Ostia and the Tiber Floods Part 4

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. *

At the start of the 20th century, the Tiber was dangerously encroaching upon the northwestern part of Ostia Antica. The…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Sunday, September 24, 2017

Is Ostia's coastline confusing? This graphic should help! In the 16th century the coast line near Ostia advanced with an…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A surprisingly realistic view of the marshy relict of #Ostia's "Fiume Morto" by the Roman painter Onorato Carlandi, from…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Sunday, October 8, 2017

In 1910-1911 the land reclamation of the "Fiume Morto" near the Castle of Ostia was completed, with drainage and infill…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Monday, October 9, 2017

Have you ever noticed the Battle of Ostia in the Musei Vaticani? If you know your Ostian history, you will realize that…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Tuesday, October 10, 2017

1557 was a dramatic year for Ostia, and not only due to the rupture of the Tiber meander on the 15th of September. From…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A magnificent and again unexpected view of the Fiume Morto marsh in 1871. The Casale del Sale is visible in the…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Friday, October 13, 2017

Back to Part 3 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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