1. Maria Floriani Squarciapino
2. Maria Floriani Squarciapino
Archaeological Information: Areas A, B, C, D, E, F, and G in Building IV.17.1
Date of Building Construction:
1. Phase I: second half 1st century CE
2. Intermediary Period: first half 2nd century
3. Phase II: 4th century, after 340 CE 
Place of Building in Settlement:
Near the ancient seashore along the Via Severiana, outside the official city walls.
 Phase I: This complex consisted of rooms B, C, D, and G only, forming a large, rectangular building with a concave wall on the western side. The main hall of the synagogue building was room D; a room with benches (described as “masonry seats for the faithful”) and a podium on the west side. To the east of this hall lay three rooms,
Area C, consisting of four columns forming a square with partition walls with doors on either side of the pairs of columns (the vestibule). Areas B and G to the east had no divisions, making this area one room. There were three entrances to the complex from the north and three from the east (the direction of Jerusalem). All floors were covered with cocciopesto floors (= opus signinum). In front of the complex to the east were a well and cistern. Intermediary Phase: It is not clear what features this phase included. Perhaps Area B was now divided by wooden walls. Perhaps a Torah shrine, which Floriani Squarciapino repeatedly mentions in her publication but of which there are no archaeological remains, was installed in this phase. Perhaps the mosaic floor of room 10/G (“the room with the oven”) was laid in this Phase. This phase remains unclear but probably contained many renovations and adaptations to the building. Phase II: The building complex was enlarged and Areas A, F, and E were added. Area A, to the east of the building, became the new vestibule, containing the well but covering the cistern, and having one entrance on the east side and one on the north. The entrance from the north was flanked by two marble columns; the room had a marble floor in which was found part of an inscription known as the Mindius Faustus inscription. Area B was divided into three rooms and was separated from room G. All these rooms had mosaic floors. The northern-most room (B1) had a shallow water basin with a floor paved in cocciopesto. Perhaps Area G now received an oven as well as a table with a marble top, and some amphorae were sunk into the pavement. At a later point, the mosaic floor was covered by a rough floor of earth, ash, and fragments of marble and terracotta. Beneath this rough floor but above the mosaic floor, several terracotta oil lamps of the 5th century were found, decorated with menorahs. The main hall of the synagogue was paved with opus sectile and the benches were removed. The podium was retained and renovated. Later, a Torah shrine was added, standing on a podium that could be reached by four steps. At a later date, this podium was enlarged. All doors coming from the north were blocked and more supporting walls and columns were added, suggesting a vaulted roof. Room F is a short corridor to the west of room G, giving access to room E: a room with broad benches, perhaps a triclinium.
Maps and Plans
Date Excavated: June 7, 1962
Under the mosaic floor of a side room of the intermediary phase of the synagogue
Quadro 4B, in room 10 of Building IV.17.1 (Area/Room G)
Certain association with the building itself? Yes
Deposit Retrievable? No
Deposit Type: IB6
The final phase of Room 10 or G (“the chamber with the oven”) had a rough floor of earth, ash, and fragments of marble and terracotta, which may have been connected to the cooking area in the room or the marble-topped table found there. Underneath this floor, archaeologists discovered a fine white and black mosaic floor with a variety of decorative motifs. According to the excavators, the cooking installations were added on top of this floor, at which point also large jars, connected to each other by low plinths, were sunk into the floor. Underneath this fine mosaic floor was a floor of cocciopesto, or “pounded pottery.” It is in this layer between the mosaic floor and the cocciopesto surface (also called opus signinum, a building technique made of tiles broken into very small pieces mixed with mortar and then beaten down) that 51 bronze coins were found together. Room 10 is located southeast of the synagogue hall but is part of the larger synagogue complex. The coin deposit was found under the mosaic floor in the northern half of this room (in the southwest corner of “Quadro 4B”), 60 cm away from the table with a marble slab towards the southwest corner of the room. The coins were found stuck in a layer composed of the lime setting for the mosaic, about 13 cm above the cocciopesto surface. Because, according to Floriani Squarciapino, the kitchen installations were not connected with the cocciopesto floor, the function of this room in its initial phase was interpreted as a “large chamber for prayer,” a street-front shop, or a triclinium.
Container Present? No
Description of Coins:
The 51 bronze coins found in this deposit were published by Daniella Williams in 2014 after her research in the Ostia archives. The card catalogue that she discovered on the coins is very detailed and gives, in addition to the obverse and reverse of each coins, also the state of preservation, weight, provenance [=context], date of acquisition, and bibliography.
