Ostia Antica, the alternate Pompeii Art & Culture

Thursday, August 18, 2011 by Yuan Zhong China

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On Sunday, July 24th, I accompanied my mother who is currently visiting me in Rome to explore Ostia Antica.
Located 30km from the northeast of Rome, Ostia Antica is a large archeological site which is significantly noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics. "Ostia" in Latin means "mouth". At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was once Rome's seaport, founded between the 4th and the 3rd century BC. Its population grew to 50,000 inhabitants in the 2nd century, reaching a peak of some 75,000 inhabitants in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. With the end of the Roman Empire, Ostia fell slowly into decay, and was finally abandoned in the 9th century. Due to silting and a drop in sea level over the past thousand years, the site now lies 3 km from the sea.
I set foot on Ostia Antica for the first time on one summer night two years back. I went to watch an opera performance in the open-air theatre of Ostia Antica. I, a Chinese, sitting on the ancient roman stones, watching Verdi's opera "La traviata", what an experience it was! The opera performance was based on the novel "La dame aux Camelias" written by the French author Alexandre Dumas. A year later, I went to stroll around in Ostia Antica one Autum afternoon. It was a pleasant walk as it always should be. Walking on the Roman cobblestone street, trying to imagine what had happened to the ancient seaport two thousands years ago, is definitely an amazing feeling.
Some travel advisors suggested that Ostia Antica is the better Pompeii. I could only agree partly with the opinion. Pompeii is more than two hundreds kilometers from Rome. For some visitors who have a tight travel schedule, Ostia Antica is indeed an alternative, but not the better one. The archaeological site of Pompeii was once a majestic Roman coastal city two thousands years ago, covered by rivers of lava mixed with mud when Mt.Vesuvius unexpectedly erupted on August 24, 79 AD. Strolling on the streets of Pompeii, one can have an image of how one of the biggest natural tragedies destroyed a flouring city together with its citizens and other living things over a night. Mt. Vesuvius always can be seen in every corner of Pompeii which reminds visitors of the cause of the disappearance of ancient Pompeii. It tempts visitors to climb up the mountain, which is really worth doing. On the top of Mt. Vesuvius awaits a marvellous view of the region, its curving coast line together with the sea forming a large landscape painting.

Yuan Zhong China


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