Back to menu

Private religion

Contents of this page

On this page are links to the full-text of:

J.Th. Bakker, Living and Working with the Gods. Studies of Evidence for Private Religion and its Material Environment in the City of Ostia, Amsterdam 1994.

Reviews: R.E.A. Palmer, JRA 1996, 381-385; D.S. Levene, JRS 87 (1997), 301); J.A. Straus, Etudes Classiques 66 (1-2), 1998, 218; R. Laurence, CR 48 (1998), 444.

Furthermore you will find links to over 200 photographs documenting private religion in Ostia.

Book ordering information

J.Th. Bakker, Living and Working with the Gods. Studies of Evidence for Private Religion and its Material Environment in the City of Ostia, Amsterdam 1994 (Dutch Monographs on Ancient History and Archaeology, Volume XII). 311 pages, 26 figures, 100 plates, indexes. ISBN 90 5063 056 1. Cloth.

Ordering information: Brill (Leiden, The Netherlands).

Book summary

This study focuses on evidence for private religion in Ostia, in various residential and commercial buildings (domus; other habitations; workshops and depots; shops, bars, markets, and hotels). The compita and mithraea, shrines related to neighbourhoods, are also studied. Special attention is being paid to the architectural context of the evidence and the social functioning of the buildings. The backbone of the book is a detailed catalogue of the evidence. In the main text the function of the rooms containing the evidence is discussed.

The evidence is evaluated in three concluding chapters. In the first of these the various buildings and the people involved with them are considered: the building history; the appearance, lay-out, size, and distribution; the owners, inhabitants, visitors, workers, and personnel.

A second concluding chapter concentrates on the evidence in habitations and commercial premises. Noteworthy features are the presence of evidence in accentuated rooms and communal parts of buildings, not seldom in an axial position. Private religion forges links between people inside buildings, and between these people and others visiting the buildings. Most of the evidence is of considerable size, and at eye-level.

In the final concluding chapter the compita, mithraea, and a shrine for the Imperial cult are dealt with. As to the former category, an attempt is made to explain the differences in appearance and distribution between the shrines in Rome, Ostia, and Pompeii. Both in the shrines at crossroads and in the mithraea the Imperial cult is encountered. A particularly good example of this cult is found in a Severan shrine in an Ostian bakery. Again the linking capabilities of religion are seen to enter the private sphere.

Interview

In Dutch: an interview with the author of the book, Jan Theo Bakker, by Nelleke Rademaker. The interview was aired on March 12 1994 by Teleac in the program Faros.

