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The Roman City

A radical change

Once the city became a Roman colony after the wars with Rome in 273 BC, Paestum underwent numerous urban transformations. The forum was built shortly afterwards in the southern part of the area that had been the main square in ancient times (“agora”). This operation erased the memory of the Greek city: an enclosure was put round the tomb of the heroic founder (“heroon”) and was then buried and the round building designed for meetings (“ekklesiasterion”) was covered up.


The new colonists maintained the cults of the Greek city: the continuity of the cult of Athena, known as Minerva by the Romans, survived as is shown by the terracotta objects portraying the goddess holding a shield. Even the cult of Aphrodite, who was now worshipped as Venus, continued outside the residential area of the city.


A monumental complex was built behind the forum containing buildings for the election of magistrates (Comitium) and for dispensing justice and keeping archives (Curia); there was also a prison within the complex.


Other new buildings included the amphitheatre and the Campus where sports were played and where there was even a swimming pool. The amphitheatre was sliced in two by the construction of a road (known as the SS 18, now a pedestrianised area) and only the western half of the structure is visible.
The statue of Venus Verticordia (“changer of hearts”) may have been carried inside the pool area during the festival held in her honour. It seems that the occasion was marked by collective bathing by all women citizens of child-bearing age, both single and married.