Forum Esquilinum

The Forum Esquilinum was the oldest and most important commercial space on the Esquiline in antiquity, but no trace of this vast square used as a market has survived. Our most accurate information comes from the historian Appian (Bell. civ. 1:58), in a passage describing Silla’s siege of the city of Rome in 88 BC, when the attackers had already occupied the walls and the Esquiline Gate. The historian relates that the supporters of the general Marius, barricaded inside the city, long resisted by seeking refuge in the Forum: it follows that the square must have been surrounded by porticoes, which acted as a protection for the besieged soldiers. Scholars speculate that the vast square was located in the area immediately inside the Esquiline Gate, where some inscriptions were found in the late nineteenth century that seem to confirm this theory. Some inscriptions mentioning the “magister vici”, a magistrate in charge of managing public spaces, provide information on the organization of this important public space. Thanks to an inscription mentioning two argentarii a foro Esquilino, silversmiths, we also know the identity of one of the shops inside this commercial space. The Forum Esquilinum remained in use for a very long time, as evidenced by an inscription commemorating restoration work in the mid-fifth century AD by the praefectus urbi, the city prefect, a magistrate who held various offices related to the maintenance of law and order within the city.