Ostia Antica Ruins
Visiting Ostia Antica Archeological Site is certainly like stepping back in time.
Legend has it that probably 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 due to 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.
The castrum housed a military settlement that was given the name Ostia, for the reason that Ostium in Latin means the mouth of the river so that became a strategic commercial port.
Furthermore 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 due to the fall of the Roman Empire, certainly 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.
Finally 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 probably as a sheepfold.
Finally, 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 certainly 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.
Getting to Know the Ostia Antica Archaeological Site
Video credit: Tullix nax
The ruins of Ostia Antica that you can visit today, are considered as the best testimony, even more than 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 even more 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.
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.
Those include blocks from:
Teos (the famous marble luculleo),
Asia Minor (the frigio pavonazzetto),
Evia (the veined caristio or cipollino),
Sciro (polychrome breccia),
Chios (the Portasanta), from Paros (the lychnites),
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.
The Ostiense Museum
The visit must also include a stop at the Ostiense Museum.
Its headquarters are located on the ground floor of a building dating back to the fifteenth century known as Casone del Sale and characterized by the neoclassical style of the facade.
In the mid-nineteenth century it was the will of Pope Pius IX to use it as a museum and currently houses the management of the excavations of Ostia Antica.
We start by crossing the main portal
which makes you gain access after a short corridor which, on the left, opens two spaces in which there are preserved testimonies of the cults of oriental origin that took place in Ostia in Roman times.
In the next room, there is a plastic group representing Mithras who kills the bull from the Mithraeum of the Baths of Mithra and attributable to the famous Athenian artist Kriton;
and also an installation of the chapel of Attis found in the Campo della Magna Mater area near Porta Laurentina.
Going down the steps you cross the first room
where, at the bottom, there is the marble statue of Minerva-Vittoria which certainly made up a part of the elevation of Porta Romana.
In the room that remains on the right, you can admire a marble statue of Perseus with the head of a jellyfish that was found in the villa outside Porta Laurentina;
it is possible to see a small plastic group of Cupid and Psyche found in the homonym domus and another representative of the Three Graces.
On the opposite side there is another room
where Roman era copies of Greek originals are housed:
an head of Athena with a Corinthian helmet,
a statue of Artemis from the Domus della Fortuna Annonaria,
also face of Efebo dating back to the first century after Christ which still preserves signs of polychrome painting,
a statue of Apollo and a model of wrestlers dating back to the first century after Christ.
In recent times the room has been completed with a marble frieze from the second century after Christ which portrays Hephaestus and Athena which was intended for a temple dedicated to Vulcan.
The room in the center of the museum
houses Roman portraits and preserves on the part of the entrance a votive statue dedicated to Cartilio Poplicola,
one of the most important figures of Ostia dating back to the first century BC and which was originally located in the pronaos of the Temple of Hercules.
Portraits of Augustus, Agrippa and Marciana are placed on display on the left side where there is also a statue of Trajan.
Even Empress Sabina is testified with two statues while a statue of Iulia Procula, found in a tomb of Isola Sacra is housed on the right side.
The visit continues with the next room where the theory of portraits of emperors continues and where both the bust of Septimius Severus and the statue of his wife, Giuli Domna are both attributable to the third century after Christ.
There is also the mighty marble statue of Maxentius and a smaller one of his wife Fausta, found in the College of the Augustali. Impossible not to notice the large statue of Isis Pharia, complete with a marble snake.
The room with which the Museum of the Excavations of Ostia Antica ends,
preserves many sarcophagi where a couple from the Pianabella necropolis are highlighted:
one with scenes from the myth of Achilles and the Iliad, while we mourn the body of Patroclus and a other than a centauromachy.
At the back of the room there is a not too large sarcophagus in pantelic marble in the Attic style, which includes dancing putti in a Dionysian bacchanal.
Visit Ostia Antica Archeological site: an inevitable refreshment
The air of the nearby sea and the fresh fish caught every day invite you to taste seafood specialties that are prepared with the true simplicity of those who love to faithfully, follow traditional cuisine not inclined to the creative temptations of the nouvelle cousine.
The smells of peppered mussels mingle with those of fried and skewers of crustaceans, fueling a feeling of hunger that has little to do with the history and art just lived inside the Roman excavations.
There are many restaurants in Ostia Antica and everyone will satisfy your appetite.
You cannot miss a visit to the village of Ostia Antica, with the Castle of Giulio II, inside which there is the Church of Sant’Aurea.
How to get to Ostia Antica Archeological Site
In conclusion: Reaching the archaeological remains of the excavations of Ostia Antica is quite simple, whether you come by car as well as public transport.
Here are the detailed instructions
By car and from any highway:
you have to enter the Grande Raccordo Anulare and take exit number 28 with destination Via del Mare, or Via Ostiense to Ostia Antica.
If you arrive from Fiumicino airport, you have to continue on Viale dell’ Aeroporto until you cross Via del Mare and continue following the road signs indicating Ostia Antica.
If you take public transport:
from Porta San Paolo (Piramide) station you can take the Rome – Lido train getting off at the Ostia Antica stop and continuing on foot for five minutes.
From Ostia Lido Centro Station:
B&B Barocchetto Romano is in walking distance, less than 5 minutes
Take Metro Rome-Lido towards Rome you will reach the excavations in just 2 train stops,
get off at Ostia Antica and then continue on foot for 5 minutes.
From Termini station
you have to take the metro line B to Porta San Paolo station (Piramide) and from there take the train Roma-Lido,
getting off at the stop called Ostia Antica and then continue on foot for five minutes.
The excavations of Ostia Antica are located in Viale dei Romagnoli 717
Pay attention to the opening and closing times of the same because they vary according to the season.
It is better you inquire at the official website of the Fine Arts where exact times and closing days are indicated before choosing when to go.
Ostia Antica Archeological Site: Map and Panoramic Photos