Back to menu | Back to clickable plan | Back to topic (Tombs)

Regio I - Insula XIII - Domus delle Gorgoni (I,XIII,6)


The House of the Gorgons was excavated shortly before, or during the first years of, the Second World War. There may be some information about the excavation in the Giornale degli Scavi, but I have not been able to check this. In the building are three mosaics of heads of Medusa, and it was therefore of interest for my studies of private religion in Ostia in the mid-1980's. I made a detailed catalogue of the visible remains in 1987. The building had until that time always been interpreted as an elite dwelling, a domus, which was in my view quite wrong. However, the only alternative I could come up with was, that it was a brothel. I was never quite satisfied with that interpretation. Therefore I placed the mosaics in the chapter "Unclassifiable evidence" in my study of private religion [1]. My catalogue of the building had been gathering dust ever since.

In 2007 dr. L. Bouke van der Meer at the University of Leiden suggested to me a new interpretation of a text below one of the Medusa-heads: "Life to Gorgo!", instead of "Avoid Gordo!" (an interpretation that - as I discovered later - has also been suggested by Henig [2]). I realized that it opened up the way for a much better hypothesis regarding the function of the building, namely that it was the office of the Ostian undertakers. That hypothesis will be investigated here. The building will first be described, using a detailed catalogue.

Before my work in Ostia the building as a whole had been studied by Becatti [3]. Its mosaics were later studied in detail by Becatti, its paintings by Van Essen and Borda, its masonry by Heres [4]. Afterwards rather different building phases were suggested by Tione [5], but her 1999 and 2004 publications are not detailed enough to accept her conclusions.

Below is a small colour-coded plan of the house, but you can also open a larger plan [6], and a plan of the area from Scavi di Ostia I.

Plan of the building


Location and exterior

The building is situated opposite the Porta Laurentina, at a distance of some 60 metres. It is at the junction of the Cardo Maximus and Semita dei Cippi, and as a result it has a trapezoidal shape. According to the general plan in Scavi di Ostia I there was a small square in front (to the south) of the building. No basalt blocks were found here, and it may have been paved with bipedales or travertine slabs. The square is the "bottom" of the triangle formed by the two roads flanking the building. According to the same plan basalt blocks were touching the east facade. There was therefore no sidewalk here, and in the main building phase (Constantinian) there were no doors in the east wall. Along the west wall is a low sidewalk, the edge of which is indicated by a row of basalt blocks. The sidewalk widens towards the north. It is not known what constituted its surface. In the facade, in the south-west corner of the building, is a large, protruding travertine block. According to Van der Meer it may have been a boundary marker, not only of the insula, but also of one of Ostia's ancient regiones, which are mentioned in an inscription [7].

Building phases

The oldest visible remains have been dated to the Hadrianic period by Blake [8], but to the last quarter of the second century by Heres and Van Dalen [9]. To this period belong the whole of the north wall (including a door and a partially blocked door changed into a window), most of the east wall (including a blocked door), a small part of the south wall, the lower part of the west wall (covered by a row of bricks, sesquipedales and bipedales at the average height 0.25), and some of the masonry above the row. The masonry is opus mixtum (north wall), opus reticulatum (north wall) and opus latericium. The mixtum and reticulatum of the north wall were presumably used because it was not a facade - latericium is often preferred for facades. The continuation of the west wall beyond the line of the north wall indicates that to the north the building was continued or planned to be continued. Already the building had assumed its characteristic shape: that of a topped triangle. This awkward shape was the inevitable consequence of the position of the building, north of the intersection of Cardo Maximus and Semita dei Cippi that meet at a sharp angle.

Doors in the outer north and east wall were blocked, according to Heres still in the second century. The blocking of the western door in the north wall (tufa stones in an irregular pattern) could be related to the construction of Caseggiato I,XIII,5 in the late-Severan period [10].

The second main building period has been dated by Heres to the years around 250 AD (opus latericium). It is likely that the masonry from this period in the central part of the building belongs to a courtyard with porticus, as was the case in the fourth century. Some masonry in the west wall of the building, narrowing doorways, may belong to the same period. Some entrances of the supposed courtyard were closed off or narrowed not long after the middle of the third century.

The building as we see it today was for the most part constructed still later, according to Heres after Maxentius, during the reign of Constantine, c. 307-325 AD (opus vittatum). There are a few minor later additions. The edifice had now almost completely been rebuilt, ground floor and upper floor(s) alike. The building that had emerged was accessible from the south and west only.

Ground floor

Room 4 was a shop, not connected with the interior [11]. In its entrance is a shop-threshold, with a groove for shutters, and to the south of that a depression with pivot-hole for a door opening inwards. In the southeast part of the building rooms 12 and 15 (interconnected) were also not connected with the interior. Room 12 only was accessible from the outside. In its entrance are a step and a threshold for two doors. Room 15 had a floor of bipedales.

The remaining rooms on the ground floor were accessible from the south only, through vestibule 6. In the entrance to room 6 are a step and a threshold for one door. In the north wall of the vestibule is a bench, in masonry that has been dated to the third quarter of the third century. However, the bench may have been hacked out later, because its back is showing the core of the wall. According to Becatti the vestibule received light through a window above the bench [12]. From room 6 rooms 1 and 2 to the west can be entered. They are set apart from the rest of the building. The entrances to both rooms had doors (one and two respectively), room 1 had a floor of bipedales. There was once a door in the west wall of room 2, its north jamb latericium (undated), its south jamb partly latericium (undated), partly vittatum. The vertical joint indicating the position of the south jamb separates the vittatum to the north (the vittatum of the blocking) and south. This suggests that there was more than one building phase in the period c. 307-325 AD [13]. Corridor 7-8 was accessible directly from the vestibule, corridor 14 via the tiny room 13 that has a simple white mosaic on its floor.

The organizing feature was courtyard 10 with its porticus. It has a simple black-and-white mosaic. The west part has a wide and widening black band, possibly intended as an optical correction for the irregular shape of the courtyard, as seen from the accentuated room 11. On the north part stands a small marble basin with hydraulic mortar on the inside. It is aligned with the south wall. A wide window seems to have provided light to corridor 8 (modern). The doors leading to rooms 7, 11 and 14north could all be closed off by two doors. A stepped passage to room 14south has in its threshold a shallow pivot-hole.

The western corridor, or porticus, was divided into two rooms, 7 and 8, by a wall, the south facing of which (latericium with some tufa stones) has been dated by Heres to the years around 250 AD, while she leaves the north facing (vittatum) undated [14]. A black-and-white mosaic with a geometrical pattern has been found in both rooms. The pattern does not take the dividing wall into account. Unfortunately it is not at present possible to study the relation between the wall and the mosaic, so that it remains uncertain whether the wall has been set on top of the mosaic.

