Ostia Antica – where is the mosaic?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Lido di Ostia is the beach resort for Rome, it’s nothing special but convenient if you’re flying out of Rome Fiumicino, the main Rome airport. I had an early morning flight so I decided to stay there and have a look at Ostia Antica, it was the port for ancient Rome, but is now several km inland from the sea.

To license this image contact: Lonely Planet Images email: phone: 61 3 8379 8181▲ Maureen and visited Ostia Antica back in 1972, when we were on our way across Europe and Asia on the trip that led to Across Asia on the Cheap, the very first Lonely Planet guidebook. A Canadian traveller we were kicking around with on the day took this photo of us on a mosaic at Ostia Antica. They certainly wouldn’t let you sit on the mosaics today.

IMG_6757 - Ostia, ruins & Fiumicino flight 540▲ Today, flights regularly passing overhead showed just how close the ruins are to Fiumicino Airport.

IMG_6747 - Ostia, Plaza of the Guilds - 540▲ And there were lots of mosaics to admire, like this monochrome one, a shop illustration in the Plaza of the Guilds behind the Theatre. But where was the colourful mosaic from my 1972 photograph? It didn’t feature on any of the postcards on sale in the Ostia Antica shop, it didn’t appear in the modern guidebooks to the site. What had happened to it?

IMG_6749 - Domus dei Dioscuri. Room I, Ostia - 540▲ Eventually I worked out the mosaic should be in the house known as the Domus dei Dioscuri, but when I found the house the mosaic was not there. I looked at every room in the house and eventually decided it must be hidden, covered with gravel in this room.

A report on the Domus dei Dioscuri which I later found on line reported that:

Room I was the main hall (10.00 x 10.50), also with a polychrome mosaic. We see Venus Anadiomene in a shell supported by two tritons, surrounded by Nereids on sea monsters. At the north side is the inscription PLVRA FACIATIS MELIORA DEDICETIS (“That you may do more and dedicate better things!”). Parallels for the inscription have been found in North Africa.

Yes, Room I was indeed the gravel covered room where I’d decided the mosaic must be hidden, but why? Was I just lucky, back in 1972, to see something which today is hidden from visitors?