Access to the Forum Romanum

31 December 2009

The Curia Julia and the central part of the Roman Forum, seen from the Palatine

There used to be a time when a visitor to the Roman Forum went to one of the entrances, bought a ticket, and could roam across the ancient ruins wherever you liked. I fondly remember how my girlfriend and I once had lunch, sitting in the grass, somewhere within the ruin of the Basilica Julia.

This changed in 1997. From then on, the Forum was accessible for free, which was -above all- practical. If you were staying in the Via Cavour, as I sometimes did, and needed to be at the Foro Boario, you could make a shortcut and did not have to make a detour around the Capitol. At the same time, many momuments were no longer accessible, like the House of the Vestal Virgins, the Basilica Aemilia, and the Basilica Julia. This was unpleasant, but it made sense. The number of visitors had increased and it was impossible to guard everything properly.

This year, I discovered that you have to buy tickets again. I would have expected that they would now reopen the closed monuments, but they haven’t. In fact, they closed things that used to be accessible, like the Horrea Vespasiana.

I do not like this at all. In an ideal world, everything is free and you can see everything. I understand that this is not possible and I realize that we have to live with one of the systems described above: either you pay for a ticket and can see everything, or you get free access but will find some monuments closed. What I find outrageous, is that they have managed to combine the disadvantages of the two systems: we now have to pay to see closed monuments.


The Neronian Sacra Via

7 February 2009

Map of the Neronian Sacra Via

The Via Sacra (or Sacra Via) in Rome is the road that connects the valley that is now dominated by the Colosseum, passing over the crest of the Velia, to the Forum Romanum. People celebrating a triumph used this road. What you can see today when you walk from the Temple of Caesar to the Arch of Titus is the road as it was in the age of Augustus.

However, it is possible to imagine what it looked like at a later stage. In an article originally posted in the American Journal of Archaeology (in 1923), Esther Boise Van Deman showed how the area was restructured during the last regnal years of Nero: a straight road leading to the Vestibulum of the Golden House (where the Colossus stood) with basilicas to the left and right – now the site of the Basilica of Maxentius and the Horrea of Vespasian. The article has been made available now by LacusCurtius‘ Bill Thayer, and you can find it here.


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