A templum was the sacred space defined by an augur for ritual purposes, most importantly the taking of the auspices, a place “cut off” as sacred: compare Greek temenos, from temnein to cut. It could be created as temporary or permanent, depending on the lawful purpose of the inauguration. Auspices and senate meetings were unlawful unless held in a templum; if the senate house (Curia) was unavailable, an augur could apply the appropriate religious formulae to provide a lawful alternative.
To create a templum, the augur aligned his zone of observation (auguraculum, a square, portable surround) with the cardinal points of heaven and earth. The altar and entrance were sited on the east-west axis: the sacrificer faced east. The precinct was thus “defined and freed” (effatum et liberatum). In most cases, signs to the augur’s left (north) showed divine approval and signs to his right (south), disapproval.