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Ostia

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Ostia, the port of ancient Rome, now lying 5km/3mi inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea and close to Fiumicino Airport, is the largest excavation site in Italy after Pompeii.

The excavated remains of Ostia give a vivid picture of life in the port which supplied Rome. Ancient Ostia was founded about the fourth century B.C. in an area of salt-pans at the mouth (ostia) of the Tiber. From about 300 B.C. it was the principal Roman naval base, and under the Empire developed into a considerable town of 50,000 inhabitants and was Rome's largest suburb and commercial port, through which the city's supplies of corn were brought in. After the fall of the Roman Empire Ostia fell a victim to decay and the ravages of malaria. The harbor silted up, and in 1558 the Tiber changed its course.

Ostia Antica, Italy

Columns of Ostia Antica.
The present town of Ostia (pop. 5,000) is dominated by a castle (1486), built to protect the harbor. An irregular triangle in plan, it has strong walls, bastions on the side facing the river and a massive keep in typical Italian Renaissance fortification style. The Renaissance church of Santa Aurea was built at the same time.

Excavation area Ostia Scavi

The excavated remains date mainly from the second-fourth centuries A.D., i.e. the period following the destruction of Pompeii. In contrast to Pompeii with its single-story houses occupied by separate families Ostia's swarming population was housed in blocks of apartments (insulae) several storys high, with numerous windows opening on to the street and on to the interior garden and often with loggias and balconies facing the street - typical examples of the architecture of Imperial Rome.
Address: Viale dei Romagnoli 717, I-00119 Ostia, Italy

Ostia Scavi - Tombs

Just beyond the main entrance of the excavation area of Ostia Scavi, along the ancient Via Ostiensis and in the parallel street to the south, the Via delle Tombe (even more impressive), are rows of tombs, both individual tombs, sometimes of considerable size, and columbaria with niches for large numbers of urns. The Via Ostiensis leads to the remains of the Porta Romana, the most important of the town's three gates.

Ostia Scavi - Decumanus Maximus

The Decumanus Maximus, the main street of ancient Ostia, more than 1km/0.75mi long starts here. Beyond the gate, on the left, is the Piazzale della Vittoria, named after the statue of Minerva Victoria (first century A.D.) which was found here; on the right can be seen the ruins of a corn store (horrea) dating from the first century B.C.

Ostia Scavi - Baths of Neptune

At the corner of Via dei Vigili (on right), are the Baths of Neptune, with heating arrangements at the northeast corner (good general view from a terrace on the first floor). At the end of Via dei Vigili, on the left, are the Watchmen's Barracks (second century A.D.), with an imposing central courtyard.

Ostia Scavi - Theater

Along the Decumanus past the Baths in Ostia Scavi, we come to the Theater, originally built in the time of Augustus and enlarged under Septimius Severus, with seating for 2,700 spectators. From the highest tier of seating there is a good view of the excavations, particularly of the Piazzale delle Corporazioni immediately north of the theater, with the columns of the Temple of Ceres. Along the east side of this square are the offices (scholae) of the various shipping corporations trading with overseas ports, mainly in Africa. To the west of the theater is the House of Marcus Apuleius Marcellus (second-third centuries A.D.), with a peristyle and atrium of Pompeian type. Adjoining it on the north is a shrine of Mithras.

Ostia Scavi - Horea Epagathiana (Domus di Amore e Psiche)

In a road running parallel to the Cardo Maximus, west of the forum, will be found the Horrea Epagathiana, impressive privately-owned warehouses with a handsome gateway and a two-story arcaded courtyard. Opposite, in the Domus di Amore e Psiche, a typical dwelling with inner courtyard, is a well-preserved marble floor.

Ostia Scavi - Temples

Farther along the Decumanus, on the right, are four small temples built on an older substructure, with a large granary (Grandi Horrea) to the west. Beyond this, also on the right-hand side of the Decumanus, is a well-preserved Thermopolium, a stone counter containing basins for cooling the drinks and tiers of shelves for drinking vessels.

Ostia Scavi - Capitolium

Beyond the Thermopolium in Ostia Scavi, to the right, the imposing Capitolium (second century A.D.) was the religious center of the town. Standing on a high brick base, this was the only building of ancient Ostia which remained above ground throughout the Middle Ages.

Ostia Scavi - Forum

To the south of the Capitolium is the Forum, in the center of the town at the intersection of the Decumanus with the Cardo Maximus, the principal transverse street. On the south side of the Forum are the remains of the Temple of Roma and Augustus (first century A.D.), with a statue of the victorious Roma. To the west, beyond a basilica, is a rotunda (third century A.D.) in the style of the Pantheon. Southeast of the Forum are large second century Baths.

Ostia Scavi - Baths of the Seven Sages

In Via della Foce, lie the Baths of the Seven Sages, with a beautiful mosaic floor in the central domed room, portraying hunters and animals. Nearby are remains of the multi-story House of the Charioteer.

Ostia Scavi - Basilica Schola di Traiano

Returning to the Decumanus Maximus, on the right can be seen first the fourth century Christian basilica, so far the only Christian church found in Ostia. Opposite lies the Schola di Traiano (second/third century), the meeting place of ship-owners and mariners and named after a statue of Trajan found there. Prior to its erection dwellings stood here; in the southeastern corner there still stands a peristyle with a nymphaeum.

Ostia Scavi - Blocks of Apartments and Garden Town

On the same side of the Decumanus Maximus is the 108m/118yd long block of apartments known as Della Fontana a Lucerna, with shops on the ground floor. Opposite lies a Garden Town. The mosaic floors and heated bathrooms suggest that these apartment blocks were built to a high standard. The Decumanus Maximus ends at the Porta Marina (parking lot).

Ostia Scavi - Campus Magnae Matris

When returning to the entrance to the excavation site it is worth making a detour to the south town gate, the Porta Laurentina. There, on the town wall, lies the traingular Campus Magnae Matris, with remains of the Temple of Kybele.

Lido di Ostia, Italy

The once beautiful beach of Ostia is still one of the weekend and holiday resorts most favored by the people of Rome, and accordingly is one of the busiest and liveliest stretches of sand and promenades in the whole of Italy. In recent years, however, Lido di Ostia has grown into a town of considerable size (pop. 55,000), and since most of its sewage goes into the sea, where it is joined by the sewage carried down by the Tiber from Rome, bathing in the sea here is not to be recommended - indeed at times it is prohibited by the public health authorities.

Lido di Castel Fusano

From Lido di Ostia a road runs southeast past the Parco di Castel Fusano to the resort of Lido di Castel Fusano, 4km/2.5mi from Lido di Ostia, at the end of the expressway from Rome, the Via Cristoforo Colombo.

Archeological Museum of Ostia

This museum is located in Ostia Antica.

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