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Journal of archaeology and ancient architecture

Tag Archives: architettura romana

The Gymnasium of Agrigento: Report of the First Excavation Campaign in 2022

Authors: M. Trümper, T. Lappi, A. Fino, C. Blasetti Fantauzzi
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The gymnasium of Agrigento has been excavated between the 1950s and 2005. While parts of a race-track section and a pool were revealed between two stenopoi, the extension of the gymnasium and the existence of a palaestra as well as the construction date could not be securely determined. A project launched in 2019 in cooperation between the Parco Archeologico e Paesaggistico Valle dei Templi di Agrigento and the Freie Universität Berlin aims to solve these questions. Based on the results of a geophysical survey, four trenches were excavated in 2022 in a field to the north of the pool where the palaestra was most likely located. The aim of this paper is to discuss the results of the 2022 campaign. After a brief discussion of the chronology established in previous excavations, the trenches are presented from south (trench 1) to north (trench 4), followed by new insights regarding the architecture. In trenches 1 and 2, well-made ashlar walls were found that are consistent in orientation, building technique, and material with the previously exposed walls of the gymnasium and may have belonged to the searched palaestra. In trench 3, the continuation of the western stenopos appeared. Trench 4 was made at the supposed crossing of this stenopos with a plateia but did not yield any evidence of built structures or street pavements. The analysis of the architecture showed that previously proposed reconstructions are problematic, particularly regarding the architecture of the xystosstoa. Revisions regarding the reconstruction of the Doric order and its chronology are proposed here, suggesting a period between the end of the 3rd and the first half of the 2nd century B.C.

Mutatio Valentia: uno studio ricostruttivo aggiornato

Author: I. Ferrari

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This paper aims to offer an updated study on the mutatio Valentia, a Roman statio with balneum located in the south of Apulia halfway between Brindisi and Lecce, on the extension of the via Traiana. Starting from the published excavation data and the analysis of the still preserved structures, an attempt was made to identify the elements useful to outline a more accurate reconstructive proposal, also based on a comparison with other similar and contemporary structures in the region, in particular with the of Malvindi.

Le decorazioni in pietre e marmi negli anfiteatri romani. Forme, distribuzione e colori

Author: L. Polidoro

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Roman amphitheatres usually had marble and stone decorations, but, as of today, their analysis is quite incomplete. In particular, wall and pavement revetement slabs have often been simplified and sometimes even architectural elements, such as the monumental entrances and the porticus in summa cavea, have been overlooked. This present study intends to examine these decorations and underline their importance for the understanding of monuments, since they contributed significantly in the imagine perceived by ancient viewers. Marble and stone ornamentations were also important to determine the polychromatic character of the architectures, both by means of the materials natural colours as well as painted integrations. Furthermore, their presence highlighted specific sectors of the buildings (such as the authorities’ tribune and cult places) and, consequently, the people and the activities there hosted. Hence, they contributed to create the hierarchy of social and functional places.

Un edificio romano e il suo riuso nella basilica di San Salvatore di Spoleto

Author: M. Cante


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The article presents the result of a research carried out at the end of the 1990s, connected with the documentation of all the Doric architectural elements reused in the construction of the Early Medieval basilica of San Salvatore in Spoleto (Holy Saviour). Despite the vast bibliography on the church, the problem of the original use and location of the ancient spolia has not been yet focused. In some studies the church was even considered a late transformation of a pagan temple. The original layout of the church, generally dated between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th cent. AD, includes three naves separated by two rows of Doric columns surmounted by a straight lintel. Because of a fire, occurred around the 6th-7th cent. AD, the church suffered serious damages and the colonnades were almost completely destroyed. Subsequent restorations (second half of the 8th cent.) replaced part of the surviving columns, almost completely calcined and statically useless, with large masonry pillars, linking them with the remaining columns through arcades. The still usable architectural blocks were used for the construction of the pillars, where is thus possible to recognize Doric architraves, friezes and cornices. The catalogue of these architectural mouldings, reused mostly in the counter-façade and in the presbytery, was the start point of the research. Through the peculiar characteristics of the spolia it was possible to reconstruct the architectural order, and establish also the type of building from which they were looted, surely a public building. The presence of heart-shaped pillars and the related blocks of architrave/frieze that fit together determine an angle of 90° with decoration turned inwards, allowing to hypothesize the existence of a triporticus. The peculiarities of the architectural decoration of the Doric order lead to date the colonnades back to the Augustan period, or in any case between the 1st cent. BC and the first cent. AD. Hence the hypothesis that the arcades could be those that delimited the Forum of Spoleto and that were dismantled in the 4th-5th cent. AD to build the basilica of San Salvatore.

Per un contributo al tema delle trasformazioni post-classiche dei grandi templi di Agrigento: il Tempio A e il suo sacello

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The shrine inside the cella of the temple A of Agrigento, generically assigned to the Roman age, is a structure largely ignored by the modern scientific literature. It belongs with the deep transformations which, since the First Punic War, have concerned some of the great temples of Agrigento, from the so-called Olympieion to the temple A. The article illustrates a history of the investigations on the shrine, outlining the main issues which emerged, such as its dating or the typological problem, settled by the division into three parts of the end of the naos. Other important questions are to be added, such as the reconstruction of the worship practices connected with the small building, their relationship with the surviving structures of temple A. As a contribute to the interpretation of the whole area around the so-called lower agorà on the eve of the Roman siege of the city, the article identifies a reuse of the temple A within the fortification built in a state of emergency in 255-254 b.C. in order to defend the natural passage at the South-West part of the city, and links it to the similar and already known use of the Olympieion. This occasion probably constitutes a terminus post quem for the construction of the shrine and the reorganisation of the worship, while it is possible to identify a terminus ante quem in the statue of Asclepius of Augustan age, found in one of the two rooms flanking the naiskos.

