Portus in the Roman Mediterranean

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Humanities


The establishment of Portus, the maritime port of Imperial Rome, under Claudius and its enlargement Trajan, refocused Rome's economic and social relationship with its Mediterranean provinces. It helped ensure the centrality and dominance of Roman power at the City of Rome for over 500 years down to the late antique period. It is difficult, therefore, to over-estimate the significance of this port to our understanding of the Roman empire or, indeed, to the broader history of the Mediterranean. While the site of Portus has great archaeological potential, however, it has only recently begun to receive the scholarly attention that it merits, not least with the publication of Keay et al. 2005 and the AHRC-funded Portus Project (www.portusproject.org). Much however remains to be learned, not least in terms of the relationship of the port to Rome, how it functioned, the scale of commercial activity, and the nature of the community that lived and worked there.

This new project builds upon the results of the earlier project and has been designed to address key questions about the roles that Portus played in Rome's relationship with the Mediterranean between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD. It represents a continuation of successful and longstanding collaborations between the Universities of Southampton and Cambridge, the British School at Rome, and the Italian authorities. Its first aim is to undertake limited excavation and geophysical survey to complete our understanding of a group of seven major buildings that were focused upon the 'Imperial Palace', an enigmatic complex at the centre of the port. Attention is first directed towards using these as the basis for understanding the scale of imperial investment in Rome's port infrastructure at Portus, Civitavecchia and the City itself. Their appearance, functions and relationships to the harbour basins and the rest of the port infrastructure are then studied with a view to making a contribution to our understanding of how the port complex worked as a whole, drawing upon a programme of innovative computer visualization. Computer simulations of the capacity of the harbour basins for handling and berthing ships and boats will also be used to address research questions about changing scales of commerce at the port; this will be complemented by an analysis of finds from four of the buildings excavated in the course of the Portus Project which will characterize the geographical origins of the ceramics, marble and environmental material passing between Rome and the Mediterranean through Portus. Furthermore a re-analysis of earlier geophysical results will be used to define areas of residential settlement in the port, while an innovative isotope analysis of human bone, food remains and ceramic food containers will be used to establish a 'food-web' and help characterize ethnic and social differentiation amongst its inhabitants. Since most of the data has already been collected much of this work will be undertaken over a period of two years, with a third reserved for bringing the results to publication. The results will be diffused by means of a project web site, the ADS, several monographs and a popular book that, in the context of a clear strategy, will achieve a very high international impact at both the scholarly and popular levels. The research will assist in the career development of several young archaeologists through involvement in a major international research project.

Planned Impact

This project will have a major impact on the quality of life and culture of the general public in the UK and abroad. Portus' proximity to Rome's airport, Ostia and Rome, as well as its spectacular remains, ensure its universal appeal. The centrality of the project's high quality images and computer graphics will also make it easy to understand and help 'bring to life' the site, ensuring the project again captures popular imagination as the Portus Project did in 2009. Benefit will accrue nationally through the visibility of 'Britons' working successfully in collaboration with European partners on this prestigious project, as well as to participating institutions and the funding body. More specific beneficiaries will the general public who visit Rome, watch historical epics, enjoy reading about ancient Rome in popular accounts, or who studied Classical Civilization at School and visit Roman sites and museums with Classical material in the UK, Italy and elsewhere. Schools are also important beneficiaries of the kind proposed in this project. Our publicity will help to bring the Classical world to life to children in the UK and beyond, fostering an awareness of the past and why it is important, as well as in Classical archaeology itself. It will also feed extensive public interest in such inter-disciplinary techniques used in the project as how computer simulations are created, archaeologists see beneath the ground with geophysics, the remains of ancient seeds tell us about conditions in the past, techniques developed in forensic studies can be used on ancient skeletons and food remains to tell us about people. The project will also have a major impact in the commercial and private sector, since its success depends upon a range of instruments, such as those for geophysical and topographical survey, and computer software: publicity associated with our results will increase awareness of these products in the market-place. Indeed preliminary discussions are underway with potential industrial partners. Other major beneficiaries are public heritage management agencies in Italy, principally the Soprintendenze. Publicising high quality research at this major, but relatively unknown, site will provides critically important public visibility that could be a key factor in its conservation in the future. This will inform public policy on archaeological sites and promote increased resources for their preservation, additional research and public accessibility - a key issue for Portus and many other major sites in Italy and elsewhere and something with implications for major UK bodies such as English Heritage. The strategy for delivering benefits to stakeholders comprises: milestone (i) at the start of the project will comprise a discussion with press offices of Southampton, the BSR and Soprintendenza over the possible stories that might appeal to stakeholders, together with (ii) the establishment of a project website which will act as a public information hub with a podcast in which the PI explains the project aims and objectives. Subsequent to this the progress of the research will be monitored and discussed periodically with the Southampton press office to establish updates on story angles, decide which to abort or develop, possible angles, how best and when to make releases, and (iii) periodic press releases. This process would culminate (iv) at the end of the second year in a major international press conference at which focus would be directed towards two key stories, one dealing with the Roman port per se, and the other dealing with issues related to technical achievements and its contribution to the cultural heritage management of major sites. This will be followed up by (v) by popular articles and a book, and (vi) an invitation for a major project presence at two major museum exhibitions in Spain and Italy.


