Text and pictures by Maria Teresa Tozzi*
The Necropolis of Portus is an extraordinary archaeological site, completely different from any other, but unfortunately very little known.
The visit allows to understand how an ancient necropolis was, thanks to its great state of conservation, because the sand has protected the tombs.
The funerary monuments are dated between the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. and the middle of the 3rd century A.D., but few restorations are dated until the 4th century A.D.
There are mostly family tombs, composed by one or more levels. Inside, they are organized according to the funeral ritual: in the upper part there are niches for cremation, while in the lower part “arcosoli” for inhumation.
At the entrance it is possible to follow the ancient road “Flavia-Severiana”, which linked the city of Portus with Ostia from the 1st century A.D.. The visitor is immediately fascinated by the stories of the deads. In fact, the necropolis is very peculiar because the sepulchres are often decorated with marble inscriptions and earthenware reliefs representing the profession of the owners. They were especially artisans and merchants, who worked in the ancient city.
For example, the first tomb (100) is embellished with two reliefs representing a surgeon who is treating a leg and a midwife in front of a woman giving birth to a child.
Other tombs are decorated with mosaics representing water carriers, blacksmiths and reapers.
There are a lot of decorations representing crafts related to the sea. The tomb 43 has a mosaic showing two boats with a central lighthouse and a significant ancient Greek inscription: “ODE PAUÇILIPOÇ”, which means “every pain ends here”.
The necropolis of Portus allows a better understanding of Roman’s daily life and its relationship with afterlife. It is also particularly interesting because it is possible to learn more about ancient Roman crafts.
* Archeologist and official tour guide, collaborator of the association L’Info-Attiva di Ostia Antica in the framework of the project “Torno subito” financed by the Regione Lazio.