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Ostia Antica - Ancient Ostia

A harbor city on the Tiber near Rome


This photo is from James Martin's collection of pictures of monuments in Italy. It shows a part of the ancient harbor city of Ostia or 'Ostia Antica' -- a fluvial port city.
Ostia Antica - A harbor city on the Tiber near Rome

Ostia Antica - A harbor city on the Tiber near Rome

James Martin http://goeurope.about.com

Ostia was Rome's harbor city, located about 30 km west of Rome at the mouth of the Tiber River. Silting has moved the city away from its beach.

Tradition attributes the founding of Ostia -- to guard the mouth of the Tiber (Wilson) -- to 620 B.C., during the reign of the fourth of Rome's early kings, Ancus Martius, but he may only have acquired access to the salt in the area. No remains have been found from this period, but remains dating from an early military settlement known as the Castrum have been found. The Castrum was built between 396 and 267 B.C. according to contemporary events, with pottery dating to the first half of the fourth century B.C. Between the end of the Latin Wars and the 1st Punic War, Ostia had become one of the first ten coloniae civium Romanorum 'Rome's citizen colonies' in which the citizens were "full Roman citizens instead of burghers with Latin right" (Mason). Mason says they all were coastal cities or coloniae maritimae, according to Livy and Siculus Flaccus

The ancient naval base made Ostia its home, but by the period of the late Republic, Ostia had become a commercial center. The quaestor located there (quaestor Ostiensis) -- probably from 267 B.C. -- had been in charge of the fleet, but came to be in charge of the grain shipments, as a treasurer. The city of Ostia was plundered during the civil conflict between Sulla and Marius, and then by pirates in the time of Pompey, and then rebuilt, expanded, and improved.


  • Ostia Introduction
  • "Quaestor Ostiensis"
    D. C. Chandler
    Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 27, H. 2 (2nd Qtr., 1978), pp. 328-335.
  • "Studies in the Social and Economic History of Ostia: Part I"
    Frederick H. Wilson
    Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 13 (1935), pp. 41-68.
  • "The Agrarian Role of Coloniae Maritimae: 338-241 B.C."
    G. Graham Mason
    Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte, Bd. 41, H. 1 (1992), pp. 75-87.

Read about the Archaeology of Ostia in Harbor at Ostia Antica: Roman Emperor Claudius's Port City

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