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Delile H (2014) Lead in ancient Rome's city waters. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Johnson, Paul; Millett, Martin (2012) Archaeological Survey and the City

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Johnson, Paul; Millett, Martin (2012) Archaeological Survey and the City

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Keay S (2013) The Roman Ports Project in Papers of the British School at Rome

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Keay S (2015) THE ROMAN PORTS PROJECT in Papers of the British School at Rome

Description A. Scope and Objective of the Project

Portus was the most important maritime port in the Roman empire, supplying Rome with foodstuffs from across the Mediterranean throughout the year. It was established by the Emperor Claudius in the mid first century AD, initially to both boost limited anchorage facilities at Ostia and ease the dangers of flooding in the lower reaches of the Tiber. It was greatly expanded under Trajan in what must represent one of the greatest engineering achievements of the Roman Empire, encompassing up to 3.5km2 of port installations. Development continued during the second and third centuries, with a gradual diminution in its extent and the scope of its activities from the later fourth through into the sixth century AD.

Portus in the Roman Mediterranean is a free-standing project that has built upon the achievements of the earlier Portus Project (www.portusproject.org). This had demonstrated the significance of Rome's principal maritime port of Portus to our understanding of Rome's broader economic and social relationship to the Roman Mediterranean. In particular, it had focused upon the topography and archaeological sequences of seven buildings on the narrow isthmus of land that separated the Claudian from the Trajanic basins - the focus of the whole port. It had also provided preliminary analyses of a large amount of ceramics, glass, marble, coins and environmental material for study. The Portus in the Roman Mediterranean project has undertaken detailed analysis of all this material and some additional excavation to address seven key research questions relating to Portus:

1. What do the seven second century buildings at the centre of the port tell us about the methods and logistics of the mobilization of resources in developing port infrastructure at Portus, Rome and across the broader Mediterranean during the second and early third centuries AD?

2. How were these buildings organized? How did they relate to the two harbour basins and what do they tell us about the functioning of Portus as a whole down to the 5th century AD?

3. What does the late antique transformation of these buildings tell us about the scope of Portus' activities and its ability to handle large-scale commerce for the Capital?

4. What was the scale of commercial activity at Portus? What were its preferred commercial connections across the Mediterranean, and how did they differ from those at Ostia, Rome and other provincial ports?

5. At what point did Portus begin to witness a reduction in the scale of its commercial activity and a regionalization of its role? What were the implications for Rome?

6. Where did those working at the port live? What evidence is there for ethnic and occupational differentiation and social mixing following the Trajanic enlargement of Portus?

7. Does the late antique period witness changes in the profile of its inhabitants and where they lived?

This document should be read in conjunction with the outputs on the Research Outcomes System

B. New Fieldwork Undertaken for the Project

The seven separate buildings identified by the Portus Project comprised (a) the Palazzo Imperiale ('Imperial Palace') (Buildings 3 and 6), (b) a unique pier-built complex [Building 5] (c) a castellum aquae (Buildings 1 and 2), (d) the Terme della Lanterna and (e) an adjacent building of unknown function; to these were added the so-called Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo (f) in the later second century, and (g) an amphitheatre-shaped structure in the early third century. This current project has used a combination of targeted geophysics and excavation to focus primarily upon (b), the pier-shaped building that ran parallel to the northern side of the hexagonal harbour basin. The full extent of this structure and its relationship to the Palazzo Imperiale were unknown but was considered fundamental to understanding the overall topography of this part of the port and its development throughout the Imperial period.

The fieldwork undertaken by this project (S. Keay, G. Earl, P. Copeland, K. Strutt, F. Felici, S. Kay and R. Cascino) has revealed that Building 5 was a single structure that measured c. 240m from the western side of the Palazzo Imperiale to the eastern corner of this side of the hexagonal basin, and that it had a maximum north-south width of c. 58m.

(i) Results of intensive Geophysics

A programme of Ground Penetrating Radar and Resistance Tomography survey was undertaken over the surface of Building 5 in 2011 and 2012 (K. Strutt) in order to contextualize the results obtained for the excavation of a small section of this in 2009. It was also intended to complement the results of a magnetometer survey undertaken in 2003, and published in 2005, which had revealed evidence for a series of regularly spaced north to south alignments at a depth of c. 1m. The new surveys, which revealed different properties of structures that extended from just below the surface to a depth of c. 3m, confirmed the trend of the surface results revealed by the magnetometer survey. These were related to a series of surface undulations and standing piers and walls that were mapped by a close-contour topographical survey. Taken together these results suggested that Building 5 was a single building measuring 240m by 58m that was regularly organized into a series of regularly spaced units oriented from north to south. These have been labelled as Building Sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3; furthermore each of these was in-turn sub-divided into a consistent sequence of sequentially numbered elements: one Passage (P) 4m wide, three Narrow Bays (NB) each c. 11m wide, one Passage (P) 4m wide and one Wide Bay (WB) c. 19m wide. All of these building sections opened on to a quayside bordering the Claudian basin to the north and on to a quayside bordering the Trajanic hexagonal basin to the south.

