Agrigento, all the mysteries of the ancient Roman residence -

Agrigento, all the mysteries of the ancient Roman residence -


The house must have belonged to a notable. It was demolished, but nothing was then built on its ruins. In his graffiti are the gladiatorial shows that were held in the city

There is a house, in the so-called Hellenistic-Roman quarter of Agrigento, full of mysteries and surprises. And graffiti. Students and researchers from the University of Bologna directed by Professor Giuseppe Lepore are digging it, thanks to an agreement with the Valle dei Templi Archaeological and Landscape Park in Agrigento. It extends for 400 square meters and is divided into a ground floor and a first floor for a height of seven meters. The last to inhabit it would certainly have been a Roman, very rich and perhaps also of great political importance.It has a peculiarity that makes it truly precious: at a certain point this house collapsed on itself, most likely demolished.

First mystery: why demolish it? Why was it not built on its area in the following centuries? Yet all around the Roman Agrigentum teemed with houses, thermal buildings, theaters. A few meters extended in all its extraordinary monumentality the forums, among the largest in the Hellenistic-Roman world. And then the question arises: why? Probably because, Professor Lepore hypothesizes, the demolition must have been the effect of a political-judicial decision similar to the one that led to the destruction of Cicero's house in Rome when the great orator fell into disgrace.In these cases the remains should be left visible as a reminder of an infamy and a warning to any emulators.

The fall from grace of the eminent Latin enriches the research of our archaeologists, because the collapse and the consequent ban on building in the area today allow us to explore the intact materials of a house as it evolved from the 3rd century BC. C. up to the II d. C. Intact floors, decorated with earthenware or mosaics, walls painted in bright colors similar to Pompeian ones and, above all, astonishing traces of daily life through some graffiti found on the walls of the first floor rooms, recently read thanks to researchers from the University of Macerata. The writing in Latin, in some cases of elegant handwriting, traced with awls on the variously colored plaster at hand height.One of these graffiti mentions the duoviri who govern the city, a sign that the house must have belonged to a prominent figure, another refers to shows between gladiators and beasts. The text distributed over six lines. We recognize the reference to a dating in relation to the Ides of May and the mention of pairs of athletes or gladiators; which suggests notes relating to editions of ludi, a sort of reminder of gladiator shows, a recurring practice on Pompeian frescoes.

There is enough to open a new archaeological hunt, after that of the theater which lasted five centuries and ended seven years ago when it was finally found on the south side of the agor: now it's the amphitheater's turn. According to the graffiti, circus shows took place in Agrigentum. It seems, if not proof, then a strong clue confirming the existence of the circus monument. In Sicily those of Syracuse, Catania and Termini Imerese are known. In the environments of the Park one winks complacently, but one does not go too far. It is known with certainty that there is still an entire city to be discovered under the olive and almond trees of the valley.Professor Lepore launches a hypothesis It could also be that at a certain point the theatre, the one that was recently discovered and not yet excavated if not minimally, was transformed into an amphitheater by adding the missing arch. One more reason to resume the excavations of the theatre, which have been stopped for too long.

July 21, 2023 (change July 21, 2023 | 12:02)

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