The old Roman Forum extended into a marshy valley from Capitoline Hill along the Palatine Hill. When, much later, the Basilica of Constantine was added it reached almost to the Colosseum. The valley between the hills was crossed by a small stream emptying into the Tiber, which drained the area and was canalized underground (probably in the 6th cent.
In imperial times the old Forum became inadequate; the emperors built new forums to the northeast, from the Basilica of Constantine to the valley between the Capitoline and Quirinal. On the southeast were the Forum of Vespasian with the Temple of Peace surrounded by a colonnade; next the Forum of Nerva; then that of Augustus with the temple of Mars. Southwest was the smaller Forum of Julius Caesar, a colonnade enclosing the temple of Venus. Beyond the Forum of Augustus was the Forum of Trajan, a vast colonnaded square; then the Basilica Ulpia; then the two libraries with, between them, the Column of Trajan, which is still standing. The temple of Trajan closed the Emperors' Forums to the northwest.
In the 4th cent., the decay of the old Forum began; earthquakes, fires, and the barbarian invasions completed its destruction. In the Middle Ages materials from the forums were used to build new monuments throughout the city. Only in the 19th and 20th cent. were systematic excavations made to bring to light what was left. The forums are now, with the Palatine and Colosseum, an imposing complex of ruins, testifying to the magnificence of ancient Rome.
See M. Grant,
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