The Forum Pompeii Essay Example
The Forum Pompeii Essay Example

The Forum Pompeii Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 13 (3345 words)
  • Published: June 27, 2018
  • Type: Case Study
View Entire Sample
Text preview

The Forum Historians consider the Forum to be the ‘centre of Pompeian life’ therefore it is an important aspect to study as numerous buildings and many events occurred there. From the latest evidence, it is believed that the Pompeian Forum was undergoing a ‘comprehensive, vigorous and ambitious post-earthquake restoration. ’ (Bradley. 2005, p. 87). The Forum at Herculaneum, however, is still buried under the town of Resina and therefore there is not enough physical evidence to provide a great depth of information. Studies were concentrated on the Forum at Pompeii. The Forum dates back to the 2nd century BCE.

It underwent numerous alterations during the city’s history and at the time of the eruption was in the process of receiving an ambitious restoration. The Pompeii Forum was accessed through the entrance Via Marina and Via Dell’Abbond


anza. The main roads from Naples, Nola and Stabiae led to the Forum. Amery and Curran describe the Forum as a ‘confused jumble. ’ Pompeii’s Forum is a large oblong area approximately 40 metres wide and 150 metres long as it originally accommodated gladiatorial combat. It had significant buildings flanking it such as temples, commercial areas and civic buildings.

They encompassed unique styles, built in a range of materials which was loosely based on the Greek Agora. The buildings were brightly coloured and roofed in red terracotta tiles. The flooring was paved and had colonnades along the south, east and west sides. The Pompeian people defaced the buildings with colourful painted notices, especially the Basilica. Located in the southwest corner of the city of Pompeii, the Forum operated as a multifarious centre where the most vital social, religious, political,

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

economic and commercial activities were conducted.

Citizens would meet in the Forum to discuss social happenings. It was an integral place of worship that served as a religious centre to the city’s key secular monuments. The wealthy and influential Eumachia provided the cloth industry. The Eumachia contributes to the information on economics and commercial operations. Buildings such as the Comitium, the Office of the Duumviri and the Basilica were used for political purposes. Understanding the functions and purposes of the individual buildings provides evidence of the infrastructure, cultural values, operation of the town and specific activities of the time.

For example, particular food that was purchased is revealed from remains in the Macellum (market) and the range of temples that were individually dedicated to a distinct god provides religious evidence. Knowledge can also be gained from lasting statues and artefacts discovered within the Forum. (Hurley T. Et al. 2005. Antiquity 3. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press) p46 Availability of sources and evidence Unfortunately, the Forum in Herculaneum remains in the 60% of the city that is yet to be excavated as it lies under the town of Resina.

In consequence, there is little archaeological and literary evidence available about the Forum in Herculaneum. Therefore, studies were concentrated on Pompeii to be able to gain an insightful knowledge of the Forum and its functions as a religious, commercial, economic, political and social centre. Ancient history books were a discernible source that tended to dispense more valuable and consistent information than websites. The book Pompeii and Herculaneum by the editors of Heinemann: Ancient and Medieval History, provided a well-summarised basis to begin research.

Pompeii: The Vanished City

by the editors of Time-Life Books was also a good starting point. However, since its publication in 1992, many archaeological theories have changed due to evolving technologies and the discovery of new artefacts increase our knowledge. To make sure that the material used was accurate, it was checked against updated information such as Pamela Bradley’s Cities of Vesuvius. This book provided well–structured and logical information that was relevant to the topic studied. The internet helped to fill in gaps of missing information and provided a greater scope of understanding and knowledge.

However, many sites were unreliable or sensationalised; therefore using more reputable sites such as ones connected to a museum was more valuable. Relevance of the topic Religious functions Places of worship were fundamental aspects in the Pompeii Forum as it was dominated by temples that were dedicated to various Roman gods and the cult of the emperor as a god. The Temple of Apollo creates the Forum’s western boundary. Apollo and his sister Diana, the twin divinities, were worshipped at this temple.

