versión española


Most of the Roman roads finished on the sea and in maritime harbours, most of them on the Mediterranean sea, a sea which is a meeting and, at the same time, a separation point, a large road and a big obstacle.  The stability of the empire favoured the trade increase in the existing ports and the construction of other new ports.




That is the case of Ostia, the port of Rome, on the mouth of the river Tiber; due to the increase of population in Rome, the needs of importing merchandises –especially the wheat from Egypt- led the emperor Claudius to built a new harbour on the north of the mouth –the new harbour occupied 70 hectares (=172.970 acres)-; the harbour was connected with the river through a channel.  However, the curve piers and the artificial island that was created did not protect the harbour from the bad weather; so, the emperor Trajan ordered to build a second harbour inside the Claudius’ big harbour –basically the new port was a half of the Claudius’ port- with a dock dug in the mainland.

All the harbours needed a steady maintenance and works of improvements: the piers, docks and dams suffered the effect of the steady swell and at the same time the stores and the lighthouses had to be repaired steadily due to the effect of the fire and the stored merchandises.


Reconstruction of the  port of Ostia, according to HAMEY, L. A. y HAMEY, J. A.: Los ingenieros romanos, Madrid, 1990




On the other hand, not only there were maritime ports, but there were fluvial ports.  Rome had a fluvial port on the river Tiber near the Forum Boarium from the IV century b. C., where ships with small depth of water could anchor; it was called Portus Tiberinus.  A prove of this fluvial port was the existence of a temple dedicated to Portunus, i. e., to a divinity that protected the ports, in the Forum Boarium; this temple is preserved almost complete and intact.  However, the port became too small due to the intense trade traffic and it was necessary to build a port on the mouth of the river –the port of Ostia-; nevertheless, the Portus Tiberinus was still in service in the imperial age as an inner route to the region of Sabina in a fluvial sailing.  In this fluvial port there were the horrea Aemiliana, i. e., some cereal granaries built in 142 a. C., where the Romans stored the wheat of the annona –the annual supply of wheat-.


Temple of Portunus in the Forum Boarium, Rome.  (Photo: Roberto Lérida Lafarga 27/12/2004)




The temple of Portunus, wrongly identified with the temple of the Fortuna Viril, is located up on a rampart that was created to arrange the banks of the river Tiber in the II century b. C., although there are remains of a previous building from the IV or III century b. C.







- GABUCCI, Ada: Roma, Barcelona, 2006

- HAMEY, L. A. y HAMEY, J. A.: Los ingenieros romanos, Madrid, 1990