Larry F. Ball/Sopraintendenza Archeologica di Roma

Originally a marketplace, the Roman Forum evolved into the commercial, cultural and political center of ancient Rome. Its basic plan was reproduced all over the empire, as a means of administering Rome’s vast territories. In this large open space between the Capitoline and Palatine hills, merchants hawked their wares, priests and priestesses worshiped their deities, gladiators contested with one another, senators orated and victorious generals staged magnificent triumphs. The vibrant, ever-changing nature of the Forum is visible in its ruins. This photograph looks northeast over the Forum (see plan). Near the center of the photo sits the small Temple of Vesta (c. 575–550 B.C.), one of the Forum’s oldest structures. To the right of Vesta’s shrine, surrounded on two sides by clumps of trees, stands the tall, colonnaded Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (c. 141 A.D.). At the left edge of the photo, partially obscured by the entablature over three columns remaining from the Temple of Castor and Pollux, looms the intricately detailed Arch of Septimius Severus (203 A.D.).