Archaeologists from the University of Southampton have been excavating an enormous structure 150m long, 60m wide and 5 storeys high which they have identified as being the site for building or servicing the ships that served the Roman Empire.
The site, close to the present day Fiumicino Airport, some 24km (15 miles) south west of Rome was thought to have been a port on the same scale of importance as Carthage or Alexandria. Portus, formerly Portus Augusti, was ancient Rome's main port for 500 years. Emperors Claudius and Trajan both contributed to the development of the site on the right bank of the River Tiber across the river from Ostia, Rome's original harbour. The new harbour had the advantage of a north western aspect to the sea avoiding the exposure to the prevailing south westerly winds that caused the River Tiber to flood and increased the risk of flooding Rome.
The excavations are following a programme of work on the vast site that may ultimately uncover the major features of the harbour.
It is thought that the vessels constructed at the site, probably ornate galleys, would have crossed the Mediterranean to the outposts of the Roman Empire and quite possibly carried the Emperor of the day.
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