Via Sacra

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Via Sacra, literally meaning the "Sacred Street", served as the primary road in ancient Rome. During antiquity it extended from the highest point of the Capitoline Hill, passing through significant religious locations within the Roman Forum where it held its widest stretch, and reached all the way to the Colosseum.


Today the course or the route of the Via Sacra is not known with certainity. It has changed a number of times over the centuries, the following is an account of known changes or plausible routes.


Modern Route
The modern day marked route starts where the Via dei Verbiti meets the Via Sacra on the eastern edge of the Foro Romano. It continues to the west for approximately 160 meters, running in the middle of the Temple of Venus and Rome on the northern side and the Baths Elagabalus on the south, where it reaches the Arch of Titus. From here the route bends northwards towards the Basilica of Maxentius and then bends to towards the south-west running between the Regia to the north and Temple of Vest on the south and then again straightens towards the west. From here it runs between the Temple of Divine Julius on the south and the Temple of Castor and Pollux on the north. It continues running west between the Basilica Julia and the Forum Square and merges with Vicus Jugarius at the base of the Temple of Saturn.

The modern Via Sacra is approximately 600 meters running east-west.

Route During Antiquity
The part of the Via Sacra that traverses the Forum area in the west follows the original and historical path of the road. But the eastern segment, extending from the end of the forum to the Colosseum and passing beneath the Arch of Titus, represents a rerouting of the road that was constructed subsequent to the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE.

During the Republic era and the Early Empire, the road divided towards the north close to the House of the Vestals, making its way through a gap in the Velian Hill. This space is now mostly occupied by the Basilica of Maxentius and the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali. In the aftermath of the fire, as part of his reconstruction efforts, Nero essentially repositioned the road, making it more direct between the Velian and Palatine Hills. This modification involved the establishment of impressive colonnades on both sides, intended for the setup of shop stalls and facilitating commerce.

Clivus Capitolinus
The Clivus Capitolinus (literally meaning the Capitoline Ascent) constitutes the final stretch of the Via Sacra. It started where once the Arch of Tiberius, now lost, was located, at the intersection of the Vicus Jugarius and Via Sacra coming from east. From here it turns north and goes around the Temple of Saturn, ascending towards the Tabularium following the natural and gradual ascent of the Capitoline Hill.

Notable Buildings on the Via Sacra

The following list is neither chronological nor sequential, it merely enlists the structures or building that are adjacent to the Via Sacra today or may have been at any point in time.

  • Arch of Titus
  • Archaic Burial Ground
  • Regia
  • Temple of Venus and Roma
  • Baths of Elagabalus
  • Museum of the Roman Forum
  • Archaeological Superintendency of Rome
  • CIES library
  • Basilica of Santa Francesca Romana
  • Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine
  • Medieval Portico
  • Temple of Romulus
  • Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
  • Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda
  • Temple of Vesta
  • Forum Square
  • Basilica Julia
  • Lacus Curtius
  • Arch and Portico of Augustus
  • Temple of Divus Julius
  • Temple of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux)
  • Base of the Decennalia Columns
  • Rostra
  • Columns of Tetrarchy
  • Horrea Vespasiani
  • Temple of Saturn

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