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Regio V - Insula VII - Sede degli Augustali (V,VII,1-2)

Click here to open a detailed plan of the back part of the building in a new window (from Heres 1982, fig. 99).

This building was erected during the reign of Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius (opus latericium). Modifications have been dated to the second half of the third or the fourth century AD (opus vittatum).

The main entrance is in the north facade: a marble porch leading to a vestibule, situated between four shops and an external staircase. In the east facade is a secondary entrance, between five shops and another external staircase.

The building is dominated by a large courtyard, surrounded by a porticus with brick piers. In the north-east corner is a transitional room, reached from the vestibule. The eastern part of the porticus is 6 meters wide, the other wings 3.50. In the centre of the courtyard is a basin, originally revetted with marble, and with concave ends. In the south-west corner of the porticus is a well.

To the west and south of the porticus are rows of rooms. Some of the rooms to the west have windows that received light from the courtyard. At the north end of this row is an internal staircase. To the south of the courtyard is an accentuated room (B). In the entrance are two granite columns and a marble threshold. In the later phase an apse (A) was added at the back of the room (width 8.00, depth 4.50), with two semicircular wall-niches (height 1.80, width 0.75, depth 0.37). The room to the east, with a central pier, was now divided into two rooms (H and I) by a wall. Also, the arcades of the porticus were closed off, at the east side with niches facing east.

In the later phase the apse and porticus were decorated with polychrome marble. On the floor of the rooms flanking the accentuated room are black-and-white mosaics with geometric motifs. In the room to the west (C) is also a polychrome mosaic of two flying erotes holding a wreath with ribbons and a gem. The wreath has been interpreted as a corona triumphalis, related to the cult of the Emperors. In a room to the east (I) are also polychrome, geometric motifs. On the walls are also paintings from the fourth century.

In the north-east corner of the courtyard nine statues were found, gathered here to be taken to a lime-kiln to the south. Plaster casts of a few can today be seen in the building. On the basis of the statues, and of inscriptions found in and near the building Guido Calza concluded that this was the seat of the Seviri Augustales, a guild of freedmen focusing on the cult of the Emperors. Laird however has shown that this identification is wrong. As a matter of fact, most inscriptions and statues come from Ostia's burial places. These objects were dumped in the building, to be taken to nearby lime-kilns. The entrance corridors and holes high up in the walls were used for the transport. The building does have many characteristics of a guild seat, but of which guild we do not know.

Plan of the building. After SO I.

Photographs and drawings

Reconstruction drawing of the building, seen from the north-west. Calza 1942, fig. on p. 210.

The interior seen from the north-west, shortly after the excavation and restoration.
Calza 1942, fig. 2.

The south part of the courtyard, seen from the east,
shortly after the excavation and restoration. Calza 1942, fig. 3.

The interior of the accentuated room, seen from the south. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Detail of the marble decoration in the accentuated room. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

A photograph of some of the statues found in the courtyard,
taken during the excavation. Lenzi 1998, fig. 4.

Plaster cast of an Antonine funerary statue of an
Ostian woman (now in the accentuated room).
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Plaster cast of a Trajanic funerary statue of an
Ostian woman (now in the accentuated room).
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Detail of the mosaic in room I. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Mosaic with flying erotes and wreath in room C. SO IV, Tav. CCXVIII.

[jthb - 9-Feb-2005]