CIMRM 349 - Mithraeum of Piazza Dante. Esquiline, Rome, Italy.


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In March 1874 an area of the Esquiline hill in Rome was being landscaped in preparation to create the area now known as the Pizza Dante. In the process, a Mithraeum was uncovered, with a number of monuments, all dedicated by a Pater named Primus. Details may be found in: C. L. Visconti in Bullettino della Comissione archeologica municipale (=BCM) 1874, 224-243, and pl.XX-XXI.

The location was once occupied by the Villa Palombara. In ancient times this was part of the Horti Lamiani, it was thought, and so imperial property. Various art objects have been found here. The Mithraeum was located about 10m from the westernmost corner of the villa on Nolli's map, and the site corresponds with the raised edge of the wall which in Nolli's time divided the villa Palombara from the Manganelli garden.

Two parallel walls of good bricks were found, around 20m in length, which formed a room about 6m wide, with a floor of white mosaic, perfectly preserved. The room had once been vaulted, of which some indications survived. An entrance to the SE led to a narrow corridor with a mosaic floor, and a number of rooms off it. The bas-relief (CIMRM 350) was found face-down in one of the larger rooms, and covered with tiles. The other two reliefs (CIMRM 353 and 534) were buried nearby but excavated illegally, so their exact location is uncertain. All the items retain some colour.

The location in which these items were found was not a Mithraeum as such, which the excavators presumed would be near at hand, to be located in subsequent excavations.

CIMRM entry

The Esquiline Venus was found in the same excavations, in 1874.

The Mithraeum of Primus - for the name of Primus the Pater appears on several of the items - was likewise discovered and destroyed in 1874. It consisted of two walls, an area of around 20 m x 6m. Some bas-reliefs were discovered, which were listed in the BCR.1


1Via Google Books snippet view of this link, "Archivio storico artistico archeologico e letterario della ...", 1879: "Il Mitreo dell' Esquilino ò slato scoperto e distrutto nel 1874 dov' è ora la Piazza Dante." and this link: "(3) Gori, Inc. cil. p. 6. Il Mitreo dell' Esquilino stato scoperto e distrutto nel 1874 dov' ora la Piazza Dante. Lo costituivano due muri paralleli di laterizio lunghi circa 20 metri su m. 6 di larghezza. In esso furono rinvenuti alcuni singolari bassorilievi descritti dal sig. C. L. Visconti nel Bulle u. della Commiss."

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