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Top Attractions in Roman Forum

Lapis Niger

The Lapis Niger is an ancient shrine in the Roman Forum. Together with the associated Vulcanal it constitutes the only surviving remnants of the old Comitium, an early assembly area that preceded the Forum and is thought to derive from an archaic cult site of the 7th or 8th century BC. The black marble paving and modern concrete enclosure of the Lapis Niger overlie an ancient tomb or altar and a stone block with one of the earliest known Latin inscriptions . The superstructure monument and shrine may have been built by Julius Caesar during his reorganization of the Forum and Comitium space. Alternatively, this may have been done a generation earlier by Sulla during one his construction projects around the Curia Hostilia. The site was rediscovered and excavated from 1899 to 1905 by Italian archaeologist Giacomo Boni. Mentioned in many ancient descriptions of the Forum dating back to the Roman Republic and the early days of the Roman Empire, the significance of the Lapis Niger shrine was obscure and mysterious even to later Romans, but it was always discussed as a place of great sacredness and significance. It is constructed on top of a sacred spot consisting of much older artifacts found about 5 ft below the present ground level. The name "black stone" may have originally referred to the black stone block or it may refer to the later black marble paving at the surface. Located in the Comitium in front of the Curia Julia, this structure survived for centuries due to a combination of reverential treatment and overbuilding during the era of the early Roman Empire.

Temple of Cybele

The Temple of Cybele or Temple of Magna Mater was Romes first and most important temple to the Magna Mater, who was known to the Greeks as Cybele. It was built to house a particular image or form of the goddess, a meteoric stone brought from Greek Asia Minor to Rome in 204 BC at the behest of an oracle and temporarily housed in the goddess of Victorys Palatine temple. The new temple was dedicated on 11 April 191 BC, and Magna Maters first Megalesia festival was held on the temples proscenium. The temple was sited on the high western slope of the Palatine, overlooking the valley of the Circus Maximus and facing the temple of Ceres on the slopes of the Aventine. It was accessible via a long upward flight of steps from the flattened area or proscenium below, where the goddesss festival games and plays were staged. The goddesss altar was visible both from the proscenium and the temples interior. The original temple burned down in 111 BC, and was restored by one Metellus. It burned on a further two occasions in the early Imperial era, and was restored each time by Augustus; his second rebuilding was probably the more sumptuous of the two, and remained in use to the 4th century. The temple of Cybele on the Palatine was destroyed in 394 AD on the orders of Emperor Theodosius I. The temple was 33.18 metres deep, and its frontage 17.10 metres wide, accessed by steps of the same width. It was built in the prostyle hexastyle of the Corinthian order. The whole was supported by a massively walled, stucco-faced podium of irregular, thickly mortared tufa and peperino. A coin of Faustina the Elder is thought to show the same temple, with curved roof and a flight of steps. At the top of the steps is a statue of Cybele enthroned, with a turreted crown and lion attendants. This is consistent with a colossal, fragmentary statue of the goddess, found within the temple precincts. The goddess meteoric stone may have been kept on a pedestal within the temple cella; or incorporated into the face of a statue and set on a pediment. The temple pediment is shown on the Ara Pietatis relief, which represents Magna Mater in aniconic mode; her empty throne and crown are flanked by two figures of Attis reclining on tympanons; and by two lions who eat from bowls, as if tamed by the goddess unseen presence.


The Comitium was the original open-air public meeting space of ancient Rome, and had major religious and prophetic significance. The name comes from the Latin word for "assembly". The Comitium location at the northwest corner of the Roman forum was later lost in the citys growth and development, but was rediscovered and excavated by archeologists at the turn of the twentieth century. Some of Romes earliest monuments; including the speaking platform known as the Rostra, the Column Maenia, the Graecostasis and the Tabula valeria were part of or associated with the Comitium. The Comitium was the location for much of the political and judicial activity of Rome. It was the meeting place of the Curiate Assembly, the earliest Popular assembly of organised voting divisions of the republic. Later, during the Roman republic, the Tribal Assembly and Plebeian Assembly met there. The Comitium was in front of the meeting house of the Roman Senate the still-existing Curia Julia and its predecessor, the Curia Hostilia. The curia is associated with the comitium by both Livy and Cicero. Most Roman cities had a similar comitium for public meetings or assemblies for elections, councils and tribunals. As part of the forum, where temples, commerce, judicial, and city buildings were located, the comitium was the center of political activity. Romans tended to organize their needs into specific locations within the city. As the city grew, the larger Comitia Centuriata met on the Campus Martius, outside the city walls. The comitium remained of importance for formal elections of some magistrates; however, as their importance decayed after the end of the republic, so did the importance of the comitium.

