BASIL ICA (Gr. basilike, from basilcus, a king). Originally, the B. seems to have been the hall or court-room in which the king administered the laws made by himself and the chiefs who formed his council. When monarchy was abolished at Athens, the second of the magistrates who succeeded to the kingly power was called the archon basilcus, the first being styled the archon by pre-eminence; and it is as the court or ball (stow) in which the arehon-basileus administered justice, that the B. first appears in authentic history. But it was amongst the Romans that the B. attained its chief impor tance; and in addition to its original use as a court of justice, became a market-place, an exchange, a place of meeting for men of business generally. It was not tilt a compara tively late period, however, that a B. was erected at Rome. The first we hear of is the B. Porcia i11182 B.C. From this period till the time of Constantine, they were constructed in great numbers. Some twenty are known to have existed in Rome, and latterly, every provincial town, even those of small extent, had each its B., as that of Pompeii, which is now the most perfect example, still testifies. The most frequented part of the city was always selected for the site of a B.; and as this was almost always the forum, the ' words forum and B. are occasionally used as synonymous by ancient writers. The ear liest basilicas were entirely open to the external air. It was usual, for this reason, as well as for the convenience of those who might be compelled to frequent them in bad weather, to select for them a sheltered and convenient position. Latterly, an external wall was substituted for the peristyle of columns with which the original basilicas were surrounded; the external columns, if continued at all, being used only as a decoration, and confined generally to the vestibule. It was in this form that the B. suggested the idea of the Christian church, as has already been explained under apse (q.v.); and the readiest mode of explaining the structure of the B. to a modern, is to imagine the process which was then performed reversed, and in place of converting the J3. into a church, to convert the church into a basilica. This will be effected by simply removing the roof from the nam, the aisles remaining covered, and even being frequently furnished with galleries, as in Protestant churches. The judge's seat was generally in a circular portion
of the building which protruded from its further end, in which the altar was afterwards placed (see APSE), the great entrance to the B. fronting it, as the western door of a cathe dral fronts the high•altar. The space required by the pretor for his court was separated by a railing from the other portions of the building, which were devoted to the various purposes we have mentioned. It must not be supposed from this description, that the form of the B. was always the same. Sometimes there was no hemicycle or apse, as in the B. at Pompeii, in which case the tribunal was cut off from the nave; sometimes there were two; as in the B. of Trojan. Again, the B. was sometimes entered, not from , the end, but from the sides, where the transepts of a modern church are situated; and at the end opposite that in which the tribunal was placed, there was often a row of small chambers, the uses of which do not seem to be very accurately ascertained, and probably were not invariable. In the plan of the B. of Pompeii, there was an outside stair which led to the upper gallery, which in this case passed entirely round the building. The gallery was the place to which loiterers usually resorted for the purpose of watching the business proceedings below; and the one half of it is said to have been devoted to men, he other, to women. Of the vast size of some of these buildings, we may form a con the accommodation which must have been required for the tribunal alone, where, in addition to the enrule chair of the pretor, and space required by the suitors and their advocates, seats had to be provided for the judices or jurymen, who occasionally amounted to as many as 180.
Many of the principal churches in Italy, and particularly in Rome, are still called The term B. was also applied in the middle ages to the large structures erected over the tombs of persons of distinction, probably from their resemblance to small churches: thus, the tomb of Edward the confessor, in Westminster, is called a B. (see-chronicle of the mayors of London, quoted by Parker).