Most visitors to Rome head to Via dei Fori Imperiali to get their fix of ruins. But there are overlooked ruins at Forum Boarium that are worth your time. Forum Boarium was a busy marketplace due to its proximity to the port of the Tiber River. Still standing are two small temples which are among the best preserved religious structures from Rome’s republican era (509-44BC).
Temple of Hercules Invictus
This is the most ancient marble structure that to survive in Rome. The circular temple was though to have been the Temple of Vesta but further research has proved that it is the Temeple of Hercules Invictus (the Invincible Hercules). One of the reasons the building survived is that it that in the 12th century it was converted into a church, named San Stefano delle Carrozze until 1560. That year a casket was found in the Tiber River. After a few days a light “as bright as the sun” began breaking through the object. The casket was open and an image of the Virgin Mary was found painted on papyrus. The image was placed in the church which took on the name Santa Maria del Sole. All that remains inside now is a 15th century fresco of the Madonna and Child with some saints.
Today temple has 19 of its 20 columns ill intact. One was removed sometime in the Middle Ages before it was converted to a church. There are grooves on the columns that show there was an attempt to demolish the building, a common practice that happened to most of the ancient buildings. The original roof is believed to have been shaped like a cone. Archaeologists have dated the foundation and the inner area of the temple to end of the 2nd century BC.
Temple of Portunus
Along with the Pantheon, many consider this to the most intact sacred building. Like the Temple of Hercules Invictus, it was mistakenly identified for a long period of time. Recent studies conclude that it was sacred to the god Portunus, the patron of the Tiber River port and of sailors. The building became a church in 872 and dedicated to Santa Maria Egiziaca, who crossed the Jordan River when the waters parted miraculously in front of her. The building still hosts a canvas portraying Santa Maria Egizia, medieval fresco remains and a wooden model of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The building dates from the first century BC.
Also of note nearby:
Arch of Janus
A monumental four-sided arch was built in the early 4th Century. It was created to celebrate the Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Mivlian Bridge. The keystones in the archways feature the figures of Rome, Juno, Minereva and Ceres. The structure suffered damage during the Middle Ages when it was used as a fortress and iron pins were removed to be recycled. Now the arch sits behind a fence and overshadowed by modern buildings.
Fountain of the Tritons
The fountains was designed by Carlo Francesco Bizzaccheri and completed Francesco Moratti in 1717 on behalf of Pope Clement XI. In the fountain basin is in the form of an 8-pointed star, the symbol of the papal family.