The Roman forum was a large, open and often rectangular place, corresponding to the Greek a·go·raʹ (marketplace). Although forums were usually paved, they were not thoroughfares. Originally just an open place where people congregated on market days and for public events, the forum later was surrounded by public buildings, shops, colonnades and temples, thus becoming a center of legal, political and commercial business. At first there was only one forum in each city, and this not only served as a place for carrying out business transactions, but was also the scene for athletic games, theatrical performances and similar events. However, as a result a of the growth of the city of Rome and its commerce, other judicial and mercantile forums came into existence, including separate fish, vegetable, wine, bread and cattle markets. But this was not generally so in other Roman cities. In planning new cities the forum was situated in the center and the two main streets crossed one another near the forum but not through it. The word “forum” often appears as part of the name of Roman market towns, as in Appii Forum.
In the first century C.E. forums could be found in all Graeco-Roman cities. At Philippi, Paul and Silas were dragged before the magistrates in the marketplace or forum and charged with disturbing the city and publishing unlawful customs. (Acts 16:19-21; compare NW, 1950 ed., ftn.) Later, at Athens, Paul preached in the marketplace, and here the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers laid hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus. (Acts 17:16-19) While en route from Puteoli to Rome, the apostle Paul was met by his Christian brothers at Appii Forum or Market Place of Appius, located forty-three Roman miles (39.6 statute miles; 63.6 kilometers) SE of Rome on the Appian Way. (Acts 28:13-15) The Forum of Appius, according to Horace, was the customary stopping place at the end of the first day’s journey from Rome, and this post station reportedly was filled with boatmen and dishonest innkeepers.