Thursday, October 02, 2008

Ostia Antica

The New York Times reports on a decade-long restoration of four dwellings lavishly decorated with frescoes in the Roman port of Ostia.

Last week the second-century insulae, or housing complexes, were presented to the public through the European Heritage Days program, in which each member country of the Council of Europe promotes new cultural assets and sites that have mainly been closed to the public.

“Over all, this is the most important ensemble of second- and third-century frescoes in the world,” Angelo Pellegrino, the director of excavations at the site, now called Ostia Antica, said in an interview.

The buildings, in the western part of the ancient city, were built around A.D. 128 in a housing boom during Emperor Hadrian’s reign. With demand for accommodations growing, new multilevel homes resolved issues of space and expansion. Although only the ground floors remain, evidence that buildings stood taller than one story has emerged from the rubble.

If it weren’t for Ostia Antica and its multistory houses and apartments, “it would be difficult for people to imagine how people lived in that era,” said Norbert Zimmermann, president of an international association for ancient mural painting.

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