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Bill Thayer

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Collecting all the individual basilica entries on pp71‑82 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Basilica: * the name given by the Romans to a very common type of building erected for business purposes and also for the accommodation of the courts. It usually consisted of a rectangular hall, of considerable height, surrounded by one or two ambulatories, sometimes with galleries, and lighted by openings in the upper part of the side walls. The hall often ended in an apse or exedra. There were numerous variants in detail from this type, but the general effect was the same. For discussions of the basilica in general, see RE III.83 ff.; DS. I.677 ff.

The recent discovery of the under­ground basilica just outside the Porta Maggiore has somewhat modified the views previously held; Here we have a building, undoubtedly pagan, belonging to the first century after Christ, which already shows, fully developed, the plan of the Christian basilica with a nave and two aisles, separated by pillars supporting arches (Giovannoni in DAP 2.xv.113). This basilica is not mentioned in classical literature, and was quite unexpectedly discovered in 1915. It was reached by a long subterranean passage, with two lightshafts (which has now been closed up, a new approach having been constructed from the via Praenestina), which led into a square vestibule with a larger shaft. (It was the earth falling into this shaft (which lay right under the Naples railway line) which led to the discovery of the basilica.) The vestibule was decorated with painted stucco; and from it a window over the entrance door threw scanty light into the basilica itself, which was decorated entirely with reliefs in white stucco. The subjects are very varied, and have given rise to much discussion. The basilica can be inferred from them to have served for the meetings of a neo-Pythagorean sect which believed in a future life, as they can all be referred to the adventures of the soul in its passage towards the otherworld, the scene in the apse showing the actual plunge into the purifying flood. The worship was obviously secret: and the building was probably constructed in such a way as to excite as little attention as possible, the piers having been made by excavating pits, which were then filled with concrete. The vaults and arches were supported until the concrete had set on the solid  p72 earth (not on scaffolding) which accounts for their irregularity: and it was only afterwards that the earth was cleared out from beneath.

See NS 1918, 30‑52, for the original discovery; and Mem. Am. Acad. IV.79‑87, Strong and Jolliffe in JHS 1924, 65‑111, and Carcopino, La Basilique Pythagoricienne de la Porte Majeure, Paris, 1927, for a full description, with references to the voluminous literature of the subject. Bendinelli's attempt in BC 1922, 85‑126, to prove it to have been a tomb can hardly be accepted. A fully illustrated official account is to be expected.

Basilica Aemilia or Paulli: see separate page.

Basilica Alexandrina: a building one hundred feet wide and one thousand long, that Alexander Severus planned to erect inter campum Martium et Saepta Agrippiana (Hist. Aug. Alex. Sev. 26). It was commenced but never built (BC 1883, 12; 1893, 124). The passage may have been made up from Cic. ad Att. IV.16.8 (SHA 1916, 7.A, 12 — see Saepta).

Basilica Antoniarum Duarum: mentioned only in one inscription (CIL VI.5536). These Antoniae may have been the daughters of Octavia and Antonius.

Basilica Argentaria: see separate page.

Basilica Calabra: see Curia Calabra.

Basilica Claudii: mentioned only in Pol. Silv. (545), where it has been perhaps confused with aqua Claudii (Jord. II.217).

Basilica Constantini: see separate page.

Basilica Floscellaria: apparently a building devoted to the use of the flower sellers, mentioned only in Reg. app. and in Pol. Silv. (545), without any indication of its location.

Basilica Fulvia: see Basilica Aemilia.

Basilica Gai et Luci: see Basilica Iulia.

Basilica Hilariana: a sort of sanctuary dedicated by the collegium dendrophorum Matris deum magnae et Attidis in honour of a certain M'. Poplicius Hilarus (CIL VI.641, 30973). The vestibule of this basilica with its inscription on the mosaic floor was found in 1889 on the site of the Ospedale Militare, but nothing sufficient to indicate its exact form of construction (Rosch. II.2917‑2918; BC 1890, 18‑25, pls. I, II; 1918, 76‑78; Mitt. 1891, 109; Cons. 277 ff.).

Basilica Hostilia: see Basilica Vestilia.

Basilica Iulia: see separate page.

Basilica Iulia Aquiliana: mentioned by Vitruvius (V.1.4) a as occupying a long and narrow site, so that the chalcidica or porches were added at the ends. It has been conjectured that it was built in honour of Julius Caesar by C. Aquilius Gallus, the friend of Cicero. Its site is unknown (Jord. I.2.256; RE III.84; X.8).

