Ancient Sites, Italy:

Rome & Ostia Antica

 

Click a photo to enlarge and see further description.

 

All photos by Jason Mills or Jordanna Max Brodsky.

Please do not reproduce wtihout permission.

Mithraeum of the Baths of Mithras
Mithraeum of the Baths of Mithras

A sanctuary to Mithras in Ostia Antica. The impressive sculptural tauroctony is a plaster cast of the original, now housed in Ostia's museum. Like many mithraea, this one resembles a natural cave. Even when Ostia swelters in the summer heat, the mithraeum remains cool, damp, and secret.

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Mithraeum of the Baths of Mithras
Mithraeum of the Baths of Mithras
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Mithraeum of the Seven Spheres
Mithraeum of the Seven Spheres

One of the best preserved mithraeums in Ostia Antica. The detailed astronomical mosaics along the platforms and the black arcs across the aisle's floor are too faded to see easily in this photo, but provided important clues to discovering the cult's beliefs.

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Cautes Detail
Cautes Detail

The mosaic representation of Cautes, the upright torchbearer, at the beginning of the aisle in the Mithraeum of the Seven Spheres, Ostia Antica.

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Mithraeum of Felicissimus
Mithraeum of Felicissimus

The mosaic aisle of this mithraeum in Ostia Antica still preserves the symbols of each progressive Mithraic rank, from Corvus to Pater.

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Mithraeum of Santa Prisca
Mithraeum of Santa Prisca

Open only by once-monthly guided tours, this mithraeum is located beneath the modern Church of Santa Prisca in Rome. It's famous not only for its large, hatless sculpture of Mithras, but also for its remaining frescoes, which show the procession of ranked initiates.

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Cautes Statue
Cautes Statue

This headless Cautes statue stands in a niche at the beginning of the aisle in the Mithraeum of Santa Prisca. An empty niche for Cautopates stands opposite it.

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Mithraeum of San Clemente
Mithraeum of San Clemente

This mithraeum lies beneath the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. A remarkable site, the above-ground church was built in the 1100s atop the remains of an earlier church from the fourth century AD. Beneath that earlier church lies the mithraeum, complete with the altar and sanctuary pictured here and another chamber that may have contained a Mithraic "schoolroom."

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Pantheon, Rome
Pantheon, Rome

The best preserved Roman temple in the world. Now a Roman Catholic church, its exterior remains a masterpiece of ancient architecture.

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Oculus, Pantheon
Oculus, Pantheon

The ceiling of the Pantheon, with its oculus open to the sky. The dome is made of concrete and remains an architectural marvel. Despite the perennial crowds, I find the Pantheon a deeply spiritual place the moment you turn your face upward.

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Interior, Pantheon
Interior, Pantheon

Despite the Christian statuary and paintings, its easy to imagine the Pantheon in its original form, as a temple to the Olympians. The marble is all original.

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The Coliseum
The Coliseum

The Roman arena, lit at night, serves as an unmistakable reminder of the Empire's glory days.

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Curia Doors
Curia Doors

Now the doors to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the oldest basilica in Rome, these are the original bronze doors from the Curia, or Roman Senate House.

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Temple of Saturn
Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum. Once, the Romans stored their Imperial treasury beneath it.

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Temple of the Vestal Virgins
Temple of the Vestal Virgins

Roman Forum. The chief priest (usually the emperor) appointed six women at a time to serve as Vestals, dedicated to the goddess Vesta (Hestia). Each served for 30 years. If, in that time, she lost her virginity, she was executed by being buried alive.

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