This is a business part of Roman Ostia, which once housed the offices of various businesses. They included merchants who operated businesses shipping various commodities to and from Ostia/Rome and to advertise their business, they had mosaics in front showing with what commodoties they dealt. These are still there and one can really get a feel for Roman commercial life from visiting this area.
The small town of Ostia Antica (5 minutes walk from the Ostia Antica excavation site) is very pleasant and worth a good walkabout. A medieval/Renaissance town with a papal palace (or fortress), a historic church, cafés and restaurants. To me, it felt like walking into a medieval Roman town.
The old castle with the round tower was begun by Pope Martin V and completed by Pope Jules II (when he was Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere.)
The plaque to Gli Scariolanti is (I think) an hommage to the cleaners and garbage collectors of Ostia Antica.
This isn't meant to be *the* guided tour of Ostia Antica. It's an introduction to this impressive, authentic place, close to Rome and yet often ignored by visitors to the Eternal City. Ostia Antica is close to Rome, easy to reach by any means, and a site to be remembered forever.
I got a Visitor's Book to Ostia Antica from my hotel in Ostia town but they only had Spanish versions left when i asked... and now I can't find the booklet. It doesn't matter, this is just to whet your appetite. I'll post a few photos of my visit there on a sunny day in June, and hope that it will bring you there too!
Ostia is truly authentic. And for me at least, it was quieter than most major archeological sites I saw in Italy. Except maybe for Hadrian's Villa near Tivoli, where I had the great fortune to visit with a Roman archeologist, almost from the break of dawn... Crowds were not a problem at all in Ostia at the time I visited. It was magical to walk along cobblestones, practically alone, for hours.
The public areas of this site are excellent and worth some time but do not overlook the area between the Forum and the ocean.
You will find more baths, streets and homes. Many of the rooms are well preserved and just amazing. There are gardens temples businesses and intimate roman homes and apartments. It will give you a very different perspective.
So set some time to visit this area during your visit to ostia
I worked at a nice bakery for a couple of winters when I was young. When I see a bakery i always have to stop. The example here is a hoot to see,
For me the highights were the preserved fragment of the mosaic floor and the grindstones. We grow and process our own wheat and i would love have one of these grindstones. I might need more muscle than I possess to use one.
It is nice to visit a building that must have been a busy place in this neighborhood. You can kind of get the feel of the place. I would love to have tried the bread.
Three columns, very similar in construction, appeared in various stages of what will become of them all, showing one without vines wrapping around it; a second as the vines begin to crawl up one part; and the last covered with vines.
At Ostia Antica there are the 'shops ' or offices where the shipping companies did business. The area is called The Corporations. From the mosaic floors you get an idea of where the companies ships travelled eg. the Elephant would indicate Africa [Libya, Egypt?}. Others would have figures that might indicate the kind of goods carried eg. fish or wine,
All mosaics here are monochrome [black and white]
sewage and hygiene
There were public toilets where people sat side by side. The seats [often marble] had a hole cut out, and the waste matter would drop down to be carried away by the drains.
In the bath houses there would be a slotted 'drain' for the water to flow out of the floor. The drains of these can be seen along many of the buildings, especially where there are bath-houses.
I felt these toilets were very cramped by present day standards, or people were much slimmer.
[Unfortunately my batteries died just after taking this photograph, when I had found another toilet in a private house .]
“Supplies of food were brought up from Ostia and the neighboring towns, and the price of corn was reduced to three sesterces a peck.”
— Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55-177) Ancient Roman historian
STRICTLY BUSINESS—Behind the amphitheater is the Forum of the Corporations (Piazzale delle Corporazioni). A huge rectangular portico housed the offices of 64 maritime import/export businesses. This was where you would come if you needed to ship something to or from Rome. It could have been oil from Spain, wheat from Egypt, or wild animals from African. To find the company that would accomplish that task you needed done, you would read names and pictures made out of black and white tiles in mosaic fashion. Today these signs can still be seen on the floor of each office.
