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The Roman Hellenistic Quarter, which extends for around 10,000 square metres, is an important testament of the residential culture of the ancient settlement. Twenty-seven houses (domus) located in three apartment buildings (insulae) are bordered by four north-south road axes known as cardines. The living quarters were arranged around an atrium or a peristyle courtyard with smooth or fluted columns.
There were several cisterns to collect water while between the houses narrow passages (ambitus) served as drainage channels. Alongside the domus were warehouses, workshops and ateliers.
The building technique generally follows the Greek tradition with the use of regular blocks (isodomic masonry) without mortar, but there are some examples of brickwork such as in the so-called opus spicatum (herringbone pattern) on the floor of the courtyard. The excavated buildings date to the second and first centuries BC and were modified and rearranged during the imperial period.
In the second and third centuries AD, the extended houses – often merging with neighbouring residences – were embellished with murals and black and white or multicoloured mosaics, and replaced the older “cocciopesto” technique (opus signinum) with geometric and floral designs using small white tiles. Authentic mosaic floors featuring geometric patterns, plants and animals can be seen in the House of Swastikas, the House of the Gazelle – which owes its name to a mosaic picture (emblema) depicting a gazelle (currently in the Agrigento Museum of Archaeology) and the House of the Abstract Master, with the mosaic floor that imitates hewn marble.
The floor in the House of Diamond Mosaics is also remarkable, outlining an image of cubes in series bordered by different coloured marble (opus scutulatum). In the fifth century AD, the living quarters were reduced with the addition of dividing walls and the closure of the columns of the portico. In the sixth and seventh centuries AD, groups of chest tombs with stone slabs were left alongside the houses, most likely abandoned: the presence of the tombs in the urban spaces is a testament to a relationship with death that changed with the advent of Christianity.
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