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Travel back in time to when the Empire ruled the seas
Two-thousand years ago, Ostia was Rome’s bustling seaport- with a population of over 60,000 people. Although an important part of ancient Rome’s history, it remains one of the old empire’s most overlooked yet well-preserved remnants.
Just a short drive to the coast from Rome, it is sometimes called ‘Rome’s Pompeii’ as it houses wonderfully preserved docks, warehouses, apartments, mansions, baths and shopping arcades. It is also much closer than Pompeii; a mere 30-minute drive from Rome’s city center, compared to 4 hours to the ruins of Pompeii.
Ostia’s founding has been placed at around 620 B.C. when the area was important for its nearby salt flats which provided the necessary ingredient for preserving meat. Around 400 B.C., after being conquered by the Romans, Ostia was fortified and turned into a naval base. From 150 A.D., when Rome controlled the Mediterranean (from Latin mediterraneus, ‘middle of the land’) Ostia was an important commercial port, until the fall of Rome when the port was largely abandoned. Similar to Pompeii, Ostia was buried and thus preserved- not by the ash of an erupting volcano, but instead by the silt of the Tiber River.
In the site’s museum, there are a number of mostly 2nd and 3rd century statues - copies of Greek originals – and busts of some of the city’s famous citizens. In a nearby room, statues show evidence of the diverse population of the town with religious figures from a number of cultures and religions.
Outside of the museum, you’ll take a stroll through the ruins of this Roman military town. Going East/West, the Decumanus Maximus, you’ll see buildings from both the old republic (before Christ) and the empire (after Christ) which you’ll be able to determine by their relative level. If you’re going down, you are headed further into the past, as, like Rome, the new was built on top of the old. Also along this main drag is the ancient theater- one of the oldest brick theaters in the world and still in use today.
One of the keys to enjoying the ruins of Osita Antica is the ability to imagine the ruins as they once were- something your guide will help you with through stories and visual aids. Obviously here, we have just scratched the surface of this amazing place, and we hope to see you soon to fill you in on the rest of this amazing port town.