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Form: Gr. basilike or "King's House".
A state-building, used by the Romans as a hall of justice and a public meeting-place. The earliest basilica built at Rome was called the basilica Porcia, after the famous M. Porcius Cato Censorius, who built it in B.C. 184, probably on the model of the Stoa Basileios ("royal colonnade") at Athens. It stood in the Forum near the Curia. The later basilicas usually bore the name of the persons who built them. Buildings of the same kind were constantly erected in the provinces to serve as halls of exchange or courts of justice. The form of the basilica was oblong; the interior was a hall, either without any divisions or divided by rows of pillars, with a main nave, and two or sometimes four sideaisles. Galleries for spectators were often added above. If the basilica was used as a hall of justice, a space, usually in the form of a large semicircular niche, and containing a tribunal, was set up at the end of the nave for the accommodation of the court. After the time of Constantine the Great, of whose great basilica, with its nave and two aisles, magnificent ruins still remain, many basilicas were turned into Christian churches, and many churches were built upon the same plan. (The annexed cut gives the plan of the basilica at Pompeii. See also ARCHITECTURE, fig. 11.)

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