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Isola Sacra - 2 Roman buildings

In 1911 Roman buildings were found near the Bridge of Matidia, along the south bank of the Fossa Traiana. They were uncovered when the Fossa was made wider and the banks were consolidated. Three areas were excavated on the south bank (only the central area can be recognized on the clickable plan) and one area on the north bank.

The oldest wall in the western rooms on the south bank is of opus mixtum (hatched on the plan below). It is 0.75 wide. Later eight travertine bases were placed on top, that supported brick piers (diam. 1.10), covered with plaster. The bases were at a distance of three to four metres from each other. Room a had a black-and-white mosaic floor with in the centre a small Bacchus and in the four corners heads representing the four seasons. In the centre of each side craters were depicted containing flowers and fruit. Below this floor coins were found of Antoninus Pius and Gallienus. In room b two steps led to a floor of opus sectile. In room c a round, brick well was found. To the east is a platform, A, that reached the ancient bank.

The western rooms. Gatti 1911, fig. 2.

The walls of the central rooms were of opus latericium and 0.50 wide. A curved part (a) had in the centre an opening towards the canal, 3.90 wide. On the outside it was reinforced by brick piers.

In this context mention may be made of a huge and very high, round hut near the Fossa Traiana. It was visited by K.V. von Bonstetten in the early 19th century (Schriften über Italien: 1800-1808, par. 200-204). In the hut lived some fifty shepherds. It had a diameter of sixty feet. It was built inside and on top of ancient ruins. The hut can perhaps be seen near the south bank of the Fossa on a map in the Catasto Alessandrino, from the years 1660-1661. If that is so then, in view of its position, it cannot be identical to the curved structure (assuming it formed part of a round structure), or of the round building 7. But it is worth mentioning anyway.

The central rooms. Gatti 1911, fig. 3.

The map in the Catasto Alessandrino. A hut is on the upper right part.

In the centre of the eastern rooms is an entrance (a), 1.40 wide, with three travertine steps.

The eastern rooms. Gatti 1911, fig. 4.

Further rooms were found on the other bank of the canal, to the north-west of the western rooms on the south side. The walls are of opus reticulatum (w. 0.45) and opus latericium (w. 0.50). In one of the rooms five dolia defossa were found, one with the letters TI.

The rooms on the opposite side of the Fossa. Gatti 1911, fig. 5.

Many objects were found, including two fragments of a huge marble basin (labrum) decorated with heads of lions, a weight, part of an altar, fragments of sarcophagi, etcetera. They do not necessarily belong here, because in the early 19th century Roman remains had been used to reinforce the banks.

[jthb - 11-May-2009]