Via Sacra running through the Forum in an east-west direction. The Clivus Capitolinus and the Clivus Argentarius linked the Forum to the Capitoline.

The Forum was paved with gravel in the late seventh century B.C. (cf. Ammerman 1990, 643). This is also the period when the first public spaces start to be defined such as the Comitium, or place of public assembly, the Regia, or office of the king. Signs of public cults date from the same period (area Vestae, Comitium). Subsequent pavements date to the second century B.C. (traces visible at the Lacus Curtius), the Augustan period, the reign of Septimius Severus, and the late third century A.D.

In the Republican period, the Forum provided temporary or built space for political meetings, law courts, governmental institutions such as the treasury and archive, markets, religious cults, and entertainment. Starting in the late fourth century B.C., the Forum also was the place where monuments were erected to commemorate important public events and personages (for details, see N. Purcell, "Forum Romanum [The Republican Period]," LTUR, vol. 2, ed. E.M. Steinby [Rome 1995] 325-336). In the imperial period, the Forum lost its use as an entertainment center, and the number of honorary monuments and buildings increased.

The Forum Romanum is also the name of the eighth Augustan region of ancient Rome. In this sense, it covers a more extensive area, including, in addition to the areas previously mentioned, the Velabrum and the Capitoline Hill.