Although partially overrun by buildings, Zadar's Roman forum is the most faithful image of an ancient city - not because of preserved ancient buildings (as in Pula for example) but because its undisturbed layout.
It's the largest forum in Croatia (95m by 45m), commissioned by the first Roman Emperor Augustus, as evidenced by two inscriptions in stone from the 3rd century which were placed upon completion.
It was the centre of the entire public life, the largest on the east coast. Its central, open section provided a magnificent appearance: three sides closed two-story portico with colonnades, opened to the upper part of the magnificent temple, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
Today only the original pavement and stairs remain, as well as two monumental columns one of which is still on its original site. It once served as pillory (pillar of shame) evidenced by chains from that period.
Best of Zadar with St. Anastasia viewpoint
Join a guided sightseeing tour of Zadar and visit some of its most popular sites.
Your knowledgeable guide will take you on a walking tour to see the city's landmarks including the Zadar Land City Gates, Roman Forum, and the famous Sea Organ that produces unique sounds from the movement of the tides.
The tour also includes an admission ticket to the Cathedral of St. Anastasia. You'll also see the 9th-century Byzantine Church of Donat and walk along the ancient main street Kalelarga. The tour includes guidance from a certified local guide and the entrance fee for St. Anastasia's Cathedral Bell Tower.
After a violent earthquake in the 6th century, the buildings surrounding the forum were destroyed. The still standing elements and stones (then used to rebuild) were retrieved for various buildings.
At the reconstructed part of the Capitol, at the wall that separates the elevation from the square, remains were found of an ritual sacrificial altar. On the pavement you will notice shallow, narrow and elongated recess. This is where two large altars stood. The blood of the sacrificed animals would flow into the ground through this recess.
A planned city - urbs quadrata
In order to make the city look truly Roman, imperial surveyors measured at least five lines along the Peninsula (another indicator of antique building characteristics) and eight across. Where the main longitudinal and transverse streets intersected was the planned location of the Forum.
This basic urban structure grid has not changed - the main longitudinal Roman street is now the Kalelagra while the transverse is the Simon Kožičić Benja street.
In the period of late antiquity, the foundations of Christian buildings were laid. They later developed into an episcopal complex with the basilica and annexes, and were joined by the rotunda in the Early Middle Ages, eventually destroying the complex of earlier erected buildings. In the course of history, the whole complex was reduced to rubble and the medieval square with a Renaissance cistern was built.
With the current arrangement (since 2011.), the "Poljana pape Ivana Pavla II." (Forum) has become an active public space in the historic centre of Zadar - as an outdoor living room with the permanent exhibition it hosts various events (concerts, film festival, other commemorative events).
On the west side of the Capitolio you may notice a plastered wall with the remains of frescoes with mythological scenes. It was the celebration point of the mystic cult of Cybele, the Great Mother. In the midst of the temple ruins and colonnades, there is a single well-preserved Roman column that served as a pillory during the Middle Ages. It was a place where offenders were chained and publicly shamed.
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