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THE REUSE OF MATERIALS IN LATE ANTIQUITY

In the new or modified buildings in the south part of Ostia not only bricks, but also marble - including funeral inscriptions - was reused on a large scale. In the late fourth century an inscription and architectural elements from the guild-seat of the bakers, the location of which is not known, were reused in the Basilica di Pianabella. And during the 1938-1942 excavations it was noted that basalt blocks of streets had been removed.



A funeral inscription reused as drainage lid in the Domus del Protiro (V,II,4-5).
Photograph: Eric Taylor.

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A funeral inscription reused in a floor in the Domus del Protiro (V,II,4-5).
Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Of particular interest is the dispersion of the Fasti, the town records, that were kept until at least 175 AD. The fragments of the marble plaques that have been found were all reused, for the decoration of walls and floors. In the words of Raissa Calza, Guido Calza's wife, who was present during the 1938-1942 excavations: "Le lunghe lastre marmoree frantumate e disperse in seguito, furono nell'epoca tarda adoperate spesso come soglie di porte. Dopo il primo ritrovamento casuale si ebbe la premura di rimuovere ad ogni nuova scoperta le lisce lastre marmoree che servivano da soglie di case tarde per esaminarne il rovescio". All plaques seem to have been removed at the same time, and one place of discovery - the Edificio con Opus Sectile (III,VII,8) - suggests that this happened c. 400 AD. Two major concentrations of fragments have been found: on and near the Foro di Porta Marina (IV,VIII,1), near the beach, and on and to the south-west of the Forum. It is still not clear to which building they were originally attached.

Somewhat curious is the history of an altar, dedicated to Hercules, that was reused in the mithraeum of the Caseggiato di Diana. One corner was missing, and the builders of the mithraeum filled the gap with masonry. In the years 1938-1942 the missing fragment was found on the Cardo, to the south of the Forum. Apparently the altar had been damaged in antiquity and the two parts had become separated. The missing fragment could, in antiquity, not be found. As we have seen above, the Caseggiato di Diana seems to have been destroyed in the late third century, possibly by an earthquake. It is surprising that at such an early date damaged material was scattered over the city. Perhaps, therefore, the mithraeum was dug out after the destruction of the building and continued to be used. It would have become a perfect Mithraic cave.