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Regio I - Insula III - Caseggiato di Diana (I,III,3-4)

The description of the House of Diana is rather detailed and therefore atypical for the Topographical Dictionary. We decided to go into details because the building has been preserved quite well, because the function is still being debated, and because trenches were dug not very long ago.

The House of Diana was excavated by Guido Calza in the years 1914-1916. The building is usually dated to the Antonine period (c. 150 AD; yellow opus latericium). Excavations in the years 1994-1997 by Alfredo Marinucci have led to many suggestions for a revision of the chronology. The final publication of these recent excavations has not yet appeared. Here the building will first be described as it appeared before Marinucci dug his trenches, following the descriptions by Calza and Packer.

The building seen from the south-east, from Via di Diana.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The building is at a higher level than the surrounding streets: Via dei Balconi to the west and Via di Diana to the south. Along the west and south facade is a sidewalk. To the east is an alley, beyond which is the Caseggiato dei Molini, to the north is the Caseggiato di Menandro.

Click here to open a plan of the building in a separate window: ground floor (left) and first floor (right) (after Packer 1971, plans 2 and 3).

In the south-east corner of the building is a travertine staircase (1). The first ramp consists of 16 treads. Five treads of the second ramp have been preserved. Next to the staircase is the main entrance corridor (3). A room behind the staircase (2) may have been a porter's room. Rooms 4 and 6 were shops, with backrooms 5 and 7. Above the entrances to the shops are mezzanine-windows. Above the door in the north wall of shop 4 are two windows. In the south-west corner of the same shop is a basin (opus vittatum). In the north-west corner of shop 6 the basis has been preserved (with four treads) of the ladder leading to the mezzanine. In shop 4 paintings have been preserved: on the east and west wall are white panels with red, green and yellow borders. Two of the borders frame female figures, one of these perhaps Fortuna. Another border frames a large hanging bird. Van Essen assigns these paintings to the period of Marcus Aurelius. The paintings on the west wall were later covered by red panels. In the east part of the north wall of backroom 5 is a door, the lower part of which was blocked with opus vittatum. In the west part of the same wall is a window, that was later blocked. In the north-east corner of the room is a basis of opus vittatum. In the west part of the north wall of backroom 7 is a door. In the east part of the same wall is a window, that was later blocked with vittatum. On the floor are remains of a coarse, white mosaic. On the walls are remains of paintings: red frames on a white background, containing birds, fishes, and some architectural motifs. These paintings are dated to c. 250-275 AD by Van Essen.

The paintings in room 7. From Marinucci-Falzone 2001, fig. 16.

Along Via dei Balconi are shops 8-11, 15 and 16. Mezzanine-windows have been preserved above the doors. Between shops 8 and 9 is a door. The entrance in the west wall of shop 8 was later blocked with bricks. In the western corners of shops 9, 10 and 11 brick supporting piers were later added. A door in the north wall of 11 leads to the narrow entrance corridor 12. This corridor was later almost completely filled by brick walls that reach the height of the spring of the barrel vault. On the floor is opus spicatum. Room 13 contains a travertine staircase. Treads of the second and third flight have been preserved. The understairs was reached from corridor 12. In the east wall of the understairs is a window. Passage 14 has a door leading to shop 15. In the east wall is a slit window. The entrance, from the west, was later closed with bricks. In shop 16 are remains of a floor of bipedales.

The building seen from the south-west.
To the left is Via dei Balconi, to the right Via di Diana. Photograph: Bill Storage.

We now return to the south-east corner of the building, where we find a large latrine (17). There is a drain along the east and south walls. The seats have not been preserved. The room is covered by a barrel vault. In the east wall is a window. To the west of the latrine is passage 18, covered by a barrel vault and with a floor of opus spicatum. To the north of the latrine is room 19, that once contained a wooden staircase: traces can clearly be seen in the plaster. The first flight ran along the north wall. It led to a landing set against the east wall, below a window. The second flight ran along the south wall. In the west part of the south wall is a low and deep floor niche. On this same wall are traces of paintings: red and green floral designs on a white and yellow background.

Rooms 20 and 21 have a window in the west wall, created by bricks in large arches. The rooms are covered by cross-vaults. On the south wall of room 20 are remains of paintings: yellow panels separated by red, green and perhaps maroon borders. At a later date the floor was covered with basalt blocks. To the north of courtyard 28 is passage 22. Reinforcing walls of opus vittatum were later added in the west part. High up in the east wall is a slit window. At this end of the corridor a mosaic belonging to an older (Hadrianic?) phase was found by Calza. It was found 50 centimeters deeper than the other floors. The corridor is covered by a cross-vault. Room 23 as it appears now is of a later date, when it had become the antechamber of a mithraeum. A door in the west wall was blocked and became a niche. A door in the central part of the north wall (originally a window) leads to the back part of the mithraeum, a door to the east was blocked by one of the podia. On the floor a geometric black-and-white mosaic was found by Calza. The room is covered by a cross-vault. On the north and west walls are remains of the original decoration: red and yellow panels surrounded by green and maroon borders (from the period of Antoninus Pius according to Van Essen). Room 24 became a mithraeum. On the floor was a geometric black-and-white mosaic, that was found below the podia of the mithraeum. The room has a cross-vault.

