Back to menu | Back to clickable plan

Regio IV - Insula V - Macellum (IV,V,2)

The Market, a building where meat was sold, was excavated in 1938. Restorations were carried out in 1942. Further excavations took place in 1949-1953, by the Soprintendenza, and in 1997-2001, by the University of Augsburg. Most of the masonry belongs to the later second century, probably to the reign of Commodus (180-192 AD; opus latericium). Below the building remains were found of a building from the first half of the third century BC (destroyed by a fire), and of a late-republican building (c. 70-30 BC), possibly a domus, also destroyed by a fire. If there really was a domus under the present ruins, then the Macellum may originally have been elsewhere in the city. Some Augustan masonry (shops) was found below the east half of the courtyard.

The building is dominated by a courtyard. It could be reached directly from Via del Pomerio to the east, through two entrances two metres wide. The entrances were closed with wooden doors, witness the thresholds. The courtyard could also be reached from the north, from the Decumanus. Here is a monumental entrance, a porch with two granite columns. A corridor leads to the interior. Further to the west is a secondary corridor, with a white mosaic.

The north part of the building consists of shops. Some are behind porticos along the Decumanus and Via del Pomerio, others face the courtyard. In the second shop to the east of the main corridor, on the Decumanus, is a masonry counter that partly blocks the entrance. It was decorated with marble. In the front is a niche. A north-south running wall was set against the counter. There are two staircases in this part of the building. In the northern porticus the Taberne dei Pescivendoli (IV,V,1) were installed.

To the south-west of the courtyard is a large room, perhaps with a barrel-vault, where standard weights and measures may have been kept (see below). To the west of the courtyard is a deep podium, that originally had a roof. It was supported by brick piers set against the back wall, and by six marble columns with corinthian capitals set against the front of the podium. The podium could be reached from the courtyard along little staircases. Two staircases in the centre lead downward to a room below the podium. In this room are a few small basins. The marble columns were found partly in the building and partly in the neighbourhood, reused in other structures in late antiquity.

On one of the columns is the inscription or rather graffito:


The text is written lengthwise and must have been chiseled when the column had collapsed. The column was reused in Ninfeo I,XIV,1, and was placed on the podium in 1942. Lege et intellige is a Christian formula. The text should be translated as "Read and understand that a dumb man has recovered his speech in the Market", and is a reference to a miracle.

The central part of the courtyard (c. 28 x 22 metres) was paved with marble. It is surrounded by a gutter, around which runs a second, travertine gutter. In the centre is a rectangular basin, the short sides of which are curved. It was revetted with marble. Inside a marble statue of a putto on a dolphin was found (inv. nr. 498), very similar to a statue found near Ninfeo I,XIV,1, across the street (inv. nr. 497). Perhaps only the wings around the central area had a roof.

The east wall of the courtyard was built in the late fourth or early fifth century AD. In the same period niches in the south wall were blocked (opus latericium). In the north-east porticus two furnaces for the production of glass vessels were found, together with many glass sherds and waste products. The ovens are also additions from the late fourth or early fifth century.

Plan of the market. After SO I.

A macellum is mentioned in several Ostian inscriptions. One of these was found in 1824 on the Forum. It has not been dated (CIL XIV, 423):

[s(ua) p(ecunia) f(ecit) i]DEMQVE DEDICAV[it]

A market and standard weights and measures (pondera) are mentioned. There may be a reference to the city of Tharros on Sardinia. Standard measures made of marble can today still be seen in the Basilica Cristiana (III,I,4) and Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto (I,XIV,2), to the west and north of the Macellum. Pondera were also placed in the Macellum by P. Lucilius Gamala and M. Turranius in the first century BC (CIL XIV, 375):


In the early first century AD the market was restored by a freedman of Augustus (Nymphodotus), with one of his freedmen (C. Iulius Pothus). Fragments of the inscription were found in the building, and in the nearby Terme delle Sei Colonne (IV,V,11) and Schola del Traiano (IV,V,15) (Bloch 1953, nr. 67; cf. CIL XIV S, 5322):

NYMP[hodotus ---]
POTHVS N[ymphodoti l ---]
MACELLV[m ---]
QVOT VETVS[tate deficiebat refecerunt et]
[rei] PVBL(icae) OST[iensium dono dederunt]

In the second half of the second century weights were supplied by P. Lucilius Gamala, in imitation of his ancestor from the first century BC (CIL XIV, 376):


This gift may be related to the Commodan rebuilding of the market. Finally the market is mentioned in an inscription from the years 418-420 AD. It was now restored, with pondera, by Symmachus, Praefectus Urbi (CIL XIV S, 4719):

AVREL[ius an]ICIVS S[ymmachus v.c.]
PRAEF V[rbi, vice s(acra) i(udicans) m]ACELL[um a se noviter r]EPARATV[m ad ornatum]
VRBIS ET I[n usum civium d]ECOR[avit omni cultu] ADIECTI[s ponderibus]


The porch of the main entrance corridor, seen from the west.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The courtyard and the podium, seen from the east. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The courtyard seen from the podium, from the west. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The Christian graffito on one of the columns of the podium.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The putto on a dolphin, found in the basin of the courtyard.
Scrinari - Ricciardi 1996, II, fig. 264.

[jthb - 20-Nov-2005]