(ii) Results of excavation

The excavations (S. Keay, G. Earl, P. Copeland, F. Felici, S. Kay and R. Cascino) corresponded to B(uilding) 5.1/N(arrow)B(ay) 3, B5.1/Passage 2, B5.1/WB1, B5.2/P3 and B5.2/NB4. The initial AHRC funded excavations focused upon that part of the building that had been sampled in 2009 (B5.1/P2 and B5.1/WB1) but enlarged it towards the south. However, the provision of extra financial support from the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, the British School at Rome and the University of Southampton made it possible for us to undertake rather more extensive excavation than was originally planned, with additional seasons later in 2011 and in 2012. In particular, it allowed us to excavate a good sample of the central section of B5.2/P3 and the southern sector of B5.2/NB4, as well as to establish a clear and full occupational sequence for the building as a whole that works well in the overall periodization of the site. This was complemented by a record of the sedimentary sequence of the pre-port deposits underlying the building immediately in front of B5.2/NB4 (F. Salomon and J. P. Goiran). The excavation sequence can be summarized as follows:

Period 2 (first quarter of the 2nd c AD)

Excavations in 2011 revealed that this period saw the construction of the eastern wall of B5.1/P2 and the western wall of B5.1/WB1. Further work in 2011 and 2012 confirm it also saw the establishment of the western and eastern north-south opus caementicium walls of B5.2/P3. The latter of the two also formed the western wall of NB4; it was interspersed with substantial piers that were matched by free-standing piers defining the eastern side of the bay. The northern façade of B5.2/P3 and NB4 had been recorded in 2009. The sequence of later structures made it difficult to access the primary floor levels of the building. However, small sections were uncovered in both B5.1/WB1, B5.2/P3 and NB4 and were found to comprise a hard cocciopesto surface laid on top of a natural sand deposit. Further excavations in 2012 uncovered part of the northern façade of the Building corresponding to the eastern side of B5.2 and the whole of B5.3.

The geophysical and topographical work suggests that all the other passages, narrow bays and wide bays detected during the geophysical were built to a similar specification. The function of the building as a whole is not entirely clear. However, its great size, dissimilarity to the layout of warehouses, and topographic position - which meant that it opened on to both the Claudian and the Trajanic basins - suggests that it had some kind of ship-related function, possibly for the repair or construction of ships. One possible interpretation is that the structure served as navalia for warships present at the port as a detachment from the Imperial fleet at Misenum on the Bay of Naples, although the provision made for accessing the Trajanic basin is as yet unclear. Furthermore, the discovery of many copper nails for attaching lead to the underside of commercial ships cautions against this view, as does

Period 3 (later 2nd c AD)

During this period, B5.1/P2 was modified with the provision of a staircase. In Building 5.2, NB4 underwent a complete transformation, with the construction within it of a series of substantial warehouses oriented from west to east on more than one storey, each measuring c, 12.54m x c. 4.5m and provided with mortar floors and opening into the NB5 to the east. Furthermore the southern and northern opening of the bay was shut off by a substantial buttressed wall. The examination of standing structures along the southern and northern side of Building 5.2 and 5.3 suggests that many of the bays and passages of these were also shut off at this time, suggesting that much of the building was transformed into a series of warehouses. The west to east alignments detected in the ERT and GPR survey of the building are probably to be identified with this transformation of the function of the building or, indeed, with the subsequent changes of Period 5 or 6A.

Period 4 (Late 2nd/Early 3rd c AD)

A staircase was added to B5.2/P3 and a new floor surface with suspensurae oriented north-south in NB4.

Period 5 (Early 5th c AD)

In B5.2/NB4 a new floor surface was installed with suspensurae oriented from east-west.

Period 6A (Last quarter of the 5th c AD)

Much of the northern façade of Building 5 was incorporated into the façade of the late fortifications that protected core installations at the port by shutting them off from access from the north. Within Building Sections 5.1 and 5.2 there was ample evidence for burials: these were sporadic in the former, but were intense in the latter, most notably in B5.2/P3.

Period 6B (6th c AD)

There was evidence for minor structural modifications in the interior of B5.1/P2.

Period 6C (Later 6th c AD)

This saw the systematic demolition of Building 5 as a whole, with very clear evidence coming from Building 5.1/P2 and WB1 and Building 5.2/P3 and NB4.

