Forums (or fora) are often found at the center of Roman cities and were the sites of commercial, political and legal decisionmaking. While most cities had a forum, none of these public spaces were as large or as magnificent as the Forum in Rome. The Roman Forum was the site of the Temple of Vesta, where the sacred flame of Rome was guarded by the Vestal Virgins, the Comitium, where the Senate met during the Roman Republic, and a host of temples and statues dedicated to the glory of the city. It was where Emperors, generals, and their soldiers finished victory parades after returning home triumphant, and it was the site of the murder of Julius Caesar in 44BC. Over time, newer structures were built in other parts of the city, and the Forum became less important. Some of the buildings were converted into churches, and some of the materials were taken to build towers and castles during the medieval period. The area fell into disrepair, but was still well-known for its monumental architecture, with artists using it for inspiration when painting images of classical Rome. Some private archaeological excavations began in 1803, but it wasn’t until 1898 that the Italian government began to excavate and restore the site.