La meta sudans augustea: note per una sua ricostruzione

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canteTra il 2002 e il 2003 nel cantiere di scavo dell’Università di Roma “La Sapienza” nella piazza del Colosseo, presso l’arco di Costantino, si ebbe uno straordinario rinvenimento. Proprio al di sotto della fontana di età flavia, nota come Meta Sudans, emersero i resti, immediatamente riconoscibili, di un monumento analogo: una fontana di epoca augustea del tutto simile a quella flavia, ma di dimensioni inferiori. Oltre ai resti in situ, lo scavo ha restituito anche diversi blocchi in marmo di Luni appartenenti alla decorazione architettonica del saliente. Questi elementi hanno consentito l’ipotesi di ricostruzione del monumento che viene presentata in questa sede.


Between 2002 and 2003 in the excavation site of the University of Rome “La Sapienza” in front of the Colosseum, near the Arch of Constantine,an extraordinary discovery was carried out. Just below the fountain of the Flavian age, known as Meta Sudans, the remains of a similar monument has been identified: a fountain of the Augustan age, very similar to the Flavian one, but smaller. Besides the remains in situ several blocks in Luni marble were also recovered, belonging to the architectural decoration of the salient. These elements have enabled the hypothesis of reconstruction of the monument, which is presented here.

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L’anfiteatro di Sabratha: vecchie indagini e nuove ricerche

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The Amphitheatre of Sabratha, ignored by 18th and 19th century explorers, was described for the first time by Henri Méhier de Mathuisieulx in 1912 and investigated by Renato Bartoccini beginning in 1924. His work brought to light a large part of the monument, but it was not published. Recently, new research and excavations have made possible new topographical and architectonic drawings of the building, as well as new analysis. The Amphitheatre was completely constructed from local calcarenite blocks in the middle of the II Century A.D. and lies inside an ancient mine at the east boundary of the old site. Contrary to current opinion, it was completed as demonstrated by two blocks of the crowning cornice with holes for the poles of the velarium. The unit of measure used is the Punic cubit, and it is also possible to recognize the geometrical design of the project. Up to 20.000 spectators could be seated in its cavea, a very large number, given the population of the old town. This venue was capable of hosting large numbers of visitors who had come to Sabratha for the great feasts connected with a market that featured caravans of products transported from central Africa, including ivory, gold, animals and slaves. Spectators were able to see sumptuous munera such us that ones offered by G. Flavius Pudens (IRT, 117). The Amphitheatre may have been damaged by an earthquake during the 4th Century, after that it was abandoned and almost totally spoiled during the 6th Century.


La rete idrica della Kos di età romana: persistenze e modificazioni rispetto alla città ellenistica

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In the town of Kos, the excavations carried out by the Italian archaeologists between 1912 and 1945 and the new investigations by the Greek Archaeological Service have revealed a complex system of water supply based on the integration, occurred during the Roman period, of a water network already set up since the foundation of the city, that took place in 366 BC on the basis of an urban Hippodamian scheme; this defined also a urban drainage system for the disposal of stormwater designed together with the road network. The water supply could rely on abundant natural springs located in the hills south-east of the city, supplemented by private wells and cisterns. The water usage involved public fountains and nymphaea, and, especially in Roman times, several bath buildings, whose first installation dates in a period between I and II cent. AD, with later changes until the mid-fourth century, when some of them changed their function and were transformed in religious buildings. To fed the thermae, an aqueduct was built in imperial period, although the baths were always equipped with storage tanks to compensate any reduction of the flow; to rationalize the use of water, the discharge of the thermal baths was conducted through pipes to flush the sewers of public latrines, always built nearby, while the houses were equipped with private sanitary facilities whose sewers used the drainage channels in the middle of the streets, later reworkings of the original channels of the first Hellenistic age. In conclusion, the water supply systems and wastewater disposal witness the remarkable persistence of the original Kos town water systems and above all attest to how the study of water management systems of a city may improve knowledge of its topography at the different stages of development.

L’arco di Traiano a Leptis Magna. Risultati preliminari di un nuovo studio del monumento

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The Arch of Trajan in Leptis Magna, placed along the so-called Via Triumphalis to commemorate the grant of colonial status in 109-110 AD, is a concrete example of the different meanings of honorary architecture of North Africa, from the urbanistic one to the symbolic, political and propagandistic ones. Moreover, as a building belonging just to Lepcis, still entirely made of local stone, it has a central place in the architectural history of a city which is going to be characterized by a monumental growth and by the use of imported marble architectural elements since the late age of Hadrian: local building techniques, influences from Magna Graecia and Italy through the mediation of Sicily, Roman models (the arch of Nero in Rome seems to be the main typological model), Alexandrian and Cyrenaic elements are the outline conditions of a very original architecture. The aim of these notes, moving from a short history of studies, is to give a summary about the knowledge of the monument, trying to contextualize it: they analyze its features and illustrate the data come to light till now in a new research about it.