Insider’s Rome: The Forum

The Forum is where Roman history begins, but when it begins is a question that has recently had to be asked again…

Santi Luca e Martina, Arch of Septimius Severus and the Temple of Saturn at the Roman Forum, Rome, Italy
The Forum, Rome by iStock

According to the story, Rome was founded on 21 April 753 BC, which means this April it was… umm… very old. How do we know the date so precisely? Because it’s just a story. Two demi-gods, fathered by Mars, or Hercules, washed up by a fig tree on the shores of the Tiber after a failed infanticide attempt, suckled by a she-wolf and aided by a woodpecker… We needn’t worry too much about the precise date. What does matter, though, is that Rome might be even older than that.

This area, the Roman Forum, was once a necropolis, the place where all the local communities buried their dead. It then became a communal area. This happened after Romulus (who had killed his brother, Remus, for making fun of his wall) made peace with Titus Tatius, King of the Sabines, with whom he had come to blows over the Rape of the Sabine women, and forged an alliance between their two communities, integrating the Sabines into Rome – right here in the Roman Forum.

The dates of the oldest known remains here tie in very nicely with the chronology of the myth, but recently – very recently, in fact – a wall was excavated here with pottery that has been dated to some time around 900BC, which would make Rome a good hundred years older than we had been led to believe.

Is this the wall that Romulus had built to keep Remus out? Er… No. It was probably part of a water conduit.

INFORMATION: The standard admission ticket (€12) also includes the Palatine Hill and Colosseum. Free entry on the first Sunday of the month.