Rome - the Roman Forum


The remains of the Basilica Julia is the next building along the Via Sacra. A basilica, in Roman architecture, was a roofed public building. The building was started in 54 B.C. by Julius Caesar, paid for by the spoils from the Gallic war. It was completed by Augustus Caesar, but burned shortly therafter. It was reconstructed in 12 A.D., and again after the fire of 283 A.D.

The Basilica housed the civil law courts and tabernae (shops), and provided space for government offices and banking. In the first century, it also was used for sessions of the Centumviri (Court of the Hundred), who presided over matters of inheritance.

The original plans for the building have been found, and look something like this:


The brick work would've been part of the second reconstruction. Descriptions of the basilica from the time describe it as a three-story building, with 17 arcades along the front. The central hall measured 250 feet by 50 feet and was paved in white marble, and was constructed such that it was naturally lit by sunlight. The surrounding side isles were paved in colored marble. The outside of the building was faced in white marble.

This photo shows the Basilica in the center, the Palantine (brick buildings) in the background, and the remains of the Temple of Castor to the left (the three columns).


Marble staircase, looking back on the Temple of Saturn (two columns and a bit of roof visible).

This reconstruction shows what the Basilica Julia would have looked like if one were standing on the Temple of Saturn in 400 A.D.

basilica julia recon


Eric looking at the Temple of Vesta. This tiny building housed the sacred flame, symbolizing the life of the Roman empire. Legend has it that worship of Vesta, goddess of the hearth, began on the Forum in the 6th century B.C., officiated by the king Numa Pompilius. Temples to Vesta are always round, modeled on the huts that housed the ancient people of Rome. The sacred fire was tended by a preistesshood of six Vestal Virgins, who in exchange for their service were granted rights to own property and many other privileges not usually granted to women in Rome. In addition to the fire, these women also watched over the Palladium, a wooden statue of Athena/Minerva said to have been brought by Aeneas from Troy, as well as public treaties, imperial wills, and other state documents. They had the authority to free condemned men and slaves by touching them, and attempts to harm a Vestal were punishable by death.

temple vesta recon

Digital reconstruction of the Temple of Vesta.


The sacred fire was maintained from somewhere around 700 B.C. until the temple was ordered closed by the emperor Theodosius in 395 A.D. The temple withstood the Gallic invasion in 390 B.C., and the fire that destroyed the first Basilica Aemilia in 14 B.C. It was damaged in the Great Fire of 64 A.D. (Nero fiddled while Rome burned) but was restored by 69 A.D. Another fire burned it in 191 A.D., but in each case the Palladium and much of the other contents of the temple were saved. No one knows what became of the sacred objects of the temple after it was disbanded.

The temple was looted and stripped of marble in the 16th century. It was excavated in the 19th century, and what stands today was restored in the 1930's.


This otherwise unremarkable semicircle of stone commemorates the most famous man in all of Rome's illustrious history. This is the Temple of Julius Caesar.

On the last day of Caesar's life, the Senate met in a porticus at the Theater of Pompey, because their usual meeting place (the Curia) was undergoing reconstruction. Most accounts state that Caesar was murdered by a host of Senators, before the entire Senate. However, at least one account puts the place of his death in the Theater's latrine. Caesar was loved by the common people, and as news of his death spread an angry mob began to gather in the Forum. Brutus addressed them from this spot, and when Caesar's body was brought down the Via Sacra, marked by 23 wounds, the crowd built an impromptu pyre and Caesar's body was burned. Within two years Caesar had been declared a deity and a temple erected in the Forum to commemorate him.