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FROM THE 11th TO THE EARLY 19th CENTURY (continued)
In 1598 pope Clemens VIII gave permission to search the ruins of Ostia and Portus for marble, to be used in St. Peter's: Lapides antiquos et marmoreas extrahi faciendi quotquot haberi poterunt ex Portuensi et Hostiensi civitatibus, eorumque portubus, et agris absque licentia. A century later a Dutch author reports the following:
"A certain farmer in Ostia, who had found an old coin of gold, was taken into custody, to know whether he has not found more. Thus one was unhappy through his luck. Since then, no one wanted to dig or excavate there anymore. The yokels run away from it, like the Devil from the Cross."
"Zeekere Boer van Ostia, een oude-Madaille van goud gevonden hebbende, is in hegtenis genomen, om te weeten, of hy 'er niet meer heeft gevonden. Zoo werd men ongelukkig door zyn geluk. Zedert heeft 'er niemand meer willen graven of delven; De Kinkels vlugten 'er voor als de Drommel voor 't Kruis."
(Hendrik Doedyns, Haagsche Mercurius 2, 541; April 29, 1699)
In the sixteenth century many fake inscriptions were made by Pirro Ligorio (c. 1510 - 1583). In the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 69 are described, mostly found in Portus. From the fifteenth to eighteenth century promising ruins were searched by foreign visitors for inscriptions and statues. These ended up in private collections in England, France, Portugal, Spain and Russia, and are now mostly in national museums. In 1774-6 and 1778-9 the Scottish painter Gavin Hamilton was active near the Porta Marina, particularly in the Terme di Porta Marina. In 1775 he wrote the following to Lord Townsend:
"Being desirous of trying my fortune somewhere near the sea, I agreed with Cardinal Serbelloni, then Bishop of that place, who granted me liberty to make some trials in that immense field of antiquity. I got as near the Sea as possible, judging it the most probable place to find objects of taste. We opened ground on a spot now called Porta Marina [this is a reference to the brick piers of the apse to the north of the frigidarium - jthb]. From the figure of the ruins they proved to be the remains of publick Thermae Maritimae, and from the inscriptions which were found of an unusual size, it seems those Baths had been restored by different Emperors down to Constantin. I gave a very elegant one of the time of Trajan to Carlo Albagine [disappeared - jthb], but what gave me greatest hopes was to find some marks of my friend Hadrian, the great protectour of fine arts and in particular that of Sculptour. I did not remain long in suspense, for the first Statue that was brought to light was the fine Antinous in the character of Abundance, perhaps the finest of that subject in the world. Mr. Bary tells me it is arrived safe at his house in England, and where I hope by this time you have had the pleasure to consider it. Near this Statue was found a very indifferent one of an Esculapius, and a large statue of his daughter Hygea, very entire, and of a great deal of merit; this Statue was sold with some other pieces of good sculptour to the Langrave of Hesse Cassel. We found next a most excellent Torso under the knees, of which there is a duplicate at the Capitol...
Little more of consequence was found at Porta Marina, as I found that others had been there before me, so we proceeded to another Ruin on the sea shore, which from some fragments found above ground gave great hopes. A Bath [the same building or perhaps the Terme Marittime (III,VIII,2) - jthb] was first discovered with the pavement of Verd antique and a fine Torso of a young man of which most of the other parts were found much broke, excepting the Head...
Your small Venus holding a mirror is another of the precious ornaments of this Bath; four of the Labours of Hercules were found at some little distance from this place, which being very entire, and with their proper emblems, now add to the lustre of the Pope's Museum, to which I may add that tasty Tripod of Apollo, found near where we discovered your Mother of Venus and Muse, which, as they are in every respect two of my happiest discoveries, I am very happy that they should fall into so good hands as your own, especially as they make part of those select pieces of art which I hope will in time establish a good taste in England."(Meiggs 1973, 103-104)
The description mentions the discovery of the famous statue of Hygieia that is now in Kassel, Germany. In 1779-1780 Giovanni Volpato and T. Jenkins found some mosaics, that were sent to St. Petersburg. In 1783 the Caseggiato dei Dolii to the west of the Cardo (near I,XIX) was excavated. From 1794 to 1801 the English painter Robert Fagan searched for treasure in the Palazzo Imperiale, the round frigidarium in the Terme dei Sette Sapienti (III,X,2), and near Tor Boacciana.
Visible ruins in 1804, drawn by Giuseppe Verani. SO I, fig. 11.