Apollo was the oracular god who is believed to have been introduced in the 6th century BC from Cumae, the Greek city located on the Bay of Naples. The god’s sanctuary that later became the western side of the Forum was replaced in the 2nd century with a Hellenistic designed temple, however the elevated platform, dais, had a strong Italian element. More changes were made to the temple during the time of Augustus who had adopted Apollo as his patron. The Temple of Capitoline Triad was located in the shorter northern side of the Forum dominating the open space. The triad of

gods Jupiter (protector of the state), Juno (protector of women) and Minerva (patroness of craftsmen)’ (Bradley. 2005, p. 152) were the gods dedicated to the temple. Each year on the 1st of September games were held in their honour. It can often be referred to as the Temple of Jupiter. The Temple of Capitoline Triad was inspired by the Capitolium in Rome and it is a symbol of Rome’s power in Pompeii when it became a colony in 80BCE. ‘Statues of the three deities shared a single cella in a colonnaded hall’ (Bradley. 2005, p. 52) and held sacrificial equipment and Pompeii’s public treasures. The temple was severely damaged in the 62AD earthquake. It was described in Pompeii: The Vanished City (1992, p60) as being ‘turned into a workshop, with uncut blocks of basalt and stonecutting tools, and other building supplies stored there. ’ However in the last decade, as noted in Pamela Bradley’s book, it had been repaired and in working order when the eruption occurred. The Sanctuary of the Public Lares was located in the North-East of the Forum in Pompeii. The Lares Publici were the protectors of the crossroads (compita).

Historians argue whether the building was either commenced after the earthquake of 62 AD or almost fully reconstructed as a dedication to the tutelary gods of Pompeii due to the recent misfortune. The architecture was quite unusual showing changing designs. The temple had no roof and had a floor with coloured marble arranged in a geometric pattern. It had no wall on the Forum side that left it entirely open. It could be entered through a portico adjoining the colonnade of the

Forum. On entering the temple there was two alcoves where statues of the Lares would most likely have stood.

Remains show a centred altar. The rear wall reveals a niche where statues of the town’s gods would have been positioned. The Temple of Vespasian was located in the East side of the Forum between the Eumachia and the Temple of the Lares. An inscription found in Pompeii states, “Mamie Publi filia sacerdos publica Genio Augusti solo et pecunio sua. ” This is translated as, “Mamia, daughter of Publius, public priestess, on her own land and at her own expense, dedicated a temple to the Genius of August. ” The space in front of the temple was made of lava cement and marble crustae.

Once through the entrance there is a porticoed area that acts as a vestibule. It is supported by columns. The temple was completely enclosed by a very high peribolos wall, which was decorated with pilaster strips. There were small rooms behind the back wall for the use of religious members. A marble altar stood in the middle covered in relief decoration. On entering the temple a representation of a sacrifice can be seen displaying a veiled priest, a tripod covered with spring vegetables, a double flute player and two lectors.

The Popa was the priest’s assistant who killed the victim with a hammar and the one who led the bull to be sacrificed. It is assumed by most historians that the temple was built for and dedicated to Augustus yet later adapted to the cult of Vespasian. Social functions The Forum in Pompeii was an important meeting place for citizens to buy

and sell goods, visit temples, listen to music and participate in religious celebration. They could also socialise by listening to political speeches, to hear updates from Rome, to catch up on and reveal the latest gossip and to visit the Baths.

Gossip was shared amongst the locals as well as through graffiti on the Forum. For example, The Basilica was where justice was administered as trials and business transactions occurred there. Still visible was the statement, ‘Samius to Cornelius: Go hang yourself. ’ Lines such as these could have sparked much conversation. The Forum contained one of the four large baths, thermae, in Pompeii. Two baths have been discovered in Herculaneum, with one positioned in the city’s Forum. Citizens were expected to be clean and to use the baths before visiting a temple.

Baths were not only used for good health, hygiene, relaxation and leisure activities but for socialising. They were divided into separate sections for men and women. Respectable women were not allowed to bathe when men were there. For men to enter the Baths they would have paid a quadrans, a quarter of an is, yet women would have paid double. This highlights the inequality between the sexes. The men would have access to a paaestra, (sportsground). Women had facilities such as hairdressers and beauticians.

