Forum Boarium was the site of ancient Rome’s cattle market. Together with the nearby Forum Olitorium, the vegetable and herb market, it was the mercantile center of the Republic of Rome.
Forum Boarium was the oldest forum in Rome, dating back to the Roman Republic. It sat near the Tiber River between three of Rome’s seven ancient hills: the Palatine, Capitoline, and Aventine. The area was a swamp until it was reclaimed by the Etruscan Kings.
In the sixth century BC, Servius Tullius – one of the Etruscan Kings – also built a port here, the Portus Tiberinus. Thanks to the presence of the port and a historic trade route that passed through here, the Forum Boarium was a busy commercial area that experienced lots of pedestrian traffic.
Temple of Hercules Victor
The Forum Boarium is home to two small temples, which are among the best preserved religious structures from Rome’s republican era (between 509 and 44BC). The smaller, round building is the Temple of Hercules Victor ad Portam Trigeminam, one of two – possibly even three – temples that were built at this forum in honor of the god Hercules. The temple dates from the end of the second century BC and was created by a Greek architect, Hermodorus of Salamis. It was commissioned by Marcus Octavius Herrenus, a successful merchant.
The temple is best described as a colonnade of twenty Corinthian-style columns arranged in a circle around an inner chamber. Inside was a statue of the god Hercules, as old as the temple itself, created by the renowned Greek sculptor Scopas the Younger. The temple is often incorrectly identified as the Temple of Vesta, after the circular temple at the Roman Forum. The temple of Hercules is remarkably well-preserved, especially for what is considered the oldest marble temple in Rome.
Temple of Portunus
The second temple at the Forum Boarium is the rectangular Temple of Portunus, dedicated to the god Portunus, protector of seafarers and harbors. A first Temple of Portunus was built here as early as in the sixth century BC. The version we see today is the result of a restoration of around 80 BC.
The temple was located near the Pons Aemilius, a bridge built in the second century BC. Today, only a small portion of this bridge exists as the Ponte Rotto (broken bridge).
The temple’s portico and small chamber are situated on a podium and reached via a few stairs. The columns on the Temple of Portunus are Ionian in style. The four in the front are freestanding, while those situated around the remainder of the temple are part of the walls. This temple is not fashioned of marble but of travertine and tufa (a calcite rock) with a stucco surface.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, both temples were converted to Christian churches, which explains why they are still in such great condition. While many of the ancient Roman temples were either demolished or left to decay, these temples – like the Pantheon and the Temple of Romulus at the Roman Forum – survived the times as a church.