#28: Via Sacra, and Sites (Sepulcretum, Slave Bedrooms, Shops, Caesar's Wake)

Ok, still standing in front of the #27: Temple of Antoninus and Faustina turn right (east) and look up the Via Sacra. Now imagine that missing Arch that was connected to the Regia just behind you and look up 45° right to the single Arch of Titus. That is where the Via Sacra always began and ended originally at the Regia / Temple of Vesta / House of the Vestal Virgins complex in ancient times when it was a dirt footpath. Then when the first Roman Forum was made it ended where the Via entered it, so where that missing Arch was. You are standing on the about 1 AD Via Sacra with centuries of other Via's below you and the now missing Via's that were built over this 1 AD Augustus era Via Sacra.

The archaeologist's plan was to always get to this level so other later levels were removed like those few elevated second Century AD paving stones when that Via was at that level above this one. Now notice the Via goes straight but halfway up the slope where you see the trees it curves to the right and over to the Arch area. This is the Via Sacra's route from ancient times until Nero's 64 AD Fire, after that it ran straight up past the curved section and then did a 90° right turn to the Arch area. And that remained its route until well after the Fall of Rome and very likely into Medieval Times until finally the whole area was buried and lost.

The Via was lined with high-end shops like Jewelry and Goldsmiths and homes of the Rich. And often in rich Roman homes like these on ground floor they would have small shops in the front facade facing the street, with a separate entrance into the house's ground floor behind the shops [``H```[s]= and the houses second floor or more built-over the whole complex. Generally in Rome and especially on a busy Via in the Roman Forum you want your House to be a ground floor fortress against any civil unrest like riots. The center of the house would have an beautiful atrium (outside courtyard) and windows and balconies on the second and higher floors. So having shops in front didn't really affect the house and also provided money.

In the National Museum I have seen a funerary plaque for M. Caedicius Eros a Freedman who died at the end of the first Century BC who had a Goldsmith Shop on the Via Sacra. Not bad, he went from Slave to Freedman and died owning a high-end Goldsmith shop.

After the Nero's 64 Fire and his massive building of the Domus Aurea (Golden House Palace) he made the Via Sacra straight and right up to his Domus Aurea's Beautiful Vestibule, then with a sharp 90° right turn towards the Arch Area. He turned the entire length of the Via Sacra into an elaborate elevated walkway with sidesteps and a columned portico with a roof (summer sun and rain). All the rich Houses were burned in the Fire and not replaced, instead both sides of the Via are lined with high-end shops along this straight section which is wider now, especially the upper part.

A century earlier Julius Caesar for protection from the summer Sun stretched awnings over the Via for the people. Also awnings over the Roman Forum and the Vicus Tuscus. Also the ancient Romans called this the 'Sacra Via' (Sacred Way) and not the 'Via Sacra'. And as mentioned earlier they originally lived on the Palatine Hill and this dirt path (Way) took them to the (Sacred) Temple of Vesta, Regia and King's Palace.

Ok now walk over to the right side (east) of the Temple east side where there are the remains of a very fine marble slabs of paving, this is a section of the outer boundary of the Temple. As mentioned earlier, Temples often had a marked area surrounding them but in this case the side possibly with a curb marking-off their religious property. This elevated patch of paving (with three steps) later became part of a small bath complex in the fourth - fifth Century AD. That rubble on top is the remains of a rectangular small bath that they also cut into the pavement and then lined with thin marble veneer. And if you look to the right you can see the concrete/rubble remains of the rest of this Bath complex.

Now right in front of you and also to the right are odd shaped well maintained patches of grass grown there and shaped like that on purpose. [My photo doesn't quite show these well-maintained patches of grass; perhaps the maintenance budget has declined recently -- Jeff.] This is called the Sepulcretum or necropolis or cemetery in the guidebooks. These grass spots mark the where the archaeologists found 'Early Iron Age' (tenth to seventh Century BC) graves. When the Roman Forum area was a diseased marsh this whole area was used as a cemetery. They were either complete body burials (inhumation) or a cremation in an urn. All were buried with cool grave goods and the metal Urns were detailed (doors, roof, etc) of a round hut depicting actually what they lived in. The Urns were then placed in a large vase with the grave goods, sealed and buried. Adult burials stopped in the mid-eighth Century BC which coincides with the founding of Rome in 753 BC. Children were still buried there until the next century (seventh) when it was abandoned all together. What's interesting is in one of these later children's tombs (Tomb G) there were found either imported or imitation Greek objects a Greek lekythos (oil vase/flask) with figures of running dogs. This showed either direct or indirect trade with the Greek colonies in Italy. All this stuff and other stuff is in the small Roman Forum Museum (Antiquarium Forense) and worth a look if it's open.

