MEAGHAN CARLEY: So I’m here with Simon, director of the project. So, Simon, where are we?
SIMON KEAY: Well, we’re on flat land, which lies to the east of the Palazzo Imperiale, which you can see straight ahead of you, and is bounded on one side, to the south, by the great Trajanic hexagonal basin, and to the north, by the great Claudian basin.
MEAGHAN CARLEY: So what’s this building behind us?
SIMON KEAY: Well, now this is a very special building. It is getting on for a quarter of a kilometre in length, about 246 metres. It’s about 11 metres wide. And it opens directly onto the Trajanic basin in front of you. And it also opens onto the Claudian basin behind. In terms of the building itself, what you see today is really a palimpsest of structures. So, the building itself was originally constructed under the emperor Trajan. It was then enlarged in the course of the later 2nd century, and then was used almost continuously through into the Late Antique period, probably sometime in the 5th or probably even the 6th century A.D. In terms of the Trajanic period, the building was absolutely massive.
In addition to being a quarter of a kilometre in length, it consisted of three separate building sections. And we call this building 5. And the building sections are called building 5-1, 5-2, and 5-3. Now, each of these building sections comprised three narrow bays, which were only 11 metres wide, and two passages, which are only 4.5 metres wide, and the wide bay, which is 20 metres wide. And what you have in front of you is the Trajanic phase of one of the narrow bays. So what you see in front of you here is 11.5 metres wide. From where my colleagues down at the front are, right to the back is getting on for 50 metres long.
And to understand the scale, you have to realise that the big piers you see, those brick piers, one there, and another there, those are 11 metres wide and they are the bottom of two uprights which supported an arch which would have stood to 18 metres in height. So to get a sense of the building, you have to imagine that there are a whole series of these arches looking out onto the Trajanic basin. We also have arches looking onto the Claudian basin, but these are half-shut. So the building is opening onto the Trajanic basin, and it’s through those openings that the activity that happened in them was played out.
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