Roman Forum of Pompeii

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Civic Forum of Pompeii served as the bustling heart of the city, encompassing essential public structures for city administration, dispensing justice, managing business affairs, conducting trade activities such as markets, and serving as the primary site for citizen worship.

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Initially, the Forum appeared as a simple, open space with a relatively regular shape, constructed with clay. Its western side opened onto the Sanctuary of Apollo, while the eastern side featured a line of shops. However, significant modifications occurred between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. During this period, the square's shape was standardized, surrounded by porticoes, and the ground was paved with tuff slabs. The central axis of the square aligned with Mount Vesuvius, featuring the imposing façade of the Temple of Jupiter.

During the early Imperial era, the Forum was resurfaced with travertine slabs, some of which have since been relocated and bear grooves to accommodate bronze letters that once formed part of a large inscription. Archaeological excavations initiated at the request of Maria Carolina Bonaparte revealed that the area had been extensively explored and stripped of its decorations in ancient times.

Notable Structures

circa 150 BCE

Provisions Market (Macellum)
The Macellum of Pompeii (provisions market) was located in the north-eastern corner of of the Roman Forum of Pompeii. The Macellum was also damaged in the earthquake of 62 CE, which also destroyed large parts of Pompeii. The building visible today had not been fully renovated when the earthquake of 79 CE struck. The eastern section of the Macellum was most likely dedicated to the "Imperial Cult", providing insight in to the centrality of an emperor's role in the Roman life during the first century CE. Three much restored marble columns (inspect) from the portico of the forum, with Corinthian capitals, remain standing in front of the facade. The lower third of two of the columns is decorated with piped fluting, while the upper portion lacks fluting.

circa 150 BCE

Capitolium (Temple of Jupiter)
The Capitolium of Pompeii, Temple of Jupiter or Temple of the Capitoline Triad was an ancient Roman era temple in Pompeii, at the north end of its forum. Originally devoted solely to Roman god Jupiter, the temple was constructed in the middle of the second century BCE, coinciding with the renovation of the nearby Temple of Apollo. This period marked the rise of Roman influence in Pompeii, leading to Roman Jupiter surpassing Greek Apollo as the primary deity in the town. Jupiter, the supreme god and guardian of Rome, held great significance in Roman religion and the state cult, with his temple serving as the focal point of life in ancient Pompeii.

circa 130 BCE

The Basilica of Pompeii, occupying an expansive area of 1,500 square meters, stood as the most magnificent structure within the Forum. It served as a space for conducting business transactions and administering justice. Accessible through five entrances separated by sturdy tuff pillars, the interior of the Basilica featured three naves divided by two rows of brick columns adorned with Ionic capitals. Positioned at the center of the shorter western side was an elaborately decorated suggestum, providing seating for judges overseeing legal matters. The space was further enhanced by the presence of an equestrian statue, while the walls boasted opulent stucco decorations resembling large marble blocks. Dating back to approximately 130-120 BC, the Basilica represents one of the oldest known examples of this architectural type within the entire Roman Empire. Excavations of the Basilica began in the 19th century, coinciding with investigations conducted in the Forum square area.

circa 120 BCE

Sanctuary of Apollo
The sanctuary of Apollo is one of the most important and ancient places of worship in the city of Pompeii. Its origins date back to the first quarter of the sixth century BCE. Whilst in the second half of the sixth century BCE the temple benefited from the addition of a podium and a roof decorated with elements in terracotta, as evidenced by the discovery that these materials were also re-used in the foundations of the building towards the end of the second century BCE following a major renovation the building assumed the form seen today (apart from some later transformations) the temple built on a podium has columns of tuff and enclosed cella with a polychrome floor. Around the temple is a portico which delimits a courtyard where the bronze statues of Apollo and Diana were found, both dating back to the Hellenistic period. Along the eastern side of the temple a series of large openings connected this building with the forum, the main square of the city.

circa 80 BCE

Forum Baths
The Forum Baths of Pompeii, situated behind the Temple of Jupiter, originally built in the years following the establishment of the veteran colony by General Sulla in 80 BCE. Separate entrances were designated for men and women. The men's section encompassed various areas such as the apodyterium (dressing room), which served as a tepidarium (for moderate temperature baths), frigidarium (for cold baths), and calidarium (for hot baths). Similar to numerous structures in Pompeii, the baths endured significant damage during the earthquake of 62 CE.

