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The Forum (a Latin word meaning open space or market place) was the administrative and corporate heart of Rome. Generally this word referred to the open space in any Roman town where business, judicial, civic, or religious activities were conducted. A typical forum might be surrounded by temples, shops, and basilicas (large, covered structures used for various meetings).

In Rome, there were several forums. The most famous, the Roman Forum, was designed by the architect Vitruvius who felt the proportions needed to be 3:2 (length to width). For centuries, the Roman Forum was the site of the city's most important public buildings including the Arch of Septimius Severus, built in A.D.203 and the Rostra or public speaking platforms. The reliefs on the triple arch represented many of Rome's victories over oriental tribes and the Rostra was decorated with prows of warships captured during battles. The Roman Forum became the spectacular showcase of the Empire filled with beautiful statues and architecture.

Eventually, the Roman Forum proved too small for Rome's ever growing public activities. Consequently, the first Imperial Forum was built in 54 B.C. by Caesar. Most subsequent emperors built their own forums including Nerva, Vespasian, and Trajan, who built the largest which covered an area of 25 acres.