Temple of Divus Augustus

The Temple of Divus Augustus was a major temple originally built to commemorate the deified first Roman emperor, Augustus. It was built between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, behind the Basilica Julia, on the site of the house that Augustus had inhabited before he entered public life in the mid-1st century BC. It is known from Roman coinage that the temple was originally built to an Ionic hexastyle design. However, its size, physical proportions and exact site are unknown. Provincial temples of Augustus, such as the much smaller Temple of Augustus in Pula, now in Croatia, had already been constructed during his lifetime. Probably because of popular resistance to the notion, he was not officially deified in Rome until after his death, when a temple at Nola in Campania, where he died, seems to have been begun. Subsequently, temples were dedicated to him all over the Roman Empire. The temples construction took place during the 1st century AD, having been vowed by the Roman Senate shortly after the death of the emperor in AD 14. Ancient sources disagree on whether it was constructed by Augustus successor Tiberius and Augustus widow Livia or by Tiberius alone. It was not until after the death of Tiberius in 37 that the temple was finally completed and dedicated by his successor Caligula. Some scholars have suggested that the delays in completing the temple indicated that Tiberius had little regard for the honours of his predecessor. Others have argued the opposite case, pointing to evidence that Tiberius made his last journey from his villa on Capri with the intention of entering Rome and dedicating the temple. However, the emperor died at Misenum on the Bay of Naples before he could set off for the capital. Ittai Gradel suggests that the long building phase of the temple was a sign of the painstaking effort that went into its construction. The long-awaited dedication took place in the last two days of August 37. According to the historian Cassius Dio, the commemorative events ordered by Caligula were exceptionally extravagant. A two-day horse race took place along with the slaughter of 400 bears and "an equal number of wild beasts from Libya", and Caligula postponed all lawsuits and suspended all mourning "in order that no one should have an excuse for failing to attend". The splendour and timing of the commemorations was a carefully calculated political act; not only was August the month in which the late emperor had died, but the climax of the celebrations occurred on Caligulas birthday and the last day of his consulship. The combination of these events would have served to emphasise that Caligula was Augustus direct descendant. Caligula later ordered that a statue of Augustus wife Livia be raised in the temple and that sacrifices in her honour were to be made by the Vestal Virgins. During the reign of Domitian the Temple of Divus Augustus was destroyed by fire but was rebuilt and rededicated in 89/90 with a shrine to his favourite deity, Minerva. The temple was redesigned as a memorial to four deified emperors, including Vespasian and Titus. It was restored again in the late 150s by Antonius Pius, who was perhaps motivated by a desire to be publicly associated with the first emperor. The exact date of the restoration is not known, but the restored temple is shown on coins of 158 onwards, which depict it with an octastyle design with Corinthian capitals and two statues – presumably of Augustus and Livia – in the cella. The pediment displayed a relief featuring Augustus and was topped by a quadriga. Two figures stood on the eaves of the roof, that on the left representing Romulus and the one on the right depicting Aeneas leading his family out of Troy, alluding to Romes origin-myth. The steps of the temple were flanked by two statues of Victory. The Temple of Divus Augustus was described in Latin literature as templum Augusti or divi Augusti, though Martial and Suetonius call it templum novum, a name attested in the Acta Arvalia from AD 36. There are references to a library erected by Tiberius in the vicinity of the temple, called the bibliotecha templi novi or templi Augusti. Caligula was said to have later built a bridge connecting the Palatine and Capitoline hills, passing over the temple. Other than the well-attested cult statues of Augustus and Livia, little is known about the temples decoration other than a reference by Pliny to a painting of Hyacinthus by Nicias of Athens, which was given to the temple by Tiberius. The last known reference to the temple was in 248; at some point thereafter it was completely destroyed and its stones were presumably quarried for later buildings. Its remains are not visible and the area in which it lay has never been excavated.

Arcus Argentariorum

The Arcus Argentariorum, is an arch that was partly incorporated in the 7th century into the western wall of the nearby church of San Giorgio al Velabro in Rome, Italy. It is a widespread misconception that it is a triumphal arch, but it is in fact entirely different in form, with no curves and more resembling an architrave. Its actual purpose is unknown, but the most probable scenario is that it formed a monumental gate where the vicus Jugarius entered the Forum Boarium. As the dedicatory inscription says, it was commissioned not by the state or emperor, but by the local money-changers and merchants, in honour of Septimius Severus and his family. The top was possibly once decorated with statues of the imperial family, now long gone. It was finished in 204 and is 6.15 metres tall and the passage is 3.3 metres wide. It is built of white marble, except for the base which is of travertine. The dedicatory inscription is framed by two bas-reliefs representing Hercules and a genius. The panels lining the passage present two sacrificial scenes on the right/east, Septimius Severus, Julia Domna and Geta, on the left/west side Caracalla with his wife and father in law Fulvia Plautilla and Gaius Fulvius Plautianus. The figures of Caracallas brother, father in law and wife on the passage panels and on the banners on the outside, and their names on the dedicatory inscription, were chiselled out after Caracalla seized sole power and assassinated them. These sacrificial scenes gave rise to the popular but incorrect saying about the arch that Tra la vacca e il toro, troverai un gran tesoro . This led past treasure-hunters to drill many holes in it, which are still visible. Above the main reliefs, are smaller panels with Victories or eagles holding up victors wreaths, and beneath them more sacrificial scenes. The external decoration of the pillars includes soldiers, barbarian prisoners, military banners and a now damaged figure in a short tunic.

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