In the history of Ostia, 1557 was a crucial year because, on September 15th, a flood changed the Tiber’s course forever.
For centuries, one bend of the river had lapped the western flank of the fortified village – an episcopal see since the III century, and a town of great historical importance until its decline began that day.
Ostia’s success had always been tied to the river, which substantially provided the small urban area’s very reason of existence: Ostia acted as Rome’s guard, looking out over the coast that was constantly threatened by enemies – first and foremost, the dreaded Saracens, who had already used the Tiber to reach the capital city before.
This had been the town’s main role since the 9th century, that is since Pope Gregory IV had decided to fortify the settlement built in the eastern suburbs of ancient Ostia, which had been completely abandoned by then. The town – inhabited by workers employed in the local salt marshes – even took on the name of “Gregoriopoli”.
At the end of the 15th century, future Pope Julius II built the fortress that bears his name and finished the construction of the Basilica of Santa Aurea.
The small medieval and renaissance Ostia is now a hidden gem among the great metropolises and the magnificent ruins of the ancient city. A pearl that is definitely worth discovering.