The current state of the baths predominantly reflects the restoration efforts made after the 62 CE earthquake. Considerable attention and labor were dedicated to embellishing the rooms. The niches, used for storing clothing and bathing items, exhibited decorative terracotta male figures (telamones), while the vault of the apodyterium-tepidarium featured intricate relief stucco work. Additionally, an imposing bronze brazier used for heating occupied the same room.

In contrast, the women's quarters, comparatively smaller, were undergoing renovation at the time of the volcanic eruption. Over 500 lamps discovered in the entrance of the men's quarters were employed for illumination during evening openings.

circa 10 BCE

Sanctuary of Lari Pubblici
The Sanctuary of Public Lares was built after the reign of emperor Augustus, during the first decades of the first century CE, but prior to the earthquake of 62 CE. The Sanctuary of the Lari Pubblici, along with other temples dedicated to the imperial cult such as the Temple of the Genius Augusti and the Portico of Concordia Augusta, was constructed on an area that was previously occupied by shops.

This spacious structure, positioned openly on the Forum, featured a central altar where sacrifices could be made for both the emperor and the citizens of Lari. Two large exedras (inspect) adorned the sides of the central apse, and numerous niches were designed to accommodate statues of the imperial family. Unfortunately, only a few remnants of the once lavish marble covering have been preserved, as it was largely destroyed shortly after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.

circa 10 CE

Temple of Vespasian (Temple of Genius Augusti)
The construction of the Temple of the Genius Augusti was initiated upon the request of Mamia (she was a Roman priestess), noted in an inscription as the priestess of Cerere and the Genius of Augustus. This temple, built during the Augustan period in the first decade of the first century CE, featured a similar architectural design to the neighboring Portico of Concordia Augusta. The façade of the temple was adorned with marble decoration, of which only the lower part remains visible. A niche with decorative motifs and a refurbished altar (inspect), partly completed after the earthquake of 62 CE, also characterized the temple. It encompassed a small courtyard, an altar, and a compact temple with four columns atop a raised platform, accessible from both sides.

circa 25 BCE

Edifice of Eumachia
The grand edifice known as the Eumachia Building, situated near the forum of Pompeii, can be divided into three distinct sections: the chalcidicum, the porticus, and the crypta. The chalcidicum, located at the front of the building, forms an integral part of the continuous portico that stretches along the eastern side of the forum.

The precise dating of the building falls within the somewhat uncertain range of 9 BCE to 22 CE. A posthumous inscription dedicated to Marcus Numistrius Fronto, who served as a duumvir (each of two magistrates or officials holding a joint office) in 3 CE, was found on the building. Based on this evidence, it is believed that Fronto was more likely to have been Eumachia's husband. Additionally, toward the rear of the building, a niche holds an idealized statue of Eumachia (inspect), depicted wearing a tunic, stola, and cloak.

circa 65 CE

Forum Granary
The edifice, situated along the western side of the Forum, consist of eight openings separated by brick pillars and were primarily utilized as the fruit and vegetable market known as the Forum Holitorium. Presently, these structures house the most extensive collection of archaeological artifacts from Pompeii and its surrounding area, amassed since the late nineteenth century CE. Within these buildings, over 9,000 items, including terracotta crockery that was commonly used for everyday activities during the city's final decades are stored. This crockery includes pots, pans, jugs, bottles, and amphorae—large containers employed for transporting oil, wine, and fish sauce across the Mediterranean.

