Cities of Vesuvius

- Syllabus Content -

Public Buildings: basilicas, temples, fora, theatres, palaestra, amphitheatres

Fora – Pompeii and Herculaneum

The Forum in Pompeii

  • Describe the location of the Pompeian Forum.
  • Describe the layout of the Forum.
  • What buildings were around the Forum?
  • What does this suggest about the uses and importance of the Forum in Pompeian life?
  • Label the buildings on the diagram of the forum.

Go to the Forum at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza / Pompeii Forum Project


external image Pompeii_Forum_Panorama.jpg

  • The Pompeian Forum was located where the main roads of Naples, Nola and Stabiae met.
  • The Forum was constructed in such a way so that Mount Vesuvius would dominate its central axis, uniting the two landmarks of the ancient town as one.
  • However, the Forum did not adhere exactly to Vitruvius’ injunctions and went ahead with other methods of construction.
  • It underwent a number of modifications during the town’s history and at the time of the eruption, according to the latest evidence, was undergoing a comprehensive vigorous and ambitious post-earthquake restoration. According to the research findings, it proved to be a successful town project and mirrored the resilience and strength of the people after the incident.

The Forum as it is today

The Forum as it may have appeared

  • Until the second century BC, the Forum of Pompeii seemed to be primarily a marketplace. After this time, law courts, porticoes and buildings of political and religious importance were built. This expanded the uses of the Forum and also the capacity of people visiting the area.
  • On any day of the week, the Forum and surrounding streets would have been filled with the lively bustle of shopkeepers and stallholders, merchants, moneychangers, customers, teachers and students, people wishing to pick up news or hear the latest gossip, as well as those attending law courts or holding political office.
  • As the city of Pompeii advanced in its importance, the Forum remained the centre of social, economic, political and religious life.
  • The Forum was the only area of Pompeii where there were underground drains.
  • The Forum buildings, roofed in red terracotta tiles, were brightly coloured, as were the statues that surrounded them.

The Triangular Forum - Pompeiitriangular_forum.jpg

Go to the Triangular Forum at Pompeii in Pictures / Soprintendenza

  • Where is the Triangular Forum situated?
  • What buildings are nearby?
  • Describe the Triangular Forum.
  • What do you think its uses might have been?

(from Guide to the Site p.117)
"The triangular open space was included in the fundamentally coherent urban scheme applied to the whole district of the theatres during the second century BC. It is situated on the southern extremity of the lava mass on which Pompeii developed, overlooking the sea and the Sarno river. A majestic gateway with ionic columns opens onto the forum, which is surrounded on three sides by a doric colonnade, the southern side being left open for its splendid panorama. The whole cultural and religious complex, comprising the forum, theatres and three temples (Doric, of Isis and of Zeus Meilichios), is more Hellenistic in appearance than Italic, and it may be no coincidence that it is situated on the edge of what was in origin an Italic city."

The Forum in Herculaneum

The Herculaneum Forum is still buried under the town of Resina. It is believed to lie just beyond the north-west corner of the excavated area. Buildings nearby suggest this: the College of the Augustales, the Basilica Noniana and triumphal arch.