Alright, this is a HUGE deal. I am telling you to forget the Colosseum, literally THE most visited attraction in Rome but here’s why. The Colosseum gets the most attention because it’s big, it’s smack dab in the center of Rome, and yes there is quite a bit of history there. Not to mention that the Colosseum is one of the most preserved monuments in Rome, making the The Roman Forum, also known by it’s latin name Forum Romanum, like a pile of rocks. Although, it may be difficult to envision when you visit, the Roman Forum was literally the downtown or city center of ancient Rome.
So, if you think that gladiator fights and shocking death sentences are intriguing, then where do you think the seeds for these events were planted? The Forum was a center for political intrigue, it’s where Rome’s overzealous (crazy) emperors spent their days, where murder plots and suspicion bred, and it is even the final resting place for Julius Caesar.
Outside of the more outlandish activities that took place, the Forum served as a public space where commercial, religious, economic, legal, and social activities occurred.
It is believed to have been founded by Romulus and Remus, the two brothers (from legend) who are said to have birthed the city of Rome, in 753 BC. Initially, the centre began as an area solely for shopping but eventually evolved and expanded to include all the activities mentioned prior. No to forget that the Roman senate was manifested there. The palace of Domitian, basilica Amelia, Maxentius basilica, Vespasian's palace, palace of Tiberius, house of Augustus, house of Livia, temple of Castor and Pollux, temple of sterns, temple of Vespasian, temple of Concordia, the temple of the Vestal Virgins, Regia, all these places including the arch of Titus and Septimius Severus can be found at that location.
During its existence the Forum was reconstructed numerous times, as Roman architects were heavily influenced by specific time periods and cultures, including classical Greek designs. It also served as a source for inspiration to artists around the world, including William Shakespeare who used the center as the setting for several of his works.
Towards the fall of the Roman Empire, many of the structures in the Forum were completely destroyed and eventually became a grazing field for cattle. However in 1803, it was rediscovered and the remains that you see today were excavated over a period of 100 years.
The amount of history that has occurred in this one space is unimaginable. Think of stepping into the remains of NYC 500 years afterwards. Just the sheer number of people, some of whom have made such a mark on history we can remember their names today, who have walked on the same earth is incredible.
So yes, I will be bold enough to say that if you want to know the real history of Rome, the Forum is where you should begin. Forget the Colosseum, it’s not as important as the heart of Roman rule and society.