Archaeology in Rome: The Forum
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                                  THE ROMAN FORUM


         Rome built an empire from 21 April 753 BC, when it was founded by Romulus and Remus, to 476 AD when Odoacer, King of the Heruli, deposed Romulus Augustulus and sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople. For twelve centuries, the Roman Forum was heart of all religious, commercial, political, and judicial life in Rome. Caesar held a torch-lit banquet for 20,000 there. Growth led Caesar in 48 BC to build his own Forum addition, as did Augustus and Trajan later.

         The Forum suffered extensive damage from Barbarians in the 5th century AD, and eventually the hills of Rome covered the Forum so that it became a cow pasture (Gibbons’ Decline and Fall).  Digging it out, Fascist archeologists dug for gloty, while modem Marxists for material culture.

         The walk to the Forum lets us see two markers: the city limits and expansion of Rome.  Tomb of Caius Publicius Bibulus, Magistrate 209 BC, outside city limits, at start of 220 BC Via Flaniinia. The text reads: “C. Puplicio Bibulo L. F. Aed. P1. hon.! virtuque caussa Senatul consulto populique iussu locus! monumento quo ipse postireique/ eius inferrentur (pu)bli cedatus est,” which is “To Caius Publicius Bibulus, son of Lucius, Aedile of the Plebs, for

valor! and merit, by command of the Senate! and the Roman People the place! of his monument where he and his posterity! are buried is publicly purchased and erected.”

         Trajan’s Column built 112 AD for Romania victoiy, buried at foot, 131 feet tall, 2,600 figures.  Walk back in time: (left) Augustus’ Forum, 41 BC, Temple Mars Ultor (Avenger) of J. Caesar (right) Julius C. (first added) Forum 46 BC Temple Venus Genetrix (of C. family, Jul. and Cleo).

         Was Rome really founded by descendants of Aeneas after the Trojan War?

OUTSIDE OF ROME, excavations at Pratica di Mare, near Pomezia, show the 1200 BC likely site of Lavinium, residence of”Aeneas” (Marco Baistrocchi, Arcana Urbis, 1987, 69). The decision to move their capital to Alba Longa would have been made by Aeneadae about 1100 BC, still in the Bronze Age. The site of Alba Longa was Castel Gandolfo, and the center of the Latin League was Monte Cavo.

INSIDE OF ROME, people lived 13th c. BC on south slope of the Capitoline Hill with Proto-Villanovan and Appenine pottery culture. Excavations at the Sacred Area of Sant’Omobono along the Vicolo Jugario (just outside the Forum) certainly date from before 1200 BC, the time of the Trojan War. Pottery found comes from Ischia, Corinth, Sparta and Athens.

         Name Rome = Rivertown, Ruma City (noble Etur. clan); “Nam verum nomen huius numinis, quod urbi Romae praesset, sciri sacrorum lege prohibetur” Servius, and 5 authors (Baistrocchi, 331).

         Was the Forum a market even before the “city” of Rome? At the Forum, we can see why the market developed here. Tiber Island was the north-south road between the Etruscans and Greeks, while the Tiber itself was the original Salt Road (Via Salaria) from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the interior hill towns. A market half-way served all. Commerce first, then religion, law, politics.

         How did Rome begin on the Palatine Hill? Romulus founded the Palatine Hill city by digging a “mundus” well for the gods of the earth and filling it with grain. With a yoked bull (outside) and heifer (inside) he plowed the sacred “pomerium” boundary on which would be erected the city walls, lifting the plow only at the city gates. Rome was now the “home” of gods. The city could

only be conquered by “evocatio” (magic “calling out” of gods), acting vs “pomerium” (Achilles’chariot 7 times rounds Troy pulling the dead body of Hector “lustravit,” of. Baistroecbi, 21).