To the west of the mithraeum is room 25. According to Calza the room was two stories high, because there is no trace of a ceiling. On the floor are remains of a geometric black-and-white mosaic. The door in the south wall is off-centre. Three reinforcing brick piers were set against the west wall. Two doors led to passage 26. They were later blocked with bricks and rubble masonry. On the floor of room 26 is opus spicatum. On the vault of this room are traces of a major fire. On the west wall are remains of paintings: red lines and green garlands with red flowers on a white background. A wooden staircase was installed in the room. Passage 27 has a barrel vault. In the east wall are three arches leading to courtyard 28. They were later closed with brick, and changed into windows, the northernmost one a slit window. On the floor of room 27 is opus spicatum. On the west wall are remains of paintings: green, red and yellow panels.

The corner of rooms 22 and 26, with the ceiling showing fire damage.
Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Courtyard 28 could eventually be entered from the north and south only. The north entrance was narrowed by bricks. Three steps lead downwards from corridor 22 to the courtyard. On the floor were bipedales, later partly replaced with sesquipedales. A large water reservoir with a barrel-vault was set against the east wall. Between the reservoir and the south wall was a basin of rubble masonry.

The courtyard, seen from the south. Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

In the west wall is a terracotta relief of Diana (0.52 x 0.52, starting at 2.31 from the floor), that gave the building its name. The goddess is taking an arrow from the quiver on her back. In her left hand is a bow. To her right is a dog, to her left a deer. The relief forms an entity with the surrounding bricks.

The relief of Diana in courtyard 28.
Photograph: Eric Taylor.

To the south of the courtyard is passage 29. On the floor is a coarse white mosaic with a black border. From passage 29 room 30 could be reached. In the west part of the north wall of room 30 is a window, in the east part a door. The flat ceiling was decorated with plaster, fragments of which were found on the floor: on red, green and yellow backgrounds are squares, rhomboids, circles, and other geometric figures, with yellow and black borders (Van Essen: Antoninus Pius). Paintings were also found on the south, east and west walls: heads of Medusa, dolphins and winged animals in red and green frames on a white background, connected by green and red festoons and leaves. In the centre are architectural elements: red and yellow columns with an architrave (dated to the period of Marcus Aurelius by Van Essen; the plaster is on top of the blocking masonry in the south wall).

Paintings in room 30. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Paintings in room 30. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

Paintings in room 30. Photograph: Eric Taylor.

At some point in time the floor of room 30 was covered with basalt blocks, and a masonry trough was set against the south wall. The room had now become a stable.

Room 30 seen from the north-west. Note the basalt blocks and the trough.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

The first floor has been preserved to a height of c. 1.00. Staircase 1 led to hall I1, which had a floor of bipedales. To the north is room I2, that was later divided in two small units through a wall of tufa blocks. To the north of I2 is I3, with a floor of opus spicatum and with travertine thresholds in the doors. Room I4 is above latrine 17 on the ground floor. A drain and remains of brick supports suggest that I4 was a latrine or kitchen. I5 is a landing of staircase 19. To the north is a number of small rooms (I6-7), with thin dividing walls of vittatum. Remains of paintings and mosaics were found here. In the west wall were windows. Room I8 is above room 25. Room 25 was according to Packer not two stories high, because three doors in the north wall of corridor I9 lead to I8. In the outer south wall of I9 the lower part of three floor niches can be seen, one semicircular, the others rectangular. Above these niches may well have been windows. In the niches statues c. 1 meter high will have been standing. In the south wall of I12 are two windows, beginning at 0.20 above the floor.

The courtyard seen from the south, from the first floor.
Note the three niches in the north wall, on the first floor.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

In shop 8 a large stretch of wall that has fallen down from one of the upper floors was found, and it can still be seen there. It has paintings on both sides. On one side are yellow, green and purple rectangles. Between the rectangles is a column on a white background. In one of the rectangles is a dancing female figure (Van Essen: Severan). In the centre of the other side are two large columns. Above and to the left is a temple on a blue background, in front of which is a seated female figure. Below her is a frame around an animal. In the upper right part is another frame, with a standing female figure holding grain-ears over an animal, perhaps a pig. On her other side is a basket containing grain-ears. The figure may be Ceres with the porca praecidanea. The sacrifice of the pig was an agricultural sacrifice and one of the popularia sacra, like the Fornacalia, Parilia and Compitalia. Below this frame is a winged animal (Van Essen: Antoninus Pius).

The Severan painting from the first floor, now in room 8.
Photograph: Jan Theo Bakker.

Drawing of the Antonine painting from the first floor, now in room 8.
From NSc 1917, p. 317, fig. 3.

The facade of the first floor was decorated by a narrow balcony. The thickness of the walls of the ground floor is 0.90 - 1.00, pointing to a considerable number of floors.

Reconstruction drawing of the building, seen from the south, by Italo Gismondi.
From Calza 1923, fig. 6.

In the building a relatively small number of objects was found, according to the publications in the Notizie degli Scavi. It is possible however that more finds are mentioned in the unpublished Giornale degli Scavi.


...(traia?)NI PARTHIC...

Lead frame of a mirror.
From NSc 1914, p. 254, fig. 3.

According to Calza the building was not destroyed by fire or an earthquake. Surprisingly few bricks belonging to the upper stories were found. What according to Calza happened is, that after the building was abandoned, the level of the street was raised more than one meter with rubble and sherds (probably as a protection against Tiber floodings), and that the upper floors of the building were carefully demolished, down to the level of the balconies (presumably the bricks were reused elsewhere). The balconies then collapsed and were found on top of the sherds and rubble on the street. According to Panella the sherds belong to the middle of the fourth century.

Now let's move on to the results of the recent excavations, that have been described in four preliminary articles. Click here to read part two of the description.

[jthb - 4-Apr-2004; for this page I would like to thank Joanne Spurza]