Now walk (east) a few yards to the end of this section and then just before the round intact temple is an exposed below-ground structure. It is three complete rooms with doorways, a short narrow corridor and across from the three complete rooms are three more rooms with only the floors and partial walls remaining (no ceiling). The short corridor leads to another door either another room or a corridor. But it seems to have a narrow vertical doorjam that the others don't have? If so it's likely for a corridor door that opened inward which could be Locked? These are basement cell-like bedrooms of a rich Roman house (70-40 BC) that once stood there, shown in this photo.

Rich people don't sleep in basement cell bedrooms they sleep on the ground floor or second floor bedrooms facing their beautiful Atrium. Their slaves sleep in locked quarters in the basement in small cells with a stone bed to prevent their escape or vengeance on their owners in the night. Roman Law is if one slave kills his master or mistress every single slave in the house is executed often publicly in the Colosseum or Circus (torn apart by wild beasts is a likely fate).

Another nearby home from this era when excavated had 50 of these slave cells which ancient writers tell us is around the number needed to run a Noble Roman household. So this is likely just a small section for six within the larger slave quarters of this house. Now look into these rooms and imagine the poor souls who lived in them their entire lives as a slave. They were only considered property to be worked hard with little food and sexually enjoyed if the master so desired. And if they displeased their master or mistress they could be beaten, whipped, branded, killed (crucified) or sold into a worst fate (mines, brothels, farms were also brutal, etc).

Ok now, turn around and look at that intact small two short-story high brick building just across the Via from you, shown here. It has a modern metal door and on the roof a modern skylight ^ so in modern times it has and likely still is being used for something (storage?). Possibly even by the early archaeologists? I believe the three stone steps were placed there in modern times to give access from the lower excavated ground level into this building. I believe this because the level below the doorjam is the concrete foundation and from the doorjam up it is faced with Roman bricks. So this structure was built when the Via Sacra was higher than the present day Augustus level. This door level would be roughly where Nero's higher Via Sacra was and he put many shops along this section. So this structure has to be post-64 AD or later.

I have searched for years in archaeological books, the internet and even read the *very detailed* archaeologist's excavation report of the Via Sacra when about 100 years ago it was dug down well below the present day level, where they list *every* single minor little thing they found and even its height above sea level :-) . But no one ever mentions this intact in-your-face structure ever, ever!!! Even detailed guidebooks mention things like those scant remains of the fourth/fifth Century Bath across the street but not This??? And it is definitely from the Roman era built with a concrete foundation and Roman bricks?

This is my guess and I think it's very possible that I might be correct? This was one of the many shops built side by side that were the same structure [``][``][``][``][``] separated by walls (think small strip-mall) that Nero built here facing the Via Sacra (which is a fact). It was possibly taken over has a house or shop in Medieval Times and kept up but the other shops were not and were stripped of any useful building materials and fell into ruins? Even as the ground level slowly rose it could still be used by just keeping the front door clear with steps down to it with the sides shored up with a little wall? Like the outside bulkhead entrance into a modern suburban home's basement? Over time it is completely buried intact until the excavations?

The remains of these other ruined first Century AD ugly brick and concrete shops are built over centuries of the Domus Publica's layers (rooms, walls, floors, drains, etc). (The Domus Publica's roofed-over Impluvium is *right* behind this structure.) So Royal Palace to Pontifex Maximus' house vs. some common brick and concrete ruins of first Century AD shops in the way? Easy choice to make, destroy them (even if they were intact) and continue the excavations down to the really MAJOR historical levels. And if one shop was intact leave it alone to show that first Century AD level and a structure from it?

I know its ugly looking but it could have been marble-faced but most likely it was faced in white stucco and then lines were etched into the stucco making the facade look like it was built of white marble blocks (very common practice and a lot cheaper). Figure a nice door with an elaborate frame, a shop sign, trim brightly painted, etc. And it also has a narrow sloped roof-tile awning across the middle of the facade just above the door. Well that's my guess that it once was a Roman high-end shop possibly a Goldsmith or Jeweler or something similar for the tastes of the Rich.

Ok walk up the Via Sacra until just past the intact Round Temple (we'll get to that next). I want you to look towards the House of the Vestals beyond this and line yourself up that far eastern end [``````````] of the Vestals House. So Vestals House, Domus Publica and the Via Sacra that you are standing on.