Off corridor 8 opens room 3. In its entrance is a threshold for one door. Directly behind was a large gorgoneion of which only part of a wing has been found. The rest of the floor is covered by a mass of black and white tesserae. Behind room 8 is understairs 9.

To the north of the courtyard is an accentuated room, 11, that may have been two stories high. A subsidiary door, leading to corridor 8, was hacked out in the west wall. Behind the threshold is a large gorgoneion. It is surrounded on three sides by a black-and-white geometrical mosaic, an arrangement that is usually interpreted as belonging to a triclinium. The pattern to the east of the gorgoneion is wider than that to the west.

The eastern corridor has the same floor-mosaic as its pendant, but no subdivision. Off it open rooms 16, 17 and 18. The entrances to these rooms could be closed off by, respectively, at least one, two, and perhaps one door.

On the floor of room 16 is a black-and-white mosaic with a geometrical pattern that is not found elsewhere in the building. The central rectangle is not alligned with any of the four walls of the room. Its southwest corner ends logically below the west wall, but unfortunately it can at present not be checked whether this wall has been set on top of the mosaic. The orientation of this mosaic too may have been intended as an optical correction. The room could be heated, witness a hypocaust below the mosaic.

Behind the threshold of room 17 is a large gorgoneion accompanied by the words Gorgoni bita, interpreted by Becatti as Gorgoni vita ("Avoid Gorgo!"). Normally one would expect an accusative with vitare (so Gorgonem vita), but a dative is possible [15]. Behind the emblema is a rectangle with a geometrical pattern. Presumably a bed or table was placed on top. In the east part of the south wall are three vertical heating-channels. There is conflicting information about the heating-system in the old reports [16], but in 2008 a hypocaust was found below the mosaic, connected with the three vertical channels.

No floor-mosaic was found in room 18. There was apparently a window in the blocked doorway in its north wall [17]. This room is the logical place to look for the furnace used for the heating of rooms 17 and 16. This furnace may have been used as a kitchen-furnace as well, in relation to triclinium 11 [18]. An irregular hole passing through the wall is found both in the south and east wall of room 18. The latter one is sloping downwards towards Semita del Cippi. Below the floor a west-east running drainage channel with an inspection well were found in 2008.

Upper floors

The building has one internal and one external staircase. The former, at the south end of room 14, can be dated to the early-fourth century. If it ended at a landing one metre deep, it would have reached the first floor at a height of c. 3.25, which would take the height of the ground floor to c. 2.95. The installation of the latter, in room 5, cannot be dated. It was not accessible from the interior. The back wall of the understairs, below the second and third tread, is in vittatum, probably Constantinian, but not dated explicitly by Heres. The south wall of the staircase, above the treads, is undated latericium. The floor of room 5 is a little over one metre above the present ground level of the sidewalk. Should we imagine that it was reached by disappeared treads set against the outer west wall, blocking the sidewalk? Perhaps the high level was caused by the need to reach the first floor at an angle that was not too steep. But if that was the case, then why is the first tread at some distance from, and not directly behind the threshold? It is also possible that the level is related to a raising of the street, as happened so often in Ostia in later antiquity. Several thresholds of staircases at a high level can be seen in the surrounding area, for example in Caseggiato I,XIII,5, Botteghe V,I,1, and the Caseggiato dell'Ercole (IV,II,4). If the staircase ended at a landing c. one metre deep at the east end of room 9, it would have reached the first floor at a height of c. 3.07, which would take the height of the ground floor to c. 2.77 [19]. In the entrance to the staircase is a threshold for two doors. The lower, preserved part of the jambs consists of thick travertine blocks. Holes and grooves in the jambs were used for bolting the doors. The outside of the left jamb is curved inwards, so that the joint between this block and the bricks against which it was set is also curved. This suggests that the travertine is reused material, as do some grooves in the threshold.


The remains of a thick layer of plaster looking like opus signinum on the south wall of room 10 may indicate that this wall had marble revetment. Remains and traces of plaster can be found throughout the building, both on the in- and outside. There are some scanty remains of paint (bands). During the excavation, paintings imitating marble revetment could be seen in rooms 16 and 17. The paintings are dated by Van Essen to the period Constantine-Theodosius I, by Borda to the period of Constantine [20]. The mosaics are dated by Becatti to the end of the third or the first half of the fourth century (contemporaneous with the vittatum), by Van Essen to the period of Constantine or later [21].



In the second and third century the building may well have had the same plan and function as in the fourth, but only excavations below the present floor-level can provide more information about the history of the building. The Constantinian building has so far always been regarded as a dwelling, hence the designation "domus" [22]. The plan of the building certainly allows this interpretation: vestibule 6 with a bench, courtyard 10 with porticus, triclinium / accentuated room 11, cubicula (?) 3, 16 and 17, independent shop 4, door-keeper's rooms (?) 1 and 2, and kitchen 18. This interpretation is very problematic however. The building is flanked by two major streets and situated at a square that is facing the nearby Porta Laurentina. No other Ostian domus from the third or fourth century is so "open" to the outside world [23]. When a domus is on an intersection, the main entrance or a side wall may be on a major street, but then the other road is invariably of less importance [24]. On such an exposed location one would expect to find rather an office of taxi-drivers (cisiarii). And there is an additional problem, namely the nature of the traffic through the city gate. The Porta Laurentina led to the area to the south of Ostia, today known as the Pianabella. On the west side of this plain, along the coast, was a long row of large and luxurious villas. On the plain itself were some farms, but it was primarily the major necropolis of Ostia, up to the Canale dello Stagno, at a distance of 2.7 kilometers from the Porta Laurentina [25]. This means that funeral processions must have passed the building daily, making its interpretation as a domus even more unlikely. According to Bodel the mortality rate may have been 40 per 1000, or 4%. This means that with a population of 50.000, 2000 people died in Ostia each year, or 5 to 6 per day on average [26].

Do the three gorgoneia help us in interpreting the building? Whether their number, three, is a reference to the three gorgones Stheno, Euryale and Medusa, I would not know. Numerous examples of gorgoneia can be found in Ostian wall-paintings, four in mosaics [27]. The gorgoneia in wall-paintings are always small and never dominating. The mosaics are found in dwellings and seats of guilds [28]. In three cases the gorgoneion is the central emblema, sometimes large, but never is the emblema dominating: instead they are incorporated in the rest of the mosaic and blended into its motifs. Furthermore, they are not behind a threshold. Our gorgoneia stand out because of their number (three), position (directly behind a threshold), size (on average about 2 x 2 m.), and domination over the remainder of each mosaic, also being the only figurative motifs in the mosaics. Apparently there was a strong relation between the whole building and Medusa.

