Ostia Antica

Back to sites index                          More photos of Ostia Antica
(Click on the map for an enlargement. The page will open in a new window but it is a VERY large file and might take some time to upload)

Map of Ostia AnticaOstia was the ancient Roman port of the city of Rome and takes its name from the Latin ostium, meaning mouth (of the River Tiber).  Its exact origins are unclear although assorted Roman writers, including Livy, attributed it to the reign of the fourth King of Rome Ancus Marius, who ruled the city state in the second half of the seventh century BC. The earliest remains, however, date to the fourth century BC - Decumano massimoaround 330 - and are the walls surrounding the old castrum, or fortified town. It remained Rome's port until the mid third century AD when, along with the rest of the Roman Empire, it began to slide into decline as a result of attacks by the barbarian tribes from the North.  In 330 AD the imperial seat was moved from Rome to Constantinople and Ostia lost its importance, although there was a brief revivial in the early 400s but the town was sacked by the Visigoths in 410.

Some of its marbles and precious building stones were looted to create impressive buildings around Italy but its brick core was left largely undisturbed. As a result there remains an extensive area of commercial, religious and private buildings that can be seen today at Ostia Antica (historic Ostia). The ruins cover approximately 34 hectares and represent around two thirds of its original layout. It is constructed around the old arterial road - The Decumano Massimo  - which leads from the Porta Romana (Rome gate) to the Porta Marina (shore gate) in a typically Roman straight line.

CapitoliumThe state of preservation of the buildings, fittings and materials is impressive and it is not difficult to imagine the bustle and commerce of a thriving port as you walk through the  streets on the original stone pavements. In many buildings there are almost complete mosaics as well as innumerable carvings, statues, notices and signs that formed part of everyday life in the ancient Roman port.


The capitolium  was the key building of the Forum, or administrative and religious centre of the town. It w
as the largest temple in Ostia, dedicated to the capitoline trio Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

Mill of Sylvanus
 The Mill of Sylvanus was part of a bakery complex - one of several in the town which served the local population and shipped goods to Rome itself.  Sylvanus was the god of nature and the forests. The complex includes grain stores, milling areas and bakeries. It still has several of its original millstones, which were operated by donkeys hauling on ropes to turn them.

TheatreThe theatre at Ostia has been largely reconstructed but was originally built in the first century BC during the reign of Augustus. It could accommodate up to 2,500 spectators. Later extensions expanded that to 4,000 seats. It is possible that the centre was sometimes flooded in order to stage water performances. Concerts are still held there in summer.

Piazzale delle Corporazioni
Mosaic ship Perhaps one of the most impressive parts of Ostia is Corporation Square - Piazzale delle Corporazioni. It housed the offcies of all of Ostia's key merchants, who advertised their business with a series of mosaics outside their doors. The square has a distinctly nautical theme, since many of the guilds and associations were connected to sea trading, but there are some unusual finds as well. The ivory dealer, for example, had an elephant as his sign.

Public toilets
The public toiletsClose to the Forum are the well preserved remains of a public toilet. Roman latrines were communal affairs where users would sit alongside other participants to complete their ablutions. They also shared the means to clean themselves afterwards. Sponges on sticks were kept in a central pot where they could be rinsed with water before (and hopefully after) use.

Top of page