Basilica Iunii Bassi: consul ordinarius in 331 A.D. (not 317, cf. Götting. Nachr. 1904, 345), situated on the Esquiline east of S. Maria Maggiore. The inscription, in mosaic, was copied in the sixteenth century (Iunius Bassus, v.c. consul ordinarius propria impensa a solo fecit et dedicavit feliciter, CIL VI.1737) in the apse of a richly decorated hall belonging to it. He died in 359 (ib. 32004).

 p81  In the time of Pope Simplicius (468‑483) the hall was dedicated by the munificence of the Goth Valila (or Flavius Theodobius) as the church of S. Andrea cata Barbara Patricia (LP XLVIII.1).

Drawings of the fine decorations in marble and mosaic​b were made by Giuliano da Sangallo (Barb. 31v. and text, p47) and at the end of the sixteenth century (see Hülsen in Festschrift für Julius Schlosser (Vienna, 1926), 53‑67, at the end of which a list of the drawings is given; add Windsor, Portfolio 5, No. 60 (Inv. 12121), for which see PBS VI.186, n2; and Holkham, II.8, 9, 11; Baddeley XCIV, for which see PBS VIII.40, 49; Caylus 30, which represents the mosaic of the triumphator); and two of the mosaics are still in the Palazzo Massimi (MD 4114, 4115) and two more in the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Cons. 260, 264, q.v. for full bibliography).

See BCr 1871, 5‑29, 41‑64; 1899, 171‑179; BC 1893, 89‑104; PBS VI.186‑188; VIII.49; Arm. 815; HJ 337; HCh 179‑181, 585.

Basilica Marcianae/Basilica Matidiae: see separate page.

Basilica Maxentii: see Basilica Constantini.

Basilica Neptuni: a building restored by Hadrian (Hist. Aug. 19), and mentioned in Cur. in Region IX and in Pol. Silv. (545). This basilica is now generally, and properly, identified with the στόα Ποσειδῶνος built by Agrippa in 25 B.C. (Cass. Dio LIII.27), and with the Ποσειδώνιον that was burned in the great fire in the reign of Titus (ib. LXVI.24) and stood between the Pantheon and the Hadrianeum. By some it has also been identified with the Porticus Argonautarum (q.v.), but it is probable that they were separate structures, although near together and possibly adjoining (Lucas, Zur Geschichte der Neptunsbasilika, Berlin 1904; OJ 1912, 132‑135).

Basilica Nova: see Basilica Constantini.

Basilica Opimia: erected probably by the consul L. Opimius in 121 B.C., at the same time that he restored the temple of Concord. The basilica must have stood just north of the temple, between it and the Tullianum (Varro, LL V.156), and it was probably removed when Tiberius rebuilt  p82 the temple, as it is not mentioned after that date (CIL VI.2338, 2339; DE I.978; Théd. 145) The celeberrimum monumentum Opimi of Cicero (pro Sest. 140) refers probably to both temple and basilica; celeberrimum ('much frequented,' not 'magnificent') is contrasted with his lonely tomb on the shore at Dyrrachium (CP 1917, 194).

Basilica Porcia: the first basilica in Rome, built for judicial and business purposes by Cato in 184 B.C., in the face of much opposition (Liv. XXXIX.44; Ascon. in Mil. arg. 34; Plut. Cat. Mai. 19; Cat. Min. 5; de vir. ill. 47). It stood a little west of the curia, In Lautumiis (q.v.), on ground purchased by Cato and occupied by shops and two private houses, those of Maenius and Titius. In it the tribunes held court. It was burned in 52 B.C. with the curia of Sulla at the funeral of Clodius, and probably totally destroyed, as there is no further mention of it (Jord. I.2.344; Mitt. 1893, 84, 91; BC 1914, 107; Théd. 138- 139).

Basilica Sempronia: erected in 170 B.C. by the censor Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, behind the Tabernae Veteres (q.v.) and near the statue of Vortumnus, on a site that had been occupied by the house of Scipio Africanus and adjacent shops (Liv. XLIV.16). It stood therefore at the point where the vicus Tuscus entered the forum. Nothing is known of the history of the building, but it must have been destroyed when the Julia was built.

Basilica Sicinini: see Sicininum.

Basilica Ulpia: see Forum Traiani.

Basilica Vascellaria: see Basilica Argentaria.

Basilica Vestilia: mentioned only in the Appendix to the Regionary Catalogue, where one MS. reads vestiaria and there are other variants.​c The hostilia of Pol. Silv. (545) is regarded as a corruption, and whatever the true reading may be, the structure was probably used for trading in the kind of goods specified in the name (Jord. II.220).

Thayer's Notes:

a The text of Vitruvius (q.v.), our only source for this basilica, has been emended by some to read Iulia et Aquiliana. The basilica Julia does in fact occupy a long and narrow site; so the second basilica may just be basilica Aquiliana.

b See the interesting passage in Lanciani's Pagan and Christian Rome, with photographs.

c although Platner relies on Jordan in this entry, he does not get this information from the latter's critical edition (online, see the passage), in which the only variant reading is one manuscript of the Curiosum: besti . . . .

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