Side Trips from Rome Places


Ostia Antica

Walking Around Ostia Antica

The Porta Romana, one of the city's three gates, is where you enter the Ostia Antica excavations. It opens onto the Decumanus Maximus, the main thoroughfare crossing the city from end to end. To your right, a staircase leads to a platform—the remains of the upper floor of the Terme di Nettuno (Baths of Neptune)—from which you get a good view of the mosaic pavements showing a marine scene with Neptune and the sea goddess Amphitrite. Behind the baths are the barracks of the fire department. On the north side of the Decumanus Maximus is the beautiful Teatro (Theater), built by Agrippa, remodeled by Septimius Severus in the 2nd century AD, and restored by the Rome City Council in the 20th century. In the vast Piazzale delle Corporazioni, where trade organizations had their offices, is the Tempio di Cerere (Temple of Ceres)—highly appropriate for a town dealing in grain imports, Ceres being the goddess of agriculture. From there you can visit the Domus di Apuleio (House of Apuleius), built in Pompeian style, lower to the ground and with fewer windows than was characteristic of Ostia. Next door, the Mithraeum has balconies and a hall decorated with symbols of the cult of Mithras, whose beliefs and symbols may have been imported from Persia.

On Via Semita dei Cippi, just off Via dei Molini, the Domus della Fortuna Annonaria (House of Fortuna Annonaria) is the richly decorated residence of a wealthy Ostian; one of the rooms opens onto a secluded garden. On Via dei Molini you can see a molino (mill), where grain was ground with stones that are still here. Along Via di Diana you come upon a thermopolium (bar) with a marble counter and a fresco depicting the foods sold here.

At the end of Via dei Dipinti is the Museo Ostiense (Ostia Museum), which displays sarcophagi, massive marble columns, and large statuary. (The last entry to the museum is a half hour before the Scavi closes.) The Forum, on the south side of Decumanus Maximus, holds the monumental remains of the city's most important temple, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. It's also the site of other ruins of baths, a basilica (which in Roman times was a hall of justice), and smaller temples.

Via Epagathiana leads toward the Tiber, where there are large horrea (warehouses) erected during the 2nd century AD for the enormous amounts of grain imported into Rome during the height of the Empire. West of Via Epagathiana, the Domus di Amore e Psiche (House of Cupid and Psyche), a residence, was named for a statue found here (now on display in the museum); the house's enclosed garden is decorated with marble and mosaic motifs and has the remains of a large pool. The Casa di Serapide (House of Serapis) on Via della Foce is a 2nd-century multilevel dwelling; another apartment building stands a street over on Via degli Aurighi. Nearby, the Termi dei Sette Sapienti (Baths of the Seven Wise Men) are named for a group of bawdy frescoes. The Porta Marina leads to what used to be the seashore and the sinagoga, dating from the 4th century AD.