The Origins of the Forum and the Basilica


University of Notre Dame-Rome Global Gateway
Via Ostilia 15


Data evento
5 June 2023 - 6 June 2023

Over the past century, there have been countless contributions concerning the origins of the forum and of the basilica in central Italian cities. Textual sources suggest that the basilica emerged as early as the third century BCE, while archaeologically, the first basilicas in Italy at Rome and Cosa date to the second century BCE. These basilicas emerged fully formed with a Greek name, raising the question of their origin. Consequently, scholars have suggested potential architectural predecessors, ranging from the Atrium Regium to the Hypostyle Hall at Delos. Ultimately, there is no consensus on the origins of the basilica.

While claims about archaic fora have been made for Rome and for other cities, the evidence is controversial and in need of a careful reassessment. Later on, the fragmentary archaeological evidence for fora at Fregellae and Cosa suggests that these spaces also were monumentalized during the third and second centuries BCE. While basilicas are archaeologically identified from their architectural form, early fora often prove more challenging to locate and are often only indicated by the buildings that typically lie adjacent to them, e.g., comitia or temples. Although early basilicas are located on fora, they are typically left out of this debate. Their overlapping functions and relatively synchronized emergence, however, suggest that these two spaces are entwined and that their origins should be considered together.

The conference plans to bring together leading scholars to discuss in detail the origins of these two spaces. At the center of this discussion are the key sites of Rome, Cosa, Pompeii, and Fregellae. While this conference will focus on these sites during the periods of emergence, or respectively the third and second centuries BCE, to unravel these formation processes, this conference aims to consider related aspects of urbanization before and after these periods, with particular reference to the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. 

Conference poster