Text and pictures by Maria Teresa Tozzi
From the ancient times, the Roman coast salt marshes were one of the most important places of salt production and a great richness for the territory. For this reason there were several warehouses used for the storage before that salt was carried to Rome through the River Tiber.
In ancient Rome, salt was a very important good of exchange and it was essential to preserve food like meat. However, it was also used for offerings to the deities, for tanning leather, for medicine and for metallurgy. The term salary (“salario”) derives from the word salt, because it was used to pay Roman soldiers.
Probably the warehouses were placed on both sides of the Tiber because of its ancient meander, which was replaced after the tragic flood of 1557. Their position was due to their proximity of salt marshes, and other port of call.
The building known as “Casalone”, in via Morcelli, is very interesting. It was built on ancient structures dated to the 1st century A.D., but it was restored. The warehouse is named “Casone” in several sources from the beginning of the 19th century. After River changed its course, a specific route was needed to the new shipment.
A new salt warehouse, called “Magazzeno”, was built inside the ancient city of Ostia. The structure is dated to the 15th century and it is an evidence that the Pontifical State used to exploit salt marshes. Pope Pius IX wanted the building to be turned into a museum between 1865 and 1866. It has an elegant neoclassical façade and it preserves important bas-reliefs, sarcophagi and statues found in Ostia Antica. The statue of Mithra killing the bull, made by the Athenian sculptor Kriton, is one of the most important pieces exhibited inside the museum.