Sarcophagus Fragment, Roman, ca. 240-250 CE, The Art Institute of Chicago

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Port of Rome gets a new look

Ostia, the port of Rome, has long been a tourist destination, if somewhat obscure. Though only a short trip from Rome, Ostia lacks the prestige and jaw dropping monuments of the Eternal City. It doesn't have the mystique and tragic aura of Pompeii. Nor does it have the imperial dignity and ostentatiousness of Tivoli. What Ostia lacks in tourist appeal is definitely made up for in its rich history, and anyone who ventures there will surely not be disappointed. Ostia is wonderfully preserved, mostly due to it's fading from history. There you will find an theater, beautiful frescoes and seemingly acres of mosaic floors. Rome, being too far up the Tiber to make it a port city, had Ostia as it's gateway to the sea. Ostia maintained it's position as the port of the largest city in the world until the construction of Portus just to its north, in the early second century CE. From then on, Ostia slowly declined until its eventual abandonment. Therefore, Ostia lacks the romance of the Pompeii disaster, but that doesn't mean it isn't an amazing site with wonderful architectural remains. That the Italian government has spent the money to restore the four buildings mentioned in the article below is great news. Judging from the slide show, the money has been well spent. As anyone who has studied Pompeii or even recently read a newspaper knows, open air sites like Ostia and Pompeii and extremely difficult to take care of. The elements take a huge toll on ancient sites, and constant maintenance and repair is required to keep them from disintegrating. Efforts like this restoration in Ostia is a great step, but only a small step towards protecting the past for the future. Recent news from Pompeii has shown us just how bad things can get when lack of funds and over site bring ruin upon an archaeological site. Perhaps the recent efforts at Ostia are a sign of things to come.