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Regio IV - Insula XV - Terme di Musiciolus (IV,XV,2)

The Baths of Musiciolus are in the extreme south of Ostia, to the east of the Terme di Porta Marina and to the west of the synagogue. They are to the north of the Via Severiana. They were excavated in the early 1980's and are of major interest because of the find of a polychrome mosaic with busts of athletes. Unfortunately this mosaic was stolen shortly after the excavation. The masonry of the building is opus mixtum (Antonine), opus latericium (Severan), and opus vittatum (fourth century). The baths were installed in the second phase. The mosaics were probably made in the early fourth century.

The entrance hall (4), to the west, was decorated with columns. To the east is the frigidarium (5) (7.88 x 4 metres), with two basins. Two mosaics were found in the room: a black-and-white mosaic with a simple geometric motif, and a polychrome mosaic. The latter one consists of black-and-white depictions of dolphins, fishes, and erotes riding dolphins, between which are polychrome decorative motifs. There is only a limited use of colour. Curious is the depiction of fishes of which the bones can be seen, as if it is an X-ray photograph.

Three heated rooms were found along the street (6-7-8). One of these was the caldarium (8), with two basins. In these rooms three mosaics were found: a black-and-white geometric mosaic in the caldarium at the west end, a polychrome geometric mosaic in the room at the east end, and a polychrome mosaic with busts of four athletes and a referee in the central room.

The latter mosaic was stolen. The names of the people are written on either side of the head. The referee is called Musiciolus ("Harmonious"). He is dressed in a tunica or mantle. He is bearded and around his hair is a fillet. In his left hand is some sort of sceptre. The athletes are naked. One is called Faustus ("Lucky"). A palm branch, referring to victory, is to the left of his head. The athlete next to him is called Ursus ("Bear"). The other two athletes are opposite Faustus and Ursus. Their names are Luxsurius ("Voluptuous") and Pascentius (the meaning of his name is not clear; probably it has a Christian connotation). These athletes are not known otherwise. Next to and above Musiciolus are three more frames, in a small apse (a later addition). Two depictions have been preserved, of weights used in the long jump, and of a metal vessel for oil, that was carried together with the strigiles. Palm branches are depicted in frames to the right of Ursus and Luxsurius.

Plan of the baths.
Poccardi 2006, fig. 12.


The frigidarium, in the centre of the excavated area, seen from the south-east.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The facade, articulated by the heated rooms, seen from the street, from the south-east.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The partly polychrome mosaic in the frigidarium.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 3.

Detail of the mosaic in the frigidarium: "X-rayed" fishes.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 4.

Detail of the mosaic in the frigidarium: a marine animal.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 5.

The polychrome mosaic in the caldarium (stolen).
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 8.

Detail of the mosaic in the caldarium: Musiciolus.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 9.

Detail of the mosaic in the caldarium: Faustus.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 10.

Detail of the mosaic in the caldarium: Ursus.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 11.

Detail of the mosaic in the caldarium: Luxsurius.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 12.

Detail of the mosaic in the caldarium: Pascentius.
Floriani Squarciapino 1987, fig. 13.

[jthb - 25-Aug-2007]