Monday, July 30, 2012

The Isola Sacra: reconstructing the Roman landscape

Portus was the principal maritime port of Rome between the first and sixth centuries AD, and is one of the largest, richest and most accessible Roman ports in the Mediterranean. However, whilst it has been documented archaeologically since at least the Renaissance, its key role in the movement of traded goods between Rome and the Mediterranean consistently has been underplayed in favour of the fluvial port of Ostia.

This volume, arising from a workshop held at the British School at Rome, seeks to begin to redress this imbalance, to share the results of the various projects currently focused on Portus and its Hinterland, and to foster greater public awareness of this remarkable site. One element within the current British School at Rome project at Portus involves extending our knowledge of the hinterland of the port, especially through an extension of the geophysical survey which previously examined the eastern margins of the site (Keay et al. 2005: 120-72). The focus of the current work is the area of the Isola Sacra which lies to the south, between the Roman harbour of Portus and the ancient city of Ostia.

The Isola Sacra (Testini 1975: 46-7) is an artificial island created at the mouth of the Tiber, the name of which is attested by Procopius (V, 26). It is bounded to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the east and south by the river Tiber, and to the north by the artificial cut of the Fiumicino canal (also called the Fossa Traiana in the archaeological literature, although it has now known to have originated in the Claudian period ¬– Keay et al. 2005: 277). The island is formed of fluvial and alluvial deposits laid down in the delta of the river Tiber, and was originally a coastal spit where the river turned south on approaching the sea.