Latin; akin to Latin foris outside, fores door
- 1a : the marketplace or public place of an ancient Roman city forming the center of judicial and public business
- b : a public meeting place for open discussion
- c : a medium (as a newspaper or online service) of open discussion or expression of ideas
- 2: a judicial body or assembly : court
- 3a : a public meeting or lecture involving audience discussion
- b : a program (as on radio or television) involving discussion of a problem usually by several authorities
In addition to its standard function as a marketplace, a forum was a gathering place of great social significance, and often the scene of diverse activities, including political discussions and debates, rendezvous, meetings, et cetera.
Modelled on the Roman Forum in Rome itself, several smaller or more specialised forums appeared throughout Rome’s archaic history. By the time of the late Republic expansions and refurbishing of the forums of the city had inspired Pompeii Magnus to create the Theatre of Pompey in 55 BC. The Theatre included a massive forum behind the theatre arcades known as the Porticus Pompei (Colonnades of Pompeius). The structure was the forebearer to Julius Caesar's first Imperial forum and the rest to follow. Major forums are to be found in Italy, however are not to be confused with the piazza of the modern town. While similar in use and function, most were created in the Middle Ages and are often not a part of the original city footprint. Forums were a regular part of every Roman province in the Republic and the Empire, with archaeological examples at:
- Forum of Philippi
- Forum and Provincial Forum of Mérida, Spain
- Forum of Tarragona, Spain
- Forum of Pompeii, Italy
In new Roman towns the Forum was usually located at, or just off, the intersection of the main north-south and east-west streets (the Cardo and Decumanus). All fora would have a Temple of Jupiter at the north end, and would also contain other temples, as well as the Basilica; a public weights and measures table, so customers at the market could ensure they were not being sold short measures; and would often have the baths nearby. At election times, candidates would use the steps of the temples in the forum to make their campaign speeches, and would expect their clients to come to support them.