Friday, August 24, 2012

First Digit View Of Portus, See The Premier Port Of The Roman Empire As They Saw It

A first digital view of Portus has been produced by the Archaeological Computing Research Group at Southampton.

Portus was the principal port of ancient Rome for most of the imperial period. It is located on the coast a short distance to the north of the Tiber mouth at Ostia, near to the modern town of Fiumicino. It was begun by the emperor Claudius, inaugurated by the emperor Nero and greatly enlarged by the emperor Trajan, supplying the City of Rome down into the Byzantine period and beyond. Portus was the conduit through which most of the key foodstuffs, marble, glass, metalwork that were consumed in the City of Rome were imported from the Mediterranean provinces.

Furthermore, as the City’s "window" on the Mediterranean, its layout and juxtaposition of the secular and the sacred prepared the visitors for what awaited them at Rome itself. Available evidence suggests that from the second century AD onwards, individuals from across the empire, particularly the east and north Africa, passed through the port or had some business involvement there. This is reflected in the exceptionally rich array of ceramics and marble which were imported from across the whole of the Roman Mediterranean which still litter the site, and which are our best guide to tracing the flows of foodstuffs imported to Portus prior to transhipment and transport upriver to Rome. It is a paradox, therefore, that much less is known about its development and character than its close neighbour, Ostia, or more distant Puteoli (Pozzuoli), and its potential for helping us better understand the cosmopolitan nature of Rome itself and its many economic links with different parts of the Roman empire is as yet untapped.

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