Overall, therefore, this work suggests that the pier-shaped building (Building 5), initially sampled in 2009, was initially constructed under Trajan as a building related to ship construction or repair, not a warehouse, significantly changing our understanding of all of the buildings in this area and the original conception of the Trajanic port as a whole. However, this function was relatively short lived, and c. 50-60 years later, the complex was transformed into a regularly organized array of warehouses and that it maintained a primarily storage function for the next c. 400 years. Clearance work in the neighbouring Tenuta dei Sforza Cesarini, lying immediately to the east of Building 5.3, revealed some of the remains of a separate structure (Building 7) whose layout bore similarities to Building 5.

This new information has major implications for our understanding of the development of all the buildings being analysed by this project, and the Portus Project before it. Furthermore the centrality of these with respect to the two main harbour basins means that this represents a fundamental advance in our broader understanding of Portus as a whole.

Our overall structural sequence can now be summarized as follows:

Period 1: (pre early 2nd c AD)

Establishment of a substantial opus caementicium quay that ran from west to east and fronted natural beach deposits along the southern side of the Claudian basin. It is possible that the Terme della Lanterna was constructed on the isthmus to the south-west of this in the late 1st c AD.

Period 2: Early 2nd c AD

The natural beach deposits immediately to the south of the Claudian quay were modified to make possible the construction of a suite of very large structures associated with the Trajanic enlargement of Portus. First, a small dock was excavated along the southern side of the eastern section of the quay: this defined the northern side of a broad quayside c. 35m deep and defined by Building 5 on its southern side. This was followed by the construction of the Palazzo Imperiale immediately to the west of the quay, with our excavations uncovering three conjoined structures that formed the eastern end of the northern range: a structure of uncertain form (Building 9), a three-storey cistern (Building 1) and a large colonnaded rectangular room (Building 3) of uncertain function belonging to the eastern end of the northern range. Building 5, the possible navalia, which was c. 59m wide, abutted the eastern side of the Palazzo Imperiale and extended from west to east for c. 240m, with its northern façade defining the southern edge of the quayside, and its northern façade opening in the direction of the Trajanic basin.

Period 3: Later 2nd c AD

This period saw a minor structural changes to the Palazzo Imperiale, with the subdivision of the first floor cistern in Building 1 and immediately to the east of it, the demolition of Building 9 and its replacement by a small two storey cistern block (Building 2). In addition to this, the function of Building 5 was radically altered. Many of the northern and southern openings of the bays that comprised the different building sections were blocked up, and the bays themselves were re-fitted as batteries of warehouses that were oriented from east to west and arranged on more than one storey. This period also witnessed minor changes to the surface of the northern and southern quaysides. Away to the south-west of the main project area, the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo were also constructed at approximately this time, being added to the south-western corner of the Palazzo Imperiale.

Period 4: Late 2nd/Early 3rd c AD

Apart from minor structural changes to Building 5, the only other modification of pre-existing buildings involved installing a glass workshop in Building 3 of the Palazzo Imperiale. At the same time a small (42m x 38m) oval-shaped amphitheatre (Building 4) was built on the quayside in the space between the southern side of the northern range of the Palazzo Imperiale (Buildings 1 and 3), the unexcavated western side of the Palazzo Imperiale and the northern façade of Building 5.

Period 5: early 5th c AD

This horizon witnessed another major change on the quayside between the Palazzo Imperiale (Buildings 1, 2 and 3) and Building 5. In the first instance, the amphitheatre (Building 4) was demolished. Secondly, a strip of luxuriously decorated rooms (Building 6), including a latrine, was constructed from north to south, separating the quayside to the east from a garden area to the west: the latter was probably decorated with a colonnade. This is an important development, since it effectively represents an eastwards advance of the western façade of the Palazzo Imperiale.

Period 6A: last quarter of the 5th c AD

At a time that coincides with the dissolution of the western Roman Empire, this part of the port underwent two major changes. Firstly, after the demolition of Building 6, Building 5 and the northern range of the Palazzo Imperiale were enclosed within substantial fortifications. Since the Claudian basin had silted up by this date they ensured the security of this core area of the port from land-based attack from the north. The fortifications comprised a concrete and brick façade that filled the remaining gaps in the façade of the former, but incorporating a double gateway, before making a 90 degree turn to cut from south to north across the site of demolished Period 4 amphitheatre (Building 4) on the quayside, and then incorporating the eastern side of Buildings 2 and 1. The second major change, which represented a significant change in the way that the port buildings were used, involved the excavation of some forty six burials across the site as a whole, many within Building 5, some on the quayside, others within the ruins of Building 6 and one within Building 2.

Period 6B: 6th c AD

At some time in the earlier 6th c the gateway in the fortified façade of Building 5 was blocked up. This permanently shut off any communication between the old quayside and the interior of a building of mixed function: some spaces were used for burials while minor structural alterations in others, suggest some kind of defensive function.

Period 6C: later 6th c AD

This horizon represents the end of the usage of the rooms (Buildings 1, 2 and 3) comprising the northern range of the Palazzo Imperiale together with what appears to have been the systematic demolition of standing piers and associated structures in Building 5.

Period 7: 15th c AD

There is evidence for sporadic activity on the site of Building 1 (first floor) and Building 5/P2.

