Monday, February 14, 2011

Wall Art (Not Mosaics or Frescos)

We've posted lots of pictures of wall art, mostly beautiful mosaics and frescos from churches, museums, and Roman ruins. However, there are many other forms of wall art in Rome. Most of the grafitti here is total rubbish, but some street art is clever, creative, humorous, thought-provoking, sad, and even beautiful in its own weird way. I took all of the following pictures during a single two-hour stroll down in the old part of the city, mostly between the historic Jewish Quarter and the Campo de' Fiori. Here is the album:

Ostia Antica: A Buried Roman City

On Saturday, 12 February, we took the train to Ostia Antica to explore the vast ruins of an ancient city that lies about 14 miles southwest of Rome itself. Ostia lies at the mouth of the Tiber, where the river enters the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was the main port city for the capital, where large seagoing vessels from North Africa and Spain unloaded their cargo into warehouses for the journey upriver by barge. In its heyday, Ostia had a population of about 100,000.

To give you an idea of why we were able to explore only a tiny part of Ostia, here is an aerial photo of the site, which has still been only partially excavated:

The city's fortunes declined due to a combination of factors: changing trade routes, new ports elsewhere, and persistent malaria. It was gradually abandoned and eventually covered with sand and silt when the Tiber changed its course. As a result, huge areas have been preserved, earning Ostia the nickname "the better Pompeii." You can wander for hours through paved streets, temples, houses, offices, apartment blocks, shops, and cemeteries. There is a large open-air theater and an amphitheater. We explored the remains of enormous heated baths, pools, fountains, and even the barracks of the fire department. The remains of the earliest known synagogue in western Europe can also be seen. One gets a very strong impression of daily life in a large urban center, totally unlike the impressions one gets in museums or art galleries. Here are our pictures:

Here is a computer-generated animated tour of Ostia during its Golden Age.