Forum - Foro, Pompeii
The main open space in Pompeii is the Forum located near the southwest edge of town. The area is 142 m long by 38m wide At the north end there was the Temple of Jupiter with six pillars on the face. Laterally there was an arch on each side In ots last days it was called a Capitolium..
As in Rome, the Forum was the main hub for the temples, courts of law, municipal offices, markets and other structures related to the economic, religious and political life of the city. This is a very large area with many points of interest - too many to cover in a paragraph - so for more information, I'm enclosing a website with some short, narrated video tours of the Forum area as well as some of the other sites: check it out!
Terme del Foro - the baths.
These were built after 80 BC, following the same layout as the larger Stabian Baths: on either side of the furnaces are the men's and women's sections, according to the sequence apodyterium (dressing room), frigidarium (cold bathing room), tepidarium (warm room), caldarium (hot room). The porticoed palaestra could be entered from Via del Foro or the changing room of the men's section. The tepidarium was not heated using modern means, but by a large bronze brazier donated by M. Nigidio Vaccula. Telamons separate the niches to hold unguents and bath items; stuccoes in relief (from the later restoration in 62 AD) decorated the vault with geometric partitions and mythological figures. Public baths were inexpensive and heavily used: bath time was apparently in the early afternoon.
Panificio - the Bakery
By the early days of the Empire the citizens of Pompeii seem already to have been largely dependent for their bread upon commercial bakeries. The commercial mills were enlarged versions of the hand mill or quern. The only tolerably complete specimen of a such mill is that discovered under the ashes of Pompeii where thirty-one of them were found. The machinery for the production of bread consists of millstones in porous lava, very compact tough stone so there were no risks of its losing tiny fragments in the grinding process which might be mixed with the flour. The form of these mills resembles an hourglass with a biconical or hollow catullus which rotates above on a cone-shaped pivot (meta), set on base in masonry and surrounded by a paved floor on which the animals yoked to the beams inserted in the catullus walked. These mills were clumsier than they need have been because the heavy hopper holding the grain above the grinding stones was also made of stone, although a lighter material such as wood or wicker would have been equally effective; but slaves and asses alike were expendable.
What is certain is that an industry which had always been carried on first by women and then commercially by slaves and animals was regarde as of poor repute. Nothing but abject poverty drove a free citizen to the mills. The Roman playwright Plautus around 200 b.C. had been forced at one time through poverty, and as a last resort, to grind corn for a living.
The Horrea is the Cereal Market located at the top of the West Side of the forum. It is here where all the grain grown outside Pompeii was traded. Outside the building is also the Control of Weights and Measures. If people were unhappy with the amount sold to them by sellers in the middle of the forum, they could come here and have it weighed by an Aedile.
Today, the market is used as a store room for many of the finds in Pompeii. It is also used to hold many of the plaster casts of the dead bodies found in Pompeii. For more information on these, please visit my General Tips section.
There are three municipal offices that take up the southern end of the Forum. Moving west along the southern end, the three offices are:
The office of the Duoviri
Ancient Rome was governed in such a way as no one man could take control. The Empire was goverend by two Consuls, both with equal power, and its towns were the same. The Duoviri both had equal power at the head of the Pompeiian legal system.
The office of the Curia
Not technicaly an Office, the Curia is a meeting place for the higher powers in Pompeii, the Duoviri and the Aediles, who's offices flank it.
The office of the Aediles
The Aediles worked in two pairs, and were responsible largely for the maintenence of public buildings in the city.
The Roman Forum was the centre of any town or city. Similar to our own ity centers, it is where the main business and government buildings, many of the towns temples and the towns markets were located. Thus, Pompeii's forum has four Temples, offices, law courts, a government meeting room and two markets. It also has a unique Fullers Guild Hall, called the Eumachia Building, named after the woman who founded it.
In the centre of the forum is a large open space, and was the only area of the town where people could freely come and sell their wares. All you needed were a few items to sell, and a blanket to sit on. It really was like an ancient eBay.
My forum tips start at the Temple of Jupiter, the northernmost building, and go clockwise round.
The uffici pubblici (in English: public offices) are located on the south-east side of the forum. On the left you can see the Comitium: a building destined to the votes for the election of the judges. On the south side you can see three buildings that were the home of the duumviri, of the Ordo Decurionum (town suggestion) and of the Aediles.
The Edificio di Eumachia (in English, Eumachia's Palace) is a palace built by the priestess Eumachia as center of the guild of the laundrymen, of the dyers and of the cloths manufacturers. The building was devoted to the August Harmony and the Pity which were held personifications of Livia, wife of Augustus. The building wasdamaged during the earthquake in 62 A.D. and to the epoch of the eruption the jobs of restauration were just begun.