Period 8: 20th c

The site underwent a lot of damage at this time. The cutting of a north south path to access the hexagonal basin involved the destruction of the area to the west of the Period 6A fortifications, Building 3 and the Period 5 Building 6, with the remains of the amphitheatre (Building 4) being reduced to well-below foundation levels. Trees were then planted on the site of Building 3 and within the quayside. At the same time, the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Lugli explored the line of the north-south Period 6A fortifications, the southern side of Buildings 1 and 2, and the northern façade of Building 5 with exploratory trenches.

C. Computer Modelling of Excavated Buildings

The excavation plans, sections and elevations, together with alignments derived from the topographic data, scans of standing structures and geophysical surveys formed the basis of the information used to create range of digital reconstructions (G. Cox) within a broader digital strategy (G. Earl). Since our understanding of the buildings and their inter-relationships has changed in the light of the new fieldwork and analysis undertaken in the context of this project, these reconstructions supersede the reconstructions produced by the Portus Project. The modelling proceeded along the following steps, defining a new roadmap for interpretative simulation of this kind.

(i) Modelling of the structural properties of the Period 2 Building 5 in order to establish whether or not the proposed reconstruction would be structurally sound (J. Miles). This developed the geophysical results and incorporated new research by the project in the application of airborne and land based surface surveying technologies such as photogrammetry and laser scanning. On a smaller scale the project continued to develop visible and multispectral photographic surface recording approaches.

(ii) Simulation of the Period 2 Building 5 using procedural modelling approaches including City Engine (M. Harrison). This approach allows stochastic models to be generated based on architectural, archaeological and structural evidence. In turn these represent the breadth of possibilities suggested by the given evidence and prompt re-evaluation of hypotheses and input data.

(iii) More detailed volumetric models building on (i) and (ii) with high quality renders of the Period 2 and 3 iterations of Building 5 (G. Cox) undertaken in conjunction with the architectural post-doc (C. Triantafillou) and project director (S. Keay), and presented to specialist workshops at the British School at Rome. These strongly indicate that Building 5 stood to c. 18m high and that its bulk dominated the whole of the northern side of the hexagonal basin, thereby providing an impressive visual backdrop to the harbour basin. Furthermore, careful modelling of Period 3 structures strongly suggests that the warehouses within each of the Period 2 bays of Building 5 were built in rows on at least three stories. The modelling process was also important in shedding light on the relationship between the southern façade of the building and the waters of the Trajanic basin, and thus helping us to understand how ships might have been moved between the two.

(iv) Detailed volumetric models and high quality final renders of the Palazzo Imperiale. These incorporated the detailed documentation from Buildings 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 along the northern range of the complex, but were able to include plans of the complex as a whole produced by the Soprintendenza in the 1980s as well as scanned data relating to the whole complex (J. Miles), and material from the ongoing 2013 and 2014 excavations. The models were prepared by G. Cox in conjunction with C. Triantafillou and S. Keay, in consultation with J. Delaine, and have been presented to specialist workshops at the British School at Rome. The range of different possible reconstructions that were explored were very dependent upon the variable quality and completeness of the surviving ancient evidence. The resultant reconstructions confirm that the complex would have comprised some three stories and stood to c. 12 metres high, with a principal colonnaded façade facing westwards on to the Claudian basin, but with additional frontages facing to the north and south. It is also clear that it consisted of a first floor of high status residential rooms appropriate to an official of very high status, and ground floor service areas (including latrines) and workshop. Although little survives of the second floor - collapsed debris from the ongoing 2013 and 2014 excavations provided clues about flooring and decoration.

(v) In a penultinate stage, the (iv) models were combined with one of the adjacent late 2nd c complex of the Grandi Magazzini di Severo that had been completed during the Portus Project, but was supplemented with new details gained from geophysical survey carried out in the context of this project.

(vi) In the final stage, our detailed reconstructions were combined with an overall model of Portus, incorporating extant geophysical and survey data, and a high-resolution scan of Gismondi's (1936) plastico of Portus. In essence, Gismondi's interpretations of the appearance of the Grandi Magazzini di Settimio Severo, the Palazzo Imperiale and adjacent structures were removed and replaced with ours. High quality renders of the whole central part of port as a whole were produced and presented at a public lecture in Rome.

The final archival deposit of the models and other digital data will take place in the course of 2014. The project has also produced a series of digital resources aimed at popular audiences, including an iPad-based exhibition and a new online tour of the site. The digital research outputs are also featuring in our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which starts on 19 May 2014. Together, this work is providing the basis for delivery of our final popular output - rather than a printed book we are generating an online equivalent. In what we see as a novel development, the popular-facing content has been structured so that it also feeds directly into our undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes, and we are blending students across our free and more traditional courses to create a unique cohort. The first major demonstration of this will take place in week six of our MOOC when students from across the world will digitally and literally work on the Portus in the Roman Mediterranean Project.

