Description of the Macellum (Reg VII, Ins 9, 7/8, 19, 42)
The Macellum, or
food market, stands in the north-east corner of the Forum. The complex, built in
the imperial age as a covered market, had
a large number of shops on its periphery on the Via degli Augustali and
on the Forum as well as on the inside under a colonnade
around its large internal court.
The Macellum had
three entrances, (B), (I) and (J) as indicated on the accompanying plan.
The main entrance (B) was divided into two
passageways by an aedicule set in the centre (pictured right),
statue of a member of the Imperial family.
Three rooms line the east wall of
the court. The central room (E) (pictured below and right) was dedicated
to the worship of the imperial family. The floor is raised above the
rest of the building and it is accessed by a flight of five steps
leading up from the rear of the colonnade. On a pedestal against the
rear wall, and in four niches at the sides, were statues, of which only
the two in the niches on the south wall have been found; they represent
Octavia, the sister of Augustus and Marcellus, Octavia's son.
Behind the colonnade on
the south side of the court was a row of market stalls or small shops.
Above these were upper rooms fronted by a wooden gallery, but access
must have been by ladder as no steps have been found.
entrance (J) on the south side of the complex (pictured right) contains a
small niche on the left hand wall under which two serpents were
painted. This shrine was probably dedicated to the presiding divinity of
the building, the Genius Macelli.
Along the east side of the Forum was a portico (A)
consisting of two orders of white marble columns, one above the other,
supporting a roof. Fragments of the Corinthian columns belonging to the
lower order and of the well proportioned intermediate entablature have
been preserved (pictured left). Statues stood at
the foot of the columns and at the ends
of the party walls between the shops at the rear of the portico.
Because the Macellum lies at an angle to the axis of the Forum the shops lining the Forum decrease in depth from north to south
so that the depth of the portico remains constant. The room at the
extreme south, being so shallow that it could not be used as a shop, was
made into a shrine.
internal court, measuring 37 x 27 metres, was surrounded by a deep
colonnade (C). In its centre 12 columns (pictured left) supported a roof
shading a rectangular basin from which a covered drain led to the
southeast corner of the complex. Under this roof fish that had been sold
were scaled, the scales being thrown into the basin where they were
found in large numbers. A reconstruction of the court and its central
rotunda (H) is pictured left.
The walls of the colonnade were decorated in the
fourth style. The decoration consists of large black panels framed by a
broad red border (pictured left) above a lower decorative frieze.
Between each framed panel are architectural themes in yellow, green and
red on a white ground. Along the edges of the black panels run
conventional plant designs while in the centre are mythological scenes
alternating with floating figures. Among the mythological scenes are
pictures of Ulysses before Penelope, Io guarded by Argus and Medea
plotting the murder of her children.
The remains of several sheep were found in
the small room or pen (G) at the north east corner of the court. Such
animals would presumably be sold alive so that they could be sacrificed
as an offering to the household gods before being used as food.
the right of the imperial shrine, in the south east corner of the
court, is a large market room (D) (pictured lower left). The entrance is
divided into three by the presence of two columns. Along three sides of
the room runs a counter which was used for the sale of meat and fish.
The left hand counter appears to have been used for the sale of fish due
to the arrangements for carrying off water; the floor behind the
counter is raised and slopes to the rear from where a connecting gutter
leads under the counter on the south side out into the street.
The room (F) to the
north of the imperial shrine, like the room to the south, has a wide
entrance split into three by two columns (pictured bottom left). The
room contains an unusual low altar, which according to August Mau was used for
the offerings of drink, while the room itself was used for sacrificial
banquets. In this room were found two pictures containing cupids. In one
they were shown drinking wine and playing the lyre while in the other
engaged in acts of worship.
* Images ©Jackie and Bob Dunn are
reproduced by permission from their website at
(Su concessione del Ministero per
i Beni e le Attività Culturali:
Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di
Napoli e Pompei)