Journal of Ancient Topography

n. XVI 2006


JAT  XVI (2006)


Andrea R. Staffa, The Port Area of Pescara in Roman and Early Medieval Times

A port of call developed on the estuary of the River Aternus in Antiquity and played an important, long lasting role in trade between the deep valley of the River Pescara and the Adriatic. It stood on the border between Vestini and Marrucini, was first named Ostia Aterni and later Aternum. A protohistorical settlement stood on the Colle del Telegrafo hill and the burial ground was situated in the area now occupied by the sports ground.

The Roman settlement developed to the right of the estuary and was linked to Rome in 48-49 A.D. by the Via Claudia-Valeria. It is mentioned in late Roman itineraries as a stopping place and departure point of the ferry to Salona. The 1989 excavations show that the populated area was crossed by a paved road parallel to the river, identified with the modern Via delle Caserme, from the area where the Via Adriatica Roman bridge stood as far as the fortifications at Porta Nuova. The town was fortified by the Byzantines in about the mid 6th century (brick walls 1.80 m thick) and later by the Normans in the 12th century (Piscaria). These excavations unearthed rich 2nd century dwellings, 7th century huts and stone houses of the 9th century, as well as remains of the Late Republican, 2nd century and Early Medieval harbour. The harbour was rebuilt further to the north in the 12th century owing to a shift of the bed of the River Pescara.

Enrico Felici, Roman Port Building Techniques. Initial Notes on the Port of Astura (Modern Prov. of Latina)

In the Roman port of Astura (Modern Province of Latina) two phases can be identified, one of them Roman, in mortar bound opus caementicium, and the other, apparently of a later date, with loose stones. On the outer side of the right quay there is a row of cemented ruins, where a case of opus pilarum can be identified. The combination of a continuous quay and opus pilarum, perhaps the result of a single plan, can be compared with other harbour arrangements also including continuous quays and isolated   pilae (Portus Iulius, Pausilypon, Egnazia), but especially at Miseno - Punta Terone. By examining available data on wall structures (plus soldering) and use of pozzolana, a hypothesis is presented on the conceptual relationship between  pila and continuous quay and a possible diachronic link between the two methods. 

Alessandra Benini, Minor Ports of Call and Harbour Structures in Campania. Some Examples   

Reference is made to a number of investigations leading to the discovery of harbour structures of several ports of call along the coast of Campania. They are to be found, in the modern Province of Naples, at Torregaveta, Miseno, Marina di Bacoli, Pozzuoli and Sorrento, and, in the modern province of Salerno, at Punta Fuenti and Sapri.

These discoveries are the result of small scale surveys usually with the aim of conservation and documentation. Thus future systematic exploration of the coast will no doubt unearth much more evidence. In an area as complex as Campania, where geology and human phenomena have drastically altered the shape of the coastline, the crucial role of a series of small details, the result of patient, methodical on site surveys, in addition to more large scale phenomena, is only too evident in the investigation and reconstruction of maritime topography. It has been pointed out that, in some cases, the mere presence of pole holes, or analysis of building techniques, together with correct estimation of ancient sea levels can provide fundamental information for accurate interpretation of structures and their use. 

Cesare Marangio, Harbours and Ports of Call in Roman Apulia

This article examines in detail the harbour system of ancient Apulia, where the coastline, winds, sea condition and surface currents have always facilitated navigation since the earliest periods. Less attention is paid to the two most important ports in the area, i.e.   Brundisium and Tarentum, which have already been thoroughly researched.

Beginning with the Adriatic coast from the north downwards all the known ports of call are listed, some of them less important and perhaps only used occasionally and, in some cases, difficult to identify, as outlets for inland towns and used for small scale coasting and coastal fishing. They were, nevertheless, part of a hinterland depending on ports of call on major trans-Adriatic routes, such as Sipontum, Gnathia, Brundisium and Hydruntum.

Turning to the shorter Ionian coastline, reference is made, moving from south to north, to the S. Gregorio and S. Giovanni Bays, Kallipolis, empurium Nauna (Neretum), Porto Cesareo, Torre dell’Ovo, Porto Saturo (Leporano) and Tarentum.

In conclusion, it is pointed out that throughout the Republican period in Apulia, up to the Age of Augustus, harbour structures from previous periods mostly continued to be used, with considerable saving of economic resources. They were especially involved, despite the predominantly military character of some of them, in small and large scale coasting routes, as well as being of use for longer range sea traffic, for links with ports on the opposite Adriatic and Ionian coasts, as well as other parts of the Mediterranean, for transport of purple dye, brick products, and, above all, oil, wine and wheat. 

Edoardo Tortorici, New Data from Eastern Sicily: underwater exploration at Capo Mulini and Acitrezza

Following on from research on the ancient harbour system at Catania, the author deals here with underwater exploration carried out further to the north in the bay enclosed to the east by Capo Mulini and in the small harbour of Acitrezza, sheltered by the Island of   Lachea and the so-called Cyclopes’ Rocks. Finds including trade amphorae and other Greek, Roman and Byzantine ware are analyzed, dates ranging from the 6th century B.C. to the 7th century A.D., as well as iron anchor types, found further out to sea, showing ship anchorage sites. 

Giovanni Uggeri, Seleucia Pieria: the port of Antioch on the Orontes

Seleucia, called Pieria to distinguish it from other places with the same name, founded by Seleucus I (301 B.C.), quickly became the outlet port of Antioch, metropolis of Syria, and had a great vitality as a link between the caravan routes within Asia and Mediterranean sea traffic. It was an Eastern base for the Roman military fleet, as can be seen from its burial ground for sailors and officers. We know little of the town plan, which has not yet been excavated, with the exception of the foundations of a Hellenistic temple and an Early Christian martyrium. The city walls are still preserved, with three monumental gates. The ancient tidal basin, now filled with sand, is intact and still recognizable is. Worthy of note is a tunnel, more than a kilometre in length, which diverted the waters from a tiny river to the west of the city, so as not to fill the port with sand. Following the earthquake of 526 A.D. the harbour was definitely abandoned and commercial traffic resumed using the natural port of call at the mouth of the River Orontes (al-Mina).