The Laecanius Amphorae in Brijuni


FWF-Project Nr. P23684-G19
 
Projektleitung: T. Bezeczky

Project goal 

The amphorae, a particular group of ceramic objects, provide information about agriculure, commerce and consumption. The stated goal of the project is to publish the new Laecanius amphorae from the Castrum villa in Brijuni.

The Laecanius amphora stamps and the villas of Brijuni (Bezeczky 1998) contained the amphorae which were available until the middle of the 90´s. At that time it was not possible to study the amphorae in one of the Laecanius villas (Castrum). In the meantime, however, all the amphorae have been gathered from the various stores and are now held in the archaeological collection of the Brijuni National Park. The villa excavations unearthed about thirty thousand well-identifiable items (amphorae, tegulae, fine ware, glass, etc.). In addition, a number of new Laecanius amphorae have been found in Italy, in Istria and in the provinces of the Roman Empire. The new situation demands an update of knowledge.

The written sources and the archaeological excavations provide a unique chance of making an almost complete picture of one of the important economic centres of the early Imperial period. From Pula to Tergeste traces of several villas with olive-producing facilities have been discovered. However, there are only two known amphora workshop in the region. One of the best-known owners was the Laecanius family. The family had a workshop and a villa on the sea shore in Fažana. The workshop produced Dressel 6B amphorae containing olive oil. There are three known phases of the figlina. From the end of the first century B.C. to A.D. 78 it belonged to the Laecanius family; During reign of Emperor Vespasian the last Laecanius died without an heir and the ownership was taken over by Emperor Vespasian and there is record of its use during Hadrian. A.D. It is presumed that around the last third of the second century M. Aurelius Iustus rented the workshop.

The first well-known owner of the workshop is Caius Laecanius Bassus. He and his son with the same name were consuls in 40 and 64 A.D. Each amphora had two stamps on the rim with the stamp of Laecanius at the centre and the second stamp, the vilicus’s / estate manager´s stamp above the handle. There were very few amphora workshops which systematically applied two stamps to the products. Names of more than 40 vilici have been preserved in these stamps, thus providing a relative chronology for the Laecanius workshop.

Castrum villa in Brijuni (after R. Kosinožić 1992)

At the beginnings of the 20th century, Anton Gnirs unearthed the ruins of the workshop and the villa near the port. A hundred years later, new objects were found during construction work. The kilns were excavated recently. In addition to the estate in Fažana, the remains of three other villas (Val Catena - Verige Bay, Monte Collisi - Kolci hill and Castrum) on the island of Brijuni were identified. These villas were also regarded as the property of the Laecanius family. The villas produced about 12,000 amphorae of olive-oil per annum. The volume of production can only be guessed at on the basis of the amphorae which were found in more than 50 sites in Cisalpina, Raetia, Noricum and Pannonia.

Laecanius amphora fragments

The olive oil produced in the Laecanius workshop was of immense importance in Cisalpina and in the Northern areas of the Roman Empire. The Roman troops conquered Northern region continuously from the Augustan to the Claudian period. Olive oil was consumed by the Roman army and by the Roman settlers. The amphorae do not precede the Roman conquest in the Pannonian and Illyrian regions. The Laecanius amphorae provide important clues to the various phases of the Roman conquest in Pannonia.

Laecanius and vilici/ estate manager´s stamps

The new research allows an even more precise chronology of the Laecanius amphorae. The list of the stamps can be updated almost on a daily basis. By studying the entire collection of the objects in the Castrum villa, some of the remaining questions concerning the Laecanii and their properties may finally be answered.

 

T. Bezeczky

The distribution of the Laecanius amphorae