Calder Classics

Handling Business in Ostia Antica

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On Wednesday, the squad hit the metro to the ancient city of Ostia Antica. As always, our lord and savior Crispin was leading the way, first through the necropolis outside the city gates along the Decumanus Maximus, as well as through the archeological site itself. 

Ostia Antica is located at a bend in the Tiber River and allowed the Romans to have a strong and stable control of the river’s transportation abilities, which was essential for the empire’s grain distribution. Today, the river strokes the city only slightly on the far-west side, but in ancient times, the whole northern side of the city touched the river. The change in proximity, as Crispin told us, is because the Tiber actually changed its course suddenly after a thunderstorm.

 Sarah and Matteo atop the remains of an ancient staircase.

Sarah and Matteo atop the remains of an ancient staircase.

Once inside the city gates, we explored apartment buildings, shops, and the mosaic-sprawled Baths of Neptune. 

 The Baths of Neptune.

The Baths of Neptune.

Crispin taught us how, like today, many apartments were located directly above shops. I found it really interesting that the Roman shopkeepers were actually able to “close up shop” by pulling out wooden planks that acted similarly to modern day store shutters. You can still see the grooves in the marble where these planks were placed. 

 The entrance to a shop in Ostia Antica.

The entrance to a shop in Ostia Antica.

We were also able to see an ancient firefighter station, located behind the Baths of Neptune, strategically placed to reuse the water from the baths. The station also had many pedestals where the statues of emperors were placed. Among them, we were able to see the damnatio memoriae of Emperor Commodus, as his name was scratched out of the text. 

 The  damnatio memoria of Emperor Commodus.

The damnatio memoria of Emperor Commodus.

After making our way through the theater and the forum, we approached our final stop. Crispin drew our attention to an empty structure with benches lining the walls. The benches, however, had holes in them. They were toilets! Ancient Roman toilets! 

 The communal latrines.

The communal latrines.

They were surprisingly very easily recognizable, and it was great to think about Romans handling their business in this room 2000 years ago. To our disappointment, however, we weren’t able to try it out for ourselves. 

Written by Tommy Lee

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