Rome: A Sunny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

April 25 , 2010 Yes. Sun.

It is believed that the Etruscans (height of civilization 500 BC, "subdued" by the Romans by the end of 3 BC) built the stadium for games and entertainment. Apparently, Caesar expanded the arena (50 BC) to form Circus Maximus, a chariot racing stadium that held about 250,000 spectators and up to twelve chariots at a time.

The site is now a public park for walkers, joggers, dogs and the occasional concert or sports game.

The Forum was the commercial, political, religious and social centre in 700 BC until the fall of the Empire in 5 AD. The Forum flooded and eroded for 18 centuries.  20th-century archaeologists excavated the remains through 3 to 4 metres of earth and exhumed the very heart of ancient Roman Empire.

Founded 306 BC, Basilica of Constantine, formerly known as Basilica of Maxentius, the largest single structure standing, the last non-Christian building built in the Forum, served as a court and meeting hall.

Antoninus Pius commissioned the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in 141 AD in honour of his late wife Faustina. The columns are 17m tall. The building is the best preserved in the Forum.

Below: House and courtyard of the Vestel Virgins. The Virgins were priestesses of the goddess Vesta, goddess of the hearth and household. They were responsible for maintaining the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta. A girl was selected between the ages of 3 and 10, from a distinguished patrician family, and served 30 years. If she broke her 30-year vow of chastity she was buried alive, the best way to kill without shedding vestal blood. The corrupting lover? Flogged to death.

Marble mosaic floor, but not even "floor", entire arcades and squares and thoroughfares were bedecked with all colours of marble. Swaths of ornate marble tiles still adorn many walkways throughout Rome's "ruins".

Massive columns, vast domes and monumental buildings and statues are obviously impressive, but I was just as fascinated by the more intricate carvings. Sometimes carved marble looks just like the plant it mimics or as deceptively soft as the flowing satin its meant to depict on countless sculptures.

Arch of Septimius Severus is a triumphal arch that commemorated the Parthian victories of Emporor Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta.

Most prominent structures (left to right): Senate House, Arch of Severus, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, and Temple of Saturn.

Temple of Saturn, on the left: a monument to agricultural deity Saturn. Built 501 BC. Waaay in the back: three pillars are all that is left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux beyond the nubs of what was Basilica Julia (dedicated to Caesar in 46 BC).

Just one more look:

More Rome on the way.