Colosseum to Roman Forum Walk

The Colosseum and Roman Forum walking tour explains over 1,000 years of Roman antiquity from about 500 BC until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD. This guide ends at the start of the Capitoline Hill to Imperial Forums Walk. The latter loops back and finishes very near the Colosseum again.

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1 Northern Façade of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Visit the Colosseum early in the morning when most tourists are having breakfast and while the sun is shining on the northern façade. This view from the elevated street called Via Nicola Salvi lets you feel the grandeur of the world’s largest amphitheater. When it was built in 80 AD, a four-story, 164 foot high wall surrounded the 1,788 foot elliptical shape. On the second and third levels there was a magnificent sculpture inside each arch along the arcades. Notice the corbels (architectural stones) protruding near the roofline. 240 of these supported a retractable awning called a velarium.

Piazza del Colosseo 00184 Roma RM, Italy

2 Western Façade of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

As you approach the Colosseum from the west, you will see this distinctive profile. On the left is the outer wall built with 3.5 million cubic feet of travertine stone yet no mortar. When most of it collapsed during several earthquakes, the structure’s inner shell on the right was revealed. The wedge in the middle was added during the 19th century to connect the two walls. The amphitheater was originally called Flavian in honor of Roman Emperor Vespasian. He commissioned the Colosseum shortly after founding the Flavian dynasty. His son Titus, who had a brief rule from 79 to 81 AD, conducted the 100-day opening ceremony in 80 AD. Then, his younger brother, Emperor Domitian, finished the construction in 82 AD. It was not called the Colosseum until the 8th century.

Piazza del Colosseo 00184 Roma RM, Italy

3 View of Colosseum’s Arena through Arch in Rome, Italy

The world’s largest amphitheater was built in the late first century as Rome was becoming the capital of the world. When the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD and the Middle Ages began, Rome became weak, looted and impoverished. After the last game was played in the Colosseum in 523, it too fell into centuries of decay.

Piazza del Colosseo 00184 Roma RM, Italy

4 Arena and Hypogeum inside Colosseum in Rome, Italy

You will exclaim “wow” repeatedly as you walk inside the Colosseum. The 272 foot by 157 foot arena once accommodated 50,000 up to 80,000 people. The stone passageway in the center is called a hypogeum. This was a highly sophisticated, underground system used to reset stage props and channel gladiators and animals into the amphitheater. When scheduled to appear, they were raised into position using elevators, pulleys and hydraulic lifts. The arena could also be flooded for mock naval battles. The hypogeum was covered with a wooden base similar to the one in the photo and then blanketed with a layer of sand.

Piazza del Colosseo 00184 Roma RM, Italy

5 Seating Arrangements inside Colosseum’s Arena in Rome, Italy

From 80 AD until 523, all events at the Colosseum were free. As you would expect, the seating arrangement was carefully managed by social class. Obviously, the emperor and senators had the best seats in the house. Additional sections were reserved for noblemen and knights. The rich citizens sat in the next tiers. Finally, the poor stood along the top rows. All of the seats were numbered. The tickets were etched onto pieces of pottery.

Piazza del Colosseo 00184 Roma RM, Italy

6 Southern Façade of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

The Colosseum had 80 entrances. Some are visible here below the first-level arches. As you exit from this southern side, make sure to look up. You will notice the surface stone is rough, devoid of ornamentation and pockmarked. After the last event occurred here in 523, the building was plundered for construction materials. The holes were from clamps that once held this inner wall to the exterior wall that is now missing. In the lower left of this photo is the Arch of Constantine, your next stop on the tour.

Piazza del Colosseo 00184 Roma RM, Italy

7 Arch of Constantine in Rome, Italy

During the early 4th century, Constantine I and Maxentius clashed to determine who would be the sole Roman emperor. The conflict was resolved in October of 312 during the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. As promised to Constantine in a vision from God, his troops were victorious and Maxentius drowned in the Tiber River. Three years later, this Arch of Constantine was erected near the Colosseum at Via Triumphalis. Historians believe many of the carvings date back to the middle of the first century during the reign of Hadrian. The triumphal arch measures 69 feet tall and 85 feet wide.

Piazza del Arco di Costantino 00184 Roma RM, Italy

8 Via Sacra Colonnade near Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

After leaving the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, you will see signs directing you to the Roman Forum along Via Sacra. The Sacred Road was constructed before the 5th century BC. This colonnade is considerably younger. It was added during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero during the middle of the 1st century AD. Just imagine the centuries of Roman citizens, dignitaries, political leaders and victorious warriors who took this path to the geographical heart of ancient Rome.

Via Sacra 00186 Roma RM, Italy

9 San Sebastiano Gate near Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

As you approach the entry of the Roman Forum, a narrow road veers off to the left. Most people are not curious enough to see where it goes. You will first encounter this Gate of San Sebastiano al Palatino. A short distance away is the church. This is where Saint Sebastian was martyred in 287 during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. He was first bound to a tree and shot with arrows. After miraculously recovering, he loudly harassed the emperor who quickly ordered him clubbed to death.

San Sebastiano al Palatino 72100 Roma RM, Italy

10 Arch of Titus at Entrance of Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

After you pass through the ticket booth but before you enter the Roman Forum, you will encounter the Arch of Titus. This very impressive triumphal arch is a tribute to Titus for his military success against Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War. Oddly, at the same time he was having an affair with Berenice of Cilicia. She was a Jewish queen. Nine years later, he became the tenth Roman Emperor. When he died after a brief two-year reign, his brother Domitian commissioned this memorial. The arch was completed in 81 AD.