In the building you can see the beautiful portal with jambs in marble with figures of vegetable and animals. The courtyard was surrounded from an arcade with columns. At the end of the courtyard you can see three apses: the central one contained the statue of the empress.
Walking along the ambulatory of the arcade along the temple of Apollo you can see a niche, built in travertine, called mensa ponderaria. It was the office for the control of the measures of ability compared to those of the Roman system.
Following along the arcade you can see a great building, that was probably a store for the sale of cereals. Today it is being turned to deposit of archaeological material. Here you can see many vases, amphoras, marbles, statues and people victims of the eruption.
The forum was the heart of the religious, civil and economic life of the town. It is a great square, 38 meters wide and 142 meters long, surrounded on three sides by a parvis and dam in the quarter (side north) from the Temple of Jupiter.
The line of the entablature, made in tuff, of the southern side was built during the Samnite period, while the ones of the oriental and western side were built in the last years of the town and never finished. The arcade sustained a floor with thinner columns which was entered for some staircases.
Numerous statues of important people of the town, made in marble and bronze, were risen on the plinths in front of the southern arcade.
The great plinth in the western side was the suggestum (in English, platform of the oratories). Slabs of travertine and steps prevented the traffic of the vehicles from the side of via Marina and from via dell'Abbondanza.
The Foro Triangolare (Triangular Forum) is locate in Via Dei Teatri. This forum is so called due its shape and close to it there are many important public buildings built in the Sannites time (second century BC). The entrance is made by a fantastic square propylaea preceded by a public fountain. The square is surrounded on three sides by an arcade with Doric order made with 95 columns that contains a sacred enclosure. Opposed to the entry there was the statue of Marco Claudio Marcello, nephew of Augustus and patron of the young athletes of Pompeii.
It was build after the earthquake in 62 A.D. and may have not even been completed when the big one hit. It contains many shelves of archeological artifacts as well as several plaster casts of former residents, or rather the voids left behind in the solid ash by the former residents. How many of those artifacts are going to be damaged if another earthquake hits?
The forums of Pompeii are a wonderful thing to see and walk through, I was impressed with the careful mix of court yards and the spacing between the structures. It gives a feel of freedom and relaxation to be there and one can imagine what a wonderful place to meet friends and family the forums must of been for the people of Pompeii. With the stunning views of Mt. Vesuvius in the background and the beautiful white columns that still stand being in the forum has quite a spiritual feeling to it.
Near the Forum you can peer into, but not enter, the series of rooms that made up the produce market or forum olitorio. This was built after the 62 AD earthquake, and may not have been completed (or was not in use) at the time of the eruption. It is now used to store various archaeological objects found during the excavations at Pompeii, such as amphorae, architectural and decorative features, marble garden furniture etc. But the main items of interest are the few plaster casts of victims of the eruption which are on display here. I found those we saw later in the Garden of Fugitives to be more sympathetically displayed and more meaningful, but that’s a long walk from the entrance so if you have limited mobility or time you will want to see the examples here. The crouching man, covering his face with his hands, shows how the people must have tried in vain to protect themselves from the onslaught of ashes.
This was one of the few spots (in November) where we found it overcrowded by a tour group and had to wait our turn to peer in – in the height of the season I imagine you will wait quite a while.
Located at the intersection between the two main streets of the original urban centre, the Forum was the city's main square, where cart traffic was forbidden. It is one of the first places you come to on entering the ruins at Pompeii, and that’s appropriate as it was the most significant part of the city for all its inhabitants, the centre of its social, political, economic, and religious life. It was surrounded on all sides by public buildings: religious, political, and commercial. Here commerce and the administration of justice took place; here orators spoke and people met to do business or simply pass the time of day.
This location for the Forum was established in the 2nd century BC but the structures were enhanced and added to over time. In the 1st century AD monumental bases for commemorative statues were placed on the south side, in front of the city's administrative buildings, while those of illustrious citizens stood along the porticos. None of the many statues whose bases are still visible in the area of the Forum was ever found. They may have been damaged in the earthquake of 62 AD and never set up again, or perhaps they were removed by the people of Pompeii who returned after the eruption to take whatever they could.
This is a great spot from which to see and photograph Vesuvius. I found myself speculating whether the inhabitants of this city ever stopped to look up at the mountain, and if so what they made of those early danger signs when wisps of smoke started to appear?
My photo shows this view as seen from the centre of the Forum, with the Temple of Jupiter that formed its northern boundary and on the left an honorary arch dedicated to Tiberius or to Germanicus. I found it impossible to get a good shot of the Forum itself – this was the only area of Pompeii where there were large groups of tourists and they tended to obscure the views.