Ostia (or Ostia Antica) lies 15 km from the city of Rome for which it served as the city’s principal port and harbour throughout antiquity. The name derives from ‘os’ or ‘ostium’ which means ‘mouth’ and refers to the city’s location at the mouth of the river Tiber. Although originally situated at the mouth... [continue reading]
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Roman glassware includes some of the finest pieces of art ever produced in antiquity and the very best were valued higher than wares made with precious metals. However, plain glass vessels such as cups, bowls, plates, and bottles were also used as everyday containers, in particular, for storing and serving food and drinks. Glass was also used by the Romans... [continue reading]
The communal latrine at Ostia. This public latrine (forica) was installed near the Forum Baths, perhaps when the Baths themselves were repaired in the Late Empire (4th century CE).
Roman mosaics were a common feature of private homes and public buildings across the empire from Africa to Antioch. Not only are mosaics beautiful works of art in themselves but they are also an invaluable record of such everyday items as clothes, food, tools, weapons, flora and fauna. They also reveal much about Roman activities like gladiator contests... [continue reading]
Military supremacy of the seas could be a crucial factor in the success of any land campaign, and the Romans well knew that a powerful naval fleet could supply troops and equipment to where they were most needed in as short a time as possible. Naval vessels could also supply beleaguered ports under enemy attack and, in turn, blockade ports under... [continue reading]
published on 10 May 2013
A row of shop fronts (botteghe) on via dei Balconi, in the Roman port town of Ostia, late 1st-early 2nd century CE.
The interiors of Roman buildings of all description were very frequently sumptuously decorated using bold colours and designs. Wall paintings, fresco and the use of stucco to create relief effects were all commonly used by the 1st century BCE in public buildings, private homes, temples, tombs and even military structures across the Roman world. Designs... [continue reading]
Slavery was an ever-present feature of the Roman world. Slaves served in households, agriculture, mines, the military, manufacturing workshops, construction and a wide range of services within the city. As many as 1 in 3 of the population in Italy or 1 in 5 across the empire were slaves and upon this foundation of forced labour was built the entire edifice... [continue reading]
Statue of tauroctony depicting Mithras about to kill the bull, found in situ resting on a masonry base in the Mithraneum of the Baths of Mithras, 1st century CE, Ostia Antica (Italy).
Regional, inter-regional and international trade was a common feature of the Roman world. A mix of state control and a free market approach ensured goods produced in one location could be exported far and wide. Cereals, wine and olive oil, in particular, were exported in huge quantities whilst in the other direction came significant imports of precious... [continue reading]
The exact role and status of women in the Roman world, and indeed in most ancient societies, has often been obscured by the biases of both ancient male writers and 19-20th century CE male scholars, a situation only relatively recently redressed by modern scholarship which has sought to more objectively assess women's status, rights, duties, representation... [continue reading]