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Regio V - Insula XII - Sabazeo (V,XII,3)

The Sabazeum was excavated in 1909 by Dante Vaglieri. The shrine was installed in one of the rooms of the largely unexcavated Horrea V,XII,2, built in the years 120 - 125 AD (opus mixtum and incertum). The installation may have taken place in the first half of the third century. When the shrine was installed, a door in the west wall was blocked and a door at the west end of the south wall was hacked out (w. 1.00). It seems that the excavators found this door blocked as well.

Along the lateral walls and west wall are masonry podia, now much restored. The podia take the door in the south wall into account. The threshold is 0.40 higher than the floor of the shrine, which was reached along a few treads, that have now disappeared. To the east of the treads were niches, to the west a masonry base. At the east end of the podia three steps led to the altar.

On the west part of the floor, between the podia, is a black-and-white mosaic. In the mosaic a tabula ansata is depicted with an inscription that informs us that a certain Fructus had paid for some work in the shrine:


The east part of the floor is covered with marble, an ancient restoration. On one of the slabs is the (reused?) inscription (or graffito?):


In the marble pavement is a round hole (diam. 0.35), with a marble funnel. It is a ritual well that was covered by a marble oscillum, with a relief of a satyr on one side and of a maenad on the other. Below the marble pavement were found: three coins from the second century, a marble slab with two incised imprints of feet, and fragments of amphorae containing fish-bones. Among the other finds were:
- a base in the shape of a small altar
- a fragment of a tiny column
- a marble foot of a candelabrum
- a travertine weight
- the lid of an urn
- a small head of alabaster, perhaps of Jupiter-Serapis

Several inscriptions were found. On a marble slab is the text:

L. AEMILIV[s ---]

On the basis of this dedication by L. Aemilius Euscus it has been suggested that the shrine was dedicated to Jupiter Sabazius, but podia are not documented in his shrines. The room has several characteristics of a mithraeum, where Jupiter Sabazius, who shared many symbols with Mithras, was also worshipped. Perhaps a shrine dedicated to Sabazius was later converted into a mithraeum.

Another dedication, by the Sevir Augustalis P. Clodius Flavius Venerandus, was the result of a divine appearance in a dream:

VI VIR [a]VG(ustalis)

The Numen Caeleste may have been Mithras or the Dea Caelestis from Carthage.

Near the shrine a dedication was found by Venerandus to several deities, including Sol, Caelestis, Fortuna, the Lares and Tutela (CIL XIV S, 4309):

[Invicto] DEO SOLI

To the shrine may belong a marble frieze, fragments of which were found near the shrine and in front of the theatre (h. 0.20). The heads of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Luna and Sol have been preserved. Presumably the seven planets were depicted. Saturnus and Mercurius are missing. The relief seems to have been resting on a vertical metal grate.

Plan of the shrine. North is to the left.
SO II, fig. 23.


The shrine seen from the west. Photo: Daniel González Acuña.

The shrine seen from the west, on an old photo. Photo: SAOA B3141.

Detail of the floor mosaic. Photo: Eric Taylor.

Inscription CIL XIV S, 4309, found near the Sabazeo, now in the Mitreo delle Sette Sfere.
Photo: Jan Theo Bakker.

The relief with the planets. Photo: SO II, Tav. XXXVIII,3.

[jthb - 25-Jul-2020]