Ancient Ostia excavations: History
Visiting the excavations at Ostia Antica is like stepping back in time. Legend has it that it was Anco Marzio, the fourth king of Rome, to want in the seventh century BC. its foundation. But this fact is not objectively proven.
What is more than likely is the existence of a town near the salt pans that were at the mouth of the Tiber that, right in Ostia, ended up at the sea. What initially was a settlement dating back to the fourth century BC it was later modified to castrum, that is a fort protected by massive tufaceous walls that housed a military settlement that was given the name Ostia (Ostium in Latin means the mouth of the river) and that became a strategic commercial port.
Ostia was implemented by new buildings, consequently extending the walls that delimited the urban area enlarged to reach fifty hectares.
The life of the town near Rome continued to obtain, under Constantine, its own autonomy, but after the fall of the Roman Empire, it had no protection against the barbarian invasions that began with that of Alaric and his Visigoths who followed each other up. to bring Ostia to complete abandonment.
Its ruins were forgotten and buried by time until, in the immediate surroundings in the ninth century AD. Pope Gregory IV decided to build an inhabited conglomerate that took its name and of which you can still see the castle built by Julius II in the fifteenth century.
Of the Roman Ostia the traces were lost outside the Capitolium, the only still visible building, which was used as a sheepfold.
Only in the nineteenth century and at the behest of Pope Pius VII began the excavation of the archaeological area of Ostium that brought to light the evidence of an era forgotten by all. Research that continued in the following century following more scientific criteria that succeeded in deteminating exciting discoveries that confirmed the importance of this city at the gates of the capital and that, even today, are carried forward because the discovery has not yet ended.
Ancient Ostia Excavations: Getting to Know the Archaeological Excavations
Video credit: Tullix nax
The excavations of Ostia Antica that you can visit today, are considered as the best testimony, after Pompeii, of a Roman city that has come to us.
Five are the circuits on which you can articulate a visit to the discovery of this archaeological area and can give rise to a series of visits dedicated to the deep knowledge of what was Ostia.
The first route runs along the Decumanus, which was then the trade route. On the Decumano opened the artisan shops, the places designated for representation and exchanges, the productive activities. Here you can also admire the Roman Theater, the warehouses, the tabernae where you stop for drinks and lunch, the Piazzale delle Corporazioni and the Fulloniche.
A second path is that which makes you know, from Porta Marina, the various religious communities then present and tolerant with each other, as a Roman custom. The Mitrei are confused with the Synagogue, the Christian Basilica with the Capitolium, the Campo della Magna Mater with the Rotondo Temple: a real patchwork of religious cults.
The third possibility is dictated by the detailed visit of the political, administrative and commercial center represented by the Forum. Here, the Cardo Massimo opened common areas such as the inevitable Baths, the Macellum and the Tabernae of the fishmongers, the Capitolium, the small market and the Thermopolium.
The penultimate route takes place by entering the neighborhoods adjacent to Via della Foce. Here are the houses, the sacred buildings, the spa facilities dedicated to the inhabitants of the popular districts that still retain interesting pictorial remains to be admired.
Fifth and last chance of the circuit is the one dedicated to the surroundings of Porta Marina, where the “modern” Ostia Antica was developed. You will see the Domus, the sepulchral monuments, the buildings destined to dwellings and the places where the people could refresh themselves.
Ancient Ostia excavations: Precious Marbles
After visiting the excavations of Ostia Antica, it is interesting to see the quarry Marbles of the Sacred Island and the Fossa Traiana.
It is a collection of a few hundred marbles from the most important quarries of the Roman Empire that were collected from the middle of the last century and which represent what was found in the Fossa Traiana, or the current Fiumicino canal.
It turns out that in the vicinity there was a deposit of marbles that arrived by ship from every part of the Empire and that were stored to be then chosen by the sculptors to create monuments, statues and architectural works.
The collection includes precious marbles that have been subdivided into quality and features and include blocks from Teos (the famous marble luculleo), from Asia Minor (the frigio pavonazzetto), from Evia (the veined caristio or cipollino), from Sciro (polychrome breccia), from Chios (the Portasanta), from Paros (the lychnites), from Numidia (the ancient yellow marble), as well as the alabaster of Egyptian origin.
It is interesting to see how all the blocks were duly cataloged at that time, noting inscriptions and trademarks of the quarry of provenance that testify how much importance was given by the Roman administration.