         How did the Capitoline Hill get involved? The community of huts on the Palatine soon spilled into the Forum area. In Piazza del Campidoglio was “Asylum,” where Romulus hid “tribeless” men. Sabines from the Esquiine and Quirinal Hills were invited to feast, and their women “raptae,” taken for wives. The Sabines promised the daughter of Spurius Tarpeius “what they had on their arms,” as a bribe. She betrayed Rome by opening Capitoline gates to Sabines 750 BC but instead of the jewelry she expected, they crushed her to death with the shields on their arms. The Tarpeian Rock (south east) was unneeded. First three kings of Rome, afIer Romulus, were Sabine! Next three kings of Rome were Etruscan! Last Etruscan king in 510 BC built a great temple to Jupiter Capitolinus (south east side of hill) in Etruscan style with three gods, Minerva, Jupiter, Juno. The son of that king raped the noble Lucretia, who killed herself. Lucius Brutus gave the funeral oration for her from the rostrum, expelled king Tarquinius Superbus and created the Republic. Under the Campidoglio was Ades Veiovis, known to be built 192 BC but of more ancient origin, with Jove as a young Italian “infernal” underground god. The Fort (Aix) was on the north west side. There was built the Temple of Juno Moneta (ad-monition, warning) in which was kept a silver goose, since geese warned the fort of the Galls in 390 BC, saving the fort but not the city. The Juno Temple date is (Caniillus) 343 BC, but may be a reconstruction (mint added later = moneta). Galls demanded a ransom; Brennus rigged weight, said “Vae victis.” Galls

destroyed so much of Rome, people thought of moving to Veii. The ancient Forum was ruined.

         Forum of Kings from 753 to 510 BC: Regia. Vesta. Jurturna. Dioscuri - Religious Center:  8th century huts and burials date from prehistoric times, “round” cremation, “long” inhumation. (Temple of Antoninus and Faustina built 141 AD and survived because of San Lorenzo Church.)  

Temple of Jupiter Stator, erected by Romulus in the open air, and also the Sanctuary of the Penates, both moved by Maxentius in the 4th c. AD for his Basilica. In the T. of Jupiter, Cicero delivered 18t Cataline Oration. (Mistaken “Romulus” for god-baby of Maxentius.)

Temple of Caesar marked the spot of his cremation and ~ “emperor” to be deified 44 BC.  

Tribunal: front T. of Caesar, seat of Praetor Urbanus (and later Pereg.). Magistrates in Comitium.  

Regia: founded by second king Numa Pompiius and probable residence of the Tarquin kings of Rome; many times restored, but always the same way. Three covered rooms are perfectly aimed east and west, east being the shrine of Ops Consiva, goddes of record keeping;

while western room was the shrine of Mars, with round altar and famous shields (ancilia)one of which fell from heaven, and the lance (hasta) that quivered before a war. Unroofed

courtyard had several wells, dating back to the 6111 and 5th c. BC, an altar and covered walk with roof supported by columns. Calendar “fas”&”nefas” days posted outside; city archives inside; marriage by “confarreatio”; early trials by oath were before Pont. Max. at Regia.  Temple of Vesta of sacred fire tended by virgin priestesses (served 30 yrs. after age 6, free). Copy of primitive houses of Forum, round huts of straw and wood. Originally the temple was entrusted to the daughters of the king. The fire was perpetual, except for March lit, New Years Day. The Vestals were the only priestesses in Rome, and the cult of Vesta was one of the oldest in Rome. Only ten vestals violated their vows, and suffered the fate of being entombed alive with a loaf of bread and ajug of water. The temple had a Holy of Hoies where the “pignora civitatis,” objects sacred to the destiny of Rome and pledge (pignora)of its fortune, which the Romans saw as vibrant testimony of divine election. Among these objects brought by Aeneas from Troy was the Palladium, the image of Mlnerva.  The temple was definitively shut by the Emperor Theodosius in 394 AD.

         House of Vestal Virgins with statues of chief, “damnatio memoriae”, location of Wills, 50 rooms.

         Lacus Juturnae water nymph, Dioscuri victory Lake Regillus 496 BC vs. Latins and Tarquin.

         Temple of Castor/Pollux, 484 BC, horsetamer twin gods, magistrates sworn, weights/measures.

         Lacus Curtius: Menus C. Sabine capt. lost horse, Marcus C. oracle jumped in, Gaius C. 445 BC lightening struck and Senate approved pluteal. Note pavement of Caesar under Augustus.

         Area of Fig Tree, Vine and Olive which Pliny said were born spontaneously here.

         Mundus by Romulus to Demeter and Pro serpina. at foundation (not omphalos), and Baistrocci (p.117) says, “Notion of mundus is one of the most controverted issues of Roman religion”(because Palatine - Forum - Numa to Temple of Vesta). Ma Saturni here, very ancient.


         Republican Forum from 510 BC to Au2ustus 27 BC: esp. Basilica law. Comitium politics.

         Basilica Aemilia, 179 BC, second basilica or law court/business area; destroyed Merle 410 AD.

