Ostia Antica

Discovering the ancient city of Ostia, the Pompeii at the gates of Rome!

 

An ancient colony: between legend and archeology

According to tradition, the foundation of Ostia is located in 620 BC by Anco Marzio, one of the Seven Kings of Rome. Archaeology has actually revealed that the installation of the castrum (military camp) of Ostia, placed to guard the mouth of the Tiber river (Ostia derives from Ostium, mouth of the river), threatened at the time by the Greeks and Syracusans, did not happen until around the beginning of the fourth century BC.

King Anco Marzio, mythical founder of the Ostia settlement (Credits: romanoimpero.com)

 

Its commercial importance was developed from the second century BC. From that time on, thanks also to the consolidation of the power of Rome over the Mediterranean, Ostia gradually became a commercial port center linked to the supply of wheat to the city.

The castrum of Ostia (Credits: www.romanports.com)

 

This function was amplified in the imperial age when the emperor Claudius, in 42 AD, began the construction of a new port just north of the mouth of the Tiber and connected to it through an artificial canal.

The importance of the port of Ostia was also grasped a few years later by the Emperor Trajan who, between 106 and 113 AD, had a new hexagonal-shaped port basin built.

The growing trade of Rome, the largest metropolis in the ancient world, allowed, over time, not only the construction of a protected port, but also a whole series of other facilities for navigation and storage of goods that made Ostia the real arm of Rome on the Mediterranean.

 

The ports of Claudio and Trajan (Credits: http://www.ia-ostiaantica.org)

 

The Archaeological Park of Ostia Antica: how to get there, opening times and contacts

The ancient remains of Ostia are now included in a beautiful archaeological park.

The excavations of Ostia are located in Viale dei Romagnoli 717 and are perfectly accessible by car or public transport. By car, take the Grande Raccordo Anulare – exit 28 and then take Via del Mare or Via Ostiense as far as Ostia Antica. If you want to move by public transport, from Ostiense Station (Metro Stop B – Pyramid), just take one of the trains of the Rome – Lido line and get off at the stop “Ostia Antica” and then walk for 5 minutes and you will find the entrance to the archaeological site.

As far as opening hours and costs are concerned: the archaeological site is closed every Monday, 1 January and 25 December.

From the last Sunday of October to 15 February: from 8:30 to 16:30 (last entry at 15:30); from 16 February to 15 March: from 8:30 to 17 (last entry at 16:00); from 16 March to the last Saturday of March: from 8:30 to 17:30 (last entry at 16:30). From the last Sunday in March to 31 August: from 8:30 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. (last admission 6:15 p.m.). From 1st September to 30th September: from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last admission 6 p.m.); from 1st October to the last Saturday of October: from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last admission 5:30 p.m.).

The full price of the ticket is 10 €. The reduced ticket costs 5 €. The archaeological site very often hosts temporary exhibitions. In this case, the ticket may be subject to a small price increase.

Tickets can also be purchased online at the following address: buy.ostiaanticatickets.it/

For further information: www.ostiaantica.beniculturali.it

The entrance of the Archaeological Area of Ostia (credits: romatoday.it)

Why visit Ostia?

The importance of Ostia, beyond its commercial role in ancient times, lies above all in the fact that this colony looks like a kind of miniature Rome. While in Rome some testimonies of the ancient city have been destroyed / reused as a result of the extraordinary continuity of life of the City, in Ostia this did not happen. The ancient settlement on the Tiber can therefore be an excellent example to look at and admire building types almost entirely disappeared in Rome. We can say that, after Pompeii, it is certainly one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy to take a dip in the life of ancient Rome. It is in fact called the Pompeii at the gates of Rome!

 

The house of Diana in Ostia, a well-preserved example of an ancient Rome condominium (Credits: www.ia-ostiaantica.org)

Today’s scenario is, however, very different from that of the ancient world. From historical sources we know that a flood in 1557 modified the bed of the Tiber, diverting it northwards. For this reason, therefore, between the remains of the ancient city and the current Lido di Ostia there are 4 km away.

The excavations of the area were begun by Pope Pius VII in 1800 and were carried out by Pius IX in 1909 who, thanks to the help of Vaglieri, Paribeni and Calza, made a significant contribution to the discovery of this wonderful and important archaeological centre.

 

Must See in Ostia: itinerary in the area of the excavations

You can stop in the ancient city following the course of the Decumanus Maximus, the main road that cut through the town and on which you can still identify the grooves of the wagons that passed over it.

Decumanus Maximus in Ostia (credits: romaincamper.it)

I suggest you to see the Forum, the main square of the time, the real beating heart of public life in Ostia, accompanied by the Piazzale delle Corporazioni. Visit also the insulae, the palaces of the time, with shops on the ground floor, overlooking the street, and the apartments on the upper floors shared by various families (often only the first floor is preserved).

The Piazzale delle Corporazioni in Ostia Antica (Credits: www.ia-ostiaantica.org)

Remarkable the Thermal Baths of Neptune, with splendid mosaics, the barracks of the firemen and above all the Thermopolium, the pub of the ancient Romans (I like to call it so!).

 

The Thermal Baths of Neptune and some of the splendid mosaics discovered during archaeological excavations (Credits: www.ia-ostiaantica.org)

 

fresco painting found in the bar of the Thermopolium of Ostia(Credits: www.ia-ostiaantica.org)

 

Also worth a visit is the beautiful Roman Theatre, one of the best preserved buildings of the entire archaeological area. Built in the Augustan Age, it is still used for various shows and concerts.

 

The theatre of Ostia Antica (credits: beniculturali.it)

 

Not only ancient Rome: the Borghetto

In Ostia, the so-called Borghetto is also worth a visit. Born around the ninth century AD, when Pope Gregory IV built a fortification to protect the inhabitants of that stretch of the Via Ostiense from Saracen raids, the village of Ostia took on its present appearance only in the fifteenth century.

Martin V had the circular tower, the moat and the houses built in the village.

The Castle, however, was built by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, better know as Pope Julius II. The Rocca housed the Dogana Pontificia and the papal apartment frescoed by the Baldassarre Peruzzi school.

Following the change in the course of the Tiber, the castle was used first as a barn and then as a prison.

 

the Castle of Julius II in the Borghetto of Ostia (Credits: www.ia-ostiaantica.org)

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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