Testaccio in antiquity – District of the river port and the rubbish of the ancient Romans.
What part of Rome is called Testaccio?
Testaccio is the flat area surrounded by the Tiber River, the Aventine hill, and the Aurelian walls. Behind the latter is the important Via Ostiense.
Why visit Testaccio?
In my opinion, it is one of the most fascinating districts of Rome, where we can find historical, artistic and archaeological evidence of ancient, medieval, industrial and contemporary Rome. Even today, in fact, there are traces of the most authentic Rome, of the typical Roman worker and reveler, characteristics that are now increasingly rare in the historic center of Rome, the object of mass tourism.
What are the ancient monuments that we can visit in Testaccio?
The Emporium – a huge river port.
After the Second Punic War (218-202 B.C.) and the consequent conquest of the Mediterranean routes, Rome experienced a demographic increase as well as a commercial expansion and, therefore, the ancient Tiber River Port, which was located between the river, the Forum Olitorio (i.e. vegetable market) and the Forum Boarium (i.e. cattle market), was no longer suitable given its limited size. There was therefore the need to build a new port. The most suitable point was identified in the plain, entirely free, south of Aventine hill. The 500m quay was built in 193 B.C. by the curule aediles Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Aemilius Paullus, using funding from a fine imposed on the pecuarii (contractors of taxes on public pastures). The Emporium was then paved by the censors Quintus Fulvius Flaccus and Aulus Postumius Albinus in 174 B.C. Subsequently, Emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) rebuilt the Emporium, creating an imposing service building. When the Emperor Aurelian decided to build the well-known defensive walls, between 271 and 279, he used most of the structures as foundations for his walls. The best place to admire the remains of the Emporium is the Aventine bridge or the opposite bank of the Tiber River.
Subsequently, a large structure was added to the Emporium, perhaps the Porticus Emilia, the remains of which can be seen today between via Beniamino Franklin and via Marmorata. The portico was built in 193 B.C. by the censors Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Lucius Aemilius Paullus (hence the name linked to the Gens Aemilia) and was completed in 174 B.C. by the censors Quintus Fulvius Flaccus and Aulus Postumius Albinus (consul 99 B.C.). Its use as a storage facility is testified by the marble plant, called Forma Urbis Romae, from the Severan age and coming from the Forum of Peace. Only a tenth of the entire map has come down to us and in it, it is possible to read the last three letters of the Porticus Emilia or LIA. However, after subsequent studies, other interpretations of the LIA have been proposed. It would perhaps be an arsenal for fast boats, called Navalia, or a building built by Hermodorus of Salamis, probably during the third Punic war (149-146 B.C.) to house fifty quinquereme (long warships).
It is one of the oldest buildings built in opus incertum, i.e. randomly unregular stones or tuff blocks inserted in a core of the ancient concrete: opus caementicium.
Monte Testaccio – the organized garbage collection of the ancient Romans.
It is an artificial hill, formed between the 1st century B.C. and the 3rd A.D. from the accumulation of waste material, mainly derived from amphorae. With the arrival of a greater quantity of goods, the amphorae no longer usable even in construction were discarded, especially those from Spain, which were used for the transport of olive oil. A landfill was then created which, over the decades, gave birth to an artificial hill. The hill has a height of 54 meters (i.e. 178ft ) and is made up of about 53 million amphorae. Parts of the accumulated amphorae are still visible from via Galvani, at the crossroads with via Nicola Zabaglia.
The Pyramid of Caius Cestius Epulo – a Ptolemaic pyramid in Rome.
The monument was built between 18 and 12 BC. by the heirs of Caius Cestius, a member of the Septemviri Epulones, magistrates who organized banquets in honor of the most prominent deities. It was erected in less than 330 days, as written on the side of the monument. Caius Cestius Epulone was also a praetor and tribune of the plebs.
During the construction of the Aurelian walls, it was incorporated into them, thus contributing to the preservation of the monument. There were probably four pyramids in Rome and three of them are irretrievably lost.
Why do we find a pyramid along the Via Ostiense?
The Via Ostiense connected Rome with the main port of the city, Ostia Antica. The Romans did not bury the dead inside the cities and therefore the tombs were located along the main extra-urban roads.