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Roman Architecture - Forums

( Originally Published 1921 )



The forum, corresponding to the agora in a Greek city, was a central open space used as a meeting-place, market, or rendezvous for political demonstrations, like the French " place," the English market-place, and the Royal Exchange or Trafalgar Square, London. There were several forums in Rome, all very similar in plan (p. 139 B). All were designed to meet the requirements of Roman citizens, and with the surrounding buildings they reflect not only the religion, law, and commerce, but also the busy corporate life of the city, which was much the same whatever the form of government, whether of elected Kings, Republic, or Empire (p. 131).

The " Forum Romanum," Rome, the oldest and most important of all, was laid out in the valley between the seven hills of the Imperial City, and was used in early times as a hippodrome, and for contests which later took place in amphitheatres. The chief public buildings were grouped around it, and its appearance in the heyday of ancient Rome, adorned with pillars of victory and statues and surrounded by porticoes, colonnades, temples, basilicas, and shops, must indeed have been imposing (p. 139).

The Forum of Trajan, Rome (A.D. 98117) (p. 139 B), was the most extensive, and others were planned by Julius Caesar, Augustus, Vespasian, and Nerva.

Besides these general forums, others, such as the " Forum Boarium," served as markets for special purposes. Pompeii, and indeed any town of importance, followed the example of Rome and had a forum as a centre of civic life. The forums of Rome and of the Roman provinces are early instances of well-considered town-planning, and were found even in the outskirts of the Empire, as at Palmyra, Samaria, Damascus, Antioch and Bosra in Syria ; Pergamon in Asia Minor ; Timgad and Tebessa in North Africa ; in all of which are traces of colonnaded streets to give shelter from the sun.



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