D. Analysis of the Economics of Construction

This was intended to shed light on the scale of human and material resources involved in the construction of Portus, and the organizational logistics required to undertake public works on this scale. The analysis drew upon the plans, elevations and reconstructions of the Trajanic Palazzo Imperiale and Building 5 in order to calculate the scale of construction and the costs involved. This was then used this as a basis for analyzing other parts of Portus, the port area at Rome and new data for Civitavecchia as a means of gauging overall costs of imperial investment in the port infrastructure of imperial Rome. The analysis (C. Triantafillou) restricted its focus to Trajanic period structures, rather than the multi-phase approach advocated in the application. This was because the characteristic opus mixtum brick facing of the Trajanic phase of Building 5 and the Palazzo Imperiale made it relatively easier to characterize the full extent of these buildings and, thus, best lent themselves to the approach espoused by the project. Furthermore, the majority of the 270 brick stamps, which play a key role in an analysis of this kind, were predominately of Trajanic and early Hadrianic date. They derive from c. 25 different figlinae (especially those of Bruttianae, Domitianae and Quintianae) in the Tiber Valley to the north of Rome (E. Scazzocchio). By contrast, later 2nd c AD brickwork is harder to identify with precision and stamps are much rarer.

E. Responses to Project Research Questions

Responses to these were informed in part by a revised understanding of the nature and development of the centre of Portus in the light of the excavation, geophysics and modelling undertaken as part of this project, together with subsequent fieldwork funded by the British School at Rome, Soprintendenza Speciale per I Beni Archeologici di Roma and the University of Southampton down to 2013. They also drew upon the finds from the Portus Project and those encountered in the more recent fieldwork. The latter material was particularly important in providing us with the 2nd c deposits that had been absent from the Portus Project assemblages, as well as a larger range of late antique material.

I. Questions concerning The Development and Function of Portus from the 1st to the 6th c AD

1) What do the seven second century buildings at the centre of the port tell us about the methods and logistics of the mobilization of resources in developing port infrastructure at Portus, Rome and across the broader Mediterranean during the second and early third centuries AD?

2) How were these buildings organized? How did they relate to the two harbour basins and what do they tell us about the functioning of Portus as a whole down to the 5th century AD?

3) What does the late antique transformation of these buildings tell us about the scope of Portus' activities and its ability to handle large-scale commerce for the Capital?


Question 1. The economics of construction at Portus, and estimates of the numbers of people and costs involved in construction.

A quantitative study on construction labour was conducted on the hexagonal harbour at Portus and its associated buildings undertaken by the emperor Trajan. The buildings in the labour quantifications include the Palazzo Imperiale, Building 5 and several warehouses. On-site construction labour for the harbour works would have entailed the employment of at least 3,000 workmen for nearly a decade. The labour needs for Trajan's harbour at Portus would have been roughly evenly divided between unskilled and skilled labour. The unskilled on-site labour for the harbour works would most probably have been recruited from Portus, Ostia and their hinterlands, while the skilled labour would have come from Ostia and Rome itself.

This scale of on-site labour for Portus is comparable to that required for the construction of Trajan's aqueduct, the Aqua Traiana, and Trajan's imperial bath complex in Rome. The on-site construction of Trajan's harbour would have required half again the construction labour force employed for the construction of Trajan's other major public buildings in Rome. Trajan also constructed another harbour at Centumcellae (modern Civitavecchia), which was smaller than that at Portus. This would have needed only c. 1,000 workmen to complete the on-site construction of the harbour works and the large warehouse, extending the length of it in only half the time of that of Portus. Manpower for the production of materials and transport brings the estimated total labour requirement for the Trajanic structures at Portus to nearly 10,000 men. At a bare minimum, the construction industry in Rome involved with imperial public construction under the Emperor Trajan would have needed at least 30,000 men. The materials sourcing for the harbour works at Centumcellae is more difficult to assess, but the addition of materials needed for production and minimal transport needs for materials brings the total labour force for Centumcellae to at least 3,000 workmen.

Overall, therefore, Imperial public construction for Rome together with the construction of the two harbours during Trajan's principate would have employed more than 43,000 men. The study's assumption of optimal work outputs and minimal waste material would imply that the labour needs are more likely to be greater than what is calculated - say, 50,000 - 60,000 men. However, these calculations do not take into account other private construction being conducted concurrently, which again implies an even greater size for the building industry in and around Rome during the early second century AD.

Question 2. It is now clear from our work that the Palazzo Imperiale and Building 5 as possible navalia were central to the original scheme of the Trajanic enlargement of the harbour facilities at Portus. They were planned ab initio as some kind of integrated administrative centre that related to activities that took place in both the Claudian and the Trajanic basins. While the construction of Building 5 involved the consolidation of the natural beach that had formed the south side of the Claudian basin, it is possible that sand from the upcast of the excavation of the Trajanic basin was used to enlarge this in a westerly direction to form a platform that could accommodate the Palazzo Imperiale. The integrated nature of the planning of both buildings is visible in terms of the building module, the close juxtaposition of the two and in similarities in the techniques of the construction of piers, vaults and brick facing (opus mixtum).