         Cloaca Maxima; Temple Venus Cloacina: 5th Verginius vs plebeian daug. & decemvir Ap. Claud.  Plebs (clients) were told by Romulus they could have a Patrician patron for political and priestly offices. Plebs got right of appeal in 509 BC; Plebs First Secession in 494; creation

of Tribunes in 471 helped Plebs; Twelve Tables Law in 449 said no intermarriage; Second Secession (Virginia killed by father) in 449, Canuleian Law 445 repealed intermarriage

impediment, Poetelian-Papiriafl Law 326 BC forbad enslavement for debt, Licinio-Sextian Laws 367 gave special Tribunes to Plebs, Ogulnian Law 300 BC admitted wealthy Plebs to highest office, and Hortensian Law 287 BC made “plebiscite” a law for all.

         Temple of Janus, two faces, no roof, all bronze, East/West doors, closed in peace, open at war.  There is no date on the erection of the chapel of Janus, but Staccioli says “antiquissima”.  So the temple was open most of the time: 750 BC vs. Sabines, 650 vs. Alba Longa by Horatii and Curiatii (tomb km 6.4 Via Appia), 499 vs. the Latin League, 496 vs.the Latins and Tarquin, 425 vs. Fidenae, 396 vs. Veil, 390 vs.Galls, 264 vs. Volsinium (Orvieto), then the First Puriic War 264-24 1 BC, Second Pumc War 218-201 with Hannibal (Trebia, Trasimeno, Cannae), Third Punic War 149-146, First Civil War 89-82, Second Civil War 49-45; peace under Augustus form 41 BC to 14 AC; then wars along the Rhine even while Augustus was alive; then attempt to conduct wars and rule by four Emperors in Milan, Trier, Nicomedia, and Sirmiuni but it did not work. So Rome was fortified in 274 AD vs.the barbarians. Paganism and cult of Janus were outlawed by Theodosius in 391 AD.

         Lapis Niger: Altar of the 4th c. BC, the Vulcanal, where a fish sacrificed on 23 August may have taken the place of human sacrifice (Baistrocchi p. 284), secondly, a truncated column of   c. BC for a statue, and thirdly, a cippus with the oldest latin inscription (6th c. BC).

              Recent theory: Romulus met Titus Tatius who killed him here at the altar of Vulcan, where a pillar with his statue was raised and a square stone memorial cippus with the first Latin inscription. Greek cities had founder’s tombs in the agora or marketplace.

         Comitium: place where Romulus and Titus Tatius, Sabine, met afler rape “cum ire” = comitium. Remember Comitium destroyed by Goths in 390 BC and totally rearranged by J. Caesar in 46 BC.

         Assembies: Comitia Centuriata judged treason, voted big issues and offices: consuls, praetors.

              Comitia Populi Tributa, or Popular Assembly, (35 tribes) called for lesser issues and laws.

              Concilium Plebis called for plebieites and aediles or tribunes of the plebs (“clients”).

         Rostra is orators’ platform after ship prow of 338 BC Antium (Anzio), and 31 Octavian at Actium rebuiilt many times; Cicero’s hands and head (tongue stab w. hatpin by Fulvia, wife of Mark Antony, who was 2nd Triumvirate with Octavian and Marcus Lepidus).

         Uti Rogas (Yes), Non Liquet (Abstain), Antiqua Probo (No); but votes counted by tribe, group.

         Curia Hostilia or Senate House was built by Tullus. Hostilius, 3rd king; 2nd c. BC, replica of 3rd c. AD.

         Mamertine Prison: state prison in Capitoline: 104 BC Jugurtha starved, Marius triumph; St. Peter.

         (Arch of Septimius Severus built 203 AD at Parthian victory; Caracalla killed /danmed Geta).

         Temple of Concord: equal rights for Patricians and Plebs built 367 BC by M. F. Canüllus, where Cicero gave 4th Cataline Oration; behind which is Tabularium (Record Office) 79 BC!

         Temple of Saturn built 497 BC, one of oldest temples, and home of state treasury and laws.

         (Ruins at Vicus Jugarius (left of Saturn): Arch of Tiberius 16 AD, and Miliarium Aureum 20 BC.)

         (Column of Phocas: 608 AD, last monument of Forum, using 2nd c. column, to Byzantine Emp. Niceforus Phocus, who gave Boniface IV the Pantheon, turned into a chuch, so saved).

         Basilica Julia built by Caesar in 54 BC (gaming boards of ”forensi”); Forum of Caesar marble, hid.


         Imperial Forum from Augustus 27 BC: imperial marble to moral decline of bread and circuses.

