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Regio I - Insula XIV - Domus dell'Area Sacra (I,XIV,3)

This building was accessible from the square in front of the Temple of Hercules. It contains a central open area with a basin. According to Mar it may have been the guild seat of the Sodales Herculani. Meiggs has suggested that this religious guild was particularly active during the reign of Commodus, who presented himself as Hercules. Originally the building may have been a habitation, part of which may have had a commercial function, in view of a wide entrance in the west facade, and the wide doorways of some of the rooms. The building was studied extensively by Umberto Crupi.

Click here to open a detailed plan of the building in a new window (Crupi 2002, fig. 4).

Click here to open a 3D view of the remains of the building in a new window (Crupi 2002, fig. 42).



Plan of the building and the surrounding area. Crupi 2002, fig. 2.

At present the only entrance to the building is a narrow, secondary opening in the north-west corner of room 5. It is an unlikely entrance, that may well have been made in the late 1930's, during the excavations. There does not seem to have been an entrance on the ground floor during the final phase of the building. Perhaps it was now entered from the first floor. On the other hand, we know that in late antiquity many streets were covered by thick layers of sherds and rubbish. Possibly the building was entered from this raised street level, and it is possible that the ground floor was now buried.

View from the north-west of the present, modern (?)
entrance in the north-west corner of room 5.

View from the south-east of the modern (?) entrance.

The rooms of the building are arranged around courtyard 1. A corridor at the north end leads to rooms 6 and 7. In the north-west part is a wide, blocked doorway: the jambs are of opus latericium, the blocking is of vittatum. Traces of a black-and-white mosaic were found on the floor. It was restored in antiquity with opus spicatum. In the central south part is a basin, that was set against a pier between rooms 1 and 2. Originally it was a square basin. The southern extension is a later addition. This extension has fairly thick walls, which suggests that it supported a sculptural decorative element. In the basin rain was collected, but water was also led to the basin through a lead pipe. On the floor of the basin is a geometric black-and-white mosaic.

Panoramic view from the north-west of rooms 1, 2, 3, 4 and the lower part of the staircase in room 5.

Room 1, basin: seen from the west.

Room 2 may perhaps be called a porticus. In the north wall are two wide openings (c. 2.60) on either side of a pier. Room 8 could be entered through an opening (w. 0.80) in the east end of the north wall. Another doorway is in the east wall, but it was blocked by a wall belonging to the Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto (I,XIV,2). It became a niche, that was plastered. Wide passages in the south wall lead to rooms 3 and 4.

Room 2: blocked doorway in the east wall.

Rooms 3 and 4 are reminiscent of shops, in view of their wide entrances. In the centre of the south wall of room 3 is a window, starting at c. 2.10 from the present floor. Below the window is the filling of an opening that was hacked out. It seems that the window was changed into a doorway, and that the lower part of the doorway was later blocked. The doorway - leading to a corridor in the Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto - may have been created when the doorway in the east wall of room 2 - leading to the same building - was blocked. The threshold of the doorway is at 0.63 above the floor of the room, but at more or less the same height as the floor of the corridor in the adjacent caseggiato. Many mosaic tesserae were found in this room. A window is also present in the centre of the south wall of room 4. The walls of this room were decorated with plaster, supported by nails, one of which has been preserved. On the floor was a black-and-white mosaic.

Room 3: view from the north-west. Note the window in the back wall.

Room 3: detail of the blocked opening below the window.

Room 4: view from the north-west. Note the window in the back wall.

Room 4: detail of a nail that has been preserved in the back wall.

Panoramic view from the north-west of rooms 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Room 5 consists of a staircase, accessible from the courtyard, an understairs, and a tiny area to the west. Today the only (presumably modern) entrance to the building leads to this room. In the south corner is a floor-niche. In the entrance to the staircase is a travertine threshold with one pivot-hole for a door opening outwards. The steps have not been preserved. The width of most of the walls in the building is 0.45, indicating that the building did not have many upper floors, perhaps only one.

Panoramic view from the north of rooms 1, 3 and 5.

Room 5: the masonry base (opus latericium) that supported the lower part of the staircase.

Room 5: the floor-niche in the south corner.

Panoramic view from the north of room 5 and the north-west part of room 1.

Room 6 was reached through a door (w. 1.42) in the east wall. In the door is a marble threshold with two pivot-holes. There was another doorway in the south wall, later blocked with opus vittatum. The original west wall was completely removed (traces can be seen in the north and south wall). It was replaced by a wall a bit further to the west. The lower part of the latter wall is of latericium, the upper part of vittatum. In the upper part are two round holes, passing through the wall. They are in fact amphorae, of which the rim and bottom were hacked off. Identical holes can be seen in the adjacent and contemporaneous west wall of courtyard 1. In the latter wall are three holes: two at a height of c. 0.75, one much higher (there may have been a fourth one, creating a square). The function of these small holes is a bit of a mystery (drainage holes?). Note that the holes led from an alley to a room with a ceiling (6) and a courtyard (1). A parallel can be found in the Caseggiato delle Taberne Finestrate (IV,V,18). The height of the amphorae may indicate the level of the alley, raised on two occasions. On the north wall of room 6 are remains of plaster. On the floor was a black-and-white mosaic.

Panoramic view from the east of room 6 (right) and the north-west part of room 1 (left).
Note the three holes in room 1 and the two holes in room 6, in fact amphorae passing through the wall.

Room 6: blocking (south side) in opus vittatum of the entrance in the south wall.

Room 6, blocking (north side) in opus vittatum of the entrance in the south wall.
Note the traces of the removed west wall of the room, to the west (right) of the blocking.

Room 6: view from the west of the west wall.
Note that the lower part is of latericium, the upper part of vittatum.

Room 7 was entered from the west. In the doorway (w. 1.75) is a marble threshold with two pivot-holes. In the centre of the north wall is a window (starting at h. 1.95), later blocked. The walls were decorated with plaster. Remains can be seen of yellow, red and pink panels. On the floor was a black-and-white mosaic.

Panoramic view from the south of the central and north part of the building.
In the background are the Baths of Buticosus and the Horrea Epagathiana.

Panoramic view from the south of room 7.

Room 7: the east wall, set against masonry belonging to Caseggiato I,XIV,9.

The floor of room 8 is c. 0.30 higher than the floors of the other rooms. The room has a wide entrance in the west wall. In the south wall are a narrow door (w. c. 0.80) and a blocked window. There are a few remains of plaster and a black-and-white mosaic.

Panoramic view from the south-west of room 8.

Room 8: view from the west.

Room 8: south wall with a blocked window.

The building must have been erected around the middle of the second century AD. A few minor alterations took place when the Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto (I,XIV,2) was built, during the reign of Commodus. At the end of the second century or in the third the basin was added, and the west wall of room 6 rebuilt in latericium. In late antiquity the wide entrance in the north-west part of room 1 was blocked by a wall of vittatum with amphorae creating holes. Similar masonry is found in room 6.


[jthb - 11-Jun-2005; for this page I would like to thank Umberto Crupi; photographs: Umberto Crupi - 2002]