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Regio II - Insula IX - Aula del Gruppo di Marte e Venere (II,IX,3)

The Hall of the Group of Mars and Venus was installed in the middle of the fourth century in the Hadrianic shops with backrooms II,IX,2 (opus latericium and vittatum). In the central north part of the shops a large apse was built, with a semicircular niche and two rectangular ones. This was a nymphaeum. Several traces of the water supply were found, such as holes and water-pipes. Opposite is a small apse with a niche placed off-centre (later blocked). To the east is a room (6.25 x 6.25) at a somewhat higher level (0.70), accessed through a colonnaded entrance with four steps. In the north part of the west wall of this room is a floor-niche. Former shops along the Decumanus also belonged to the building. The one to the south of the raised room has a small wall-niche to the east of the door leading to the raised room (this niche was already present in the shop). A low marble bench ran along part of the walls of this room. The walls of the building were decorated with marble and plaster. Several rooms have floors of opus sectile.

Traces of fire were found by the excavators, and the building does not seem to have been cleared after the fire. As a result many objects were found. Two important finds are:
- A large statuary group of Mars and Venus (h. of Mars 2.16; now in the Museo Nazionale, Rome). It was found on the floor, in many pieces. It does not belong to the building, because the intact statue was too large for the doors of the building. Originally it must have been placed in a niche: the group loses quality when it is viewed from the side or behind. It has been suggested that the heads are portraits of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina or Commodus and Crispina. It is also possible that the group comes from a tomb and represents a private couple.
- A fragment of a relief depicting a nude person with outstretched hands, standing in an aedicula. This is a Christian relief, probably of Daniel, without the lions.

The building has been identified as a Christian basilica and as a guild-seat. Neither hypothesis is convincing.

Plan of the Aula

Plan of the Aula. After SO I.

Photographs and drawings

Plan of the Aula. From Moretti 1920, fig. 2.

The former shop in the south-east part, from the south.
Note the fragment of a threshold with pivot hole, replacing the shop-threshold.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The raised room, from the south-east. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The Christian relief. From Moretti 1920, fig. 7.

The group of Mars and Venus.
From Zanker, Forum Augustum, pl. 52.

A funeral cippus found in the building (NSc 1919, 48-49).
Originally it had a lid in the shape of a tympanum.
On the front is the inscription:
D(is) M(anibus)
SEVIR AVG(ustalis) QVINQ(uennalis)
Above the inscription was probably a head of Medusa.
On the sides griffins are depicted.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

[jthb - 19-May-2006]