The Basilica Aemilia on the Forum Romanum at Rome

The Basilica Aemilia is situated on the north side of the Forum at the junction of the Argiletum and the Via Sacra, between the Curia Iulia and the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, opposite the Basilica Julia.
Its original name was Basilica Paulli, after Aemilius Paullus who rebuilded the basilica in the second half of the first century B.C..

Before this rebuilding there existed already an older building which can probably be dated between 210 and 193 B.C.
The eldest remains were found 2,80 below the actual ground level. Not enough has been found to make a reconstruction of this building but the few remains allow us to assume that it was a basilica building with a central colonnaded nave surrounded on all four sides by aisles. Only two tracks of the foundation of the nave and the outer wall(?) were found. The traces of (bases of the) the columns had a diameter of 1,10 m with an intercolumniation between the columns of 3,85 m, or 3,5 the lower diameter. The distance from these columns to the outer wall seems to be 1/2 of the intercolumniation: 1,92 m.
Nothing more can be said about this first basilica.

In the same context another foundation was found with colums 1,05 m thick and an intercolumniation of 4,80 between the columns. This are rests of a first rebuilding by L. Aemilius Paullus, probably around 80 B.C.

This basilica burned in 14 B.C. and was restored by Augustus. In 22 A.D. a new restoration took place, financed by M. Aemilius Lepidus. It was this building phase that gave the basilica its final layout.

Although the basilica lies along the Via Sacra on the Forum, the main fašade was oriented to the Argiletum. We know it from a drawing of Giuliano da Sangallo in the Codex Vaticano Barberiniano Latino 4424. This shows an engaged order of very elaborate design, Doric, the columns raised on plinths, carrying an entablature in which the metopes are deorated with bucrania and paterae. Because blocks of a free standing order of the same design are found in the area, we can presume this order was carried as a colonnade at the short ends of the basilica.

The basilica proper was separated from the forum by a row of shops. From the Via Sacra one mounted a flight of seven steps with a landing at halfway to a very deep arcaded portico, above which was a second arcaded storey reached by a stair at either end and from which spectators could view events on the forum. Behind the arcaded portico opened the row of fifteen tabernae, three of which were really entrances to the basilica, while two were stairs to the gallery above.

The inner of the basilca (▒ 70 x 29 m) was treated as a great central nave surrounded on all four sides by aisles and with a second, narrow aisle along the north side. The aisles had certainly a second storey with columns of a smaller scale.

This basilica is far from the Vitruvian prescriptions. It is through that there is a central nave surrounded by two storeyed aisles, but that is the end of all similarities. The basilica lies with its long side along the forum but thisis not the main entrance. The main fašade is axed on the Argiletum which resulted in a shift of the axis of the building from north - south to west - east. That is also why the aedes Augusti is missing. Further the proportions described by Vitruvius and like other early basilicas reveal are absent.
It is also impossible to say something more about the older structures found beneath the actual ground level. Not enough has been found of these structures to allow us to make assumptions about the layout and proportions of these buildings.


F. Coarelli, Il Foro Romano, Roma, 1983-1985
F. Coarelli, Guida archeologica di Roma, Verona, 1974
L. Richardson jr., A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Baltimore-London, 1992

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