Ostia Antica is a large archeological site that was the harbour city of ancient Rome.
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site that was the harbour city of ancient Rome. The beautifully preserved ruins of Ostia Antica lie twenty miles from Rome, in the meadows between the Tiber River and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Ostia Antica was founded, probably in the 4th century BC, as a military colony to guard the river mouth against seaborne invasions. Later, during the centuries when virtually all imports reached the Capital via the Tiber,
Ostia Anticagained prominence as the domestic landing for cargo boats. By the 2nd century AD, Ostia Antica had become a flourishing commercial center inhabited by upwards of 100,000 people, whose apartment buildings, taverns, and grocery shops are still intact.
Although Ostia Antica now sprawls over 10,000 acres, around a main street that runs for more than a mile, it is still easy to imagine the local shepherds who for centuries sheltered their animals amongst its ruins, for they are an integral part of the tranquil Roman countryside. No modern houses, roads or telephone wires are visible on the horizon. The streets are so quiet one hears only the crickets in the trees and perhaps the echoes of ancient children playing stickball. As you walk along Ostia Antica's main street, the Decumanus Maximus, your feet settle into deep ruts left by carrucas, the four-wheeled carts used to ferry merchandise and baggage between Rome and Ostia. A fleet of two-wheeled cisia provided public transportation for commuters.
Once inside the Roman Gate, you visit the Baths of Neptune. Here, in a beautifully preserved mosaic measuring 55 feet by 36 feet, the sea god is seen riding a chariot drawn by four pawing horses. From here, you would be wise to go directly to the modern outdoor cafe, where you can buy a guide book that will greatly enrich your tour.
The amphitheater in Ostia Antica is next door to the bar. Erected in 12 BC, it is a quiet, wonderfully preserved series of steep semicircular stone bleachers that hold 3500 spectators. The tiny stage is still intact, and although the permanent scenery that rose three stories behind it is no longer standing, you can easily imagine what it must have looked like during the premiere of Ovid's Medea, a play that has since been lost.Behind the theater is the Forum of the Corporations, so called because its great rectangular portico housed the offices of sixty-four maritime companies. This was where you would come if you needed to ship something to Rome, be it wheat from Spain, sugar from India, or African beasts for the Colosseum games. To find the most suitable shipper, you would examine the mosaic names and pictures still visible on the ground in front of each office. If you were pleased with the deal, you would then offer a sacrifice at the Temple of Ceres, which rises over the middle of the Forum.
Once you have spent a couple of hours walking amongst and climbing over the ruins in Ostia Antica, it is worth going to have a peek at Castle of Julius II, located just across the road. The castle is situated in the gorgeous little Piazza della Rocca, in which Ostia's inhabitants go about their daily business and several plump and friendly local cats will happily escort you around.
Logically enough, the laundry shop is next to the public baths. Walk through the main gate, where Ostians would have been met by a servant ready to help them change their clothes. In the meeting room, they would spend an hour or so chatting with friends or reading the newspaper. Then they would choose a combination of hot, cold, warm or steam baths. You can follow a winding underground passage, where servants lit boilers and emptied tubs without disturbing the clients. Above this you'll see the laconium, whose steam was provided by lead pipes still visible in the walls. Most Ostians buildings were heated this way, by hot air piped up from underground boilers.
The best way to reach Ostia Antica is by using the metro. Trains leave at station Piramide: get off the regular metro at Piramide, go up the escalator, turn immediately left and down the steps into the Roma-Lido station. Trains also leave at station Magliana. Entry fee is 6.50 EUR for adults over 25. Those between 18 and 25 get in for half price. If you're under 18 or over 65, you don't have to pay at all! Open between 8:30 AM – 6:00 PM. Closed Mondays.