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Regio I - Insula XIV - Domus di Amore e Psiche (I,XIV,5)

The House of Cupid and Psyche was installed in late antiquity in a number of shops dated to the second century AD (opus mixtum and latericium). Some shops to the west of the house remained in use. They are behind a porticus, that lost its function after the erection of walls with which the shops were expanded.

Click here to open a detailed plan of the house in a new window (from Heres 1982, fig. 75).

The main entrance is in the south: vestibule A. There are benches along the north and west wall, originally covered with marble. On the floor is a coarse polychrome mosaic without a pattern. The vestibule leads to the central room B, with a bench in the south wall and a geometric polychrome mosaic on the floor. To the north is the main room C, reached along a single marble tread, and probably two storeys high. In the south-east corner of the room is a fountain-niche with a hole in the back for a lead pipe and a marble basin. In the south-west corner is a staircase. The floor is decorated with opus sectile of the highest quality. The lower part of the walls was covered with marble, the upper part with plaster.

To the south-east of the central room is corridor G leading to latrine H. To the west of the central room are three small rooms, probably bedrooms (cubicula): D, E and F. In D is a black-and-white mosaic with geometric motifs, in E opus sectile on the floor and marble revetment on the walls, and in F another black-and-white mosaic with geometric motifs while the walls were painted. A statue of Cupid and Psyche on a pedestal stood in the centre of room E (for a long time a plaster cast was in situ, but it was destroyed by vandals in the 1980's). It was made at the time that the house was built.

Along the east side of room B was a tiny garden (viridarium I), separated from the central room by marble and granite columns, supporting arches made of brick and travertine. There was no roof over the garden. Behind the garden a monumental nymphaeum was built, with marble revetment and polychrome mosaics. The lower part consists of five semicircular niches. The upper part has five semicircular and rectangular niches, between which are marble columns. Between the bases of the columns are small marble steps, over which the water flowed. Water also emerged from holes in the front of the lower part, between the niches. The garden was the main source of light in the building.

The house was excavated in 1938. It was built in opus vittatum in the second quarter of the fourth century AD. The building is at a higher level than that of the second century. Around the building the level was raised considerably, by dumping earth. It has been suggested (Heres) that the house was in an area that was regularly flooded, and that therefore a dyke of earth was built. This hypothesis is however contradicted by geological research. It is surprising that the house is not situated in the south part of Ostia, like so many other domus. Perhaps the owner was a priest of Hercules, who had a temple directly to the south of the house, which was maintained in late antiquity.

Plan of the house

Plan of the house. After SO I.

Photographs



The house seen from the south-west. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.


The nymphaeum seen from the south-west. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.


Room C seen from the south-east. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.


Detail of the opus sectile-floor in room C. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.


Detail of the opus sectile-floor in room C. Photograph: Laura Maish-Bill Storage.


Detail of the polychrome mosaic in room B. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.


The statue of Cupid and Psyche in room E. Photograph: Laura Maish-Bill Storage.


The statue of Cupid and Psyche in room E. Photograph: Gerard Huissen.


Detail of the statue of Cupid and Psyche in room E. Photograph: Gerard Huissen.

[jthb - 29-Aug-2003]