Becatti suggests that the text below one of the heads should be understood as "Avoid Gorgo!". The implication is that the people inside the building were warning visitors to the building to behave properly, so that they would not undergo the wrath of Medusa. This is most problematic inside a domus. It is awkward, to say the least, that the accentuated room / triclinium had to be protected in such an emphatic way. As a parallel one could think of texts painted on the walls of a triclinium in the House of the Moralist (III 4, 2.3) in Pompeii [29]:

Abluat unda pedes, puer et detergeat udos, Mappa torum velet, lintea nostra cave.
Lascivos voltus et blandos aufer ocellos Coniuge ab alterius, sit tibi in ore pudor
[Utere blandit]iis odiosaque iurgia, differ, Si potes, aut gressus ad tua tecta refer

But that relatively small text cannot be compared to the size of and emphasis on the mosaics. And how to explain the ones in room 3 and 17? Does the rectangle behind the emblema in room 17 indicate that it was a bedroom? We know that the bedroom could sometimes be used to receive guests [30], but guests would hardly be received in such an unfriendly manner. Or perhaps a table was standing on the rectangle, in which case the unfriendliness is still not understood.

A new hypothesis about the function of the building is needed. In my study of private religion, published in 1994, I suggested that it was a luxurious brothel, where the guests could also enjoy a meal [31]. The owner could have feared misbehaviour of the guests. But even and perhaps especially in an expensive brothel the aggressiveness of the gorgoneia is hard to understand. It is this aggressiveness in combination with the dining-room that leads to perplexity.

For setting up hypotheses about the function of buildings I have started using an approach that I have called the ADONIS-principle. An hypothesis can only be attractive (an Adonis) if we can make sense of the Architecture, DecoratiON, Inscriptions and Surroundings of a building. What happens when we apply this to the House of the Gorgons?

Let us return first to the architecture and surroundings of the building. In Ostia it is notoriously difficult to distinguish between domus and guild-seats [32]. The presence or absence of small, private rooms is one reason to distinguish between the two, but unequivocal evidence is provided only by inscriptions found in situ. Therefore there are still uncertainties about the function of, for example, the Domus del Tempio Rotondo (I,XI,2-3). If the House of the Gorgons was not a domus, then the second choice is, that it was the seat of a guild [33]. Seats of guilds are often at locations that are much more exposed than the locations of the domus. Several are on the Decumanus Maximus. The Caseggiato dei Lottatori (V,III,1), perhaps a guild-seat of wrestlers, is surrounded by three streets, a good parallel for the location of the House of the Gorgons.

Then the decoration and inscriptions. For the gorgoneia a much more satisfactory explanation can be found. When we understand the text in room 17 as "Life for Gorgo!", i.e. "Long live Gorgo!", the problem of the aggressiveness disappears: the people inside the building and the visitors are in agreement about the help that they all receive from Medusa. Two questions must be answered now. Is the interpretation of the text supported by parallels? And with what did Medusa help?

Many inscriptions with a dative referring to living people and followed by vita have been found in North Africa. They were collected by Y. Duval [34].

There is a further parallel from Spain [35]:

In some cases it is not clear whether the text refers to a family or an organization. Duval is surely right when he calls the inscriptions acclamations, but I do not understand why he believes that they primarily have an apotropaic intention (which of course is implicitly present). It should be noted that the phrase also occurs in a Christian context.

Then the help given by Medusa. In 1915 Frothingham wrote the following about Medusa [36]:

"There is a group of Medusa monuments that seems to have escaped attention. This is the more peculiar because it is a fairly numerous and homogeneous group. It is the gorgoneion with vegetation. Probably the reason for the neglect is that this juxtaposition of the gorgoneion is found almost without exception in connection with tombs; sometimes on the architecture of the tombs themselves, but much more often on sarcophagi and urns. As all critics have taken the Medusa in connection with the tomb as an emblem of suffering and death, they have found it convenient to ignore the almost constant use of vegetation symbolism with the gorgoneion in this entire class."

"It is hard to see how justification can be found for any of the current theories to explain the frequent use of the gorgoneion in the decoration of tombs, sepulchral urns, and sarcophagi. These theories are that the Gorgon was used as an emblem of death or of pain, or as a protecting evil bogey. But if preconceptions are laid aside, and if the plain evidence of the monuments is alone admitted, the law of the association of ideas would seem to lead inevitably to just the contrary conclusion. Eros, the god of life, the dove of fertility, the Victories, the eagle and griffin of apotheosis, the first-fruits of the earth in the sacred basket or the horn of plenty; these and the rest all point to the Gorgon as the emblem of life, of victory over death, and of renewed life beyond the grave. This group, will, I hope, help to destroy the delusion that Medusa's fundamental characteristic was apotropaic. This is a characteristic that not only was not fundamental but is nonexistent. She protected not negatively but positively."

An example of this way of representing Medusa in Ostia-Portus is a sarcophagus with two heads of Medusa, erotes and garlands, found in the Isola Sacra necropolis [37] (ICCD negative E69973). In tomb 21 in that same necropolis her head was painted amidst flowers. More recently Medusa in funerary contexts was studied by Fuchs, who concludes that here we should not think of her apotropaic aspects, rather "Medusa acts as a boundary maker indicating the passage between the world of the living and that of the dead" [38].

Do we see this "positive" Medusa in the House of the Gorgons? It is true that the gorgoneia in the House of the Gorgons are not accompanied by vegetative elements, but the expression of the heads does not, on the other hand, inspire fear. The faces are calm.

The parallels of the text from North Africa could lead us to believe that Gorgo is a proper name (Gorgo or Gorgonius). However, such vanity, vainglory stretches the imagination, in view of the size of the three depictions of the head of Medusa in such a small building.

Summing up. The heads of Medusa forcefully convey a message, either negative-apotropaic or positive-funerary, but an apotropaic message cannot be understood. This justifies a new hypothesis. The House of the Gorgons was the seat of an organization. Located opposite the main gate leading to Ostia's largest necropolis, with a strong presence of what must be a positive Medusa, documented in funerary art, it was in my opinion used by the Ostian undertakers. In view of the many parallels from North Africa, the undertakers using the building in the early fourth century may well have come from there, which is not at all surprising in Ostia [39]. The text they chose may well be a conscious extension of the African texts: an acclamation of Gorgo for eternal life, instead of an acclamation of living people for long life on earth. Let us now have a look at the profession in Italy.

The Roman undertakers

A very rich source of information about the undertakers are two inscriptions with copies of laws, usually referred to as leges libitinariae, found in Cumae and Puteoli [40]. The one from Cumae is the less informative. It was found as fairly recently reused material, near a city-gate and the amphitheatre. The (marble) inscription from Puteoli was found in 1956, at a site where the forum may have been. This inscription does not seem to have been reused. It has holes used for attaching it to a wall. The right part of the inscription has been preserved, in three columns. Roughly the first three-quarters of each line in the first column is missing. Roughly a quarter to a half at the end of each line of the third column is missing [41]. Several datings have been suggested, from the first century BC to the Julio-Claudian period. Below is my provisional English translation of part of the text [42].