The group of coins is chronologically uniform, ranging from 327-328 CE to 337-347 CE, with coins minted by Constans I (31.5%), Constantine I (27.5%), Constantius II (21.5%), and Constantine II (19.5%). Coins minted at eastern mints are rare, with most of the coins minted in Rome, in contrast to the synagogue deposits found in Israel. One coin was minted at Lugdunum (Constantine I?, 335 CE). 28 coins are of the GLORIA EXERCITVS type (55%), while eleven coins are of the SECVRITAS type (21%), six are of the CONSTANTINOPOLIS with Victoria on a prow type (12%), four coins are of the VIRTVS AUGVSTI type (8%), and two are VRBS ROMA with She-wolf coins (4%).
Conspectus table Ostia, Deposit 1. This table can be seen in full screen by clicking the icon on the bottom right. For more details on the specific coins in each row, please hover over the numbers.
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1961, “La Sinagoga di Ostia,” in: Bollettino d’arte, Vol. 46, pp. 326-337
– Zovatto P., 1961, “Le antiche Sinagoghe di Aquileia e di Ostia,” in: Memorie storiche forogiuliesi, Vol. 44, pp. 53-63
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1962, “La Sinagoga recentemente scoperta ad Ostia,” in: RednPontAcc, Vol. 34, pp. 119-132
– Hempel H.L., 1962, “Synagogenfund in Ostia Antica,” in: Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Vol. 74, pp. 72-73
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1963a, “Ebrei a Roma e ad Ostia,” in: StRom, Vol. 11, pp. 129-141
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1963b, “The Synagogue at Ostia,” in: Archaeology, Vol. 16, pp. 194-203
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1963c, “Die Synagoge von Ostia nach der Zweiten Ausgrabungskampagne,” in: Raggi. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte und Archäologie, Vol. 5, pp. 13-17
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1963d, “The Most Ancient Synagogue Known from Monumental Remains,” in: Illustrated London News, Vol.28, pp. 468-471
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1964, La Sinagoga di Ostia, Rome
– Becatti G., 1969, Scavi di Ostia, 6. Edificio con opus sectile fuori Porta Marina, Rome: Instituto Poligrafico dello Stato
– Floriani Squarciapino M., 1972, “Plotius Fortunatus archisynagogus,” in: La Rassegna mensile di Israel, Vol. 36, pp. 183-191
– Zevi F., 1972, “La Sinagoga di Ostia,” in: Rassegna mensile di Israel, Vol. 38, pp. 131-145
– Meigss R., 1973, Roman Ostia, Oxford: Oxford University Press
– Kraabel, A.T., 1974, “Synagogues, Ancient,” in: New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement, pp. 436-439
– Foerster G., 1981,“A survey of Ancient Diaspora Synagogues,” in: : Levine L. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues Revealed, Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, pp. 164-171
– Kraabel, A.T., 1982a, “The Excavated Synagogues of Late Antiquity from Asia Minor to Italy,” in: Internationaler Bysantinistenkongress, Vol. 16.2.2, pp. 227-236
– Kraabel, A.T., 1982b, “The Roman Diaspora: Six Questionable Assumptions,” in: Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 33, pp. 445-464
– Boersma J., 1985, Amoenissima Civitas: Block 5.2 at Ostia, Description and Analysis of Visible Remains, Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum
– Fine, S.and Della Pergola S, 1995, “The Synagogue of Ostia and Its Torah Shrine,” in: J. Goodnick (ed.), The Jewish Presence in Ancient Rome, Jerusalem, pp. 42-57
– Kraabel, A.T., 1995, “The Diaspora Synagogue: Archaeological and Epigraphic Evidence since Sukenik,” in: Urman, Dan and Flesher, Paul V.M. (eds.), Ancient Synagogues: Historical Analysis and Archaeological Discovery, Vol. 1, Leiden: Brill, pp. 95-126 (reprint)
– White M., 1997, “Synagogue and Society in Imperial Ostia: Archaeological and Epigraphic Evidence,” in: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 90, No. 1, pp. 23-58
– White M., 1998, “Synagogue and Society in Imperial Ostia. Archaeological and Epigraphic Evidence,” in: K.P. Donfried and P. Richardson (eds.), Judaism and Christianity in First-Century Rome, Grand Rapids, pp. 30-68
– Binder D., 1999, Into the Temple Courts. The Place of the Synagogue in the Second Temple Period, Atlanta
– Runesson A., 1999, “The Oldest Original Synagogue Building in the Diaspora. A Response to L. Michael White,” in: Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 92, pp. 409-433
– White M., 1999, “Reading the Ostia synagogue: A reply to A. Runesson,” in: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 92, No. 4, pp. 435-464
– Olsson B., Mitternacht D., and Brandt O. (eds.), 2001, The Synagogue of Ancient Ostia and the Jews of Rome, Stockholm
– Runesson A., 2002, “A Monumental Synagogue from the First Century,” in: Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 33, pp. 171-220
– Spagnoli E., 2007, “Evidenze numismatiche dal territorio di Ostia antica (età repubblicana- età flavia),” in: Presenza e crcolazione della monete in area vesuviana. Atti del XIII Convegno organizzato dal Centro internazionale di studi numismatici e dall’Università di Napoli “Federico II”, Napoli 30 maggio-1 giugno 2003, Rome: Instituto italiano di numismatica, pp. 233-388
– Williams D., 2014, “Digging in the Archives: A Late Roman Coin Assemblage from the Synagogue at Ancient Ostia (Italy),” in: American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 26, pp. 245-273
– Nongbri B., 2015, “Archival Research on the Excavation of the Synagogue of Ostia: A Preliminary Report,” in: Journal for the Study of Judaism, Vol. 46, pp. 366-402
– The Ostia Foundation:
– Fasti Online:
– The Ostia synagogue Area Excavations (OSMAP):
 These are the three phases as laid out by Maria Floriani Squarciapino and later researchers of the Ostia synagogue. However, renewed research by Birger Olsson, Dieter Mitternacht and Olof Brandt, as well as archaeological and archival research conducted by Brent Nongbri, as well as L. Michael White of the University of Texas at Austin under the auspices of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Ostia has revealed that these phases are no longer accurate. The synagogue building seems to have been in use between the first and fifth century and had many separate renovation or reconstruction phases, probably often only conducted in one area of the complex. Magness believes there is no definite evidence that the building was used as a synagogue before the 4th century. However, because no final report of the new research has been published yet, I am following the old division of the architectural history of the building.
