Room of the Sacellum of the Augustales
Entering in the room, you are caught by emotion, incredulity and marvel before such a grandeur. Before our eyes, just as it rose from the foundations of the Castle of Baia, it appears the marble fašade of the Temple.
It is more than seven metres high and was composed of four columns of cipolin marble (today there are only two of them), surmounted by parchment-like capitals (unfortunately lost). Upon these columns it is distinguishable the beautiful pediment of decorated marble.
In the middle of this pediment, a crown of oak fronds is supported by two winged Victorias and inside it you can see the portraits of the trustee Lucio Lecanio Primitivo and of his wife Cassia Vittoria. Sculptured in a very low relief, between the two portraits there is the "pileus", the typical sacerdotal headgear.
On the epistyle it is written, in marble of Luni, a dedication which translated into English says:
"CASSIA VICTORIA, CAIO'S DAUGHTER, PRIESTESS OF THE AUGUSTALES [HAD] THE PRONAOS [RECONSTRUCTED] WITH THE COLUMNS AND THE EPISTYLES ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND HER HUSBAND'S, LUCIO LECANIO PRIMITIVO. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE EXTRAORDINARY BENEVOLENCE OF THE AUGUSTALES TOWARDS HER, ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEDICATION SHE OFFERED A BANQUET AND DISTRIBUTED TO ANYONE OF THEM 12 SESTERTII"
In the left corner of the pediment it is visible a dolphin, while in the opposite corner there is the stern of a ship. As to the marine animal, it was considered sacred by the Romans and was often represented in the statuary and in monetary images. Probably, according to the symbolism, it personified the city of Miseno and in consequence, being the dolphin a marine animal, Miseno was a sea city. The detail of the stern of the ship, on the other side, established the concept of military city. So, together they interpreted Miseno both as a sea city and as a military city.
Beyond the columns, situated on a raised level as to reconstruct the cell of the apse of the temple, it is possible to notice the emperors Vespasian and Titus.
The two statues were realized after the death of the two emperors, when in power there was the last offspring of the Gens Flavia: Domitian. The martial aspect and the fierce look of the two Flavi give exactly the idea of deified emperors.
The face of the statue of Titus, after a careful analysis, turns out to be partially reconstructed; traces of engravings visible in some parts of the face let us hypothesize that initially it represented Domitian.
In the middle of the two statues there is the copy of a marble slab, remained in situ, with dedication to the genius of the Augustales, placed by the trustee Sesto Gellio Georgo in Augustan Age. It was placed inside the Sacellum few years before the upper tuffaceous ridge collapsed.
The tragic event, which buried nearly completely the sacred area, happened in the second half of the II century A.D. and it is probably to be connected to an eruption of the Vesuvius concerning that period.
In the left square of the slab it is visible the quadriga of the god Sun (Helios), while in the lower square on the right, a bearded sailor is lying on his left side. He bears between the forearm and the left shoulder an anchor, the right arm is lifted, the hand is open in sign of greeting. He represented the personification of Miseno.
To complete the exhibiting nucleus, from left to right, it is possible to notice the statue of a mantled headless woman. The sculpture has been dated back to the first Imperial age and it appears richly dressed, with the right hand closed on the left shoulder, the body wrapped in an elegant mantle. Lacking of the head, which had been manufactured separately, it shows to the visitor only her right hand. The statue was inspired to the scheme of the so-called Piccola Ercolanese (Little Girl from Herculaneum).
It follows the statue of the goddess of Abundance. Preserved from the collapse which sealed the sacred area for centuries, the small statue present itself with the characteristic cornucopia well in view from which fruits come out. The right hand, probably, showed a patera (the typical container in which sacred courses were served). The face is chubby, the typical hair-style and the long locks which come down along the neck maybe idealize an aristocrat of the Juliae-Claudiae age.
Finally, moved to the right, it stands out, in the middle of the room, the equestrian bronze group of Domitian-Nerva.
Though of the reared horse it remains only the head, the fore legs and the left hind hoof, this is the only great composition (statue plus horse) which has reached us of the rampant horse type.
The equestrian statue, found in the temple of Miseno, initially idealized Domitian (81-96 A.D.). After his death and the damnatio memoriae (it provided the destruction of all the traces which could eternalize the personage, as if the condemned man had never been born - writer's note), thanks to a careful work of re-using, it represented his successor Nerva (96-98 A.D.).
To understand better the personage Domitian we should compare the equestrian statue of this emperor to the one of Mark Aurelius in the Capitol. His equestrian statue expresses itself in the static position of the horse (only one fore leg is lifted), the rider holds the reins with one hand and with the other one he tranquillizes the city: Mark Aurelius is seen as Pacator. In diametric opposition is the attitude of the statue of Domitian-Nerva in the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegraean Fields.
The emperor is on the back of the reared horse and closes his legs around the abdomen of the animal, with his left hand he holds strongly the reins, his look darts towards the ground, while his right arm is lifted and the lance (which we should imagine) is ready to hit the enemy.
The extraordinary expressive force and the unusual violence which appears through the bronze group reflects a military ideology reserved to the conqueror, to the victorious leader and so the rider is seen as Dominator.
The sculptural pattern was the one raised to Dion by Lysippus in 334 B.C. and reduced in the I century A.D. in Herculaneum. It is a reduction of the commemorative group of the battle of Granico, in which Alexander the Great hits with a cutting blow a Persian.
It is possible to read on the armour that before Nerva on the horse there was Domitian. It is short and equal to the one worn in battle by the Great Macedonian. The same kind of armour, in an outburst of folly, wore Gaio Caligula when, in order to celebrate his triumph, connected with a bridge made of ships the two cities Puteoli (Pozzuoli) and Bauli (Bacoli).
In both cases and for different reasons, the two emperors tried to identify themselves with the Great Macedonian leader.
Few images concerning the emperor Nerva reached us; his reign lasted little (from 96 to 98 A.D.). The facial mask of the equestrian statue points out exactly his somatic features. When he ascended to power in 96 A.D. he was nearly 70, a great legislator but old and tired, so that he let himself be helped on the throne by his adoptive son Traiano.
Nerva had not an exceptional body like his dangerous predecessor, he was short (like the greatest part of the Romans), minute and with a skinny face. This created some problems to the artists of Miseno when they had to insert on the big head of Domitian the facial mask of the skinny Nerva.