Among the stored artifacts are marble tables and fountain baths that once adorned the entrances of houses, as well as casts depicting the victims of the volcanic eruption, including those of a dog and a tree. The construction of these buildings occurred after the earthquake of 62 CE, and it is possible that they were not entirely completed at the time of the eruption.

circa 65 CE

Forum Lavatory
The forum latrines were located in the north-west of corner of the forum, north of the forum granary. The protruding stone slabs along the periphery of the lavatory were intended to hold benches used as seating platforms. Beneath these seats, a system of flowing water effectively disposed of waste, and the drainage outlet can be observed at the rear of the depiction. Roman toilets were communal in nature and lacked the partitioned cubicles that are commonplace in modern facilities.

circa 65 CE

Mensa Ponderaria
The Mensa Ponderaria (office of the weights and measures) is located in the western perimeter wall of the Sanctuary of Apollo. Today a copy of the Mensa Ponderaria (weighing table), the original of which is kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples is displayed here. This counter was utilized for verifying the capacity of measures employed in trading goods. It was utilized for measuring both liquid and solid food items, including cereals. The goods would be placed in the designated containers, sealed with caps, and then emptied after undergoing verification. The existence of this counter predates the Roman period, as indicated by three inscriptions in the Oscan language that were subsequently removed when the colony was established in 80 BC. It was later adapted to conform to the Roman system of weights and measures, which is substantiated by the inscription that remains visible today.

circa 65 CE

Comitium and Municipality Halls
The Comitium is situated in the southeastern corner of the Pompeian Forum square. Constructed during the second century BCE, its initial purpose was to serve as the headquarters for the polling station. Over time, it evolved into a space designated for vote counting and the proclamation of newly elected judges, known as the Diribitorium. Simultaneously, the Forum square itself transformed into an area for casting votes.

The significance of this building in local political affairs is underscored by the numerous electoral campaign posters that once adorned the pillars at the entrance along Via dell'Abbondanza and the suggestum on the southern side. Adjacent to the Comitium, there are three public administration halls on the southern side of the square, arranged in sequential order from west to east. These include the tabularium, a storage facility for records with a gap isolating it from neighboring buildings to mitigate fire risks; the Curia, which serves as the meeting place for the Council and accommodates benches for attendees; and the Building of the Duoviri, housing the magistrates who governed the city. These structures are interconnected by a portico, establishing a cohesive group of buildings intertwined with the civic life of the city.

circa 30 CE

Arch of Nero
The so-called Arch of Nero is situated in the north-east corner of the Civic Forum of Pompeii, between the Temple of Jupiter and the Macellum. It is part of the vaulted structure that delimits the Forum to the north and, at the same time, constitutes its access point from Via degli Augustali, being itself traversabile by pedestrians.

It is a single fomix arch, with four squared niches in both, the north and the south sides, of the solid piers. Those on the Forum side are intended to house statues, whereas those on the street contained pipes and basins of fountains.

At present only the brickwork structure remains of the ancient structure. The upper story (attic) is now lost.

The arch was once covered by rich architectural elements and decorations; above the tavertine slabs that cap the lower part of the piers, bases and shafts of the marble columns that framed the niches are still preserved; fragments of pilaster strips and moldings are still in place on the eastern side.

The lavish architectural decorations, the staues within the niches and the dedicatory inscription, found under the arch during the excavations in May 1818 CE led scholars to identify the monument with a triumphal arch. Indeed, it was comminly believed that the dedication of those buildings was strictly related to the celebration of the triumph, the highest honor a victorious commander could be awarded by the Senate.

Although currently it is no longer believed that during the Imperial Age honorary arches were necessarily built for a military triumph, it is still important to identify the public figures the arch was dedicated to, in order to understand its chronology and its political meaning, referes to the above cited dedicatory inscription; the person who received the titles therein mentioned in Pompeii, is tobe identified with Nero Caesar, grandson of the emperor Tiberius and son of Germanicus.

Assuming that the inscription was presumably displayed on one of the piers, a statue of Nero Caesar was probably placed within one of the niches on the south side, a statue of his brother, Drusus Caesar must have been located in the other niche, since the two brothers were the leading candidates for successions to the principale afterthe death of Drusus Minor, son of the emperor Tiberius, in 23 CE. The arch could thus be dedicated to Nero and Drusus Caesar along with Tiberius himself or with Germanicus, probably figured in the equestrian statues which used to be positioned above the attic.

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