- Orientation: Located at
(and named for) the mouth (ostium) of the Tiber, Ostia
was founded around 620 B.C. Its reason to be: the salt
gleaned from nearby salt flats was precious as a
preserver of meat in ancient times.
- Later, as Rome began
expanding (around 400 B.C.), Ostia was conquered, and a
fort or castrum was built here. Ostia, often called
Rome's first colony , served as a naval base, protecting
Rome from any nvasion by river. By 150 A.D., when Rome
controlled the Mediterranean, Ostia's importance became
commercial rather than military.
- Rome eventually outgrew
the port of Ostia and a vast port was dug nearby (where
Rome's airport now stands). But the city remained a key
administrative and warehousing center, busy with the big
business of keeping over a million Romans fed and in
sandals. With the fall of Rome, the port was abandoned.
Over time the harbor silted up and the Tiber retreated
about 1.5 kilometers away. The mud, which eventually
buried Ostia, actually protected it from the ravages of
time. - Rick Steves, 2002
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