The position of these buildings in relation to both basins is key: the north and western sides of the Palazzo Imperiale faced onto the Claudian basin, while its south side opened on to the Trajanic basin, and to the east, it was open to a long quayside that extended eastwards towards the eastern mole of the Claudian basin at Monte Giulio. There is little doubt that the western façade was the monumental one that acted as a backdrop to the port as a whole to ships entering the port through the basin; the northern façade seems to have been more a service entrance for people and goods who would enter the complex by means of the quayside. Less is known about the southern façade that opened on to the hexagonal basin.

In contrast to this, the Period 2 Building 5 opened on to both the Claudian basin and the Trajanic basins. If the identification of the building as a navalia or having a function related to some other kind of ship repair or construction is correct, then the southern façade was the principal one through which ships would have moved in and out of the calm waters of the hexagonal basin; the northern façade, by contrast, would have provided multiple access points for wood, canvass, rope and other materials. One major implication of this for our understanding of the hexagonal basin as a whole is that may have originally been conceived as a poly-functional basin whose functions incorporated both ship-building/repair as well as storage (known warehouses) and religious (known temple at the eastern end), rather simply as a commercial basin.
Exploitation Route Although it is often difficult for the results of Humanities projects to be used in non-academic contexts, the potential of our research to be used in non-academic contexts can be evidenced in the following ways:

(1) In providing heritage management authorities with our experience of integrating a research project within the management framework of a high profile site, applying cutting edge approaches and methodologies to a complex Classical site, and developing innovative ways to the presentation of the site to the general public. We are currently working closely with the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma in these areas.

(2) As an exemplar of how to raise public awareness of a major, but comparatively unknown, archaeological site. We have used our research results to raise the awareness of this particular site and the Roman Mediterranean in general, and building upon recent films and books about Classical Rome as well as longer-standing interests in Classical Civilization. The potential of this approach can be measured in terms of growing local interest (including schools) in visiting the site, with activity stepping up year on year, as well as tourists and the staff and students from a range of Rome-based foreign Academies and European and US universities. We expect that the Portus MOOC will generate further interest when it is launched in May 2014.

(3) As an exemplar of how to use the experience of this project to influence the approach, development and management of future large and complex research projects. Under the umbrella label of the Portus Project, this has been used as an AHRC case study for the Heritage Portal website (2012), an AHRC impact case study (2012), a Knowledge Exchange Partnership case study (2012) and its results have also featured as an Image Gallery case study (2013).

(4) Through using the on-going project to stimulate, develop and support additional funded activities (notably via ERC, EPSRC, JISC in addition to related AHRC funding) focused on industry-facing novel computing and the application of extant techniques in new domains. This includes our long standing relationship with Microsoft Research, which has so far included five separate technology areas.