Men wore leather trunks known as aluta, or could even bath naked. Women could wear a two-piece or a balinearis vestis that was a more modest swimsuit. Most socialising would occur in the Tepidarium. This was a warm and steamy room equipped with benches for sitting. Commercial and Economic Functions Within the central, colonnaded area of the Forum

in Pompeii, various traders selling a range of goods would set up their stalls. It was an open-air market. The Macellum was the market in the northeast corner of the Forum. The market was a monopoly.

This occurs when there is a product that has no close substitutes and high barriers of entry. Producers can therefore charge any price they desire for a product. This usually means the price will be high, and consumers will have no option other than to continue to purchase it. The Macellum was a large, covered structure. Building began in the late second century BC. It suffered severe damage in the earthquake of AD 62 and was not fully reconstructed with markets being held elsewhere. There is a row of pedestals facing each other where honorary statues would have been.

People who were planning to shop in the Macellum would enter from the Forum at the front of the building through the impressive marble columns. The Macellum had three porticoes. The portico in the South of the Macellum had eleven tabernae to sell a range of dry foodstuff. The portico, a stylised column holding up the roof, in the East, had three halls. One hall had counters where meat and fish were sold. On the west and north sides the shops opened to the outside. The walls of the porticoes were decorated with paintings showing the types of foods available for purchase, for example, fish.

There was a circular centre in the Macellum for fish tanks, a fountain and benches used for scaling and preparing fish. Archaeologists have discovered remains of fish bones, cereals and fruit. This indicates the type

of food that was sold. Garum was a fish sauce made mainly of gills, intestines and blood that according to Pliny, ‘no other liquid except unguents has come to be more highly valued. ’ Garum became so popular that its creator, Marcus Umbricius Scaurus, statue is displayed in the Forum. Garum, along with the catches of local fishermen, would have been sold in the Macellum in the Pompeian Forum.

A public notice from Pompeii was found stating, “Dies Nundinae – Saturni Pompeis”; this translates as, “The Market Days – Saturday at Pompeii’. The Building of Eumachia was provided by Eumachia at her own expense as she was wealthy and influential. It was a powerful organisation that was operated by the Guild of Fullers. The Eumachia represented the wool and cloth industry which was one of the most important industries and most influential trade guilds in Pompeii. The building contained the wool market as well as the fabric dyers and washers.

Trading took place within the courtyard. The Eumachia building was ‘dedicated to the goddesses Concordia Augusta and Pietas and was decorated with statues and inscriptions glorifying the ancestors of the imperial family. ’ (Bradley, 2005. p43) Concordia Augusta was a Roman goddess who symbolised the peace and stability that emperors bought to the empire. Pietas was the goddess of duty to the Roman state, the gods and one’s family. In the side of the perimeter wall of the Temple of Apollo, facing onto the town's Forum, a niche is extracted containing the Mensa Ponderaria.

It was a weighing station. It consisted of a long limestone slab that contained nine holes of different proportions. It was

used to accurately weigh goods. Political functions Pompeii was self governing in local matters however it was also under imperial rule from Rome. Many political functions occurred in the Forum including administration and political debates. Buildings for legal and government business were incorporated in the Forum. According to Cicero, it was ‘harder to gain a seat in the City Council of Pompeii than it was to gain a seat in the Roman Senate. Politics coincided with religion as the Emperor was considered a god. This made it easy for Emperors to maintain control as religion was extremely important. Citizens would therefore not disobey the Emperor as they were a significant religious figure. The Basilica ‘was the seat of the judiciary and law courts, as well as a centre for business activities. It was one of the finest buildings – if not the finest. ’ (Bradley. 2005, p. 101) The Basilica had offices for ministers, heard law cases and was able to issue commercial and entertainment licenses.

It was most likely built during the period before Roman occupation, around 190-120 BC. The damage done to the building in 62 AD had not been repaired. The building had a long rectangular central hall two stories high, with a colonnaded aisle that led to the apse at one end. Five doors connected the Basilica with the Forum. Opposite the entry doors was the raised podium where the magistrate, duoviri, as the judge would be seated. The lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants would be seated on ground level.

