Basilica Aemilia Rome

The Basilica Aemilia is one of the ruins in the Roman Forum in Rome. It is not the best-preserved monument in the Forum, but it was one of the most important buildings in Roman times. It was built in the 2nd century BC.

Basilica Aemilia Rome

Practical information

Basilica Aemilia Rome
Basilica Aemilia

The Basilica Aemilia is located in the Roman Forum, and its address is thus Via della Salara Vecchia, 5/6. For opening hours and entrance fees for the Basilica Aemilia and the Roman Forum, those of the Colosseum apply. On the first Sunday of the month, the visit is free.

History Basilica Aemilia Rome

The Basilica Aemilia was a large gathering place that was razed to the ground in the 5th century AD.

It was originally a rectangular hall with a floor of multicolored marble, surrounded by a colonnade. The roof was covered with bronze tiles.

It had been built in 179 B.C. by the consul Marcus Fulvius Nobilior. After his death, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus completed the work. In those days, two new consuls were elected every year, so no one could gain absolute power for a long time.

Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, in particular, was heavily involved in its construction, so much so that initially it was called Basilica Fulvia.

The Basilica Aemilia is the only one of the Republican basilicas of which anything remains, as the Basilica Sempronia and the Basilica Opimia have completely disappeared.

The origin of the word “basilica” was Greek and the meaning in Roman times had nothing to do with its current one. A basilica was not a religious meeting place, but a gathering place for politicians, moneylenders and so-called publicani, merchants whose job it was to collect taxes for the state. The publicani paid a fixed amount for this right, but could demand whatever they wanted from the people and were allowed to keep the difference.

In general, the basilica was used mainly in bad weather, since people usually conducted their business in the open air. People tried to create as much space as possible by covering rows of columns and pillars, creating several naves. The central nave was made higher so that one could make windows there for the necessary lighting.

The Basilica Aemilia had to be rebuilt many times, but finally burned down completely when the Visigoths under Alaric I invaded Rome in the year 410. As evidence of this, the floor of the basilica’s ruins still shows small pieces of coins melted down during the fire (sometimes with dates).

What was left after the fire was later covered with a new, higher floor.

The oldest part of the Basilica Aemilia had the shape described above. Later, two smaller naves were added on the north side. The façade was on the south side and consisted of two levels with 16 arches resting on pillars.

After the fire, the portico was replaced by a structure with thicker columns. Three of these granite columns were pulled up after the excavations and can still be seen.

Behind the portico there were several tuff stone rooms, where there were so-called tabernae. Behind these, three arches led to a large auditorium of 90 by 29 meters, which was divided by columns into four naves.

These columns were made of a type of marble called “African,” even though the material came from Asia Minor.

On the north-east side, there is a plaster cast of a piece of the embossed marble frieze that adorned the architrave of the central nave. The scenes depicted on it have to do with the history of Rome and were the result of a restoration in the time of Julius Caesar. Among others, the betrayal of Tarpeia, the Rape of the Sabine Women and the construction of the walls around Lavinio are depicted. The original of the frieze can be admired in the Tabularium.

On the west side one can still see some remains of the ancient basilica.

Basilica Aemilia, Forum Romanum, Rome