Blood of Rome
Forums are the social and mercantile centers of Rome. The Forum Romanum is the oldest, largest and most significant, but it is far from being the only one. Emperors, including Trajan, built forums as monuments to their achievements, and other developed naturally over time.
A forum is an open area surrounded by buildings, and the buildings open onto the forum. The open area is normally roughly rectangular, and paved. Statues are often erected, in center if there is only one, or spaced regularly if there are more. Many of the buildings have colonnades facing onto the plaza, and all can be entered from the open area.
The buildings on a forum normally include at least one temple, typically on one of the shorter sides of the rectangle. These temples can be dedicated to any of the Roman gods. Other buildings contain shops, as commerce is a major function of the place. Bathhouses are also common.
Two types of building that are not often found are private houses and churches. Forums are public spaces, so private buildings are out of place. Churches, as noted above, are built over the tombs of martyrs, which means that churches are built outside the formal boundaries of the city. Forums, as the commercial centers, were built in the heart of the city, well away from graveyards.
Forums are busiest in the daytime, but few close completely when the sun sets. They are the public places most likely to be lit by their own braziers, rather than relying on torches brought by those using the forums, and are unlikely to be deserted at any time. Even if the shops around the forum close, night is when new supplies of goods can be brought through the streets.
Deliberately planned forums are spectacular sights, with fine columns decorating the surrounding buildings. Trajan’s Forum is one of the wonders of Rome, with an equestrian statue of the Emperor in the center, and a column carved with scenes from his military exploits off to one side. Forums that have naturally grown tend to be more modest, and one or more sides may be completely without a columned portico.
Over time, most forums have adapted to the people who use them, so while the basic food shops can be found anywhere, the other stores express the character of the neighborhood. The temple is often appropriate, with the forum being partly shaped by the people who come to worship, but in other cases, the forum has developed in a very different way, leaving the god quite neglected.