13 - The Small Finds from the Sanctuary of Venus at Pompeii


Miranda King, Brock University


Atop an artificial terrace near the fortification walls in the southwest corner of the city of Pompeii sits the remains of the sanctuary of Venus. Overlooking the sea to the south, and backing onto the Via Marina to the north, the sanctuary was in a location fit for the patron divinity of the Roman city. The dedication of the city to Venus likely happened after the foundation of the Sullan colony in 80 B.C.E., which acknowledged the special relationship Sulla had with the goddess Venus/Aphrodite. The triporticus and axial temple that was heavily damaged by the earthquake in 62 C.E. were still under reconstruction when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. Under the auspices of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, archaeologists from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Mount Allison University have resumed the study of the temple and sanctuary of Venus. The main objective of the Venus Pompeiana Project is to clarify the original sanctuary's date, extent, and internal organization, and the nature of the rituals that were conducted therein, detailing the primary transformation. Over the last year, I have been examining the small finds that were recovered from the four seasons of excavation with the Venus Pompeiana Project. The collection features an assemblage of slingshot bullets likely dating to the Sullan siege of the city, as well as a closed context of finds from a cistern used as a garbage pit during the construction of the temple. In total, the collection consists of 126 objects each with its own unique story. This research has helped in the resulting dating of the sanctuary to post-80 B.C.E. These results have important implications for the broader understanding of the topography of a crucial quadrant of Pompeii facing onto the Via Marina and in direct relationship with the basilica.