Saturday, March 10th, me and my colleague of the Minerva Association were to visit the archaeological park of Ostia Antica.
While we were making tickets, I decided to buy a small guide called “Ostia Antica: a port for Rome” with annexed reconstructions. The guide initially presents the index and a map, then follows a brief introduction to the various phases of the site, and a brief explanation for each location of the route even if they are not told all the places that will meet during the visit.
According to the literature, the city of Ostia was founded by King Anco Marcio at the end of the VII century BC. However, the most ancient structures brought to light during the archaeological research can be dated back to the beginning of the IV century BC. It is hypothesized that the realization occurred at a time after the conquest of Veio, Etruscan center, completed in 396 BC. The excavations also returned findings and traces of huts related to an earlier phase, probably dated to V century BC.
So, it is very probable that there existed an initial foundation of Ostia, perhaps to be found in an area not yet explored. Certain is the antiquity of the frequentation of the area, justified by the significant role that this part of the left bank of the Tiber covered in the salt trade. Here, there was the last part of the salary route which was of vital importance for the Sabine populations, who could only reach the salt flats at the mouths of the Tiber just by following it. Since the VIII-VII BC. Rome showed interest in this strategic importance. in fact, it is necessary to read in the struggles between Romans against Latins and Etruscans the intention to extend the roman dominion to the sea, followed by Ostia foundation in the VII century BC. that represent the reflection of this historical reality.
The archaeological site is truly spectacular, unique and immense. Unfortunately, these exceptional characteristics are not totally enhanced by the path itself. First, the whole area is dirty and overwhelmed by vegetation. The trail is not reported, except for the architectural structures that run along the decumanus, but beyond these other fantastic areas, even though they are marked on the map, sometimes there are unattainable or in other cases have led us to get lost along the way. Moreover, many areas we have not been able to visit because they are not very well signposted. Second, almost all the mosaics, especially the most important, are protected by sheets, and therefore not appreciable.
Halfway around you can stop, in fact the park offers a refreshment point, services and bookshop. In front of this area there is the Ostiense museum, where the statues found during the excavations are preserved, like the original copy of the statue of Minerva-Vittoria, found at the attic of Porta Romana, dated to the I century AD, or as the statue of the Emperor Trajan, found at the Schola di Traiano, dated to the II century AD.
After the break we continued for another two hours inside the park. Following the decumanus and appreciating all the structures along the main road. In a branch of the decumanus, in via della Foce, we lost between Casa di Amore e Psiche and the Temple of Hercules. For this reason we appreciating very quickly the Christian Basilica, the Schola del Traiano and all those the whole thing located on the opposite side of the decumanus, unable to finally visit the Synagogue which is the last of the buildings.
The experience was magnificent but an archaeological park of that size and importance would deserve greater attention to communication as well as the site itself.