The Forum Romanum seen from a ledge behind the Capitoline. The Forum was the beating heart of ancient Rome, a stage across which all the key figures of ancient Rome tread.
It started off as a typical 'piazza' in the early days of the Republic but, as the Empire started to take shape, gleaming white marble law courts, offices and temples were built so the Forum could look the ceremonial part. It is bisected by the cobbled and ceremonial Via Scara (Sacred Way) seen in the centre of the photo. The three white columns on the right of the photo in the background are the remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. The Colosseum can just be seen in the distance above and to the left of the left-most column of the Temple. The smaller white building to the left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (and less than half the height of the columns) is the The Temple of Vesta which is one of the most ancient Roman sanctuaries in the forum. It was dedicated to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. The columns to the left of centre in front of a large building are part of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The three arches seen behind and above the Temple are part of the Basilica of Maxentius, the last of the great civilian basilicas on the Roman Forum. The column to the far left of the picture is the Column of Phocas which is located on the main square of the Forum. The large rectangular area with three rows of stunted columns in the centre of the photo lying to the right of the Via Sacra is the remains of the Basilica Julia. The basilica was built in 54-48 BC by Julius Caesar as a part of his reorganisation of the Forum Romanum, where it replaced the Basilica Sempronia.