Dec 26, 2016

Ostia Antiqua

There are two very different Ostias. One is referred to as Ostia Antica, an archeological site. It is in the suburb of the city of Ostia which is on a beach and where the people from Rome go to escape the heat. What a perfect blend – history and
beach just 30 minutes from Rome’s international airport.  John and I stayed at Hotel Sirenetta on the lido where the prices were reasonable enough so we could reserve a room with a balcony facing the Tyrrhenian Sea. The balcony was actually a huge L-shaped area and the hotel was unique – very artsy with a lovely garden area and close to the beach. 

I was most interested in visiting Ostia Antica. The train station was
a 10-minute walk from the hotel.  We got off at the second stop called Ostia Antica, and then it was another 10-minute walk to the ticket booth.  There was a long, slow line. I think the best time to go would be before 10 a.m. or after 1 p.m. to avoid the tour buses.  Once inside I wondered where
everyone went. The tree-covered grounds were not crowded. I find it amazing that 2000 thousand years ago the people of Ostia lived better than the people in colonial America 300 years ago. History is not a steady line of progress. At one time Ostia was an important Roman port with a population of 70,000.  Due to overextension of the empire and being unable to defend their borders plus inept leadership along with the mouth of the Tiber River silting up causing the river to change course; Ostia went into decline. Now the mouth of the Tiber is nearly two miles away.

John and I liked walking along the same road that the people of
Ostia did over 2000 years ago. They said “all roads lead to Rome.”  The famous Appian Way was 350 miles long and covered with huge stones – the very ones we walked on. There are many places where the old Apian is still used by vehicular traffic.  It is bumpy. I wonder what other roads have lasted 2000 years. I tried to imagine what the busy city was like. There
must have been many days when they could hear the rumble of chariots carrying Julius Caesar and other notables race by. The city must have been amazing.  They had a huge theater that held over 4000 people.  It is one of the oldest theaters in the world. Today they sometimes have concerts there.  The area in front of the theater was called the Square of Guilds. Nearby were the shops of the workers. Some of the buildings had mosaics showing what they made or what they were used for such as the mosaic of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, by the baths.

There were many baths in the city. Bathers would have an oil
massage. Olive oil was used instead of soap. The oil scum would build up on top of the water so servants would skim the oil off the bath water. There were cold and warm water baths. The baths were a place to discuss business of Ostia. The
same was true of the public toilets which had many “holes” so several people could be using them at the same time. Even today people occasionally euphemistically refer to the toilets as a place to “do their business.”