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The term comes from the Greek word “kingly hall” to describe the covered public hall or stoa that the Romans first built in the forum area in the second century BC for conducting legal and business activities.  The Basilica Porcia was first basilica built in Rome (184 BC), overlooking the forum, but it was the Basilicas Aemilia and Sempronia. created slightly later, that gave a regularized shape to the central forum piazza. They were replaced in the Augustan era by the Basilicas Paulli and Iulia. The architectural form of the basilica consisted of a wooden-roofed hall with a central nave and side aisles sustained by columns. The basilica was the secular architectural form that was imitated by the 4C church when it began to build public halls for religious services. There could be many varieties of the basilica, as per Vitruvius, 10 Books of Architecture. In the 4C, two stand outs were the concrete vaulted and brick-faced Basilica of Maxentius, which borrowed from imperial bath architecture and the Aula Palatine in Trier, a massive hall 67 m long and 33 m high with a coffered wooden ceiling.  

Where are the basilicas of Rome?

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Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “Basilica (General)” Ancient Rome Live. Last modified 11/11/2019.


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