Ostia Antica is the best-preserved Roman town in Italy after Pompeii and Herculaneum and its ruins provide a fascinating lesson on everyday life in ancient Rome.
Situated on mouth of the River Tiber 30 kilometres to the west of Rome, the ancient city is beautifully set in a serene park of Cypresses and majestic Umbrella Stone Pines, which are one of my absolutely favourite trees.
Founded in the 4th century BC, Ostia was at first a military post and simple port, but as Rome grew so did the town, eventually becoming the sea gateway and chief port of ancient Rome .
Its main function was the distribution point and organisation of the supply of imports and produce to Rome from around the Mediterranean. At its height of its prosperity the city had population of close to 100,000.
The decline of the town began in the time of Emperor Constantine. By the time of the 4th century AD Ostia had become more of a residential town instead of commercial. Its decline was accelerated by the loss of trade due to the river silting moving the shoreline further away and malaria.
One of highlights of Ostia is the Capitolium , the ancient town’s most important temple and dedicated to the main Roman deities, Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
Dominating the Forum and built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD), the prostyle hexastyle building pronaos is reached by a wide flight of steps which had six fluted white marble columns which provided an entrance to the rectangular cells.
Another highlight is the Ancient Roman Theatre. The restored theatre was commissioned by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (chief lieutenant to Roman Emperor Augustus) in the late first century AD and then enlarged by Septimius Severus in the 2nd century AD. Originally there were three tiers of seats and accommodated up to 4000 people.
Ostia Antica is an very enjoyable day trip from Rome. The train ride takes approximately 30 minutes and exploring the vast archaeological site is quite relaxed as there are not the masses of tourists found elsewhere.
All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.