Archaeologists believe that the tribunal podium could be accessed by portable wooden steps so they could be removed during a session

to stop the public being able to reach the judge. The duoviri would hear cases such as murder, the misuse of public funds and misbehaviour during elections. They could only give the death penalty to slaves and foreigners. In civil cases they were limited to law suits of 15,000 sesterces and 10,000 sesterces in defamatory trials. The ordo decurionum, the town government, was made up of 100 men known as decurion, who were often former magistrates and always wealthy citizens.

This municipal council met in the Basilica. On the Southern side of the Forum, adjacent to the Comitium, was the Curia chamber. It was decorated extravagantly and it was here that the city council met. The Comitium was a building in which citizens could question members of the government. It was a roofless building with heavy gates which suggest some meetings were quite unruly. This building could have possibly been used on polling day. On the other side of the Curia was the small Tabularium. This building was where all business relating to the government was recorded and filed, this included tax records.

The Office of the Duumviri was the office of the two most important magistrates from Pompeii. It was a rectangular building that contained an apse at the back and most probably had a statue of the emperor inside. It was in the Council House where the Pompeian council assembled. Archaeologists consider the piers which are located along the interior side of the walls to have been supports for wooden cupboards. These cupboards would have contained the administrative records of Pompeii. The Aediles’ Office was where the Aediles’ and their staff lived.


Aedile was a town magistrate who looked after the everyday administration. Officials used public weights and measure tables to ensure that they were accurate for trading purposes. They were kept at the Mensa ponderaria. Political infrastructure helps to reveal the different political figures and practices within the ancient society. A summary – relevance of the topic By researching the Forum in depth a greater knowledge and understanding of the cities, people and their lifestyles in Herculaneum and primarily within Pompeii, was obtained.

Regarded as the ‘centre of life’ within the Vesuvian cities the Forum revealed specific religious, social, political, commercial and economic functions. This increases knowledge of all aspects of life. A 70 cm high and 31 m long painted frieze was found in the house of Julia Felix. It depicted the everyday life and activity in the Forum. The plan of the Forum shows the location of major temples and buildings associated with the imperial cult and therefore it highlights its significance in the Pompeian society.

Primary sources such as the abundance of religious buildings, including the Temple of Capitoline Triad, shows how religion was highly valued as well as the type of architectural styles in which the people worshipped. Religion is evidently important due to the amount of wealth and time that was dedicated to it. The Forum was used as a place of social interaction. It includes elements such as it being a place of meeting with family or where music was played. This suggests that the citizens were willing to take time away from the home and work to enjoy leisure activities.

Using the Baths to cleanse before entering a temple

shows one of the cultural practices and how important hygiene was. The affluence of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as the commercial nature of Pompeii is evident within the Forum. The high demand for goods such as wool and cloth from the Eumachia building and food, for example, fish, within the markets of the Macellum highlights the commercialism of Pompeii. Affluence occurred due to the society being continually motivated by profit and wealth. Political buildings within the Forum represented the complex nature of politics as well as the strong connections that politics had with religion.

Politics were important and elections were highly advertised as within the Pompeian Forum scriptores painted signs as public election notices. A copious number of political buildings in the Forum at Pompeii provide evidence of the way in which the town was operated, shown in the Office of the Duumviri or the Council House. Most political positions were determined by wealth or status. The people’s role within political life was shown through the evidence of elections being held and also the Comitium, as this is where the public could ask members of Government questions.

Materials used were evident when studying the Forum. Roads were made of cobblestone. Innovative thinking by the Pompeian people is shown by the ruts made in the road for wheels and stepping stones for pedestrians so that they wouldn’t get their shoes wet. The promotion of the ‘Golden Age’ of Augustus (27BC-AD14) within Pompeii was conclusive in the architecture as the Forum’s older columns and deteriorated pavements of tufa were restored with marble and white limestone.

Both Pompeii and Herculaneum were indubitably prosperous cities in which the

people enjoyed the myriad of cultural and structural aspects. This included socialising, politics, religion and economic and commercial areas, as well as events provided by the Forum. Salvatore Nappo states, ‘it represented a unified, functional, architectural whole in which all the elements combine to display the cultural strength, economic capacity and optimism of the town in an area accessible to all citizens. ’ Bridget Allen

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds