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Regio IV - Insula II - Terme del Faro (IV,II,1)

The Baths of the Lighthouse were erected in the late-Trajanic or early-Hadrianic period (opus latericium), but greatly modified in later times. The first modifications took place in the period Antoninus Pius - Marcus Aurelius. The raised floors (suspensurae) in the heated rooms were rebuilt during the reign of Caracalla (211-217 AD), and to this period also belong the mosaic floors and stucco decoration. A few walls and blockings of doorways in the east part of the building have been dated to c. 275-300 AD (opus latericium and vittatum). In the fourth or fifth century the heated rooms were decorated with (reused) marble. Coins and repairs of the waterpipes prove, that the building was still in use in the fifth century. From stamps on the lead waterpipes (fistulae) can be deduced, that there were three changes of ownership: the baths were owned by Roman senators and for some time by Cornificia, the sister or daughter of Marcus Aurelius.

The building was entered from the Cardo Maximus, through vestibule 1. To the south-east are two shops, to the north-west is a bar (2), that could be visited from the vestibule and the Portico dell'Ercole (IV,II,2). A narrow door in the back wall was blocked at the end of the third century. The bar-counter is in the north corner. It has a protruding water-basin, and was decorated with marble. In the north-west corner are the remains of two marble shelves, supported by a brick pier. On the floor is a simple mosaic of black and white tesserae. In the room a mortar was found.

Beyond the vestibule are two dressing-rooms (apodyteria 3 and 4). On the floor of the south-eastern apodyterium is a black-and-white mosaic with marine monsters and animals, and a depiction of the lighthouse of Portus. The lighthouse is usually depicted as having four storeys, but here a fifth has been added. To the south-east is a large latrine (5). There is no palaestra. The vestibule leads directly to a large cold bath (frigidarium 6). The roof was supported by brick piers. In the south-east part is a large basin (piscina). On the opposite side is a small frigidarium with a marble basin (7). Above the basin are large figurative paintings from the early third century. To the left is Venus in a shell, carried by Tritons and a Nereid. To the right is Europa, carried to Crete by a bull, a disguise of Jupiter (which is the usual interpretation; according to Meyboom it is a Nereid; cf. Mols 1999, note 101).

In the west part of the building are the heated rooms (8-11). Marble benches were set against the walls of room 9, surrounding a black-and-white mosaic with marine monsters, Nereids, and an amorino on a dolphin. Beyond the heated rooms is the service area with furnaces (12). To the north is a huge basin, that served the baths (13).

Plan of the baths. After SO I.


The bar-counter in room 2, seen from the south. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Bar 2, seen from the north-east. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The mosaic in room 4. Photograph Sopr. Arch. di Ostia, C 768.

Frigidarium 6, seen from the west. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Detail of the north part of the piscina in frigidarium 6, seen from the south-west.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The paintings in room 7: a Triton (left) and Europa on the bull.
Photograph: Eric Taylor.

The basin and the painting of Europa in room 7.
Photograph: Melissa Sellers.

Detail of the painting of Europa in room 7. Mols 2002, fig. 23.

Stucco decoration. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

A staircase leading to basin 13, seen from the east.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

[jthb - 13-May-2006]