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Le Terme dei Cisiarii, the Baths of the Coachmen, Ostia Antica

The Taxi Service of Ostia

What is the fastest way to get to Rome from Ostia? In 200 AD, the answer to that question was easy. The guild of the coachmen provided carriages for travel between the port of Ostia and the city of Rome. These coachmen, known as cisiarii because they drove a taxi-like cart called a cisium, could whisk the busy merchant or Roman official from the docks of Ostia to the Forum of Rome in a short ride of about three hours.

The coachman is driving two customers in the cisium [Photo by Klaus Heese]

The coachman is driving two customers in the cisium [Photo by Klaus Heese]

The cisium was a state of the art, two wheel carriage that was driven by a coachman and pulled by two mules along the cobblestone Via Ostiense to the imperial city. A large, black and white mosaic in the frigidarium of the Baths of the Coachmen (Terme dei Cisiarii), depicts the daily routine of these guild members. Not only do we see how the carriage service operated, but we can also get a view of the training and care that the coachmen provided for their work animals.

The coachman works with his mules [Photo by Klaus Heese]

The coachman works with his mules [Photo by Klaus Heese]

Do not rush past this often overlooked aspect of daily life in ancient Ostia when you visit the Archeological Park of Ostia Antica! Located immediately inside the Porta Romana, the Baths of the Coachmen will convince you that there was a thriving “Uber” service in Rome, even 1,900 years ago.


More information on this topic is available from The Public Land of Ostia Antica, a recent publication by Louis F. Aulbach and Linda C. Gorski that provides a detailed self-guided walking tour of Ostia Antica, Region II. The Public Land of Ostia Antica is available in a print edition and a Kindle edition from Amazon.com (https://www.amazon.com/Public-Land-Ostia-Antica-Self-Guided/dp/1984091506/), and its European affiliates (Amazon.de, Amazon.it, Amazon.uk, Amazon.fr and others).