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Historical Story Setting: Discovering Ostia and Portus

A Setting in Time


At the time of Argolicus Rome was neither the capital city of Italy nor the center of the Roman Empire. King Theoderic, ruled Italy from the north of Italy in Ravenna and the Roman Empire was centered in Constantinople.

In The Roman Heir Argolicus and Nikolaos leave Rome to begin his retirement in southern Italy. As he leaves, Boethius ask Argolicus to deliver a gift to a young Roman in Ostia. Once the major port for good coming to Rome, at the time of the story Ostia is mainly a country seaside retreat for Romans. The great port is silting and reedy marshlands have replaced much of the port.

Archaeological excavations give us a hint of what the city was like in its prime.


But imagination and a review of geography give us a better feel of Ostia at the time of Argolicus.

When Argolicus arrives to deliver the gift, he finds that the youth, Philo, discovered the body of his murdered father just hours ago. The paterfamilias was a shipping magnate with a large house in Ostia, but his wealth comes from across the river Tiber at the major shipping port called Portus. 


Portus the Seat of Commerce

​The man made port fed by a canal built by Trajan, still serves the shipping needs for Rome and the surrounding area of Italy when Argolicus arrives. In the north, the port of Classe, just several kilometers from Ravenna, serves the King’s city.  But major supplies for the rest of Italy still came through Portus.

The port was an architectural and engineering feat designed is an octagon. The flat sides maximized space for ships to dock and goods to be loaded and unloaded. Huge storage warehouses kept the goods for distribution throughout Italy.


Ostia and Portus are the backdrop for this mystery of a savage murder where emotions run deep behind the trappings of wealth.

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​Zara Altair

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