A City in Ruins – Ostia Antica

Ostia AnticaJust twenty miles outside of Rome you’ll find the beautiful ruins of Ostia. The city was established in the fourth century BC as a military outpost to guard the mouth of the Tiber river, but with the commercial trade of the river, Ostia quickly became a major port and trade center. Today the city is empty except for memories and visitors.

At its prime, Ostia was home to over 100,000 residents and the city now sprawls over 10,000 acres. The main street alone is a mile long and the apartment buildings, shops and taverns are still intact. A walk along the Decumanus Maximus gives you a feel of what the city was like centuries ago. There are no modern establishments within site and beneath your feet are the ruts left by four-wheeled carts used for cargo and the lighter two-wheeled carts used for transportation.

Bath of Neptune
Much of the original city is still standing as ruins. Enough is visible to get a clear glimpse into the past. A large expanse of mosaic measuring 55 feet by 36 feet is intact in the Baths of Neptune. In the scene, the god of the Sea is riding his chariot drawn by four horses, which he created according to legend.

Amphitheater of Ostia

The amphitheater of Ostia was built in 12 BC and you can still sit among the raised steps that once held 3500 spectators and watch the tiny stage below. Only the permanent backdrop is no longer intact at the amphitheater, but it is simple to visualize what it might have looked like.

Forum of the Corporations

The Forum of the Corporations is found just beyond the amphitheater. The offices of sixty-four maritime companies were housed in the large portico, and merchants wishing to send goods along the river to Rome were able to find the appropriate office by searching the mosaic signs just outside of each office. The mosaics of names and services are still visible on the ground today.

Collegiate Temple

Among the many other sites remaining to see, the collegiate temple is worthy of a visit. The building was a social club for men of lower classes and women were not invited to the decadent feasts the men would enjoy within its walls. To honor a god or newly deceased members of the group, men would gather for a meal and entertainment lasting from 3pm until dawn.