When you name the city of Fiumicino comes immediately to mind for its seafood restaurants, for the sea and the
walks along the dock. Few, including its inhabitants, know its rich archaeological history.
On Via Portuense, a few steps from Fiumicino Airport, under a viaduct there is the entrance to the park archaeological site of the ports of Claudius and Trajan. The coast today has advanced about 3 kilometers but in ancient times
the sea reached the current access gate to the site.
The emperor Claudius chose this place to build his port in 42 AD. although it was discouraged by all the architects of the time. Despite this he did not listen to them and the project continued. The construction
it included a very large area of about 200 hectares. There were two piers that were thrown directly at sea, an artificial island was built between them. A huge boat was sunk: the ship of Calligola who had carried the obelisk that we can still admire today in Piazza San Pietro. On
this island stood a lighthouse, modeled on that of Alexandria, built with four bases. On the top a brazier indicated the direction to the ships.
A monumental portico in the shape of a “t” with the “colonnacce”, typically Claudian columns, was built because they really liked this emperor. Today you can still see several standing still,incredibly joined us.The dock was used for the storage of caudicaria: small boats that had to go up the Tiber against the current and transport goods to Rome. A new channel system was also created. The works were finished by Nero as we know from the coinage of some coins.
As the arches had already announced the port had problems with the cover-up.
Trajan, the Optimus Princeps, thanks to his trusted architect Apollodorus of Damascus, built a second port, smaller and connected to the first. The work began in 110 and ended in 117 AD, here the goods arrived from all the provinces, at this moment the empire reaches its maximum expansion.
Porto is unique in its kind: it has a hexagonal basin that measures a good 32 hectares.With Costantino Porto he obtained autonomy and changed his name to Civitas Flavia Constantiniana Portuensis.
With the passing of the centuries due to the fear of invasions in Porto a wall was built for protection. This was not enough, underwent the invasions by the Goths of Alaric in 408 and the Vandals in 455.
Even the Byzantines took Porto.The final crisis of this place is between the second half of the ninth and the tenth century.
A few kilometers from the archaeological area stands the necropolis of Porto. There are 200 tombs preserved here that have been hidden for centuries under sand dunes. Thanks to the excavations of the last century it has returned to the
light in all its beauty. An ancient road has also been discovered: the Via Flavia which united Porto with Ostia. The occupation of the necropolis began almost simultaneously with the construction of the port of Claudius. The
first tombs arose without a specific order. From the III century, considering the little space, it was passed to occupy it too space in front of the road with new tombs. It is very interesting to note how within this sepulcreto are different ways of burial that differ according to their social status of
membership.Generally there are tombs with a square work, sometimes with a fence. Some still have the biclinia in
masonry where funeral banquets took place, inside we often find the mixed rite: niches for the incinerations in the upper part and in the lower part the arcosoli where the body of the deceased was laid.
Many of these tombs preserve the stucco decoration, others still pictorial decorations with colors lively.
In Necropoli there is the “field of the poor”: much simpler burials than the previous ones they could simply be a pit in the ground with an amphora nearby that served as both sign for both libations.
It is interesting to note the pride of the trade. There are several slabs that were chosen to represent the work of the deceased: there is the doctor who is practicing a bloodletting, the midwife who is giving birth to one
woman with the help of an assistant, the merchant, the dipper with his amphora in his hand and many others.
Fiumicino is a city rich in history that has surprises to discover and … to visit!