  [De publi?]co Libitin[ae] [The public service of?] the Libitina
Col. I, 32 [Si quis cadaver proieceri]t, tum is mancipi [If someone has thrown out a corpse], then to the contractor
Col II, 1 sociove eius, quotienscumq(ue) proiecer(it) in sing(ula) cadavera HS LX n(ummum) d(amnas) e(sto) d(are), deq(ue) ea re magistrat(us) recipe or his associate a fine must be paid of 60 sesterces for each abandoned corpse, per corpse, and about this incident the magistrate
2 ratorium iudicium e lege colon(iae) cogito. will start a judicial procedure with the board of the recoverers, according to the Law of the Colony.
3 Oper(ae), quae ad eam r(em) praeparat(ae) er(unt), ne intra turrem ubi hodie lucus est Libit(inae) habitent laventurve ab h(ora) I The workers who will have been trained for this work are not allowed to reside or wash themselves in the tower where today the grove of Libitina is situated, from the first hour
4 noctis, neve veniant in oppid(um) nisi mortui tollend(i) conlocand(i)ve aut supplic(ii) sumend(i) c(ausa), dum ita of the night, and they are not allowed to enter the city, except for carrying away or laying out in state a deceased person, and for inflicting punishment, provided that
5 quis eor(um) veniat quotiens oppid(um) intrab(it) in oppid(o)ve erit ut pilleum color(ium) in capit(e) habeat, et each of them, whenever he enters the city or is inside the city, does not go there without the multi-coloured cap on his head, and
6 dum ne quis eor(um) maior ann(orum) L minorve ann(orum) XX sit neve u[at]i(us) neve luscus neve manc(us) neve clodus provided that not one of them is older than 50 or younger than 20 years, and provided that not one of them is bowlegged, one-eyed, maimed, limping,
7 neve caec[us] neve stigmat(ibus) inscript(us) sit, et dum ne pauciores manceps oper(as) habeat quam XXXII blind, carrying tattoos, and provided that the contractor does not have fewer than 32 workmen.
8 Qui supplic(ium) de ser(vo) servave privatim sumer(e) volet, uti is sumi volet ita supplic(ium) sumet, si in cruc(em) If someone, privately, wants to inflict punishment on a male or female slave, then the punishment must be inflicted in the way that has been asked for, so that if he has asked for the yoke and the cross,
9 patibul(atum) agere volet, redempt(or) asser(es) vincul(a) restes verberatorib(us) et verberator(es) praeber(e) d(ebeto), et the contractor must provide the beams, the fetters, the whips for the floggers, and the floggers, and
10 quisq(uis) supplic(ium) sumet pro oper(is) sing(ulis) quae patibul(um) ferunt verberatorib(us)q(ue) item carnif(ici) HS IIII d(are) d(ebeto) each person asking for inflicting punishment must pay 4 sesterces for each worker carrying the yoke, and for each flogger, and likewise for the executioner.
11 Quot(iens) supplic(ium) magistrat(us) public(e) sumet, ita imperat(o); quotienscumq(ue) imperat(um) er(it), praestu esse su- For each public punishment the magistrate must give the appropriate orders. Each time the orders have been given the contractor must guarantee
12 p(p)licium sumer(e) cruces statuere clavos pecem ceram candel(as) quaeq(ue) ad eas res opus erunt red(emptor) that the punishment will be inflicted, that the crosses will be erected, that there will be nails, pitch, wax, candles, and everything that is needed,
13 gratis praest(are) d(ebeto); item si u[n]co extrahere iussus erit, oper(is) russat(is) id cadaver ubi plura free of charge. Furthermore, if the order has been given to drag the body away with a hook, the contractor must guarantee that the corpse will be dragged
14 cadavera erunt cum tintinnabulo extrahere debebit. to the place where many corpses will be by workers clothed in red, using a signal-bell.
15 Quot quisq(uis) ex is rebus, quas h(ac) l(ege) utiq(ue) praeber(e) o(portebit), praeberi volet, denuntiat(o) denuntiat(um)ve cura- Each time that someone wishes the services to be delivered, which the contractor is obliged to deliver in any case according to this law, he must declare or ensure that is declared,
16 to manc(ipi) eius public(i) sociove eius eive ad q(uem) e(a) r(es) q(ua) d(e) a(gitur) p(ertinet), aut s(i) is praesens non erit, ad eum loc(um) to the contractor of this public service or to his associate or to the person who is responsible for this, or, in case that he will not be present, at the place
17 quem libitinae exsercend(ae) gratia conduct(um) constitut(um)ve habeb(it), quo die, quoq(ue) loc(o) quam that the contractor has hired or established to exercise the libitina, the day, the place and the services
18 que r(em) ei praeberi volet, et si ita denuntiat(um) erit, tum is manc(eps) sociusve eius isve ad q(uem) e(a) r(es) q(ua) d(e) [a(gitur)] that he wishes to be arranged. And when it will have been declared in this way, then the contractor or his associate or the person who is responsible for this,
19 p(ertinet), ei qui primum denuntaver(it) et deinceps reliquis, ut quisq(ue) denuntiaver(it), nisi si funus to the person who was the first to declare and then to the others, in the order of the declarations, unless the funeral
20 decurion(is) funusve acervom denuntiat(um) erit, cui prima curand(a) erint, reliquor(um) autem fu- of a member of the city council or the funeral of someone who died prematurely has been declared, which must be given priority, keeping
21 nerum ordo servand(us), omnes res quae ex h(ac) l(ege) praestand(ae) erunt mitter(e) praeber(e)que quae praeb(enda erunt debeto). the order of the other funerals, must send everything that he is responsible for according to this law and provide what must be provided.
22 Suspendiosum cum denuntiat(um) erit ead(em) hora is solvend(um) tollend(um) curato, item servom When one that has hanged himself is declared, he must ensure that the body is cut loose and carried off in the same hour. Also when the death of a male or
23 servamve si ante h(oram) X diei denuntiat(um) erit ead die tollend(um) curato, si post X poster(a) d(ie) a(nte) h(oram) II. female slave is declared before the 10th hour, he must ensure that the body is carried off on the same day, if it is declared after the 10th hour on the next day, before the 2nd hour.
Col. III, 21 Man[ceps han]c legem propositam habeto eo loco quem eius r[ei exsercend(ae)] The contractor must put this law on display in the place that he has hired or established to exercise the service,
22 gr[atia cond]uct(um) constitutum habebit u(nde) d(e) p(lano) r(ecte) l(egi) p(ossit). where it can be read easily and correctly.

