A massive floor mosaic from Ostia Antica’s Bath of the Seven Wise Men.
What there is to see in Ostia Antica. There are many legends that attribute the foundation of Ostia to the IV King of Rome Anco Marzio. Various archaeological evidence, however, has established that around the fourth century BC the city was a military camp, or rather a fortified citadel (castrum in Latin). After the second century BC, when Rome had achieved dominance over the whole Mediterranean, the military function of Ostia ceased and the city became the river port of the capital.
Ostia (from the Latin ostium, mouth) in the period of its maximum development reached 50 thousand inhabitants, then around the third century AD a crisis led to a decrease in traffic and commerce and the population began to abandon the town. After the 4th century AD there was an economic recovery in the city.
Commercial and administrative activities moved to the Port of Trajan, the new port built in a more backward position than that of Claudius, built previously, and Ostia benefited from this from a commercial point of view.
Detail of the reconstruction of Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica, in addition to being the first ever Roman colony, is the largest Roman city in the ancient world. The archaeological area, very well preserved, is located halfway between Rome and Fiumicino, not far from both Leonardo da Vinci Airport and another major archaeological site, the Necropolis of Porto.
A visit to the excavations of Ostia Antica can start from the Decumanus Maximus: the main axis of the city, one and a half kilometers long, which connects Porta Romana to Porta Marina. Walking along the Decumanus, one immediately enters a dense network of streets, squares and neighborhoods that made up the urban structure of the citadel. You come across buildings, courtyards, warehouses, shops, spas and baths that still preserve descriptive signs and mosaics.
It is useful to know that the excavations of Ostia Antica were begun in 1800, at the behest of Pius VII, and in 1909 they were carried out by Pius IX. The Archaeological Park is one of the largest and most famous in Italy equal only to that of Pompeii.
The visit to Ostia Antica also includes the Borgo, founded by Gregory IV in 830, where you can admire the square, the church and the castle of Julius II, later modified by Gregory IV to provide accommodation for workers in the salt pans. The fortress was then restored in 1736 at the behest of Pius VI.
Finally, it is worth visiting the Roman Theater which is definitely one of the oldest structures in the area. The entire project, attributed to Agrippa, dates back to the age of Augustus. The building was entirely rebuilt in brick at the end of the 2nd century AD and then restored several times. Its current capacity is 2,700 seats and is perfectly usable.