JUBILEE CULTURAL ROUTES

Ostia Antica

You are along the route: 1000 RELIGIONS IN ROME. FROM THE ANCIENT TIMES UNTIL TODAY

terme-dei-cisiarii-frigidarium
Viale dei Romagnoli, 717
www.ostiaantica.beniculturali.it
Every day except Monday. Last Sunday of October-15th February 8:30-16:30. 16th February-15th March 8:30-17:00. 16th March-last Saturday of March 8:30-17:30. Last Sunday of March-31st August 8:30-19:15. 1st September-30th September 8:30-19:00. 1st October-last Sunday of October 8:30-18:30. The ticket office closes one hour before. Closed on December 25th, January 1st, May 1st. Admission fee.

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A unique masterpiece throughout the Mediterranean area for its ancient origins and good preservation. It was built during the IV century A.D. on an already existing Jewish worshipping site of the half of the I century A.D. The main hall has a pulpit placed in the direction of Jerusalem, for the reading of the Law. At the entrance on the left in a small two columns niche, a Menorah (the Jewish seven branches chandelier) is standing on shelves where the parchments of the Law (Torah) were placed. From the main hall you enter in a great room dedicated to the teaching or for welcoming the pilgrims and where an oven is placed, to cook unleavened bread, with a bench and a marble table to make it.

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It was created at the beginning of the III century A.D. in an underground room of the bath. The worshipping vaulted room remembers the grotto in which Mithra was born. On the sides of a central corridor two cemented benches on which the worshippers could sit during the rituals are closed at the end by two half pyramids, which symbolise the rock where the god was born. At the centre you can see the triangular basis of the altar. Inside the worshipping room we can admire the statue of Mithra killing the bull, a symbol of birth and resurrection. The original masterpiece is in the Museum of Ostia Antica and was sculpted by the Greek Artist Kriton from Athen. While the copy in the room is still nowadays illuminated from above just through a skylight.

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Probably this Mithraeum was built in the second half of the III century A.D. and it lacks the lateral benches and the altar. Indeed an extraordinary mosaic decoration can be admired inside the central corridor. Right after the entrance, where the symbols of water (a vase) and fire (altar with burning flame) are placed, we can find seven pictures – one after the other – describing the seven degrees of initiation to the cult of Mithra, each one of them is represented by its symbol and planet that was its protector. At the end the last picture (picture number eight) shows the dedication of Felicissimus, the follower that built the Mithraeum.

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It was built during the second half of the III century A.D. in a commercial building, by occupying one of the back shops that was generally used as house for the merchants. The primary hall presents the usual characteristics: the central corridor with the two cemented benches for the worshippers, the altar and the throne for the image of the god. On the wall we can still admire two snakes, a male and a female, at the side of a Genius with crown and horn of plenty. The frescos, probably of the II century A.D., were part of the original decoration of the pre-existing house and they were preserved to spare money, since the snake was in line with the cult of Mithra.

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Attached to the southern walls of the town the Campo della Magna Mater (dedicated to B.C.Cybele, goddess of fertility) is still to be seen. The cult of Cybele was introduced in Ostia from the East in the I century A.D. The Campus was an open walled space surrounded by walls and columns, inside which the sanctuary of the goddess and the cults associated to her found their space. Apart from Cybele’s temple, the Temple of Bellona (Italic goddess of the war later associated with Cybele) was placed on the opposite side from the entrance to the Campus. The open air fence with the small chapel of the shepherd Attis, the young lover of Cybele, according to the mythology, is also there.

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The monument, probably of the end of the IV century A.D., was part of a house (domus) and was originally a nymphaeum. The hall in which the access is provided from the street, through a corridor with columns at the sides, is provided with an apsis on the last wall and with a pool. The passage between the access corridor and the hall is a triple lancet door, i.e. there are two columns that support an architrave with inscription. The epigraph reports the name of Christ through the Christogram (a combination of letters abbreviating the name of Jesus) and reminds the name of the four rivers of Paradise according to the Bible: Gehon, Pishon, Tigris and Euphrates.
According to its dimensions and form the building is not to be identified with the great Basilica of the Constantine era cited in the ancient reports of Ostia and it was interpreted in various ways as deacon’s house, Christian religious school, xenodochium (hostel for pilgrims) or worshipping place of martyrs.

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Evidence of the strong Christian presence in Ostia and of the cult of the martyrs is the so called Oratory of Saint Cyriacus that was probably built at the end of the IV and the first half of the Vth century A.D. The monument was built on one of the two lateral nymphaeums of the theatre. Just a small part of the perimeter wall and apsis are preserved. Inside it a Christian inscription was found: “hic Quiriacus dormit in pace” (“Cyriacus rests in peace here”). The reference is to the bishop of Ostia, Cyriacus, that became a martyr together with Saint Aurea during the III century A.D. and whose body was placed, according to the tradition, inside the Oratory. In the middle age this building was already well known as the church of Saint Cyriacus and it was one of the few buildings of the ancient town that survived. In fact it was visited by the worshippers at least until the XII century A.D.

How to get the step: Ostia Antica

Viale dei Romagnoli, 717, 00126 Roma RM, Italy

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