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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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Copyright © 2001 Thomas G.Hines, Whitman College. All Rights Reserved. e-mail: