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FORUM As the plan of the present work does not include a topographical description of the various fora at Rome, the following article only contains a brief statement of the purposes which they served.

Forum originally signifies an open space (area) before any building, especially before a sepulcrum (Festus, s.v. Cic. de Legg. 2.2. 4, § 61); the word is no doubt connected with foris, and so means any place “out of doors.” The characteristic features of a Roman forum were, that it was a levelled space of ground of an oblong form, and surrounded by buildings, houses, temples, basilicas or porticoes (Vitr. 5.1, 2). The forum at Pompeii, now completely excavated and showing very handsome architectural surroundings, will afford a good general notion of the usual appearance of these places and the way they were laid out. A forum was originally used as a place where justice was administered, and where goods were exhibited for sale (Varr. L. L. 5.145, M.). We have accordingly to distinguish between two kinds of fora; of which some were exclusively devoted to commercial purposes and were real market-places, while others were places of meeting for the popular assembly and for the courts of justice. Mercantile business, however, was not altogether excluded from the latter, and it was especially the bankers and usurers who kept their shops in the buildings and porticoes by which they were surrounded. The latter kinds of fora were sometimes called fora judicialia, to distinguish them from the mere market-places.

Among the fora judicialia the most important was the Forum Romanum, which was simply called forum, as long as it was the only one of its kind which existed at Rome. At a late period of the republic, and during the empire, when other fora judicialia were built, the Forum Romanum was distinguished from them by the epithets vetus or magnum. It was situated between the Palatine, the Capitoline, and the Quirinal hills, and its extent was seven jugera, whence Varro (de R. R. 1.2) calls it the “Septem jugera forensia.” It was originally a swamp or marsh, but was said to have been filled up by Romulus and Tatius, and to have been set apart as a place for the administration of justice, for holding the assemblies of the people, and for the transaction of other kinds of public business. The memory of its original state was preserved to the latest times by the legend of the Lacus Curtius (Liv. 1.12; Varr. L. L. 5.148; Dion. Hal, 2.42; Plut. Rom. 18); but in reality it was drained by the construction of the Cloaca Maxima in the time of the last kings [CLOACA; EMISSARIUM]. In the larger sense, as applied to the whole valley surrounded by the three hills just named, the forum included the comitium, or the place of assembly for the curiae (Varr. L. L. 5.155, M.), which was separated from the forum in its narrower sense, or the place of assembly for the comitia tributa, by the Rostra. (Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, i. p. 291, note 746, and p. 426, note 990; Walter, Gesch. des röm. Rechts, p. 83; Göttling, Röm. Staatsverf. p. 155.) These ancient rostra were an elevated platform (suggestum), from which the orators addressed the people, and which derived their name from the circumstance that, after the subjugation of Latium, its sides were adorned with the beaks (rostra) of the ships of the Antiates (Liv. 8.14). In subsequent times, when the curiae had lost their importance, the accurate distinction between comitium and forum likewise ceased, and the comitia tribute were sometimes held in the Circus Flaminius; but towards the end of the republic the forum seems to have been chiefly used for judicial proceedings, and as a money market; hence Cicero (Cic. de Orat. 1.36.167) distinguishes between a speaker in the popular assembly (orator) and the [p. 1.875]mere pleader: “Ego istos non modo oratoris nomine, sed ne foro quidem dignos putarim.” The orators when addressing the people from the rostra, and even the tribunes of the people in the early times of the republic, used to front the comitium and the curia; but C. Gracchus (Plut. C. Gracch. 5), or, according to Varro (de R. R. 1.2) and Cicero (de Am. 25.96), C. Licinius, introduced the custom of facing the forum, thereby acknowledging the sovereignty of the people. In 308 B.C. the Romans adorned the forum, or rather the bankers' shops (argentarias) around, with gilt shields which they had taken from the Samnites: and this custom of adorning the forum with these shields and other ornaments was subsequently always observed during the time of the Ludi Romani, when the Aediles rode in their chariots (tensae) in solemn procession around the forum. (Liv. 9.40; Cic. in Verr. 1.54, § 141, and 3.4.9.) After the victory of C. Duilius over the Carthaginians the forum was adorned with the celebrated columna rostrata [COLUMNA p. 495 a]. In the upper part of the forum, or the comitium, the laws of the Twelve Tables were exhibited for public inspection, and it was probably in the same part that in 304 B.C. On. Flavius exhibited the Fasti, written on white tables (in albo), that every citizen might be able to know the days on which the law allowed the administration of justice. (Liv. 9.46.) Besides the ordinary business which was carried on in the forum, we read that gladiatorial games were held in it (Vitr. 5.1, 2), and that prisoners of war and faithless colonists or legionaries were put to death there. (Liv. 7.19; 9.24; 28.28.) Down to the latest times of the republic, the forum was the usual place where funeral games were given; on these occasions it was temporarily enclosed with wooden railings (Cic. pro Sest. 58.124; CANCELLI).

Before the end of the Second Punic War a small portion only of the space between the Palatine, the north-eastern end of the Capitoline, and the Quirinal was occupied as a Forum or public place of meeting. It does not appear that even in the populous times of the later republic the open space of the Forum was ever enlarged; but overcrowding was in some measure prevented by the building of open basilicas, beginning with the Basilica Porcia in the censorship of Cato, B.C. 184. With the growth of provincial business the courts of law and public buildings must have become more and more inadequate (Burn, p. 75). Out of this state of things arose, in the period between Julius Caesar and Trajan, the Five Imperial Fora.

