The Foro Boario & the Cloaca Maxima ☆☆☆

The Forum Boarium, with the round Temple of Hercules Victor on the left and the rectangular Temple of Portunus on the right, Foro Boario, Rome, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
The Forum Boarium, with the round Temple of Hercules Victor on the left and the rectangular Temple of Portunus on the right

Fraternal twin temples and the world's first sewer on lovely little "Cow Forum" by the Mouth of Truth

The Temple of Portunus, Foro Boario, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Michael aus Halle)
The Temple of Hercules Victor, or Tempio Rotondo, Foro Boario, Rome, Italy. (Photo by xiquinhosilva)
The Temple of Portunus, Foro Boario, Rome, Italy. (Photo by fotokoci)
The mouth of the Cloaca Maxima, Foro Boario, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Lalupa)
The Arch of Janus in the Foro Boario, Foro Boario, Rome, Italy. (Photo by MM)

At the western foot of the Palatine Hill, in the middle of an old boario, or "cow pasture," sit two small 2nd-century B.C. temples.

Sadly, neither temple is open to the public on anything like a regular basis (though the round one supposedly is on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month at 11am—which it usually is, though I've also shown up at that time and found it closed.)

This little field lies right in front of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin (famous for the Mouth of Truth on its porch), just down the street from the Theater of Marcellus, and right above the famous Cloaca Maxima.

The Temple of Portunus

The Temple of Portunus—or "Temple of Manly Fortune"—was crafted in the squared-off, Latin style built in the 4C or 3C BC (and refurbished in the 1C BC) and ranks as among the best-preserved temples of Ancient Rome. How did this one survive the centuries largely intact?

Like most ancient temples that are still around, it was converted into a church ("Santa Maria de Gradellis") in 872, and then another one, "Santa Maria Egiziaca," in the 15C. 

The Temple of Hercules Victor

The Temple of Hercules Victor—sometimes erroneously said to be the Temple of Vesta, but usually just referred to as the Tempio Rotundo, or "Round Temple"—was built in the late 2C BC in the older, circular Etruscan style and as such ranks as the oldest marble structure surviving in Rome. It was dedicated to "Hercules the Winner," the godly protector of the ancient merchants who plied their trade nearby.

Its 20 Corintihian columns suround a central cella with a statue from the 2C BC by Greek sculptor Skopas Minore and a 15C fresco of the Madonna and Child because, like the other temple, it had long-since been converted into a church—first as Santo Stefano delle Carrozze, then in the 16C as Santa Maria del Sole. 

The Cloaca Maxima

The Cloaca Maxima was ancient Rome's main sewer.

Brave the traffic to cross the Lungotevere and peer down the embankments to where a giant hole empties into the Tiber.

There is is: the world's first major sewer.

Photo gallery
  • The Forum Boarium, with the round Temple of Hercules Victor on the left and the rectangular Temple of Portunus on the right, Foro Boario, Italy (Photo by Carole Raddato)
  • The Temple of Portunus, Foro Boario, Italy (Photo by Michael aus Halle)
  • The Temple of Hercules Victor, or Tempio Rotondo, Foro Boario, Italy (Photo by xiquinhosilva)
  • The Temple of Portunus, Foro Boario, Italy (Photo by fotokoci)
  • The mouth of the Cloaca Maxima, Foro Boario, Italy (Photo by Lalupa)
  • The Arch of Janus in the Foro Boario, Foro Boario, Italy (Photo by MM)
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Tips

How long does Foro Boario take?

It'll take all of 20–30 minutes to visit Santa Maria in Cosmedin and its Mouth of Truth, and then to take a spin around these teensy temples here.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).