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Description of the Basilica (Reg VIII, Ins 1, 2)

The building reflects some of the structural conventions later codified by Vitruvius in De Architectura (known today as The Ten Books on Architecture), specifically  Book V, chapter I - 'The Forum and Basilica',

However, it differs in the proportions and in the fact that the main entrance (A) is on the short side overlooking the Forum, instead of on the more normal long side; as a result the tribunal (D) (the raised area on which the magistrates were seated) is on the short back wall, on an axis with the entrance. The entrance has five doorways (pictured upper left), one at either side of the portico and one between each pair of columns.

In addition to the main entrance, the basilica also has two side entrances (E) and (F), on the Via Marina and the Vicolo di Chanpionnet respectively.

At the west end the tribunal is flanked by symetrical exedral rooms. The raised tribunal is fronted by six Corinthian columns (opposite) with an engaged order on the rear wall. Above the tribunal was an upper order of engaged columns framing rectangular windows.

The Basilica played an important role in both civil and commercial life of Pompeii. Not only was justice administered here, but it was also the focus of the commercial life of the city.
The Basilica stands near the west corner of the Forum and is the oldest and most important public building in Pompeii. Measuring 24 x 65 metres, it was built between 120 and 78 B.C. and is the best example in Pompeii of pre-Roman architecture.

The interior has a central nave (B) and two side isles (C); the nave is bordered on four sides by twenty-eight large brick built columns while a row of Ionic half columns about half the height of the central order is engaged into the side walls. Above these are signs of the lower part of an engaged upper order. Between the columns the side walls are covered with stucco formed into panels characteristic of the first style.

Many fragments of free standing Corinthian columns of the same diameter as the upper order in the side walls were found near the north wall. Exactly what the elevation of the basilica looked like is still open to debate, but these fragments led to a reconstruction by Ohr in his book Die Basilika in Pompeji in which the upper order columns are engaged into a masonry balustrade for half their height and above that are freestanding. Thus the building would have been lit by the spaces between the columns as shown in the elevation top right. There are precedents for this arrangement; for example the columns which run round the upper part of the atrium in the Samnite House in Herculaneum.

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