Containers for grain marked the shop that imported this vital foodstuff, a major business in Ostia. The elephant indicated that ivory or exotic animals were sold there. One office shows laborers unloading containers from a sea-faring ship to a river barge.
“For why should I complain of the disaster of Ostia, and of that stain and blot on the Republic, when almost under your very eyes, that fleet which was under the command of a Roman consul was taken and destroyed by the pirates?”
From “Pro Lege Manilia” 66 BC by Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
The combination of landscaping and ruins gave the park an other-worldliness unlike anything I have seen before. The area is quite peaceful. I wondered as I wandered about grounds' maintenance. My question was answered when I saw a grounds keeper mowing the grass within some of the ruined walls!
The crumbling walls of Ostia Antica provide a ready-made jungle gym (see photo) for those willing to take the risk, as well as a study hall for those with other pursuits in mind.
Tom found a red poppy (see photo). The flower was plentiful throughout the park.
“Whenever he floated down the Tiber to Ostia, or cruised past the Gulf of Baiae, he had a row of temporary brothels erected along the shore, where married women, pretending to be inn-keepers, solicited him to come ashore.”
— About Emperor Nero from “Lives of the Twelve Caesars” by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (AD 69-140)
Marcus Agrippa, right-hand man of Emperor Augustus, built the theatre (Teatro) in Ostia between 18 and 12 BC. It had a seating capacity for 4,000 spectators. The three rows of the steep, marble, semicircular bleachers near the orchestra were reserved for big shots. This is one of the oldest brick theaters anywhere. A wall rose once behind the stage enclosing the theater.
Today the theatre continues to function as an entertainment venue, where for a short time each summer plays are performed, and as a concert venue.
Photos were taken during a late May 2007 visit.
“Ostia is fortified; and Ancus Marcius creates an attractive harbor for the beautiful ships, and for the sailors who make a living from the sea.”
From “The Chronicles of Rome” by Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC)
BY THE SEA—Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius (640 BC–616 BC) the fourth king of Rome, in 620 BC. During the Republican era Ostia was first a military base defending the coastline and the mouth of the Tiber; it then became Rome’s main commercial port, mainly for the import of grain. The port continued to flourish under the Empire despite the development of Portus, a new port slightly to the northwest, in the second century AD.
The Baths of Neptune (Terme di Nettuno) is one of the first important sites within the park that you come across after entering the Roman Gate (Porto Romano).
Its main feature is a well-preserved black and white floor mosaic that shows the god of the sea riding in his chariot drawn by four horses.
As you walk along the main road you will come to a set of stairs on the right-hand side. Climb the stairs to a viewing point for a fine perspective of this beautiful work of art that measures 55 feet by 36 feet.
Photos taken during a late May 2007 visit.
A grand outdoor museum - smaller than Pompeii but more intimate and certainly less crowded. The theatre - a lovely place to just sit and rest awhile - much to see and enjoy inside and outside the theatre.
Construction in the age of Augusto, a registration attributes it to Agrippa who died in the 12 a.c. With rear and coevo (the Large square of the Corporations) it formed a huge complex and accommodated 4000 spectators. At the end of IVth century the building was restored by Ragonio Vincenzio Celso. The entrance corridor was strengthened using bases of statues taken from the Large square of the Corporations that was by now in abandonment. At that time, Celso erected a statue of Rome, whose pedestal rises today behind the east ninfeo. In this late age the theatre came moreover adapted to colimbetra for aquatic shows “tetinimi” in which the Nereidi and the nymphs of classic mythology exhibited.
If you are fortunate, you will have an opportunity to see not only the Ruins of Ostia Antica; but also some of the culture of the local people.
We happened to arrive as a festival was in progress in the Piazza - the formality mixed with celebration was, indeed, a memorable experience. Following the formal display of uniformed participants, the Piazza quickly filled with artists setting up their works with the Castle in the background.
If you like mosaics, Ostia Antica is the place. There is mosaics everyvhere between the ruins, on the Terms, Thermopolium, houses, taberns, temples. They are very well conserved and are very originals. You will find more mosaics on my traveloge