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Regio II - Insula I - Mitreo Aldobrandini (II,I,2) and Torre sul Tevere (II,I,3)

This mithraeum was excavated in 1924. It was found 150 metres to the north of the Porta Romana on property owned by the Aldobrandini-family, and is still not accessible to the public. The south part of the shrine was not excavated. The back wall (north wall) was set against a tower belonging to the city wall from the first century BC. The tower was built with large tufa blocks. The east wall was set against the city wall (opus quasi reticulatum). The shrine was built in opus latericium, and has been dated to the late second century AD.

The northern part of the podia, lined with white marble, was unearthed. To the north of the podia is a short west-east running corridor, the floor of which was decorated with coloured marble, forming geometric motifs. The back part of the shrine was at a slightly higher level, and could be reached along two treads. Here some brick piers were excavated, lined with marble. A few marble slabs created a table.

Plan of the shrine

Plan of the shrine. From SO II, fig. 8 = NSc 1924, fig. 1.

A base or altar was set against the back wall (h. 0.60, w. 2.12), lined with a marble slab with the inscription:

DEVM VETVSTA RELIGIONE
IN VELO FORMATVM ET VMORE OBNVBI
LATVM MARMOREVM CVM
THRONO OMNIBVSQ(ue) ORNAMENTIS
A SOLO OMNI IMPENDIO SVO FECIT
SEX(tus) POMPEIVS MAXIMVS PATER
Q S S EST
ET PRAESEPIA MARMORAVIT P(edes) LXVIII IDEM S(ua) P(ecunia)

The inscription informs us that a painting of Mithras on cloth had been damaged by moisture, and was replaced by "father" (pater) Sextus Pompeius Maximus by a marble depiction. In line 1 is a reference to "ancient religion", which may mean that the cloth was imported from the east, where the origins of Mithras lay. A throne is also mentioned, probably the structure set against the back wall, which may have been a combined altar and base. The abbreviation Q S S EST has been explained as qui sacerdos (or sacratus) solis est ("who was priest (or ordained as priest) of the Sun"), and as qui supra scriptus est ("whose name is written above"). The praesepia, 68 feet long (20 metres) are probably the podia, that is: two podia of 10 metres. The most important objects found in the shrine are three small tufa altars, a small herm of Silenus (with traces of blue paint in his hair), and a marble relief of Silvanus.

A bronze inscription (0.42 x 0.29), now in the British Museum, may also come from this shrine. Below a small bust of Sol is written:

SEX POMPEIO SEX FIL
MAXIMO
SACERDOTI SOLIS IN
VICTI MT PATRI PATRVM
QQ CORP TREIECT TOGA
TENSIVM SACERDO
TES SOLIS INVICTI MT
OB AMOREM ET MERI
TA EIVS SEMPER HA
BET

This inscription was put up by all priests of Mithras in Ostia and Portus, in honour of Sextus Pompeius Maximus, "father of the fathers". Apparently he was the leader of the cult of Mithras in Ostia. We also learn that he was in charge of one of Ostia's ferry services.

In 1637 Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi built a hospital and a chapel of San Sebastiano to the south of the mithraeum.


Photographs



The shrine seen from the south. Note the large tufa blocks of the tower of the city wall
in the background, and the marble floor in the foreground. SO II, Tav. V, 3.



The bronze inscription in the British Museum. Photograph: Eric Taylor.


Opus quasi reticulatum. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


Opus quasi reticulatum. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


The back part of the shrine and opus latericium. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


Large tufa blocks and opus quasi reticulatum. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


The hospital of Domenico Ginnasi. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


The mithraeum next to the hospital. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


The hospital and to the right the chapel of San Sebastiano. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


The coat of arms of Domenico Ginnasi. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.


The chapel of San Sebastiano. Photograph: Antonio Veronese.

[jthb - 13-Oct-2003]