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Regio I - Insula XIX - Aula dei Mensores (I,XIX,1.3)

The Hall of the Grain Measurers (I,XIX,3) is a more or less rectangular hall that was accessible from Via della Foce through an entrance seven metres wide. A room behind the Temple of the Grain Measurers (I,XIX,2) and building I,XIX,1 are annexes of the Hall. The oldest masonry (opus latericium and mixtum) is Trajanic. Alterations in brick have been dated to the second quarter of the third century. Originally the ceiling of the hall was carried by a perimetral wall on the west and north side, and by pilasters set against the west wall and on the east side. Later the thickness of the walls was doubled, and new pilasters were added.

On the floor is a black-and-white mosaic, with a few tesserae of blue glass paste. It belongs to the rebuilding of the third century. Depicted are grain measurers (mensores frumentarii) at work. A panel with figures (3.80 x 2.70 metres) is surrounded by a geometric motif. The first person from the left is rather damaged. There is a single blue tessera between his eyes. The second is carrying a sack with grain. Next comes a small figure (a slave?). His right hand is raised. Minaud has pointed out that with his hand and fingers he is indicating the number 9. In his left hand (with some blue tesserae) is an object looking like a branch, in reality an instrument attached to the hand (not an abacus). It is a rope with nine tickets, presumably of wood, used to count the number of sacks that had arrived from the harbour. The right half of the mosaic is taken up by three people around a grain measure. To the left is the actual measurer (mensor). In his right hand is a stick (rutellum), the function of which is not clear. In the centre is a porter who has just emptied a sack, or is about to take the contents of the measure to a store building. The person at the far right is indicating the number 5000 with his right hand.

The scene is in some respects similar to the famous painting of the unloading of the Isis Giminiana, that may also show measurers (from Ostia, now in the Vatican Museums). There were three sections within the guild: nauticarii, acceptores and adiutores. The first checked the grain on its arrival in the harbour, the second on arrival at the storehouses, the third when it was sent to Rome.

According to Minaud's calculations the measure contained 25-27 modii, i.e. 214-234 litres or 400-432 sextarii. The sack contained 24.5-26.5 litres, or 44.5-48.5 sextarii. The relation between the sack and the measure is 1:8.8, which means that the measure was filled with nine sacks. This number coincides with the number 9, indicated by the small figure, and the nine tickets. Presumably a ticket was given to the porters in the harbour, and attached to the rope when the porter had reached the grain measure. The number 5000 must be a reference to 5000 sextarii, the contents of twelve grain measures, that had been handled by this team in one day.

Above the figures is the inscription


Becatti has suggested v[ilici] sex h(orreorum) Agi(lianorum) hi[c], "Here are six attendants from the Horrea of Agilianis". According to Jouanique we should read u[ltro] sex(tarios) ha(bes) g(ran)i hi[c], which is not convincing because of the extreme abbreviations, and granum instead of frumentum. Minaud suggests V [milia] sex(tariorum) h(odie) agi(tata) hi[c], "Five thousand sextarii were handled here today".

Near the edge of the mosaic the upper part of another grain measure and a rutellum can be seen.

A marble cippus was found in the hall, that once supported a statue. The inscription mentions of patron of the guild (corpus) of the measurers:

[---] IMO

Other inscriptions mentioning the guild were found not far away, to the east (opposite the Horrea Epagathiana et Epaphroditiana and in the Caseggiato del Mosaico del Porto).

Behind the temple is a small courtyard with a well and two basins. To the east of this courtyard is a latrine. These features are related to banquets held by the guild. Buildings I,XIX,1-3 are obviously a guild complex, but the function of the hall remains uncertain. It is reminiscent of the little offices (stationes) on the Piazzale delle Corporazioni.

Plan of the guild complex.
After SO I.


The hall seen from the south-east. Photograph: Andrew Pegler.

The mosaic in the hall, seen from the east. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The mosaic in the hall. Photograph: Bill Storage.

The central part of the mosaic. Photograph: Andrew Pegler.

The right part of the mosaic. Photograph: Andrew Pegler.

Detail of the right hand of the small person and person at the far right.
Minaud 2004, figs. 2-3.

Detail of the left hand of the small person. Note the use of blue tesserae.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Detail of the person on the left. Note the blue tessera between his eyes.
Photograph: Simon Bakker.

A grain measure and a rutellum near the edge of the mosaic.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

A marble cippus with inscription in the hall. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The painting of the ship Isis Giminiana (place of discovery unknown).
Note the second person from the left, holding an object looking like a branch.

Detail of the painting of the ship Isis Giminiana.
From Virlouvet, Tessera Frumentaria, cover.

The east part of the complex. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

[jthb - 21-Jun-2008]