    1. The first of these, and the second forum judiciarium, was built by the dictator Caesar out of the spoils of the Gallic war, and was called Forum Caesaris or Julii. The site chosen was exceptionally crowded and valuable, immediately to the north-east of the Forum Romanum, and a hundred million sesterces were paid for it. The levelling of the ground cost large additional sums; in the centre stood the magnificent temple of Venus Genetrix, the tutelary goddess of his family, which he had vowed at the battle of Pharsalia (Suet. Jul. 26; Plin. Nat. 35.156, 36.103; D. C. 43.22). For plans of this and the other imperial fora, see Burn, p. 126; Middleton, p. 253. Nothing now remains of this forum but five half-buried arches, figured by Middleton, p. 255.
    2. The Forum Augusti, the next in date, stood back from the Forum Julii in the same N.E. direction. The central area was occupied by the temple of Mars Ultor, commemorating the battle of Philippi, though it was not finished until forty years later, and dedicated in B.C. 2. (Vell. 2.100.2.) Augustus further adorned his forum with statues of the most distinguished men of the republic, and issued a decree that only the judicia publica and the sortitiones judicum should take place in it. (Suet. Aug. 29 and 31; compare D. C. 56.27 ; Plin. Nat. 36.102; Veli. Pat. 2.39; Ovid, ex Pont. 4.15, 16 Martial, 3.38, 3; Seneca, de Ira, 2.9; Stat. Silv. 4.9, 15.) After the Forum Augusti had severely suffered by fire, it was restored by Hadrian. (Spart. Hadr. 19.)
    3. The Forum Pacis was built to enclose the Temple of Peace, dedicated by Vespasian A.D. 75. It commemorated the close of the civil wars which had filled the short reigns of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, the undisputed authority of the emperor, and the taking of Jerusalem (Suet. Vesp. 9; D. C. 66.15). According to Pliny (H. N 36.102) the three most magnificent buildings in Rome were the basilica of Paullus, the forum of Augustus, and Vespasian's temple of Peace. The site was to the south-east of the Forum of Augustus, but did not quite join it; a wide street from the Subura to the Forum Romanum being left between. This narrow strip afterwards became the Forum Transitorium of Nerva. There are no remains of the Temple of Peace, and the slight existing remains of the forum are referred by Middleton, on account of their construction, to a. restoration by Sept. Severus after a fire in the reign of Commodus.
  • 4. The situation of the forum of Nerva has been already indicated. It was called Transitorium, on account of the highway which ran through it; or Palladium, from containing a temple of Minerva. The two Corinthian columns buried to about half their height, and now called Colonnacce, belonged to this temple; part of the outer wall of the forum is also extant, built to correspond with the forum of Augustus both in construction and height (about 100 feet).
  • 5. The Forum Trajani was probably the most magnificent of all. It occupied a large space between the Capitoline and Quirinal hills, the latter of which was cut back to a height of 100 Roman feet, as shown by the inscription on the Column of Trajan (for the true explanation of this inscription, see Middleton, p. 270). The entrance was at the lower or southern end, where a triumphal arch, surmounted by a statue of Trajan in a six-horse chariot, divided it from the forum of Augustus. The open space (area fori, Gel. 13.25.2) was surrounded by a double row of porticoes, and enlarged by four enormous apses or semicircular extensions, one of which can still be traced in the slope of the Quirinal. In the centre stood the Basilica Ulpia, which fills the greater part of the modern Foro Trajano; beyond it was a cloistered court (atrium) surrounding the celebrated column which bears Trajan's name, and flanked by two libraries--one for Greek, the other for Latin [p. 1.876]MSS.; at the upper end it was closed by the temple of Trajan, dedicated by his successor. For full topographical details, see Burn, pp. 141-153; Middleton, pp. 268-281.

Fora of Sallust, of Aurelian, and of Diocletian are mentioned in the regionary catalogues, but are mere names to us.

Different from these fora were the numerous markets at Rome, more useful than ornamental, and some of them reaching back to a very high antiquity. The most important was the Forum Boarium, or cattle market, occupying a large space between the Velabrum and the Tiber; the notion that it derived its name from the statue of an ox, whencesoever imported (Ov. Fast. 6.477; Plin. Nat. 34.10), can hardly be right, as it was almost certainly so named long before statues were introduced at Rome. Another legend connected the name with the oxen of Hercules, stolen by Cacus (Propert. 5.9, 19-20). Others which took their names from the goods sold in them were the forum olitorium and piscatorium, for vegetables and fish (Varr. L. L. 5.146; Col. 8.19), suarium for pigs (Dig. 1, 12, 1), cupedinis (Varr,L. L. 5.41) or cupedinarium (Symm. Ep. 8.19) for dainties. On the whole subject see Burn, Rome and the Campagna, chaps. v. vi. vii. xii.; Middleton, Ancient Rome in 1885, chaps. v. vi. viii.

[L.S] [W.W]

hide References (20 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (20):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 40
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 29
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 5.2
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 5.1
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 1.36
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 26
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 34.10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 24
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 28
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 12
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.2
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 13.25.2
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 18
    • Statius, Silvae, 4.9
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.3
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.38
    • Ovid, Fasti, 6
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