The book

Photographs

Caseggiato del Portico delle Mura del Castrum (I,I,4) - Wall-niche in a shop.
  • The shop. The niche is in the back part of the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato del Portico delle Mura del Castrum (I,I,4) - Three wall-niches in a possible cult-room.
  • The cult-room. The niches are in the centre of the left wall.
  • Detail of the niches.
  • Caseggiato del Termopolio (I,II,5) - Underground cult-room.
  • Courtyard. To the left is a covered staircase leading to the cult-room.
  • The staircase.
  • Detail of painting on the ceiling of the staircase.
  • Wall-niche in the cult-room.
  • Caseggiato del Termopolio (I,II,5) - Wall-niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato del Termopolio (I,II,5) - Floor-niche in a corridor.
  • The corridor. The niche is to the left.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato dei Molini (I,III,1-2) - Tiny wall-niche in the kneading-room.
  • The kneading-room. The niche is between the two piers protruding from the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato dei Molini (I,III,1-2) - Relief of Genius in the facade along Via dei Molini.
  • Detail of the relief.
  • Caseggiato dei Molini (I,III,1-2) - Statuette of a Lar Augusti, found in the large halls with millstones.
  • The statuette (Ostia neg. B20).
  • Casa di Diana (I,III,3-4) - Relief of Diana in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard. The relief is in the front part of the left wall.
  • Detail of the relief.
  • Casa di Diana (I,III,3-4) - Three floor niches in the courtyard, on the first floor.
  • Detail of the niches. The niches can also be seen on the picture of the courtyard, in the upper part of the back wall.
  • Insula I,IV - Garden with pseudo-aedicula with statue of Jupiter.
  • The garden.
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula (B&W; postcard E. Richter, Roma).
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula (colour).
  • The statue of Jupiter (in the pseudo-aedicula is a plaster cast; Ostia neg. C1712).
  • Detail of the left part: place of attachment of some sort of door; eagle; garlands.
  • Detail of painted eagle.
  • Detail of the central part: remains of a superimposed layer of plaster (head with 'modius').
  • Caseggiato dei Misuratori del Grano (I,VII,1) - Intarsio of Fortuna at the intersection of Via dei Misuratori del Grano and Via della Fortuna.
  • The intersection of the two streets. The intarsio is high up in the wall, in the centre of the picture.
  • Detail of the intarsio.
  • Piccolo Mercato (I,VIII,1) - Relief of snake (Genius Loci) in portico of courtyard.
  • The courtyard. The relief is to the left, below modern protection.
  • Detail of the relief.
  • A marble relief of two snakes was found somewhere in the same building (Ostia neg. C256).
  • Horrea Epagathiana et Epaphroditiana (I,VIII,3) - Courtyard with two wall-niches.
  • The courtyard (postcard E. Richter, Roma).
  • Detail of left niche.
  • Detail of right niche.
  • Horrea Epagathiana et Epaphroditiana (I,VIII,3) - Two wall-niches in the vestibule.
  • Detail of niche.
  • Detail of niche.
  • Horrea Epagathiana et Epaphroditiana (I,VIII,3) - Wall-niche in shop.
  • The shop. The niche is to the right of the doorway in the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Horrea Epagathiana et Epaphroditiana (I,VIII,3) - Cas. I,VIII,4 - Stone slab in corridor.
  • The corridor. The slab is in the centre of the left wall.
  • Detail of the slab.
  • Caseggiato I,VIII,5 - Wall-niches in five shops.
  • The row of shops.
  • First niche.
  • Second niche.
  • Third niche.
  • Fourth niche.
  • Fifth niche.
  • Caseggiato del Larario (I,IX,3) - Wall-niche in courtyard.
  • The niche seen through the entrance in the south wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus del Tempio Rotondo (I,XI,2) - Wall-niche and bench in possible cult-room.
  • The room.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus delle Gorgoni (I,XIII,6) - Mosaic of gorgoneion.
  • General view of the building.
  • Detail of room and mosaic (photo Univ. of Leiden, Dept. of Archaeology).
  • Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto (I,XIV,2) - Wall-niche in shop with harbour-mosaic.
  • The shop. The niche is in the centre of the back wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto (I,XIV,2) - Wall-niche in shop.
  • The shop. The niche is to the left of the doorway in the back wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Blocked wall-niche: this blocked niche is in the reverse side of the wall with the current niche, precisely opposite the niche.
  • Terme dei Cisiarii (II,II,3). I thought I had found a floor-niche in a possible cult-room. However, excavations in 1996 showed that this room contained a water-wheel.
  • The room after the excavations.
  • Terme dei Cisiarii (II,II,3) - Wall-niche in bar.
  • The bar. The niche is in the back part of the right wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caserma dei Vigili (II,V,1) - Cas. II,V,2 - Floor-niche in one of the back rooms of the Caserma.
  • General view of the room.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caserma dei Vigili (II,V,1) - Shrine of Fortuna in latrine (not discussed in the book).
  • The latrine shortly after the excavation (from Notizie degli Scavi).
  • General view of the latrine.
  • Detail of the shrine.
  • Altar of C. Valerius Myron.
  • Caseggiato II,IX,2 - Wall-niche in shop.
  • The shop. The niche is to the right of the doorway in the back wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Grandi Horrea (II,IX,7) - Wall-niche in the corridor along the front of the building.
