Portus was a crucial trade gateway linking Rome to the Mediterranean throughout the Roman period. Key findings at the site include the discovery of a building believed to be the only attested Roman Imperial shipshed in the Mediterranean.
It is thought that the structure, dating from around 117AD, formed part of a naval base for a detachment of warships at Portus. The ships were used to maintain security at the port, carry governors and officials on imperial business to the provinces and, occasionally perhaps, the emperor himself.
The shipshed is one of many significant findings made by the Portus Project team; others include an amphitheatre, a luxurious official residence and one of the largest canals ever built by the Romans.
Using information from the excavations and from geophysical surveys, the team is building up wealth of data about the site’s layout and development. The data is being brought to life with computer graphic simulations which give an impression of the how the port would have looked in its heyday.
The Portus Project is a collaboration between the University of Southampton, the British School at Rome (BSR), the University of Cambridge and the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma. Research has been underway at Portus for several years and further funding is in place to continue the work.
“This is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world,” says Southampton’s Professor Simon Keay, Portus Project director. “So much of this Imperial port has been preserved and there is much more to learn about its role in supplying Rome and in the broader economic development of the Roman Mediterranean. It is great privilege to be working at the site along with our Italian colleagues.”