The inscription mentions the Lucus Libitinae or Grove of Libitina as a place of activity of the undertakers in Puteoli. It must have been a copy of the Lucus Libitinae in Rome, that has been discussed extensively by Bodel [43]. He explains that Libitina was the goddess of funerals. In Rome she had a grove, the Lucus Libitinae, but as far as we know she had no temple, no cult, no worshippers. The grove was probably located outside the Esquiline gate. An inscription referring to the upkeep of public areas may be related to the undertakers [44]. It was found just outside the Porta Esquilina, near the church of San Vito in Macello. Nearby statues of flute-players and an inscription [45] mentioning the association of flute-players (collegium tibicinum) was found [46]. The grove was located near a large public burial ground, to the south of today's Stazione Termini. Here the bodies of the poor and of slaves were thrown in open pits called puticuli. Approximately 75 such pits from the republican period were found in the area by Rodolfo Lanciani, in the late 19th century. They measured about four by four metres, and were ten metres deep. Animal and human bones were found. A mass grave with perhaps as much as 24.000 bodies was found nearby.

The inscriptions from Puteoli and Cumae show that the Lucus Libitinae was introduced in other cities in Italy. In Puteoli it must have been situated outside the city, because the ordinary workers who used it were not allowed to enter the city, except for funerals. It had been installed in a tower, which cannot have been a tower of the city-wall, because that formed part of the city. According to Hinard it may have been a villa suburbana. He points out that in the Italian cities the Lucus was not necessarily a true grove anymore, with trees [47]. Scheid goes further. According to him there may never have been a grove of the goddess Libitina in Rome [48]. Lucus may be interpreted as "cemetery". In the lucus was a temple of Venus Libitina, also called Lubentina, that may have given its name to the cemetery. Eventually Lucus Libitina seems to have become the name of a district (vicus) [49]. In later antiquity ancient authors may have reconstructed the goddess Libitina.

The lucus in Puteoli must have been used for various technical services, because the ordinary workers were present there. But what about the administrative services? In Rome the undertakers kept a death-register, witness for example these words of Suetonius: "a plague which in a single autumn entered thirty thousand deaths in the accounts of Libitina" (pestilentia unius autumni, quo triginta funerum milia in rationem Libitinae venerunt) [50]. The leges libitinariae provide much other information. The libitina was a monopoly, under the responsibility of a contractor (manceps). Only when the contractor could not deliver the services on time were people allowed to look for an alternative [51]. The undertakers had a revenue and made profit. Fixed prices had to be paid to the contractor for the various services. People wanting to arrange a burial had to request the desired services in a formal way from the contractor or a person replacing him, in the Lucus, or - if the contractor was not there - ad eum locum quem libitinae exsercendae gratia conductum constitutum habebit ("at the place that the contractor has hired or established to exercise the libitina"). Every citizen was obliged to do so, including the decurions. The bodies of slaves and of people who had committed suicide had to be removed quickly. The residents of Puteoli were forbidden to leave a corpse unburied. Bodel remarks that "presumably one of the lost clauses stipulated that they had to remove any unclaimed corpses". The undertakers also had to carry out punishments, providing both equipment and personnel (floggers, executioners). The corpses could then be dragged to the place "where many corpses will be". The contractor had to post the text of the law in the locus mentioned before [52].

The locus could apparently be rented from the colony, but the contractor could also arrange a building himself. According to Bodel the locus was in the Lucus Libitinae, but Bove, Hinard and Camodeca maintain that it was inside the city. Hinard remarks that the Lucus, outside the city, must have been property of the colony, contrary to the locus. He suggests that family members of the deceased first went to the Lucus, perhaps to pay a death-tax. If the contractor was not there they went to an office in the city, where the law had been posted [53]. The place of discovery of the Puteolan law suggests that it was on the Forum.

Bodel has further analysed the financial aspects of the trade. The contractor could be represented by someone else, and may have restricted himself to investing money [54]. An inscription from Bergamum [55], probably from the second century AD, put up in honour of a certain P. Marius Lupercianus, records that "his exceptional generosity shone out to the point that he remitted for all his fellow citizens in perpetuity the lucar Libitinae purchased from his city". Lucar means "revenue spent on public entertainments, funds disbursed to public officials for staging games" It is mentioned in an Ostian inscription commemorating P. Lucilius Gamala "senior" [56]. According to Bodel the inscription from Bergamum refers to revenue derived from a local Lucus Libitinae, revenue that was used for staging games. Linguistically there may have been a development from lucus (grove) to (pecunia) lucaris (money paid in the grove of Libitina at Rome in connection with funerals) to lucar. He argues that "the funerary concession was let by public contract and a designated location was rented to the contractor for the purpose of negotiating his services with clients". It was a source of income for the contractor and the city, for the city through a death-tax or the contract. Bodel mentions the relation between gladiatorial combats and theatrical shows with funerary games. So money paid to the state for burials was spent on games that could be perceived as commemorative of the dead.

There is no explicit evidence about the formal organizational structure of the undertakers. According to Cimma they belonged to the societates publicanorum, so that they formed a legal body (corpus). This is denied by Hinard, who points primarily to the simpler organizational structure in Puteoli [57]. The contractor could be called libitinarius. He appears in the Cena Trimalchionis by Petronius:

"Make believe I am dead," he [Trimalchio] ordered. "Play something fine." Then the horn-blowers struck up a loud funeral dirge. In particular one of these undertaker's men [servus libitinarii illius], the most conscientious of the lot, blew so tremendous a fanfare he roused the whole neighborhood. Hereupon the watchmen in charge of the surrounding district, thinking Trimalchio's house was on fire, suddenly burst open the door, and rushing in with water and axes, started the much admired confusion usual under such circumstances ("Fingite me," inquit, "mortuum esse. Dicite aliquid belli." Consonuere cornicines funebri strepitu. Unus praecipue servus libitinarii illius, qui inter hos honestissimus erat, tam valde intonuit, ut totam concitaret viciniam. Itaque vigiles, qui custodiebant vicinam regionem, rati ardere Trimalchionis domum, effregerunt ianuam subito et cum aqua securibusque tumultuari suo iure coeperunt).

In the Digesta we read:

... if a libitinarius had employed a slave as corpse-washer and he has robbed the corpse ... (... si libitinarius servum pollinctorem habuerit isque mortuum spoliaverit ...) [58].

According to the Lex Iulia Municipalis, from the first century BC, the contractor and the master of the funeral ceremonies had a low social status: "Nor shall anyone who is an auctioneer, a master of funeral ceremonies, or an undertaker, so long as he is engaged in such a trade, be a candidate for, accept, administer, or hold the office of duumvir, quattuorvir, or any other magistracy, nor shall he be a senator or a decurion, or a conscript, nor shall he give his vote as such in a municipality, a colony, or a prefecture" (Neve quis, qui praeconium dissignationem libitinamve faciet, dum eorum quid faciet, in municipio colonia praefectura IIviratum IIIIviratum aliumve quem magistratum petito neve capito neve gerito neve habeto, neve ibi senator neve decurio neve conscriptus esto, neve sententiam dicito). As Bodel puts it, death was unclean for the Romans in both cultural and religious terms, and it contaminated the living. Among other things, it also meant that people in certain professions, including all members of the funeral trade, were regarded as permanently polluted and had to live in isolation [59]. In the course of time the regulations were less strictly applied and replaced by other measures. By the end of the 2nd century AD the notion had been significantly weakened [60].

