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THE TWO FACES OF LATE-ANTIQUE OSTIA

In the Insula dei Dipinti, in the Casa di Diana, and on the surrounding roads the layers on the street were eventually as high as the ground floor, and in late antiquity or the early mediaeval period some people lived on top: the first upper floor had for them become the ground floor. Flimsy walls of opus vittatum (brick and tufa) belonging to this phase were found by the excavators, who removed them (Calza: "sarebbe meglio non ci fosse"). Similar late-antique or early-mediaeval walls were removed throughout Ostia, which was often not documented. In the Casa delle Ierodule windows and doors above the destruction layer of the late third century were blocked, probably in the fourth or fifth century, suggesting habitation. But no substantial architecture, no wall paintings, no statues, no inscriptions testify to these late inhabitants.

This rather gloomy picture is, for the later third, fourth and early fifth century, not valid for the entire city. There was still some activity to the north of the Decumanus. At the end of the fourth century the cella of the Tempio di Ercole (I,XV,5) was restored. In the second quarter of that century the Domus di Amore e Psiche had been built nearby. Around the middle of the century a monumental nymphaeum was erected on the Bivio del Castrum (I,XIV,1). The Aula del Gruppo di Marte e Venere (II,IX,3) was installed in the middle of the century. At the end of the century the theatre was restored, but it is true that bases from the Piazzale delle Corporazioni were reused: this commercial square was no longer used. In the same period much building activity took place in the south part of Ostia. Many domus and nymphaea were built, the Terme del Foro (I,XII,6) were restored, and so on and so forth. The south part of Ostia had become a pleasant living environment, but Ostia now had two faces, illustrated by a late-antique inscription found on the Forum, that records the transfer of a statue ex sordentibus locis, i.e. from a sordid place. Another inscription (CIL XIV, 135; place of discovery unknown) tells us, that in the second quarter of the fourth century the Emperors Constantius and Constans restored baths described as [therm]as incuria longi temporis destituta[s].



A late antique or early mediaeval door on the first floor of the Casa dei Dipinti (I,IV,4),
created when the ground floor was buried. From DeLaine 1995, fig. 5.9.



A late-antique or early mediaeval blocking in the porticus of the Terme di Nettuno. Photograph: SAOA B1918.



A photograph taken during the excavation of the Terme del Foro.
Late 1930's. The blocking where the railroad ends was removed
by the excavators. From SO XI, Fig. 16.