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Iulia Felix (Italy)

Roman Shipwreck of Iulia Felix


The Iulia Felix (also spelled Julia Felix) is the name of a Roman ship wrecked in the Adriatic Sea six miles off the coast of the town of Grado during the last part of the 2nd century or first half of the 3rd century AD. The ship is a well-preserved 'corbita', a merchant ship used by the Roman Empire intended for long distance trading voyages. The Iulia Felix measured between about 15 and 18 meters long and 5-6 meters wide.

About 560 amphorae were within the cargo hold when she went down, containing a variety of oils and spices. Some bronze artifacts were recovered, including the sculpted bronze heads of Greek god Poseidon and Roman goddess Minerva.

Iulia Felix and Glass

In the cargo hold of the Iulia Felix was a large wooden barrel, about 1.4 meters high, filled with nearly 11,000 glass vessel fragments, from a wide variety of cups, small jars, trays, goblets, bottles, and plates. These green, blue, and clear fragments were placed in the barrel as broken shards; and as such they represent cullet, a glassmakers' term for broken glass intended to be recycled into new glass. Researchers believe these glass fragments may have been destined for the port of Aquileia, known to have been an important center of Roman glass making.

The Iulia Felix was discovered by a fisherman in 1986, and investigated in the 1980s and 1990s under the direction of Paola Lopreato. The well-preserved ship has produced several interesting studies of Roman glass and glass making techniques, led by A. Silvestri and Luigi Fozzati.

By the way, Julia Felix is also the name of a villa in Pompeii. The villa was named after its owner, Julia Felix, a wealthy business woman who may have perished in the Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD.


This article is a part of the About.com guide to the Shipwrecks, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

The project website for the Iulia Felix is Operatiozione Iulia Felix, in Italian.

Axel Nelson's website called Roman Cargo Vessels has drawings of an example of a Roman corbita (scroll for the English).

Silvestri, A., G. Molin, and G. Salviulo 2008 The colourless glass of Iulia Felix. Journal of Archaeological Science 35(2):331-341.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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