  • The front of the building. The niche is in a pier at the far end.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato III,I,8 - Pseudo-aedicula in the central area.
  • The central area. The pseudo-aedicula is set against the centre of the back wall.
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula.
  • Domus sul Decumano (III,II,3) - Cas. III,II,4 - Wall-niche in a jamb of the passage from the Domus to building 4.
  • View from the Domus towards building 4. The jamb with the niche is to the right of the two columns.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Horrea III,II,6 - Courtyard with wall-niche.
  • The courtyard. The niche is towards the right.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Casa delle Volte Dipinte (III,V) - Remains of protome in the facade, over the entrance to a staircase.
  • General view of the staircase.
  • Detail of the remains of the protome (stolen).
  • Casa delle Volte Dipinte (III,V) - Floor-niche with altar on the landing of the staircase.
  • Detail of the niche (the niche can also be seen on the general view of the staircase).
  • Casa delle Volte Dipinte (III,V) - Painting in a room converted to a bar.
  • The room seen from the street.
  • Detail of the painting.
  • Domus del Ninfeo (III,VI,1) - Floor-niche below three windows in a representative room.
  • The room (B&W; postcard E. Richter, Roma).
  • The room (colour).
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus Fulminata (III,VII,3-4) - (Pseudo-?) aedicula, altar and lightning-monument in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard. The altar etc. are in the centre of the back part.
  • Detail of inlay in the top of a basin.
  • Detail of inlay in the top of a basin.
  • Detail of inlay in the top of a basin.
  • Detail of the (pseudo-?) aedicula.
  • Detail of the altar.
  • Slab with inscription FDC (in modern base).
  • Domus Fulminata (III,VII,3-4) - Two wall-niches in one of the rooms.
  • The wall with the niches.
  • Caseggiato III,VII,6 - Wall-niche in the south room.
  • General view of the room.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus dei Dioscuri (III,IX,1) - Three wall-niches.
  • View through the entrance to the building. The niches are in the back wall.
  • Detail of the niches.
  • Domus delle Muse (III,IX,22) - Wall-niche in a shop.
  • The shop. Seen from the street. The niche is in the centre of the right wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Painted figure in the niche.
  • Caseggiato III,IX,25 - curious, shallow floor-niche in a shop.
  • The shop. The niche is in the centre of the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato degli Aurighi (III,X,1) - Upper part of pseudo-aedicula in the courtyard.
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula (probably from an upper floor).
  • Caseggiato del Serapide (III,X,3) - Cult-room in the portico of the courtyard.
  • The courtyard. The cult-room is to the right of the passage in the back wall (postcard E. Richter, Roma).
  • The cult-room.
  • Stucco-relief of Serapis in the cult-room (Ostia neg. B2549).
  • Painting of Isis on the right wall.
  • Painting of Isis-Fortuna on the left wall.
  • Magazzino dei Doli (III,XIV,3) - Two wall-niches in the store-room.
  • Back part of the store-room. One niche is on the far right, next to shrubs, the other somewhat to the left, next to an opening in the back wall.
  • The niche towards the right.
  • The niche towards the left.
  • Caseggiato di Annio (III,XIV,4) - Wall-niche at the intersection of Via degli Aurighi and Via di Annio.
  • The intersection of the two streets
  • Detail of the niche
  • Caseggiato di Annio (III,XIV,4) - Floor-niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Detail of the upper part of the niche (painting and second, small niche in the floor-niche).
  • Caseggiato III,XVI,6 - Intarsio of Apis found in a collapsed part of the portico running along Via della Foce.
  • The intarsio (Ostia neg. B706).
  • Domus del Serapeo (III,XVII,3) - Wall-niche in possible cult-room.
  • The room. The niche is in the centre of the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Palazzo Imperiale (III) - Wall-niche.
  • The wall with the niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Terme del Faro (IV,II,1) - Floor-niche in a shop.
  • The wall with the niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Painting in the niche.
  • Portico dell'Ercole (IV,II,2) - Relief of Hercules, apparently found among the rubble of the collapsed portico, now in modern masonry.
  • The portico. The relief is high up in one of the piers on the left side.
  • Detail of the relief.
  • Portico dell'Ercole (IV,II,2) - Wall-niche in the vestibule.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato IV,II,5 - Paintings.
  • Painting of Fortuna (Ostia neg. B1285).
  • Painting of three divinities (ICCD neg. E40753).
  • Caupona del Pavone (IV,II,6) - Pseudo-aedicula in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard.
  • The pseudo-aedicula.
  • Painted peacock in the pseudo-aedicula.
  • Painting on the side of the pseudo-aedicula.
  • The same painting in the late 1960's (from Gasparri 1970).
  • Caupona del Pavone (IV,II,6) - Wall-niche.
  • The room with the niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus delle Colonne (IV,III,1) - Two altars on a podium (aedicula?) in the portico of the courtyard.
  • The portico of the courtyard.
  • The altars.
