The Roman Forum
Welcome to the Forum Romanum
Hello, I’m Mike Anderson and I’m going to be your guide today on this tour of the Roman Forum.
Right now you should be standing near the ticket booth off the Via dei Fori Imperiali.
I study and write about ancient history, and what I’ve learnt along the way has made the forum one of my favorite places. The forum was the center of Roman government for eleven centuries and remains one of the most important sites in the history of Western civilization. But its location was important long before the republic came into existence too, because the hills that surround it offered the Roman tribes safety from attack. The site is also just a couple of kilometres from the Tiber River, which could be forded nearby, helping to facilitate trade.
Each time I visit the forum, I feel alive to the history of this great place. It was once the nerve center of a city of one million people. Government buildings, religious sites, businesses -- all of them located in this relatively small space. Being here I can't help being drawn into Ancient Rome's great events -- the speeches, the triumphs, the meetings of the Senate. The voices behind those events are quiet now, but in a way, you can still touch them. When you go to the Senate house, put your hand on the wall. That wall heard the speeches of Cicero.
Back then, if you were standing where you are right now, you’d see magnificent marble and stone structures filling the entire space in front of you. You would hear the news reader giving his headlines for the day, gossiping washerwomen, duelling gladiators, merchants shouting out special offers, and lawyers arguing publicly for their clients.
But the structures here are much more than remnants of the past, marking what has fallen. Touching them puts you in direct contact with the success of Rome and the civilizations that inherited its culture. And its that contact that has given me a lasting connection to the ancient world.
[2 sec silence]
Let’s start walking now. Stand with the road behind you. Can you see a gate ahead? Go through it. If you don’t have a ticket yet, you can buy one there. It’s valid for two days and includes access to the Palatine Hill as well as the Forum.
If you haven’t already, you can put your phone in your pocket now. VoiceMap uses your location to play my voice automatically, at the right place and time. Some silence is normal between points of interest, especially if you take things slowly. If you feel lost at any point, you can refer to the map on your screen.
[2 sec silence]
If your read the tour's description, you might have noticed that I used the term "temporal eclectic" to describe the forum as it is today. By this I mean that the structures that remain here today don’t actually give you a sense of what the forum was like at any one time.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that the forum was a living part of Rome for 1,100 years, and a lot of time leads to a lot of construction. The second reason is that over the years, many structures were destroyed -- by fire, by invasion, or because a new emperor needed space for his new monuments.
After the empire fell, the forum was vandalized and materials were hauled off to be used for other purposes. Christian Rome didn't do anything to preserve the forum because it was seen as the product of a pagan society.
This all means that a walk through the forum is actually a zigzagging trip through time.
But let’s not zigzag just yet. Keep going past the gate and then down the sloped path. You’ll hear from me again soon.