From these and other sources we learn more about the personnel employed by or cooperating with the contractor:

There is a lot of uncertainty about the situation in the fourth century, especially about the role of the emerging church. Were the dead taken to a church during the funeral, and was the eucharist then celebrated there? Were memorial services held? Could the church own part of a cemetery? What was the name of the undertakers? In recent years these and other questions have been studied in depth by Rebillard [61]. Constantine arranged free burials in Constantinople, under the responsibility of the church [62]. According to a source from the ninth century this was done for the poor. Persons called dekanoi, lektikarioi and kopiatai (three synonyms?) were provided for this purpose by 950 ergasteria [63]. The form copiatae is encountered in two laws from the time of Constantius, from 356 and 359 AD [64]. In both the word is presented as a neologism (clericos ... qui copiatae appellantur; clerici vero vel hi, quos copiatas recens usus instituit nuncupari), but the Greek form is already attested in a funeral inscription from Rome, from the time of Constantine [65]. According to Rebillard copiatae was a general designation for the people who were active in the funerary trade, so for both the contractors and the workers. He concludes that funerals were still primarily the responsibility of the state when the family did not assume its traditional role [66]. There is some evidence that bishops could hire contractors for the burial of the poor and foreigners [67]. Christians who had deceased did not normally lie in state in a church. Exceptions are certain bishops and unmarried women [68].

The House of the Gorgons as office of the undertakers

From what has been written above may be deduced that there was a Lucus Libitinae near Ostia, already in the republican period, presumably in the necropolis to the south of Ostia and perhaps near puticuli. The lucar resulting from the trade is already mentioned in the first century BC in a famous inscription mentioning the work of P. Lucilius Gamala "senior": "When he had accepted public funds for putting on games he gave them back, and made good the obligation from his own resources" (In ludos cum accepisset publicum lucar, remisit et de suo erogationem fecit) [69].

The House of the Gorgons was the administrative office of the undertakers, and as far as I know the first building identified as such. In view of its significant position we may assume that it was built by the colony, to be used by successive contractors. The small square in front of the building may well be another indication that the building was public property. The south facade seems the logical place for the posting of the local lex libitinaria. People wishing to arrange a funeral apparently approached the building along the Cardo, where there was a sidewalk. They entered vestibule 6, to be received by a door-keeper residing in rooms 1-2. Rooms 3, 16 and 17, all with a mosaic floor, must have been used for arranging the funeral and for keeping the Ostian death-register. Room 17 seems to have been the most important of these rooms: the emblema is larger than the one in room 3; there is a text below the gorgoneion; there is a rectangle in the mosaic behind the gorgoneion; in the south wall are three heating-channels; like room 16, it has a hypocaust. We may exclude the possibility that a corpse was laid on a bed on top of the rectangle, in view of the heating of the room. This room must have been used by the contractor or his associate, sitting at a table. Dining-room 11 was used by the more important people in the association [70]. This seems to be the first time in Ostia that we have clear archaeological evidence for the double use of the seat of an organization: for communal meals, and for transacting business.

Shop 4 and rooms 12 + 15 (an office?) do not seem to have been used by the undertakers, but surely the activity that went on there was related to the funerals. Rooms 12 + 15 may for example have been used by sellers of sarcophagi or the guild of the flute-players, and in the shop incense and other materials for use in the house may have been sold. Finally we can have a look at the curious outer staircase 5, starting at 1 metre from the sidewalk and with thick travertine jambs and a travertine threshold, reused material. In late antiquity the level of many streets in Ostia was raised with building rubble, rubbish and sherds. This activity may have started after earthquakes in the later third century [71], but certainly did not start before the end of the third century. The high threshold could be related. Staircase 5 may already have existed in the second century (the masonry below the threshold belongs to the second century phase), but it may also have been hacked out later. If it is related to a raised level, we must imagine that it was added when the ground floor was no longer in use, because no other threshold in the building is at this high level.

Thick travertine door-jambs are rare in Ostia [72]. They are found in the Caseggiato dei Triclinii (I,XII,1), in a door next to a staircase in the north-west corner of the porticus; in an entrance in the west part of the Terme del Filosofo (V,II,6-7); in a monumental main entrance of the Horrea Epagathiana et Epaphroditiana (I,VIII,3); and there is a single jamb in the east wall of the Terme del Foro (I,XII,6), reused material. It is remarkable however, that travertine doorframes are very frequent in the tombs of the Porta Laurentina necropolis to the south of Ostia, and of the Isola Sacra necropolis to the south of Portus (at least 40) [73]. We may conclude that travertine doorframes inside the city walls were a rare and conscious choice to accentuate an entrance. So, for example, archives may have been stored in the room next to a staircase in the Caseggiato dei Triclinii. The entrance in the House of the Gorgons could well be an echo of the entrances that are found in tombs. Perhaps corpses were taken to the first floor through this door. Normally bodies would stay in the house of the deceased, but what to do with bodies that had been thrown out, and those in hotels? The high level of the entrance could then have prevented accidental access and pollution.

The Ostian undertakers in inscriptions and ancient literature

No inscription from Ostia or Portus mentions the undertakers. The inscriptions do however provide evidence about the fear that the undertakers would not be allowed to do their work. According to Bodel a modest burial during the early Empire may have cost some 250 sesterces [74]. Some people would rather not pay the undertakers (presumably for the burial of slaves), or simply could not. That is why the funerary inscriptions sometimes stipulate stiff fines when corpses were introduced in tombs without permission [75]. Important references to the Ostian undertakers are found in the literary sources: in the satires of Juvenalis, in the descriptions of the torturing and execution of martyrs (Acta Sanctorum, Prudentius), and in the Confessions of Augustinus.

During the reign of Hadrian, Juvenalis comments upon a legatus called Lateranus. He had a bad reputation, and was not willing to defend the limes. "Send to Ostia, Caesar, send, but look for the legatus in the big pub, and you will find him lying with some hit man, in company with sailors, thieves, and runaway slaves, among hangmen, bier-makers and the idle tambourines of a gallus, prostrate from drunkenness" (Mitte Ostia, Caesar, mitte sed in magna legatum quaere popina. Invenies aliquo cum percussore iacentem, permixtum nautis et furibus ac fugitivis, inter carnifices et fabros sandapilarum et resupinati cessantia tympana galli) [76]. Here we find some of the workers in the Ostian funeral trade: executioners and carpenters who made biers. The latter presumably made their products in the Lucus Libitinae.

