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'Basilica'

Description of the 'Basilica'

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The 'basilica', measuring 68m by 40m, was built round a central court (j). Colonnaded on three sides, the exterior walls of the portico (b) were decorated with arches flanked by engaged columns separated by niches containing bronze and marble statues (reconstruction lower right).

The columns of the portico were of stuccoed brick. According to contemporary sources, the portico and porch were paved in multi-coloured marble, possibly in opus sectile, while the central court, which was lower than the surrounding colonnade, was paved with slabs of marble. The interior of the portico was decorated in the fourth style above the cornice with scenes of lions and dolphins and heroic combat.
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In front of the central exedra was a small group of marble statues ((d), (e) and (f)). Two of the statues were of Augustus and Claudius (pictured opposite) seated in curule chairs. A third statue was of Titus wearing a breastplate decorated with elephants (pictured bottom right).

In front of the side recesses were two bronze statues (g) and (h), one of Augustus (above) and the other of Claudius (pictured below).
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250 years after its discovery, the true purpose of the 'Basilica' is still largely unexplained. Named 'basilica' by the excavators who first explored it, it has also been variously referred to as a 'temple' (Alcubierre), a 'forum' (La Vega and Bellicard) and a 'palaestra' (Ruggiero). It may simply be a building dedicated to the Imperial cult, but, if so, it's certainly on a grand scale.

Although still virtually completely buried save for part of its entrance porch (pictured below and lower left), this huge building was extensively explored and thoroughly looted by its early excavators.
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Situated across the Decumanus Maximus from the Basilica Noniana (k) and the College of the Augustales (i) the building is fronted by a grand chalcidicum (porch) (a) (pictured left and reconstructed below) which dramatically imposes itself on the Decumanus Maximus.  At the side entrances to the porch were pedestals for statuary.
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The rear wall of the portico has a central rectangular exedra (c) and two large side recesses (c). The exedra and side recesses were decorated in the fourth style with large frescoes depicting 'Hercules and the infant Telephus' (left), 'Theseus kissed by the youths rescued by the Minotaur' (below), 'Chiron teaching Achilles the lyre' (lower left) and 'Marsyas teaching Olympus the flute'.
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Further statuary which adorned the portico and side niches included other members of the Imperial family including Livia, Antonia, mother of Claudius, Flavia and Domitia Longina, Empress and wife of Domitian.


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