Archive for June 2, 2015

At Portus a number of new projects were undertaken during Trajans port redevelopment. Most notable is the building of the Trajanic basin, a hexagonal area where each of the sides is approximately 350 m in length and depth of the basin varies from 5 to 8 m allowing it to service the larger boats in the Roman fleet. Around this were built a number of warehouses, which opened directly onto the quayside.

Around this were built a number of warehouses, which opened directly onto the quayside. Two of these have been noted to have raised floors, prompting suggestions that they were for the storage of grain. The second improvement project was the construction of the Trajanic canal , which ran from the mid-point of the Fossa Triana to the Tiber. Its function is not clear, although some historians have suggested that with the increased traffic, it may be that a one-way system was implemented with traffic going along the Trajanic canal in one direction and long the eastern half of the Fossa Triana in the opposite direction. The third large improvement project was the construction of a direct road link between Portus and the city, the Via Portuensis.

There is also the intriguing finding of at least the start of canal going south from the Fossa Triana. At present it is not clear whether or not this was ever completed, but as can be seen from the map, such a canal would link Portus directly to the port of Ostia without the need to sail on the open sea.

Archaeological evidence has been found which can help us to have some information about what was imported and exported from the port at this time. Imports included foodstuffs, mainly grain from Eygpt and North Africa, but also olive oil from North Africa and Spain; fish sauce from North Africa and wine, resources and materials such as textiles, marble, stone and North African redslip wear. It is also likely the imports included slaves and animals for the arena. Exports are slightly more difficult to determine but from other sources, it is suggested that Rome exported wine millstones and bricks from the Tiber Valley Brickyards. There is some debate as to whether or not the port was also used for carriage of passengers, although the luxury and monumental nature of some of the buildings found might point to its use for the transport of important people on official or personal business.

The Trajanic basin today from

The Trajanic basin today from

Two buildings from this period, which are worthy of note are the ‘Grande Magazzini’ whose foundations actually date from the time of the Claudian port, but which seems to have been redeveloped during the redevelopment by Trajan. It is 2 storeys high and is situated around three sides of the Darsena.
But perhaps the most important building from this period is the Palazzo Imperiale, a brick- and reticulate-faced concrete structure dating from 112 -117 which covered nearly three hectares. Of its original three storeys, only the substructures and some of the first floor remain. The Palazzo‘s trapezoidal plan was dictated by the spur of land between the two basins on which it was situated.

The structure has been of significant interest since the 16th century due to the discoveries of numerous columns, sculptures and inscriptions. The complex also contained its own bath suite in its southwest corner. The brickstamps found in the building indicates it was a predominantly Trajanic construction with later renovations undertaken by Hadrian and the Antonines. On the first floor rooms are arranged around open-space defined by columns looked out onto the Claudio basin .the ground floor consisted of 42 rooms. The building’s location as well as the evidence of its lavish marble decoration suggest it was presumably the headquarters of a high-ranking official, such as the port procurator and his staff. We know that from this time there was an office of procurator annonae Ostiensis, who was in control of the ports of Ostia and Portus. Others have suggested that the rooms on the first floor may have been accommodation for officials senators or potentially the emperor himself whilst awaiting transport by ship to other parts of the Empire.