         Emperors found a city of brick and left a city of marble. Two Roman secrets: cement and roads.

         Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine built 308 AD for judicial hearings: Bramante studied.

         Arch of Titus built in 81 AD on Velia; Jerusalem Temple menora; no Jew walked under.

         Via Sacra was main street where victorious emperors would bring wagons of loot: Taverns.

         Clivus Palatinus up to Palatine Hill; past birthplace of Augustus (not Jupiter Stator).

         Viminal and Esquiline Hills: which you see right and left as you face the Colosseum..

         Domus Aurea covered a quarter of Rome after (Christian) fire of 74 AD, Nero’s statue 90 ft. tall.

         Flavian Amphitheater or Colosseum for sins of Nero, 72 AD, for 55,000 people via 80 entrances.

         Arch of Constantine: why pagan art? Constantine not yet baptized; anyway art was stolen.

         Temple Venus/Rome built 136 AD by architect Emp. Hadrian, largest in Rome at 361x174 feet.






              1.   Civitas is a sacred place defined by the “pomerium” (= sacred enclosure where walls

         would be built) plowed by the heroic city founder in a single day with the plow lifted at the spots

         for the city gates. Remus was killed for overstepping the pomerium LOCATION: at top of

         Palatine Hill. ANALOGUE: CIC 1917 definition of Church as “territory”.

              2.   Temple was a consecrated place where the god lived. In the 6~ century BC the

         Etruscan King, Tarquin the Proud, had already built a temple on the Capitol Hill to Jupiter the

         Great and the Good, which the Romans considered second only to the sky as the abode of the

         god. LOCATION: passim. ANALOGUE: Tabernacle of Catholic Church.










              3.   Sacred Fire in the temple of Vesta was never allowed to go out, except on March ~

         when it was renewed once a year by the Pontifex Maximus. LOCATION: Temple of Vesta.

         ANALOGUE: New Fire on Holy Thursday, Tabernacle Lamp, Vigil Lights.

              4. Juturna’s Sacred Precinct was a shrine that contained a spring sacred to Juturna, the

         nymph who reigned over all the springs of Latium and who was made immortal by Jupiter.

         Castor and Pollux watered their horses there after the battle of Lake Regillus in 496 BC.

         LOCATION: next to Temple of Vesta and Dioscuri. ANALOGUE: Holy Water.

              5.   Temple of Castor and Pollox is where the helpers of Rome against the Tarquins at the

         Baffle of Lake Regillus in 496 BC were honored. LOCATION: area of Vesta. ANALOGUE:

         Honor to the Saints and prayers for help;

              6.   Temple of Saturn, god king of Italy in the Golden Age when there was no slavery, the

         Roman State treasury and archive of all new laws, and the center of the Roman Feast of the

         Saturnalia, in which slaves and masters reversed roles, which occurred on the 25~ of December.

        LOCATION: next to Basilica Julia. ANALOGUE: No one knows the birth-date of Christ, but

         the 25~ of December counteracted the Saturnalia; the temple archived law like Vatican Library.

              7.   The Regia where the Pontifex Maximus had his office, archaic building, strangely

         twisted north. Here the calendar was posted. LOCATION: next to Temple of Vesta.

         ANALOGUE: Liturgical calendars at New Year; rectory near church.

              8.   XII Tables, 11: Intermarriage shall not take place between the Plebians and the

         Patricians. LOCATION: at Comitium. ANALOGUE: Diriment Impediments affecting validity.

              9.   “Confarreatio” marriage by sharing bread before Pontifex Maximus made Roman

         marriage indissolubile. LOCATION: at Regia. ANALOGUE: Christian permanent marriage.


         Fonts of Law:

              1.   FIRST LAW: on stele, discovered 1889, oldest Latin inscription, dates from the tune of

         the Kings (before 510 BC) since it uses the term “reds” (regis), boustrophedon but broken half

         way up with first half and last half of each sentence remaining: QVOL HOme locum violaverit,

         manibus SAKROS ESE, ED SORDibus qui haec contanunet LOKA, FHAS RECEI IOdicio ei

         habito, adimere rem prEVAM. QUOS REx per hanc senserit vebi viaM KLATOREM, HABenis

         eroum, iubeto, ilicTOD IOVMENTA KAPIA DVO TAV ruM IThR Per aversum locum pergant

         puruM. QUOI HAe VELOD NEQVe per purum perget, iudiclOD LOVE STA LO1VQVIOD,

         QOndemnetur. The text reads: Who defiles this spot, let him be forfeit to the shades of the

         underworld, and who contaminates this spot with refuse, it is right for the king after due process

         of law, to confiscate his property. Who the king shall discover passing on this road, let him order

         the praetor to fine the person two cows; then go another way. Who persists in traveling this road,

         and fails to take the proper detour, by due process of the law let him be sold to the highest bidder.

