Ostia Antica
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Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/85.30.17.58 - Fax 06/85.30.17.56

Email :  service@romeguide.it

Description:

Ostia Antica was the comercial point of the ancient Rome to the sea and perhaps its first colonia.

History of the city and of the area of excavations

Origins

Located at the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was said to have been founded by Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, in the 7th century BC. A later inscription refers to the event: "Ancus Marcius, the fourth of the kings from Romulus after the founding of the city [Rome] founded this first colony." However the most ancient archaeological remains so far discovered are no older than the 4th century BC. The most ancient buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC, notably the Castrum (military camp); of a slightly later date is the Capitolium (temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). The opus quadratum of the walls of the original castrum at Ostia provide important evidence for the building techniques that were employed in Roman urbanisation during the period of the Middle Republic.

Rise
The Temple of the goddess Roma on the Forum of Ostia.Although Ostia was probably founded for the sole purpose of military defense since hostile armies could eventually reach Rome by water through the mouth of the Tiber River — in time the port became a very important commercial harbor. Ostia was a large town, about three times larger than Pompeii.

Many of the goods that Rome received from its colonies and provinces passed through Ostia, including the essential grain supply to the city of Rome. In this role, Ostia soon replaced Pozzuoli, known to the ancient Romans as Puteoli, a port near Naples. In 87 BC, the town was razed by Gaius Marius.

Sacking by pirates
In 68 BC, the town was again sacked, this time by pirates.[2] During the sacking, the port was set on fire, the consular war fleet was destroyed, and two prominent senators were kidnapped. This attack caused such panic in Rome that Pompey Magnus arranged for the tribune Aulus Gabinius to rise in the Roman Forum and propose a law, the Lex Gabinia, to allow Pompey to raise an army and destroy the pirates. Within a year, the pirates had been defeated.

The town was then re-built, and provided with protective walls by the statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Imperial Ostia
The town was further developed during the first century AD under the influence of Tiberius, who ordered the building of the town's first Forum. The town was also soon enriched by the construction of a new harbor on the northern mouths of the Tiber (which reaches the sea with a larger mouth in Ostia, Fiumara Grande, and a narrower one near to the current Fiumicino International Airport). The new harbor, not surprisingly called Portus, from the Latin for "harbor," was excavated from the ground at the orders of the emperor Claudius. This harbour became silted up and needed to be supplemented later by a harbor built by Trajan finished in the year AD 113; it has a hexagonal form, in order to reduce the erosive forces of the waves. This took business away from Ostia itself (further down river) and began its commercial decline.

Ostia itself was provided with all the services a town of the time could require; in particular, a famous lighthouse. Ostia contained the earliest post-diaspora house-synagogue yet identified, an insula refitted as a synagogue in the late second century; it created a stir when it was unearthed in 1960-61.[3] By 1954 eighteen mithraea had also been discovered: Mithras had his largest following among the working population that were the majority of this port town. Archaeologists also discovered the public latrinas, organized for collective use as a series of seats that allow us to imagine today that the function was also a social moment. In addition, Ostia had a large theatre, many public baths, numerous taverns and inns, and a firefighting service.

Trajan too, required a widening of the naval areas, and ordered the building of another harbor, again pointing towards the north. It must be remembered that at a relatively short distance, there was also the harbor of Civitavecchia (Centum Cellae), and Rome was starting to have a significant number of harbours, the most important remained Portus.

Late-Roman and sub-Roman Ostia

Ostia housed a late imperial mint; this coin of Maxentius was struck there.Ostia grew to 50,000 inhabitants in the 2nd century, reaching a peak of some 75,000 inhabitants in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Ostia became an episcopal see as early as the 3rd century, the cathedral (titulus) of Santa Aurea (illustration, left) being located on the burial site of St. Monica, mother of Augustine; she died in an inn in the town. In time, naval activities became focused on Portus instead. A slow decadence began in the late Roman era around the time of Constantine I, with the town ceasing to be an active port and instead becoming a popular country retreat for rich aristocrats from Rome itself (along the lines of Brighton's relationship to London in the 18th century).[citation needed]

The decaying conditions of the city were mentioned by St. Augustine when he passed there in the late 4th century. The poet Rutilius Namatianus also reported the lack of maintenance of the city in 414.

With the end of the Roman Empire, Ostia fell slowly into decay, and was finally abandoned in the 9th century due to the repeated invasions and sackings by Arab pirates, including the Battle of Ostia, a naval battle in 849 between Christian and Saracens; the remaining inhabitants moved to Gregoriopolis.

Sacking and excavation
In the Middle Ages, bricks from buildings in Ostia were used for several other occasions. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was entirely built of material originally belonging to Ostia.

A "local sacking" was carried out by baroque architects, who used the remains as a sort of marble storehouse for the palazzi they were building in Rome. Soon after, foreign explorers came in search of ancient statues and objects. The Papacy started organizing its own investigations with Pope Pius VII; under Mussolini massive excavations were undertaken from 1938 to 1942. The first volume of the official series Scavi di Ostia appeared in 1954; it was devoted to a topography of the town by Italo Gismondi and after a hiatus the research still continues today. Though untouched areas adjacent to the original excavations were left undisturbed awaiting a more precise dating of Roman pottery types, the "Baths of the Swimmer", named for the mosaic figure in the apodyterium, were meticulously excavated, 1966-70 and 1974-75, in part as a training ground for young archaeologists and in part to establish a laboratory of well-understood finds as a teaching aid. It has been estimated that two thirds of the ancient town have currently been found.

Modern site
The site is no longer on the coast, due to sediments changing the local topography. It is near to the modern town of Ostia Lido in the Comune of Rome. The ancient site is open to visitors, and is easily reachable by a short rail trip from Rome.

Info :

Cooperativa IL SOGNO
Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/85.30.17.58 - Fax 06/85.30.17.56

Email :  service@romeguide.it

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Info :

Cooperativa IL SOGNO
Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/85.30.17.58 - Fax 06/85.30.17.56

Email :  service@romeguide.it