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The old imperial port of Rome reveals its archaeological remains.

Rome Reopens its Historical Imperial Port to the Public

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Roman rule meant the control of Rome on ports and marine and land trade routes. In fact, Roman maritime commercial traffic was so important that they improved and expanded existing land routes, creating a vast road network in many regions, which was in service until the 18th century. This allowed them to develop and consolidate areas of commercial influence on some ports - transforming them into centers for very important economic activity.

Now, according to reports in the Spanish publication El Diario , the archaeological remains of the imperial port of Claudius and Trajan has just reopened to the public, and will be accesible for at least six months of this year.

The history of this great port complex started around the year 100 AD, when Rome’s high population of close to a million and a half inhabitants - equivalent to a current concentration of 50 million people, demanded an infrastructure that could ensure sufficient supplies.

The port of Rome built about 2,000 years ago was the most important center of ancient world operations for nearly half a millennium. It was the place for transiting goods from the ends of the earth to supply the entire empire with Greek wines, Andalusian oils, Egyptian cereals, textiles, metals, and wild animals for circuses. In addition, it also served as a defensive base for the ships of the Imperial Navy and as a starting point for their many military campaigns.

Digital recreation of the ancient imperial port of Rome.

Digital recreation of the ancient imperial port of Rome. ( Altair 4 Multimedia of Rome )

Once in port, all the goods were deposited in the port warehouses, which today form the best preserved part of the site and attest to the measurement system used and the distribution of the products. Halls and courtyards of its foundations, where ancient deals took place, still remain as well.

Different products were transferred to smaller ships that were responsible for distributing them via the Tiber River through a complex system of canals. These canals managed to save ships from the inconvenience that the Mediterranean was, as a sea which basically was only sailed in summer - just when the flow of the Tiber river declined considerably.

As indicated by the information published by the Listín Diario , an understanding of the functioning and structures of this great site requires an intense exercise in imagination today because where the sea was before, today there is an immense park lined with eucalyptus, pine, and oak trees: the sediment caused the waterfront to gain about four kilometers (2.49 miles) of the sea, and during the first decades of the 20th century the area was reclassified and finally turned into a nature reserve.

Marks can still be seen on the walls where water emerged in some areas near the old docks. The location of the piers is also easy to guess as several flights of stairs and bollards for mooring boats still stand.

Mosaic representing a ship arriving in the ancient Roman port of Ostia..

Mosaic representing a ship arriving in the ancient Roman port of Ostia. (Roburq/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

While only two ships could dock in the previous port of Ostia , 200 boats could be accommodated in the new complex of Trajan, since its hexagonal basin of 32 hectares, became the largest center of trade in the ancient world. That space is now a huge artificial lake, which still retains its original six-sided shape.

The preparation and reopening of the port is being carried out with funding from public bodies and private patrons, such as the Benetton Foundation and Consortium Airports in Rome . In fact, Fiumicino Airport, located near the site, has even set up a system of free buses to this interesting archaeological feature.

Featured Image: The old imperial port of Rome reveals its archaeological remains. (El Diario/EFE )

By Mariló T.A.

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Moonsong's picture

Visited the ruins of the old City of Ostia Antica last February and it was amazing.

- Moonsong
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A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world ~ Oscar Wilde

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