Exciting discoveries. The port of ancient Rome gives up its secrets

11 September 2012

Portus, Rome

Archaeology professor Simon Keay will talk about latest discoveries at the ancient port of Rome – Portus - at a public lecture at Turner Sims on 9 October 2012.

He will describe the significant finds that have been made at the site, close to the present-day Rome International Airport, which will also feature in a BBC television documentary to be shown later this year. The lecture will be chaired by Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton

Portus, the maritime port of Imperial Rome, was one of the great engineering feats of the ancient world. Recent work at the site has produced results that promise to change our understanding of the purpose of the port at different periods of antiquity.

It now seems that the early port, established by the emperor Claudius, was used primarily as an anchorage to supplement the commercial capacity of the nearby river port of Ostia. Its enlargement under Trajan in the early 2nd century AD, by contrast, may have been an attempt to more closely control the supply of food and other material to Rome as well as providing infrastructure for the repair of military or commercial ships that were central to the functioning of the port. In later centuries, the port seems to have lost many of its commercial functions, while gaining importance as an ecclesiastical centre. These developments are of major importance to our understanding of Rome's relationship to the Mediterranean.

Research underpinning this work has been inter-disciplinary, involving such scientific techniques as geophysics, geo-archaeology, computer-based visualisation and the study of human remains, as well as more traditional archaeological approaches; it involves colleagues from Southampton, the British School at Rome, Cambridge, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence and the Rome Archaeological Superintendancy.

For further information on the lecture please visit the Humanities website or to reserve your place please contact Tracy Storey