mercoledì 19 giugno 2024

Roman Aquileia: private buildings

The ancient residence of Tito Macro, among sumptuous reception rooms and magnificent mosaics.

There is a more intimate Aquileia, populated with stories of environments and families, hidden among the gardens, the mosaics, the arcaded courtyards, the precious buildings intended for private life.

The development of the living spaces of the city of Aquileia in Roman times follows a fairly long period. Following in its footsteps, along an itinerary to discover its private building, is a decidedly engaging experience for the visitor who wishes to get to know the ancient colony.

The first documented houses date back to the 1st century BC, to the late Republican era. But it will be the Imperial age, from the end of the first century BC. onwards, to mark an authentic flourishing of housing, which will see the houses extend beyond the original republican perimeter, as part of an urban expansion that involved Aquileia starting from the Augustan age.

The houses were reused in later periods with various renovations, with the raising of the floor levels and with the laying of new floors embellished with mosaics up to the late ancient era. Important interventions to rearrange the building of the domus date back to the fourth century.

Some of these buildings will still be used in the fifth century, only to be slowly abandoned starting from the sixth. As the visitor will also notice, the Roman houses of Aquileia, especially those built during the first imperial period, in the 1st century AD, are united by a characteristic internal spatial articulation which includes a central courtyard, paved or left as a garden, with a portico with columns, around which are distributed the living rooms and reception areas, and the residential spaces of the house.

To admire this type of domus just visit the remains preserved in the former Fondi Cal (Aquileiese Workers Cooperative).

An unmissable stop on this itinerary among the private buildings of Roman Aquileia is the House of Tito Macro, which recent research and enhancement works have made it possible to bring to light and make it open to visitors. This house, - today the core of the main residential building to which visitors can access - has known several names over time. Initially known as the "central house of the former members of the Cossar Fund", it is now known as the Domus of Tito Macro. In fact, during the last excavations, a weight with an inscription was found, which can be translated as "by Tito Macro", a character, perhaps the owner of the building himself, who most likely lived in this house.

It was possible to identify a first nucleus of the domus, a first house much smaller than that of the imperial era, built in 100 BC. It is a house with a spatial arrangement and an absolutely particular architecture, which recall models of central and southern Italy. In the phase of the late 1st century BC until the early decades of the 1st century AD, the domus of Tito Macro reached an area of ​​1,700 square meters, making it one of the largest urban residences of the Roman age in northern Italy.

It stretches between two cobbled streets of the city, within one of the southern blocks of the colony, from which the famous mosaic of the Rape of Europe comes, the floor with a vine branch with a bow, the 'unswept floor' - now on display at the National Archaeological Museum - and the mosaic of the Good Shepherd.

A beautiful gold ring and glass paste, dated II-III century. AD, proves the standard of living of the owners, while among the 1,200 coins returned from the excavations stands the sestertius of Maximin the Thracian the emperor who died in Aquileia. At the hands of his own soldiers who, although unsuccessfully, had besieged the city which remained loyal to Rome.

The house was accessed from the west, through an atrium supported by four columns, embellished with a central basin for collecting water and a well, partially preserved. In line with the access, we would have seen the tablinum, the room in which the landlord received his guests, embellished with a rich mosaic floor.

The rear part of the domus gravitated around the garden with a fountain, surrounded by a corridor, also decorated with mosaics. The large reception room opened onto the garden and, to the south, the triclinium, flanked by living rooms and a bedroom. The kitchen with the masonry counter was instead in the north, while four shops have been recognized in the eastern part. Among these was also a baker's shop with a bakery oven, the remains of which are still visible.