 The synagogue was discovered by accident in 1961 during work on an expressway leading to the international airport of Fiumicino (Floriani Squarciapino 1963b, p. 195).
 Based on Olsson et al. 2001, pp. 30-34, who base their analysis on the many published but often contradictory reports by Squarciapino. From their research, it is clear that there is still much confusion about the architectural history of the building and its precise dates. The intermediate phase and its date, for example, have not been treated as thoroughly as they should, and many features and measurements of the building are not mentioned at all (See also the debates between White and Runesson, who place different floor levels and installations found in Room G in different construction phases). Hopefully, the renewed excavations by UT Austin will provide much needed clarity on the history of the building.
 Squarciapino 1963d, p. 469.
 Perhaps this Phase had benches in rooms G and B, and this area acted as a triclinium (Runesson 1999 and 2002).
 Olsson et al. 2001, p. 33.
 Squarciapino 1963b, p. 200; White 1997, p. 31.
 Squarciapino 1963b, p. 200; Squarciapino 1964, p. 24. Unfortunately, this is one of the excavated areas that is still very confusing. The archaeologists took out the rough, upper floor in this room completely, making it impossible to check how this floor connected with the oven and table. Was the table, for example, introduced later than the oven or at the same time? Were they both placed on top of the mosaic floor as Squarciapino claims, or were they placed on top of the cocciopesto floor, in which case they are older than the second phase of the building complex. Were there one or multiple cocciopesto floors in this area? (see also the debate between White and Runesson, in which White believes there were at least five different floors in Area G, and that the original building was not a synagogue, but a private two-story building with street-front shops). Patterns on the mosaics further suggest that at some point this room was divided by wooden walls into smaller sections, but we do not know the reason for this. Lamps found between the rough floor and the mosaic floor suggest a date for the rough floor in the 5th century. The coin deposit found underneath the mosaic has a terminus post quem of 340 CE, giving this floor a considerably later date than any date proposed by the excavators or later researchers. Perhaps the architectural history of the building needs to be divided up into many more phases than assumed. Renewed archaeological and archival research of the synagogue building by the University of Texas at Austin between 2000 and 2010 will hopefully shed more light on these issues, as already demonstrated by Nongbri’s preliminary report from 2015 (Nongbri 2015, pp. 380-381).
 Williams 2014, p. 246. See her article for an overview of what happened to the coins after their discovery.
 Nongbri 2015, p. 380, note 41: Nongbri gives the report on the find as it was written in the Giornali by Floriani Squarciapino on June 7, 1962. The translation from Italian to English is mine.
 Squarciapino 1963b, p. 201; White 1997 and 1999; Runesson 1999 and 2002.
 Williams 2014, p. 247: she notes that, “Unfortunately, it has not been possible to retrieve the actual group of specimens from the synagogue, which leaves the card catalogue in the archives (ex ASBAO) as the only record of their existence (record 9-59).” The catalogue was published in Italian: the English translations are mine.
 Williams 2014, p. 248. Unfortunately, the bibliography only refers to the 1888 coin catalogue of Cohen, Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l’empire romain communément appelées médailles imperials, which is outdated.
 Only one belongs to the heavier series: Constantine I, 327-328 CE (3.1 grams, with Constantine in military dress on the reverse).
 Williams believes they were accidental losses because “of the deposit’s small size, together with the fact that they were actually found embedded in the preparation layer of the mosaic floor” (Williams 2014, p. 249).