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Regio II - Insula VII - Colonna con Genio

Behind the stage of the theatre is a row of marble columns (height 3.65). One of these has a relief and an inscription. This column was found in two pieces to the east of the temple in the centre of the Piazzale delle Corporazioni (II,VII,5). It was re-erected at the end of the nineteenth century. There is some confusion about its original location. Lanciani says that the row was part of a porticus behind the stage. Calza however states that the columns adorned the third seating level of the theatre.

We see a Genius, wearing a mantle around the hip. In his left hand is a horn of plenty (cornucopiae). In his right hand is a patera, with which he is pouring out a libation on a cylindrical altar. He is standing in front of a little shrine (aedicula).1 Below the relief is the inscription (CIL XIV, 7):

MINISTERIO //////////

What we see is a dedication to the Genius of the Castra Peregrina by two "brothers", Optatianus and Pudens. They were frumentarii. A religious attendant (minister) seems to have been involved. For some reason his name was later chiseled away.

The frumentarii were originally involved with the food-supply of the army. In the second and third century AD we find them as couriers, police, and even spies. Their Roman barracks were called castra peregrina (near S. Stefano Rotondo; the name derives from the provincial background of the soldiers). They had smaller barracks in Portus, called statio frumentariorum (CIL XIV, 125 from 224 AD).

The inscription on the column suggests that there was a camp in Ostia as well. Here we may think, for example, of building II,XII (partly excavated, but re-interred). It is to the east of the Barracks of the Fire Brigade and presents similarities with that building. Another Ostian inscription does not fit the picture at all, however (found near the Terme del Faro, IV,II,1). It is a dedication of a miles frumentarius to Isis and the "Genius of the apartment" (Genius cenaculi). This miles lived in an apartment.


The relief

The relief and the inscription. Photo: Jan Theo Bakker.

(1) Literature: Lanciani 1881, 116; Calza 1929, 108; Floriani Squarciapino 1972; Meiggs 1973, 302-303; Cébeillac-Gervasoni - Caldelli - Zevi 2010, 250-252.

[jthb - 26-Jul-2020]