Porto di Traiano Archaeological Area Fiumicino
The address of the Area Archeologica del Porto di Traiano is Via Portuense, 2360. – Fiumicino (tel. +39 066529192). Opening hours: From 08:30 till 19:00. Closed: Saturday.
History and description
In AD 42, the Emperor Claudius wanted a new port built near Ostia, as it had become difficult for larger ships to navigate the silted mouth of the Tiber. Many of these ships brought produce from all parts of the Empire to Rome.
The new basin consisted of two piers and a lighthouse. two canals connected the basin to the Tiber.
In 1957, during the construction of the airport of Fiumicino, ruins of the left hand piers were found, as well as the foundations of the lighthouse and remains of some ships (now on display at the Museo delle Navi Romane).
The foundation of this structure had been realized by sinking a large ship by filling it with concrete. The ship, incidentally, was the one the Emperor Caligula had used to transport the obelisk for Nero’s Circus, now in St. Peter’s Square, from Egypt to Rome.
At Lake Traianus, ruins of the right-hand pier have been discovered. Here, there were also warehouses and a portico of columns of travertine marble called the Portico delle Colonacce. There also used to be a dock that was probably intended for the smaller ships sailing up the Tiber.
When the port built by Claudius began to silt up, Trajan had a new basin excavated further inland. This basin, inaugurated in the year 113, was connected to the Porto di Claudio and the Tiber by a canal. This Fossa Traiano is today’s canal at Fiumicino.
There was room for 200 ships in the Port of Trajan. There was a lighthouse made up of superimposed blocks decorated with reliefs and mosaics depicting the port itself, and an enormous statue of Trajan himself.
There was a large building (the Palazzo Imperiale), with thermal baths, a small private theatre and a temple dedicated to Hercules.
The Porto di Traiano was probably in use until the end of the 9th century, after which the complex was abandoned. The basin of the port is now the centrepiece of the pine forest of the 19th-century Villa Torlonia. The port of Claudius has been completely covered with earth. It is located below the present-day Fiumicino airport.
A small settlement, called Portus, soon sprang up near the port and quickly grew larger under Trajan, becoming Rome’s main trading center. In 314, the town became autonomous. After being frequently attacked and looted by the various Barbarian tribes, it became an important defensive point along the Tiber around the year 1000, to which the presence of the castle still bears witness. Apart from this castle, ruins of the Sant’Ippolito Church with its Romanesque bell tower can still be seen.