(5) As a vehicle for raising public awareness of the Classical past through using project methods and results as the focus of major television programmes, notably BBC 1's Rome's Lost Empire (2013), amongst others.
URL http://www.portusproject.org
Description The work at Portus began with the AHRC-funded Portus Project (2006-2011). This explored Portus' role within the commercial life of the Roman Mediterranean, specifically its development over the first six centuries AD and its impact on the broader Mediterranean. An integrated programme of large-scale excavations and high-resolution geophysical surveys was carried out at the centre of the port. The team prepared initial computer graphic simulations of the excavated buildings and completed preliminary work on the finds. The research continued with a second AHRC funded phase of research (2011-2014). All of these results show that Portus was at the centre of a network of at least four Italian ports serving Rome, and that commerce between Rome and the rest of the Mediterranean was far more complex and on a far greater scale than previously thought. It points to a much larger volume of commerce moving across the Roman Mediterranean during the first four centuries AD, commanding a rethinking of the relationship between Rome and its Mediterranean empire. All of this work was directed by Keay, with Dr Graeme Earl, also of the University of Southampton, and was undertaken in partnership with the British School at Rome, the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma (SSBAR) and the University of Cambridge. The Southampton-led integrated approach to excavation, survey and computer visualization also has major implications as to how the layout and archaeological potential of a major Classical site can be mapped in a relatively short space of time; the potential of such techniques to simulate innovation; and demonstrates how a historically key site can be presented to the public Impact case study through mobile electronic media, (such as geographically sensitive tablets and smartphones which guide users around the site) that could be applied elsewhere, thereby fostering a wider public interest in Classical heritage more generally. Prior to the beginning of the Portus Project, the site of Portus was known only to archaeological authorities and a small group of academics, and was completely unknown to the general public in Italy and beyond. Research led by the University of Southampton has introduced global audiences to the heritage site, raising public awareness of Classical history in general. At its height, the project website www.portusproject.org received c. 1,000 unique visitors monthly. From 2009 there was an increase in visits to the site from Italian schoolchildren and staff, and students from Rome-based foreign academies and European and US universities. A press strategy based around two five-month campaigns in 2009 and 2011 was key, culminating in international press conferences at Portus and extensive coverage across international broadcast and print media, including all UK and Italian broadsheets, the BBC and CNN etc. In December 2012, BBC1 screened a major documentary (co-financed by Discovery US) Rome's Lost Empire, with Southampton's excavation, geophysics and CGI-modelling work featuring prominently, which reached an audience of 4.23 million in the UK. Its Director Jeff Wilkinson wrote: "The important discoveries (Professor Keay and his team) have made at Portus played a key role in generating the excellent viewer figures for the programme, and therefore in benefitting the BBC." It was also screened by France 5, attracting 1.1million viewers, and subsequently across the EU and in the US. Since then, Portus Project research has featured on a number of other documentaries, including Building the Ancient City made for BBC2 (2016), and television channels in France. Portus' popularity as a tourist destination has also risen as a consequence. Some specialist UK tourist companies, notably Swan Hellenic Cruises (2010, 2013), have placed Portus on their itineraries, thereby deriving economic benefit from this work. Since 2013 the International Airport of Fiumicino, the SSBAR, the Fondazione Benetton (Navigazione del Territorio), the Comune di Fiumicino and other regional authorities have started exploring joint collaboration to open up the site to the large numbers of tourists over the next few years. The site is now regularly open to the public during the week for most of the year, and the number of visitors has risen from c. 1800 to well over 23000. Portus has also had a significant educational impact. Our FutureLearn Portus MOOC has attracted nearly 27,000 people, with 60% of the learners are from outside the UK, drawn from more than 120 countries. Of the c. 27,000 people who enrolled on the course approximately 14,000 learners actively participated in the course, collectively posting around 60,000 individual comments, equivalent to around a million words. These provide a unique understanding not only of the learners' engagement on the course but also of global perceptions of the issues covered. The SSBAR has benefitted from the researchers' experience in integrating a research project within the management framework of a high-profile site, new methodologies and presentation of results, with the Director General of Antiquities citing it as having "... had considerable scientific impact ... reinforcing the documentation that illustrates the importance of the site and also serves to inform its management". As a result, project members produced a PortusTour website in English and Italian based upon the content of our own website, but adding in additional material at the request of the SSBAR. This request came in recognition of the high regard in which our work on the Portus and Portus in the Roman Mediterranean projects at Portus is regarded by the Italians. The very wide press publicity associated with this and the Portus Project led to a number of joint initiatives with the Italian state archaeological authorities focusing upon sharing expertise in certain fields, and continues down to the present (2018). There was a particular interest in (1) our approach to the visualization of archaeological sites and how this could be used to present major sites more attractively to the general public, and (2) our methodological approach to the study of the site. In late 2017, Professor Keay was appointed by the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo to serve on the Comitato Scientifico of the newly established Parco Archeologico di Ostia Antica, which administers the archaeological sites of Portus, Ostia and Isola Sacra. His role is to contribute towards the formulation research strategy for all three sites over the next five years, and is in direct recognition of his work with the Portus Project since 2007. The AHRC has also benefitted from the Portus Project, with the CEO Rick Rylance saying in connection with the launch of the AHRC's research strategy for 2013- 2018 that "The great Portus Project reveals the potential of collaborative organization across nations and across different sorts of disciplines...". (2013). Lastly, the project has generated benefit for a range of industrial partners. One of these arose from an initial collaboration with Microsoft Research in High Performance Computing (led by Professor Earl), which led to further collaboration at Portus, with a focus upon the development of new hardware and software tools that could be applied further afield.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma
Amount £160,000 (GBP)
Organisation Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma 
Sector Public
Country Italy
Start 07/2012 
End 11/2012
Description Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma
Amount £16,000 (GBP)
Organisation Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma 
Sector Public
Country Italy
Start 05/2012 
End 08/2012
Description Collaboration with the BBC 
Organisation British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Formal collaboration between the Portus and the BBC during 2012 to make it possible for aspects of the results of the Portus Project to form the core of a major BBC1 documentary
Start Year 2011
Description Universita di Roma Tre 
Organisation Roma Tre University
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Agreement whereby c. 10 archaeology students from this university participated in ongoing project fieldwork during 2011 and 2012
Start Year 2012
Description 2011 Report 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Interim Report on the fieldwork at Portus undertaken in 2011
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Heritage Portal Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Portus Project developed the case study for the EU funded Heritage Portal website (www.heritageportal.eu) led by the AHRC
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
Description Interim Report 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience
Results and Impact An interim report on fieldwork at Portus in 2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
Description Press Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Organized in order to present results of project excavations - notably evidence for what was possibly a military shipshed (navalia)

This was a major event involving the participation of representatives of UK newspapers and TV being flown (at University of Southampton cost) to Portus, as well as those in Italy. The conference generated very extensive world-wide coverage (UK, Italy, Fra
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
Description The Roman Shipyards at Portus 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture organized by the British School at Rome to highlight the important results produced by the AHRC funded excavations at Portus in 2011.

This event has held at the British Academy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011