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Wednesday 30 December 2020 10:12

Discovering the Imperial Harbours of Claudius and Trajan

You know Fiumicino for its international airport, where it’s likely you’ll have landed if you’ve already visited Rome – or where you will be probably get to as soon as it’s safe to travel again internationally! What many visitors ignore, though, is that the Fiumicino area was already important to ancient Romans. After all, this […]

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The ancient Roman port of Portus - off the beaten path in Rome - From Home to Rome

You know Fiumicino for its
international airport
, where it’s likely you’ll have landed if you’ve already visited Rome – or where you will be probably get to as soon as it’s safe to travel again internationally!

What many visitors ignore, though, is that the Fiumicino area was already important to ancient Romans. After all, this was the location of the ancient city of Portus, the port of Rome.

That’s right: you know of ancient Ostia (Ostia Antica), which is north of this location. Emperor Claudius decided to build a larger port than the one that was already there, one that was safer from the overflow of the river Tiber and the swells from the sea: it was roughly the year 42 AD.


Portus (meaning the harbour) and the town surrounding it were completed under emperor Nero, but not without issues: in spite of these emperors declaring the mooring as free from the perils of the local weather, frequent dredging had to be performed and storms routinely destroyed ships. One has to admit that the place was impressive though: a massive lighthouse helped sailors dock safely, and under emperor Trajan, an artificial hexagonal basin was built, so even more ships could get to Rome with their precious cargo of wine, oil or grain.

If you know the history of ancient Ostia, you’ll know that the fate of Portus was similar to it – it was silt that eventually covered the area, after Rome lost wars and relevancy.

The hexagonal basin can still be seen clearly from above – just Google map it immediately south-east of the Fiumicino airport!

Right next to it, there are remains of the different building phases of Portus: that’s why the archeological area is called, and rightly so, “the Imperial Harbours of Claudius and Trajan” (notice how Nero is not even considered!).

The pandemics has put some strain on all of the museums and archaelogical landmarks of Italy, even the ones that are completely outdoors such as this one.

The progress of Covid-19 and the changing rules on social distancing and other safety measures make it so that it’s impossible to plan ahead a visit to what is left of Portus: at the time of compiling this blog post, the site is closed until mid-January.

Emails can be sent with your inquiry to pa-oant.museodellenavi@beniculturali.it

Current restrictions aside, Portus can be only visited by reserving ahead of time, so if this area is something you’d like to see for yourself, start making plans today!



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