The design, function and development of forum spaces in Italy (4th century BC to 1st century AD)

December 9 – 10, 2013

  • December 9, 9 a.m., University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, Aula Odeion
  • December 10, 9 a.m., British School at Rome, Sainsbury Lecture Theatre

Organized by: 

  • Christopher Smith, British School at Rome
  • Attilio Mastrocinque, University of Verona
  • Enzo Lippolis, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’

The forum constitutes the administrative, political, social and representative space of a Roman community.  In Augustan literature it emerges as a distinctive and fully formed element of the Romano-Italic city; a particular defining element, which would be replicated in the colonial system and in processes of cultural adaptation in various European and Mediterranean regions of the Roman Empire.  Vitruvius is evidence for the perception of the forum as a specific aspect of identity, a sign of belonging to a system.  As such, it can be read in opposition to the Greek typology of the public square, itself the outcome of long process of formation.  It is important to understand the interactions and comparisons between the two systems, the agora and the forum, in the context of the complex relationship of contacts and exchanges which characterise the Hellenistic Mediterranean.

Notwithstanding the importance of this vital node of the Romano-italic city, and the decades of research which have identified the fora of many communities in Italy, a clear definition of the functions and operation of this public, political and administrative space has yet to be made.  An analysis of the relationship between the forum and the other places of concentration, organization and representation of power in urban settlement is also missing.  Above all, although the reordering of space is better known for the late Republic and early Empire, the genesis and development of the forum in the period of Rome’s expansion in Italy is still not clear. In the period from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD, there was a succession of different political structures and different kinds of political relationships between local communities and the capital.  The normalization effected by the municipal system of the second quarter of the 1st century BC gave rise to a clear adaptation to homogenous models and behaviours; but this represents the end of a long process in Rome itself of profound changes in public administration and mechanisms of representation.

This workshop seeks to demonstrate the necessity of studying these contexts as evolving processes, avoiding generalizations and preconceptions.  It will emphasise the close connection between form and function, and set out the initial starting points and transformations which led to the elaboration of later models.

FORUM 2013 – Congress Secretary: 

Chiara Maria Marchetti, University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’: 


  • University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ - Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia - Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità - Aula Odeion - Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5 - 00185 Roma
  • British School at Rome  - Sainsbury Lecture Theatre - Via Gramsci, 61 - 00197 Roma