         LOCATION: under Lapis Niger. ANALOG: Writt en Canon Law.

              2.   FIRST CODE: Law of the Twelve Tables had been lost but reconstructed from extra-

         juridic fonts. Composed 458-451 BC according to Livy, a commission of 3 men were sent to

         Greece to study Athenian Law and bring back Greek ideas for a code. Then, an extraordinary

         magistrature of 10 men was named for one year to compose the code. These Decemviri

         composed ten chapters of law that year, and a second Decemvirate was appointed the second year

         to finish the last two chapters. Laws are written in archaic Latin. Some laws are: No person is









         beyond the law; No judicial decisions after sundown; The last law made should be the one in

         force. LOCATION: at Cornitium. ANALOGUE: Codex Iuris Canomci 1983.


         Trial Process:

              1. Trial by “Leges Actiones” (753-130 BC) was not a written process; early advice was

         given by the priests; judicial calendar was kept by the priests; and the judge was not a public

         official. LOCATION: at Regia; later Tribunal for Praetor and Judge in Comitium. ANALOGUE:

         CIC 1983 oral contentious process still available.

              2. Trial by “Formulary System” (130 BC-300 AD) was more scientific after the

         Jurisprudentes began to give advice after (3neius Flavius published the “actiones” in 304 BC, and

         more equitable when the Praetor Urbanus began to develop formulas after the Lex Aebulia in 130

         BC, the contestatio litis was written and uncontestable, but the judge was still private.

        LOCATION: Tribunal and Basilicas. ANALOGUE: CIC 1983 written trials.

              3 Trial by “Cognitio Extraordinaria” (300 AD-476 AD in West) is written, with a public

         official as judge, and contestable by appeal. LOCATION: at Basilica. ANALOGUE: written

         contentious process in the CLC 1983.

              4.Trial of St. Paul. Since Peter was not a Roman citizen, there would not be much to his

         trial. We do not have the trial of St. Paul, but we do have Bp. Polycarp of Smyrna. The Judge:

         Name? Have some respect for your years, and swear an oath “By the Luck ( = the goddess of

         Fortune) of Caesar. Swear. Make a plea to the crowd. I have wild beasts here. I have fire here

         to burn you to death. The Herald: (3 times) Polycarp admits he is a Cbristian. (Death follows.)



                                   PALATINE HILL


              The Palatine Hill, (our word “palace”), now a jumble of hilltop ruins. Most famous here:

         Romulus, the first King, Remus his brother, Augustus the first Emperor, and infamous rulers like

         Caligula and Nero. Emp. Domitian (8 1-96 AD) turned the Palatine into a sumptuous mansion

         used by successors until 305 AD, a colossal edifice ranked among most beautiful m the world.

              Walk from Arch of Titus up the Clivus Palatinus. Gone now on our left side is the birth

         shrine of Augustus. Uphill right is the Farnese Gardens, the lavish private botanical gardens by

         Farnese family in the 16& century, noted for view of Roman Forum below. Straight ahead (just

         south of the gardens) is the Domus Flavia, once public area of Domitian’s incredible palace,

         whose ruins include fragments of beautiful tiled dining room floors. Continuing to the left, the

         Domus Augustana was the private palace of Emperor Domitian which he rarely left for fear of

         assassins. He was killed in his bedroom! These ruins are marked by an upper and lower level

         courtyard. Continuing to the left, is Domitian’s Stadium for private horse races. Now (right)

         overlooking Circus Maximus, the House of Livia, where Augustus lived with wife, Livia, from 38

         BC until his death in 14 AD. This modest house has myth frescoes adorning reception rooms.

         Near it, the archaic hut of Romulus (9th c. BC) confirms “foundation” tradition; still seen c. AD

              ANALOGUE: Vatican Hill and Palace: special guards, art collections ancient and

         modern, comings and goings of officials and legates to every part of the world, vast bureaucracy,

         fountains and gardens, and a man who resides there is a unique world legislator, using Latin.








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Author: John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
Copyright 2009 by The Geneologist, 3236 Lincoln, Franklin Park, IL 60131