The Roman Forum lies in the valley surrounded by the Palatine, Capitoline and Esquiline hills. In the Republican period (5th-1st centuries BC) this was the political, economic, religious and commercial heart of ancient Rome. In the 9th-8th centuries BC when the city was made up of independent villages, the area was occupied by the cemeteries of the various settlements. Later, the villages began to merge and the Forum valley naturally became the place where their inhabitants met for economic transactions and social activities; broad and flat, it gradually became the centre of the ancient city's social life. Originally this was a marshy and unhealthy area, especially at its lowest point near the Capitoline hill. This made it necessary to carry out works here to drain the marshy swamp; this enterprise, one of the first land reclamations of ancient Italy, was ascribed to the Tarquins who built the Cloaca Maxima to channel the waters into the Tiber. This was when the area took on a specific social and political function within the community. The Forum hosted games, political meetings and assemblies. It is described by legend as the setting for some of the most important events in the first few centuries of Rome's history, including the Rape of the Sabine Women. Particularly between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC, the intense activities carried out here led to the construction of the first buildings with specific sacred and public functions. An initial road network also began to take shape between the temples and basilicas: the Via Sacra, the Vicus Tuscus, the Clivus Argentarius etc.