chapter  9
8 Pages

Pagan Basilicas

Here the Romans come very easily into the centre of the picture, because the basilica was their invention (even though it harked back, in some respects — as its name suggests - to the Greek peristyle and colonnaded piazza). The Roman basilica was essentially a large building used for official purposes. In strict architectural usage, say Boethius and Ward-Perkins, it was

an elongated rectangular building with an internal ambulatory enclosing a taller central area, or else with a central nave and lateral aisles, in either case lit by a clerestory: often provided with one or more apses or tribunes. Originally a roofed extension of the Forum for the use of the public, from the Late Republic onwards it was used for a variety of official purposes, notably judicial. During the Empire the term came to be used of any hall that was basilican in plan, irrespective of its purpose; and also of any large covered hall, irrespective of its plan.1