In the third century a number of Christians was tortured and killed in Ostia and Portus. Prudentius describes the activity of the executioners and torturers (carnifices and tortores) [77]. The descriptions in the Acta Sanctorum are full of torture and executions, but the people performing this are not referred to explicitly. Interesting are passages like this one: "And they were beheaded in that very spot [in front of the theatre], giving thanks to God. But Romulus ordered the blessed Cyriacus to be beheaded in jail. Then, blessed Eusebius at night gathered up all the bodies of the saints - bishop Cyriacus, presbyter Maximus and deacon Archelaus. And he buried them with every care" [78]. We may assume that, normally, the bodies of martyrs would be handed over to the people who were claiming them according to the law. If these did not appear, they would be taken to the puticuli, from which in this case they were removed by a fellow Christian.

In 387 AD Monica, the mother of Augustinus, died in Ostia, shortly after the famous "Vision at Ostia". Part of her funerary inscription has been found near the church of Sant' Aurea in mediaeval Ostia. Augustinus refers to the undertakers (pollinctores) when he writes: "And whilst they whose office it was were, according to custom, making ready for the funeral, I, in a part of the house where I conveniently could ..." (et de more illis, quorum officium erat, funus curantibus, ego in parte, ubi decenter poteram ...) [79]. About the funeral itself he says: "So, when the body was carried forth, we both went and returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured forth unto Thee when the sacrifice of our redemption was offered up unto Thee for her, the dead body being now placed by the side of the grave, as the custom there is, prior to its being laid therein, neither in their prayers did I shed tears" (Cum ecce corpus elatum est, imus, redimus, sine lacrimis. Nam neque in eis precibus, quas tibi fudimus, cum offeretur pro ea sacrificium pretii nostri, iam iuxta sepulchrum posito cadavere, priusquam deponeretur, sicut illic fiere solet, nec in eis ergo precibus flevi) [80]. We hear of a local, Ostian custom, namely placing the corpse next to the tomb, to perform a ritual. The eucharist was celebrated at the tomb, or in a church [81]. Augustinus was the eldest son of Monica, and we must assume that he had visited the House of the Gorgons to arrange the funeral.

The House of the Gorgons and the urban landscape of Ostia

It is hardly surprising that the House of the Gorgons forms part of the low-status block I,XIII, comprising small horrea, a fullery, a bakery and shops. Possibly conclusions can be drawn about buildings to the west, east and south, but this will not be researched in depth here.

It may be noted that, to the west, the main entrance of the Campus of the Magna Mater is on the square in front of the House of the Gorgons. Was the location of the Campus chosen because it was between the world of the living and the world of the dead? We may also note that the fossa sanguinis (IV,I,6), used for blood-baptism, was installed inside the Porta Laurentina.

To the east is a building (V,I,2) that the excavators have called horrea, for unknown reasons [82]. In this building is a late, curved wall, possibly from the fourth century, and according to Heinzelmann perhaps belonging to a small amphitheatre [83]. For the undertakers it would have been a convenient place for executions.

In the 1930's a building was excavated outside the Porta Laurentina, the Villa (or Baths) of Perseus. Most of the rooms seem to belong to a bath. Unfortunately the building was never published, and the ruins are now buried. Building phases have been dated to the early second and the fourth century AD. To the west seem to have been shops [84]. It was named after a statue of Perseus from the late first or early second century AD [85]. With his right hand Perseus holds the head of Medusa, that has a calm expression (Perseus was the one who had decapitated her; ICCD neg. E49888). From the building also comes a large polychrome mosaic from the second half of the fourth century [86]. Depicted are two months and a female bust [87]. The building does not form part of, but is behind the row of coastal villas. May we deduce from the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa, that the baths were used by people who had just attended a funeral or visited a tomb? And could it have been an annex or part of the Lucus Libitinae? It would in any case make perfect sense if the Lucus was situated in this area. [88].

A final remark. All those who were confronted with death were obliged to use the services of the undertakers, regardless of their religious convictions. The gorgoneia have a certain neutrality, that would not insult anyone.


The Cardo to the west of the building, seen from the south. Countless funeral processions have used this road.
Photograph: Jorgen Christian Meyer.

The building seen from the south. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The bench in vestibule 6, seen from the south-west. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The west part of the building, seen from the north, from staircase 5. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The building seen from the west, from staircase 5. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Staircase 5, seen from the west. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The mosaic in room 11. Becatti 1961, Tav. LXXII.

Room 17, seen from the west.
Photograph: archives Arch. Inst. Leiden Univ., NL.

The mosaic in room 17. Becatti 1961, Tav. LXXII.

Room 3, seen from the east. Neg. N15535.

Corridor 7, seen from the north. Neg. N15536.

Courtyard 10, seen from the north-west, from room 11. Neg. N15534.

Corridor 14, seen from the north. Neg. N15537.

Room 16, mosaic floor. Neg. N15533.


