Ostia and the Tiber Floods Part 2

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. *

The hexagonal harbour of Trajan (completed in 112 AD) didn't really silt up, since it was excavated in inland dunes…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ostia was mentioned in the annals of the great 1530 flood, since during that event Pope Clement VII De Medici fled from…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Sunday, August 20, 2017

Were you aware of Ostia's museum's salty past? Before the great flood of 1557, possibly from Imperial times on, salt…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Did you know? The “Fiume Morto”, a relic of the Tiber course abandoned during the flood of 1557, is still preserved in…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The 16th century wasn't a great time to be an Ostian on the Tiber. In 1992 the Soprintendenza of Ostia dug a few…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Thursday, August 24, 2017

Now for some stratigraphy! In this photo we can see the layers of river sediment in the Lower Tiber valley. What is…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Saturday, August 26, 2017

Floods, sedimentation and coastline advance go hand-in-hand, all being expressions of the land-river equilibrium. On…

Posted by Friends of Roman Ostia – FORO on Sunday, August 27, 2017

Back to Part 1 of the Tiber Floods Series Continue with 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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