Via Sacra 00186 Roma RM, Italy

11 Santa Francesca Romana near Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

This church is the final magnificent structure you will see before entering the Forum. It was dedicated to St. Mary when built during the 10th century. The church was renamed Santa Francesca Romana honoring Frances of Rome when she was canonized in 1608. Her relics are inside in a glass coffin. Seven years later, this beautiful façade was added. Curiously, Pope Pius XI made her the patron saint of car drivers in 1925.

Clivo di Venere Felice 00186 Roma RM, Italy

12 Panoramic View of Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

This panoramic view from west to east will orient you to the Roman Forum. The elevated landmarks you see on the left are: Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (141 AD), Temple of Romulus (307 AD), Column of Phocas (608 AD) and Santa Francesca Romana (10th century) and the church’s campanile (bell tower). From the middle two columns to the right are: Arch of Titus (81 AD), Temple of Vesta (7th century BC), Temple of Castor and Pollux (495 BC) and Basilica Julia (46 BC). Collectively, they represent over 1,100 years of ancient Roman architecture.

Via del Tulliano 00186 Roma RM, Italy

13 Temple of Romulus at Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

In 307 AD, Emperor Maxentius rededicated the temple of Jupiter Stator into the Temple of Romulus as a memorial to the death of his son, Valerius Romulus. In 527, Pope Felix IV had the circular building connected to a library (Bibliotheca Pacis) in the Forum of Peace (Forum of Vespasian). He then converted them into the Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano. The namesakes, Saints Cosmas and Damian, were twin brothers from Greece. They donated their skills as doctors until martyred in 287 for their Christian faith. This entrance from the Roman Forum was opened in 1879.

Via in Miranda, 15, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

14 Temple of Antoninus and Faustina at Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

When Annia Galeria Faustina died in 141, her husband, Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, began construction of this massive temple in her honor. Upon his death 20 years later, it was renamed the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Those ten massive columns stand 56 feet high. During the early 7th century, it was repurposed as the San Lorenzo in Miranda church. St. Lawrence was a deacon when he was martyred in 258 by Emperor Valerian. According to legend, he supposedly hid the Holy Grail or the chalice from the Last Supper from the Romans.

Via della Salara Vecchia, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

15 Temple of Castor and Pollux at Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

In 495 BC, the last king of Rome (Lucius Superbus) attacked the emerging Roman Republic at the Battle of Lake Regillus. Mythology claims Castor and Pollux were sent to the conflict by their father Zeus to help defeat the king. In appreciation, a temple was constructed to honor the Dioscuri twins. It was reconstructed in 117 BC, 73 BC and 6 AD. These three fluted Corinthian columns are all that remain of the 19 that framed the temple over two thousand years ago.

Foro Romano & Via di S. Teodoro, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

16 Roman Forum Ruins in Rome, Italy

According to legend, Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC on Palatine Hill. The valley below then became the city’s epicenter. The Foro Romano, better known as the Roman Forum, continued to expand during the next thousand years into a complex of gorgeous triumphal arches, temples, churches and political buildings. It visually displayed the Romans’ worldly powers until the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476 AD. It was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that most of these ruins were excavated.

Foro Romano & Via Dei Faraggi 00186 Roma RM, Italy

17 Santi Luca e Martina next to Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

The patron saint of Rome is Saint Martina. She was martyred in 288 for not denouncing her strong Christian faith. A simple church in her honor was erected in the early 7th century. Nearly 1,000 years later, a new church was commissioned and nearly finished by 1669. Technically, the church of Santi Luca e Martina is next to and not in the Roman Forum. However, this position is where you get the best view of its dome and Ionic columns. On the right is the Arch of Septimius Severus within the Roman Forum.

Via del Tulliano 00186 Roma RM, Italy

18 Arch of Septimius Severus at Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

Starting in 66 BC, the Romans engaged in a series of battles with the Parthian Empire (ancient Iran) known as the Roman-Parthian Wars. When peace was declared in 202, this triumphal arch was erected at the Roman Forum the following year. Its namesake was Septimius Severus. He was a Roman emperor from 193 until 211. The monument measures 75.5 feet tall and 82 feet wide. Years later, the conflicts with Parthia were renewed until the empire was finally destroyed in 226.

Via dell'Arco di Settimio, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

19 Temple of Saturn at Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

Saturn was a Roman god and the namesake for the planet and Saturday. These columns and pediment were part of the Temple of Saturn. It was first built in 497 BC. This version is from the 4th century AD. Inside used to be the Aerarium treasury where the republic’s riches were stored. This seems appropriate because Saturn was associated with wealth and plenty during his reign in the Golden Age. This mythical period was characterized by utopian peace, harmony and prosperity for all of mankind.

Via Monte Tarpeo & Via del Campidoglio 00186 Roma RM, Italy

20 Roman Forum View from Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy

Here is a final view of the Roman Forum before you leave. On the left are the eight Ionic columns from the Tempio di Saturno or Temple of Saturn. It was built in the late 5th century as the great Western Roman Empire was about to decline. The photo was taken at Via Monte Tarpeo on a terrace atop the Portico Dii Consentes, a shrine dating back to 367 AD. This ends your first walking tour. From here, it is only a few steps away to the Capitoline Museums and the start of your next tour. Go to “Capitoline Hill to Imperial Forums” in the Italy – Rome section of this website.

Via Monte Tarpeo & Via del Campidoglio 00186 Roma RM, Italy