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Ostia and the Tiber Floods Part 3

How the Tiber floods of the 16th century forever changed the landscape of Ostia.

This series of short notes by Tonnie Huijzendveld refers to the catastrophic floods that afflicted the Lower Tiber valley, peaking in the 16th century AD. We know about these floods from written sources and through geoarchaeological investigations. The floods with the highest levels ever reached by the Tiber occurred in the years 1530, 1557 and 1598. *

When the Great Flood of 1557 destroyed the Tiber's meander by the castle, the course of the river was shortened. As a…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Have you heard of the Topographical Survey of Ostia? It took place in 1911. A series of photographs were taken from a…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Monday, September 18, 2017


Check out this excellent aerial photograph of 1911 which clearly shows the old course of the Tiber…with the help of…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Monday, September 4, 2017


In 1961 archaeologist Aldo Segre carried out important excavations which followed the new drainage system in Ostia…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The harbour basin of Claudius was constructed in the 1st century CE by deepening a shallow lagoon, and then creating…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, September 6, 2017


The Tiber is fed by two important tributaries, the Nera and the Aniene (shown in this photo), which flow trough…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The last great Tiber flood occurred in December 2008. It overflowed north of Rome and also near the river mouth, and…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, September 6, 2017




Back to Part 2 of the Tiber Floods Series Continue with Part 4 of the Tiber Floods Series

* Several factors contributed to this particular concentration in time. It seems that in this period there was a change in the equilibrium of the land-river-sea system. The change of land-use in Central Italy in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods may have been one of the triggering factors: the clearing of land on steep slopes caused an increase in erosion, which, in turn, caused an increase in the solid charge of the rivers, and thus of flood frequency and intensity, the rise of the valley level and the progradation of the coast line.

A secondary cause of the flood intensity would have been the presence of obstacles in the river in Rome such as obstructed bridges and floating mills. A final contribution to the changed environmental balance may have been the start of a colder and rainier climate phase peaking in the 16th-19th centuries (the “Little Ice Age”). The break-through of the sharp meander of the river near the castle in 1557 was the apotheosis of the events, which forever after changed the landscape of Ostia and its surroundings.

Related articles:
Fiume Morto by Tonnie Huijzendveld

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