Ostia Antica was a seaport at the mouth of the Tiber River downstream from Rome. It had significance in the lives of Saints Monica and Augustine, and also in Monica’s death. According to ancient tradition (Ennius) Ostia was founded by King Ancus Marcius in the seventh century BC (Before Christ). The oldest actual remains have been dated to the fourth century BC. In the early third century a military fort (the so-called Castrum) was built for defensive purposes at the mouth of the river Tiber, primarily as a naval base. In 267 BC it became the seat of one of the quaestores classici (quaestors of the fleet), the quaestor ostiensis. During the Punic Wars Ostia played an important role as military harbour, and for that reason the inhabitants were freed from military duties.
In the second century BC Ostia gradually changed to a commercial harbour. The quaestor now supervised the import of grain. In 87 BC the city was occupied and destroyed by Marius. New town walls were built by Cicero, after destruction of the city by pirates in 67 BC. The first year mentioned in the local calendar, the Fasti Ostienses, is 49 BC. In the early first century after Christ the first forum there was built by Tiberius (14-37). The city was still relatively insignificant however because the shoreline near Ostia offered no natural protection to ships.
Small boats could sail up the Tiber to Rome. For large ships Ostia was a dangerous place. Larger harbours were built at Ostia during the reigns of Claudius and Trajan, and the city had a population of sixty thousand. It then served as the port city for the capital, with the wealth of the empire passing through its harbour. The eventual silting of the harbour led to the decline of Ostia, beginning in the third century of the modern era, a hundred years before the birth of Augustine. A diminished population continued to live there until the ninth century when the site was abandoned.
Because the site was quickly overgrown and remained undisturbed for centuries, excavations at Ostia have produced many stunning finds, including the remains of hundreds of buildings and over 4,000 inscriptions. It stands second only to Pompeii in presenting visitors with a portrait of a Roman city in the early empire. Ostia Lido today is a local beach nearby. its parish is conducted by the Augustinians.Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on Ostia where Saints Monica and Augustine lived briefly immediately before Monica died, click here.
Ostia Ruins in photographs - Hundreds of Ostia photographs by classicist and teacher, Leo Curran of the University of Buffalo, New York State. This web site is a labour of love, diligently executed. It is actually three sites:
Website 1: http://wings.buffalo.edu/AandL/Maecenas/italy_except_rome_and_sicily/ostia/section_contents.html
Website 2: http://wings.buffalo.edu/AandL/Maecenas/general_contents.html
Website 3: http://wings.buffalo.edu/AandL/Maecenas/italy_except_rome_and_sicily/ostia/section_contents.html