Via Sacra Rome

In Roman times, the Via Sacra was the main road in the center of Rome. The most important part of the street was the stretch within the Roman Forum. This part led from the Velia to the Regia and was known as Sacra Via Summa. Velia was the name of the hill joining the Palatine and Esquiline Hills. The Regia, of which but little remains, was located in the south-western part of the Forum.

Via Sacra Rome, “Sacred Road” in the Roman Forum”

Via Sacra Rome
The beginning of the Via Sacra

When Roman generals had obtained victory on the battlefield, they walked down the Via Sacra to the Capital Hill. Here they deposited the obtained spoils of war in the Temple of Jupiter. The population stood by and applauded the triumphant general. This walk was considered the highest honor a general could obtain. Romulus was the first one. He walked the entire street, but later generals used a chariot.

The road was not only used for triumphal processions. Its sacredness was also derived from religious ceremonies and augur’s predictions. It became sacred when Romulus and Titus Tatius made peace and sacrificed to the Gods together. Titus Tatius was king of the Sabines when the infamous event known as the Rape of the Sabine Women occurred.

Since the road began outside the pomerium, the sacred part of the urbe, it is a Via. Later it was incorporated inside the pomerium.

In the royal age, the Via Sacra connected the residence of the kings, the Comitium and the Arx. The comitium was the north-eastern part of the present Forum. The Arx used to be the name of that part of the Capitol Hill where now the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli is. The area it traveled through came to be used for the various cults, but also for commercial purposes. Several kings chose to build their palaces there.

The road remained important in the Republican age. Important gens lived along the Via Sacra, which was however reconstructed, and maybe modified, several times.

This changed in the imperial age, when the road came to be lined with all manner of shops. Several temples were built, including the Temple of Peace, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the Temple of Venus and Roma and the Temple of Romulus.

The exact route of the Via Sacra is not certain. Initially, it probably started near the Tempio del Divo Romolo and continued along the northern side of the Regia. From here, it passed the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the Basilica Aemilia and the Comitium, before continuing to the top of the Arx.

After the famous fire of 64 AD, new buildings were constructed and part of the trajectory was modified. The Via Sacra was made to run along the House of the Vestal Virgins and the Arch of Titus.

The present pavement dates back to the time of Augustus. A new pavement, thought to have been laid during the Middle Ages, but in reality constructed after the fire of 64 AD, was removed in the 19th century. This also had the unintended effect that buildings like the Arch of Titus and the Basilica of Maxentius, which were constructed after the fire, now have their foundations uncovered.

Via Sacra, Roman Forum, Rome

View Larger Map