[1] Bakker 1994, 98-100.
[2] Henig 1984, 168.
[3] Becatti 1949, 5-6, fig. 3.
[4] Becatti 1961, 24-25, Tavv. XLVIII, LXXII, plan Tav. CCXX; Van Essen 1954, 53-54; Borda 1958, 139; Heres 1982, 402-410, plan fig. 173, 166, Pl. I,1 with p. 13, Pl. I,3 with p. 13, Pl. XIV,2 with p. 92, Pl. XXVI,4 with pp. 112-113). I would like to thank Thea Heres for carrying out some checks at my request in the late 1980's.
[5] Tione 1999; Tione 2004.
[6] Based on Heres 1982, fig. 73 and Becatti 1961, Tav. CCXX, with corrections.
[7] Van der Meer 2002, 578.
[8] Blake 1973, 177, referring to the outer north wall.
[9] Van Dalen 1991, 251, 254.
[10] C. 210-235 AD: SO I, 237.
[11] Girri 1956, 17.
[12] Becatti 1949, 6.
[13] The same is suggested by vertical joints in vittatum in the east walls of 2 and 6 and in the southeast corner of 11.
[14] Contrary to what her plan indicates there is a vertical joint in the north-east corner of 7.
[15] An example is found in Apuleius, Apologia 29. I owe this information to dr. R.Th. van der Paardt.
[16] SO I, 158 versus Becatti 1949, 6.
[17] Becatti 1949, 6.
[18] For examples of furnaces in Pompeian houses used for two or three purposes: De Vos & De Vos 1982, 56, 93, 163, 213.
[19] The calculations for staircase 5 still have to be confirmed by absolute measurements of height.
[20] Van Essen 1954 (1), 53-54; Borda 1958, 139.
[21] Becatti 1961, 24-25; Van Essen 1954 (2), 111.
[22] See e.g. Becatti 1949, Meiggs 1973, 256; Boersma 1985, 193.
[23] Bakker 1994, 173-174.
[24] See for example the Domus su Via del Tempio Rotondo (IV,IV,7), the Domus delle Colonne (IV,III,1) and the Domus della Fortuna Annonaria (V,II,8).
[25] Heinzelmann 1998.
[26] Bodel 1994, 41. The pompa usually took place on the second day after the death, when the corpse would be carried out of the house (Lindsay 2000, 164).
[27] Mosaics: Insu1a dell'Aquila (IV,V,8) (Becatti 1961, 194 nr. 371, Tav. LXXIX); Domus di Apuleio (II,VIII,5) (Becatti 1961, 89-90 nr. 153, Tav. LXX); Caseggiato di Bacco e Arianna (III,XVII,5) (Becatti 1961, 154-155 nr. 292, Tavv. LXXV-LXXVIII); Schola del Traiano (IV,V,l5) (Becatti 1961, 200-201 nr. 379, Tavv. LXXXVIII, LXXXIX, XCVI).
[28] Dwellings: Insula dell'Aquila, Domus di Apuleio. Seats of guilds: Caseggiato di di Bacco e Arianna; Schola del Traiano.
[29] CIL IV S III, 7698. H. of letters 0.03. Cf. Dunbabin 1978, 161-164 on apotropaic signs in North African domus.
[30] Dio LXV,10,5 (Vespasian).
[31] The famous lupanar VII,12,18-20 in Pompeii comes to mind of course. It has a triangular shape, being at an intersection of two roads (De Vos & De Vos 1982, 202-204).
[32] Hermansen 1982, 55-89; Bollmann 1998; Bakker 1994, 106 about the Domus Fulminata (III,VII,3-4), now with Van der Meer 2005, who shows that the characteristics can also belong to a building built by a family for funerary meals in honour of deceased family-members.
[33] The word guild is often used to refer to certain Roman organizations, such as collegia, but should not lead to the conclusion that there was a similarity between Roman and mediaeval guilds.
[34] N. and Y. Duval 1972, 710-719.
[35] Gomez-Pallares 1997, 142-43 no. T3 (Tarraco).
[36] Frothingham 1915, quotes from p. 13 and 22 respectively.
[37] Calza 1940, 193-194.
[38] Fuchs 2001.
[39] For the presence of people from North Africa in Ostia see for example Meiggs 1973, 214-215.
[40] The inscriptions were first published by L. Bove (1966 and 1967). See also AE 1971, 88; 1995, 307; 1996, 414; 2003, 336.
[41] Camodeca 2004.
[42] Latin text according to Hinard, a slightly different text in Bodel 1994 and Libitina e dintorni.
[43] Bodel 1994.
[44] CIL VI, 3823.
[45] CIL VI, 3877.
[46] See H.C. Youtie, TAPA 71 (1940), 650-657 = Scriptunculae I (1973), 90-97, 103-104, with addenda, for workers in the funerary trade in Egypt, referred to as "dwellers outside the gates".
[47] Hinard 2003, 109.
[48] Scheid 2004. See also Chioffi 2004.
[49] CIL IX, 1455.III.54 mentions a pagus Libitinus at Ligures Baebiani.
[50] Suetonius, Nero 39.1. Translation Loeb.
[51] Column II, 24-30, not translated.
[52] Bodel 1994 (appendix 2) and 2004.
[53] Hinard 2003, 125-128.
[54] Bodel 1994 and 2004, 136.
[55] CIL V, 5128.
[56] CIL XIV, 375.
[57] Cimma 1981, 154-156, Hinard 2003, 57-59. Cf. Bodel 2004.
[58] Petronius, Satyricon 78.6 (cf. 38.15; translation A.R. Allinson); Digesta (Ulpianus, referring to the Augustan jurist Labeo).
[59] Bodel 2000.
[60] Lindsay 2000.
[61] Rebillard 1999[a], 1999[b], 2003. Cf. Jonckheere 2006.
[62] Justinianus, Novellae 43 en 59.
[63] Rebillard 1999[b], 274.
[64] CTh 13,1,1 and 16,2,15.
[65] Rebillard 1999[b], 275-276.
[66] Rebillard 2003, 139 ff.
[67] Rebillard 2003, 136 ff.
[68] Rebillard 2003, 151.
[69] CIL XIV, 375. Translation D'Arms 2000, 192.
[70] Could a societas, a commercial venture, have communal meals? Here it may well be relevant whether the undertakers were a societas publicanorum or a societas alicuius negotiationis. See also above, at note 52. Obviously any conclusions drawn from the late-republican inscriptions are not automatically valid for the second to fourth century AD, when Roman law and the guild-structure had gone through many developments. Special measures were taken by the state to ensure the continuity of the societates publicanorum. They could have corpus, which meant, among other things, that they could have common property (Malmendier 2002, 236-259). It would not be surprising if the undertakers were (treated like the) publicani, in view of the need for continuity. I would like to leave the matter to the legal specialists, however.
[71] Stoeger 2002, OsAn_09.
[72] Gering 2004.
[73] Van der Meer - Stevens 2000, 192-195.
[74] Van der Meer - Stevens 2000, 187-192.
[75] Bodel 1994, 19.
[76] "At Ostia the fine was normally paid to the Ostian treasury, at Portus to the public treasury of Rome. The distinction between the two centres is embarrassing. One would have expected Portus fines also to go to the Ostian treasury, since the harbour settlement seems to have been controlled by the Ostian government. CIL XIV, 166 is unique in prescribing fines to be paid both to the Ostian and to the Roman treasury". Meiggs 1973, p. 461.
[77] Juvenalis, Saturae 8, 171-176.
[78] Prudentius, Peristephanon XI, 39-152.
[79] Acta Sanctorum, August, IV, p. 757-761, The martyrdom of Aurea, II,15.
[80] Augustinus, Confessiones IX,12,31.
[81] Augustinus, Confessiones IX,12,32.
[82] Rebillard 1999[a], 1042; Volp 2002, 204; Rebillard 2003, 150, 155.
[83] Possibly because to the west two cippi were found mentioning the semita hor(reorum), presumably "path of the horrea"; hence the modern name of the street: Semita dei Cippi.
[84] Heinzelmann 1998, 219-220.
[85] Oral communication.
[86] Arch. Anz. 51 (1936), 460. Now in the garden of the Insula dei Dipinti (I,IV).
[87] Helbig 3047; Guida p. 41 nr. 9; Arch. Anz. 49 (1934), 435; Museo Ostiense, Inv. 99. Reported in the Italian press on October 18, 1934.
[88] Augustinus wrote that, after the burial of his mother, "it appeared to me also a good thing to go and bathe, I having heard that the bath [balneum] took its name from the Greek balaneion, because it drives trouble from the mind". People who had taken part in a funeral had to purify themselves at home on the same day through the suffitio, which included being sprinkled with water (Toynbee 1971, 50-54).

Titles that are not in the online bibliography

[jthb - 17-Jun-2017. For this page I would like to thank Thea Heres, R.Th. van der Paardt, L. Bouke van der Meer, Hanna Stoeger, Jorgen Christian Meyer, Boudewijn Sirks, and Éric Rebillard. The interpretation of the building is mine, and I am solely responsible for errors and omissions.]