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Basilica Noniana

Description of the Building (Ins VII)

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Although mostly buried, it was extensively explored by tunnels during the Bourbon period and more recently the eastern side of the building was partially excavated, including a small room (e) which had access to the rear of the building.
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The discovery of fragments of a frieze between the two orders depicting the labours of Hercules places the decorative renovation in the fourth style. The bulk of the walls (pictured right) are decorated with red, yellow and black panels, in places displaying the typical colour change of yellow to red under the intense heat of the pyroclastic material.

Excavations have also revealed the presence of an additional entrance (d) on Cardo III. At the current time it is not known if the building was sub-divided into aisles.

At the entrances (a) to the building stood two equestrian statues, one depicting the town's major benefactor, the afore-mentioned Marcus Nonius Balbus (pictured below), whilst the other was of his son. Inside the building were further statues of the proconsul and his family.
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The Basilica Noniana was re-discovered when one of the tunnels being mined randomly by Rocque Joaquín de Alcubierre broke into the building. An inscription found in the building records that the building had just been rebuilt following the earthquake of AD62 thanks to the generosity of proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus, Herculaneum's principal benefactor.

Facing onto the Decumaus Maximus, the building lies at the corner of Insula VII, directly across Cardo III from the College of the Augustales (pictured below).

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More exploratory work has since been carried out, starting in 2003 with the reopening of some of the Bourbon tunnels in conjunction with conservation work that was required to stabilize the surrounding embankments.
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What has been revealed is a large rectangular building approximately 29m by 16.5m with a large apse (c) at its southern end, confirming earlier plans drawn up by Cochin and Bellicard in 1754. Around the walls are a double order of half columns, ten on the long sides and six across. The columns (pictured opposite) are of tufa and brick, covered with fluted stucco. The lower order of columns are capped with Ionic capitals while the upper order have Corinthian capitals.

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During stabilization of the earthworks surrounding the basilica an extremely well preserved marble head was uncovered. The head (pictured opposite) is remarkable in that its painted pigments have survived. The head once formed part of the Herculean themed decoration of the basilica and it is thought the head is possibly that of an Amazonian warrior (in Hercules' ninth labour, he had to obtain the girdle of Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons).
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The delicacy of the decoration comes as something of a surprise, for although Roman statues were often painted, before this discovery only faint traces of pigment had been found. It had been assumed that classical statues were quite brightly painted, but in fact, the colouring of the hair and eyes on this head is composed of soft pastel shades, which, although some fading may have occurred, would indicate that classical colouring may have been more subtle than previously thought.




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