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Ostia was named after the mouth (ostium ) of the Tiber. Legend says that it was founded by Ancus Marius, fourth king of Rome, on the spot where Aeneas first landed in Italy, but archaeologists say that the surviving remains suggest the first colony of Rome about 335 BC. Although the first industry there was the extraction of salt from the nearby marshes, the settlement soon developed into the commercial port of Rome. Shortly before the outbreak of the First Punic War (264 BC), it became a naval base. Eventually the river silted up, the flow of trade dwindled, the incidence of malaria increased, and the site was completely abandoned by 800 AD.
Here is a map of Ostia to show the general layout of a typical Roman town.|
a. barracks of the vigiles
This view shows the Porta Romana, the gate entering Ostia from Rome.
• The inscription reads in part: Senatus Populusque Coloniae Ostiensium.
• Now sitting on the ground, it once spanned the gate into Ostia.
• A colossal statue of Minerva Victoria may once have surmounted the gate.
This view shows the Decumanus maximus, the main road in Ostia.
• It is an extension of the Via Ostiensis from Rome.
• It is paved with blocks of basalt and lined with umbrella pines.
• It measures 9 meters in width and 1.5 kilometers in length.
This view shows the Augusteum in the barracks of the Vigiles.
• It is a shrine for the deified emperors located in the courtyard of the barracks.
• It consists of a podium with a row of bases that held statues of various emperors.
• The barracks housed a cohort of firemen on detachment from the garrison at Rome.
This view shows the Capitolium, a temple to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
• Six fluted marble columns stood across the front of the temple.
• A reconstituted altar is located in front of the steps leading up to the temple.
• Statues of the three deities stood in niches within the building.
This view shows the main hall of the thermae, or baths of Neptune.
• It was built by Hadrian in 133 A.D.
• The mosaic floor depicts Neptune surrounded by seahorses, tritons, and nereids.
• The frigidarium lies beyond the columns.
This view shows the restored theater that is still in use.
• It was built during the reign of Augustus and later expanded by Septimius Severus.
• It is constructed of red brick and tufa blocks (opus reticulatum ).
• The audience seating (cavea ) for about three thousand is divided into three sections.
This view shows the portal of the domus of Protiro.
• This private home (domus ) dates from the third century.
• The gate and columns of this entrance are reconstituted.
• Most people lived in apartment buildings (insulae ) rather than private dwellings like this one.