From the Colosseum, our guide led us on a walk through the Roman Forum, an area between the Palatine and Capitoline hills that served as ancient Rome’s commercial area. All the buildings now lay in ruins, with only pediments, partial columns, arches and fragments of floors remaining after 2,000 years. The state of the ruins, scattered over a large area, belies what must have been a magnificent civic center with grand structures and paved pathways, a tribute to the engineering prowess of the ancient Romans.
The Arch of Constantine, built by Emperor Constantine in AD 312 to commemorate his victory in battle over a rival co-emperor, marks the time when Rome converted to Christianity. It is now surrounded by a gate. As you walk past, you notice the decorations all over the arch. The marble friezes were re-used from earlier imperial monuments so that the overall impression is a lack of a coherent style.
All that remains of the Temple of Venus and Roma are a row of Corinthian columns and a portion of the temple housing an impressive apse with a coffered dome. The temple is thought to have been the largest in ancient Rome.
To commemorate his brother and the victory over the Jews at Masada, Emperor Domitian built the Arch of Titus. In one panel under the soffit is a depiction of the Romans removing valuable treasure from the Temple of Jerusalem, including the menorah.
The arch is said to be the model for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The Basilica of Maxentius was the largest structure built by the Romans at the time. It used to house an enormous statue, the Colossus of Constantine, that has since been moved to the Palazzo dei Conservatori. It used the latest technology to build the vast interior space, including soaring ceilings of perpendicular, coffered barrel vaults, which can still be seen today. A 9th century earthquake leveled most of the structure. All that remains today is the north wall.
As you approach the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina,built in the 2nd century, it looks like a traditional temple with portico of Corinthian columns. But as you get closer, you realize that it is the front of a Roman Catholic church (San Lorenzo in Miranda), the temple having been converted in the 7th century.
A temple dedicated to the twins Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri, had to be rebuilt several times because of deterioration or fires that destroyed earlier constructions. The temple was used as a meeting place by the Senate as well as housing civic offices. Only a portion of the podium remains, three beautiful, fluted Corinthian columns topped by a portion of the architrave.