Now look back over to the modern roof over the Domus Publicas Impluvium directly behind the mystery two-story brick building we just left. Now we have already seen the Domus front entrance in the trees earlier and this section directly in front of you is the rear of the Domus. So picture the roofed-over Impluvium which is a small pool in the center of the larger Atrium [```=```] with rooms off to each long side of it and at this end the atrium opens into the Tablinum (Fancy Impressive Room where the owner has all his cool stuff to show-off and where he would meet with friends, businessmen, VIPs, etc) so this [```=```][`T`} (The Tablinum's rear wall is Apse } shaped ``T} and the floor mosaic.) So with everything lined up straight from the roofed-over small Impluvium (pool) ---->--=-->-- surrounded by a larger Atrium [```=```] with rooms on each long side you can give this site its width as you know where the center axis is. Now picture this Tablinum Room directly in front of you and what you see (nothing really) is just the excavated floor-level of this room in 44 BC.

The Room where very, very likely Julius Caesar's body was publicly waked as it's the only logical place for that honor in a person's Domus (the showroom of the house). Also on the short walk to here you saw two pedestal bases in the Domus area. They were both dug up in this general area and the excavators placed them there just to display them. They likely had nothing to do with the Domus Publica or the Vestals as another one like the inscribed one on the left was found by the Arch of Titus and it's possible there were more throughout the city.

The left one is inscribed (need binoculars) in three lines LARIBVS AVG SACRVM but it's best for us to rearrange the words to this SACRVM LARIBVS AVG so it reads SACRED (to the) LARES (of) AUGUSTUS. Every Roman home or apartment has a small shrine to the LARES (household gods) that protect their family and home. It could just be on a shelf with a small statuette shrine that you offer a piece of bread too if poor. But in this case it's possible that this was for a blessing to the Emperor and the Empire's Lares to protect the Emperor (family) and the Empire (home)?

My guess is that this/these were just public monuments perhaps tucked in an open public small shrine niche or just displayed alongside streets. Like you sometimes see Catholic Saints or the Virgin Mary displayed in a building's niche or statues in Italy along the streets. It's dated to the first Century AD so it could be for *THE* Augustus but most of the later Emperors also took that name in their very long names along with Caesar so I don't know if it's just a general term to cover whatever Emperor is in power at the time? Plus it's only the abbreviation AVG for Augustus and not more specific?

This looks like a statue base but it is an Altar (cippus) and the other one on the right has a nicely engraved fancy water pitcher (long slender neck with wide spout and a nice handle). This type of pitcher was used for pouring libations (water, wine or oil) at sacrifices. So these two were very likely a pair wherever they were displayed.

Also along the far side of the Domus (where you were standing in the large courtyard of the Vestals looking at the line of Vestal statues and bases earlier) this was discovered in the excavations "parts of the columns of a long court with a colonnade, like the peristyle of a Greek house...". So the Domus did invade the later Vestal's Atrium (courtyard) with a large Peristyle which here would have likely been 'long rows of columns surrounding an outdoor courtyard' which was a beautiful garden likely with statues, fountains, pools, flowers, trees, etc.

Below is a short version of what the archaeologists found over 100 years ago when first excavated, sadly the weather has washed away all the paint, stucco and wall paintings. (Out of Copyright)

"...we reach the travertine half-columns of the facade, and a channel for the rain-water from the roof (Stylobate I mentioned). Within is the Atrium, with a curiously deep Impluvium, which in this historic house reminds us of the fact that in very early times the tank of the atrium was sometimes dug deep to serve as a reservoir for rainwater. Beyond there is the usual Tablinum (Fancy Impressive Room), with its apse and a mosaic floor. Parts of its walls are still of the tufa blocks of an early time, and parts have been restored in concrete in the first century B.C. Both tufa and concrete were covered with stucco, and painted with designs on a background of bright "Pompeian" red. A side room on the right has a most delicate mosaic floor, and a wall painting of trees and birds against a background of blue sky, one of those realistic simulated woodland views that the Romans loved, and of which the best instances are in Livia's villa on the Via Flaminia, and in the Garden-House of Maecenas in Via Merulana. Behind again are parts of the columns of a long court with a colonnade, like the peristyle of a Greek house, which was often imitated in Rome, and was common at Pompei. This Domus Publica is a striking example, first of the extreme smallness of rooms required when the whole life is spent out of doors..."

Next: #29: Temple of Romulus or Temple of Divus Romulus (?)
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