  • Domus della Nicchia a Mosaico (IV,IV,2) - Pseudo-aedicula in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard.
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula.
  • Detail of the upper part of the pseudo-aedicula.
  • Domus di Giove Fulminatore (IV,IV,3) - Mosaic of apotropaic phallus in the vestibule.
  • View through the vestibule.
  • Detail of the mosaic.
  • Domus di Giove Fulminatore (IV,IV,3) - Three niches and podium in the room behind the courtyard.
  • The room behind the courtyard (see also the view through the vestibule).
  • Altar with Greek inscription (referring to 'Giove Fulminatore').
  • Base or altar with Greek inscription.
  • Domus su Via del Tempio Rotondo ('Domus') (IV,IV,7) - Wall-niche.
  • The room with the niche. The niche is in the centre of the back wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Insula del Viridario (IV,IV,9) - Pseudo-aedicula in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard.
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula (B&W).
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula (colour).
  • Caseggiato del Sacello (IV,V,4) - Cult-room in the courtyard.
  • The cult-room. Seen from the vestibule.
  • Detail of the facade of the cult-room.
  • Interior of the cult-room, back part.
  • Interior of the cult-room, right part.
  • Interior of the cult-room: paintings in recesses.
  • Finds:
  • Statue of Fortuna (?) (Ostia neg. B511).
  • Bacchic herm (Ostia neg. ScT 87).
  • Double herm: satyr (Ostia neg. ScT 88).
  • Double herm: maenad (Ostia neg. ScT 88).
  • Female head (Ostia neg. ScT 89).
  • Caseggiato del Sacello (IV,V,4) - Wall-niche in the vestibule.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Insula dell'Aquila (IV,V,8) - Wall-niche with cippus or altar.
  • The room with the niche. The niche is in the centre of the right wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato IV,V,10 - Niche with podium in a bar.
  • The bar. The niche is in the front part of the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato IV,VII,3 - Wall-niche.
  • The room with the niche, seen from the outside. The upper part of the niche can just be seen in the centre of the picture.
  • Entrance to the room.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus del Protiro (V,II,4-5) - Possible underground cult-room with niche and bench; part of an underground complex.
  • Courtyard of the domus. The staircase leading to the underground complex is towards the left. The well with niches (see below) is below the metal grating towards the right.
  • Floor-niche at the foot of the staircase.
  • Floor-niche in the cult-room, near the entrance.
  • Bench or wall-niche in the cult-room.
  • Corridor: looking from the cult-room towards the well.
  • Corridor: looking from the well towards the cult-room.
  • Well surrounded by three niches.
  • Blocked staircase opposite the well.
  • Statue of Genius, found in this house (Ostia neg. C1595).
  • Domus della Fortuna Annonaria (V,II,8) - Pseudo-aedicula in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard. Seen through the main entrance to the house.
  • Detail of the pseudo-aedicula.
  • Domus della Fortuna Annonaria (V,II,8) - Wall-niche in an accentuated room.
  • The room with the niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Domus della Fortuna Annonaria (V,II,8) - Wall-niche.
  • The room with the niche. The niche is in the left wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Caseggiato V,II,10 - Wall-niche.
  • The room with the niche.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Terme dell'Invidioso (V,V,2) - Relief of phallus and plummet in the facade.
  • The facade. The relief is above the crumbled pier in the centre of the picture.
  • Detail of the relief (1984).
  • Detail of the relief (2007).
  • Terme dell'Invidioso (V,V,2) - Blocked wall-niche in a room that was at some point in time a bar.
  • The room. The niche is towards the right.
  • Detail of the blocked niche.
  • Caseggiato del Sole (V,VI,1) - Graffito referring to Sol.
  • The room with the graffito. The graffito was scratched in the red plaster towards the left.
  • Detail of the graffito.
  • Mitreo dei Serpenti (V,VI,6) - Painting of Genius and snakes.
  • The mithraeum. The painting is in the back part, towards the left (Ostia neg. B3142).
  • Snake and Genius on the left wall.
  • Detail of snake and Genius on the left wall.
  • Detail of Genius on the left wall.
  • Snake on the back wall.
  • Detail of snake on the back wall.
  • Domus del Larario (V,VIII,2) - Wall-niche in the courtyard.
  • The courtyard.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Detail of pivot-hole (two pivot-holes in the slab below the niche testify to some sort of doors).
  • Graffiti of dates in the upper part of the niche.
  • Domus su Via degli Augustali - Wall-niche.
  • The room with the niche. The niche is in the back wall.
  • Detail of the niche.
  • Horrea di Hortensius (V,XII,1) - Cult-room in the colonnade of the courtyard.
  • The cult-room.
  • The floor of the cult-room.
  • The cippus of Hortensius.
  • Relief of Epona. Possibly from the facade of the Caseggiato dietro la Curia (I,IX,1),
  • The relief (Floriani Squarciapino 1959, Tav. VII,2).
  • Appendix: a mosaic-niche with a depiction of Silvanus near the Mitreo del Palazzo Imperiale I.
  • Detail of the mosaic-niche. Now in the Vatican Museums (Dorigo, Late Roman Painting, Pl. 45).
  • The niche that contained the mosaic.
  • Painting of a Genius and two snakes, place of discovery unknown (not discussed in the book; ICCD E40800).
  • The painting.