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The Forum of Trajan is a well-preserved ancient complex that would once have held a series of monuments, buildings and markets. Survey the surviving pillars, explore the halls and rooms of the old market and see the stunning carvings on Trajan’s Column.
Completed around the early 2nd century, this vast forum was built for Emperor Trajan and designed by his favorite architect, Apollodorus of Damascus. Though many of the main buildings are long gone, there are still many interesting ruins to see.
Stroll around the site and look for the foundations of the two main buildings. One of these was a temple, which would have consisted of an arched roof held in place by thick columns. Continue past these to reach several pillars, which were once part of the Basilica Ulpia. The basilica was a masterpiece of engineering, measuring 384 feet (117 meters) in length and 164 feet (50 meters) in width.
Take a moment to appreciate the towering Column of Trajan, the most prominent existing monument on the main forum. At 125 feet (38 meters) tall, this landmark is visible from afar but only a close-up viewing will reveal the breathtaking decoration that covers it. Built from Carrara marble, the column is draped in a frieze commemorating Trajan’s military triumphs over the Dacians. Admire the exquisite battle carvings that spiral from the bottom to the very top of the column, where once the figure of Trajan proudly stood. The statue of Trajan was replaced by one of St. Peter in the 16th century.
One of the highlights of the forum is Trajan’s Market, behind which the basilica used to be. This semicircular building was built into the slopes of Quirinal Hill and was once a hive of activity with shops, offices and depots making it something of an ancient retail center. Walk through the hall of this red-brick structure and peer into the high-ceilinged rooms where local merchants once made their living.
The Forum of Trajan is located close to the center of Rome. The nearest metro station is at the Colosseum, a 5-minute walk south.
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