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Fasti Ostienses

The Fasti Ostienses, or Annals of Ostia, are a monumental, marble inscription, of which many fragments have been found over a long period of time. An introduction to the document was written by Françoise Van Haeperen in 2018, in a study of the document. We quote this introduction here (translated from the French):

"The special, even unique character of the Fasti of Ostia emerges all the better when one compares them to other municipal Fasti. Among these, the Fasti Ostienses are by far the best preserved and are the only ones to cover a time span of around three centuries. Like other municipal fasti they may have been exhibited in close connection with the calendar showing the auspicious and inauspicious (fasti et nefasti) days and the references to festivals. They provide, like a small number of these fasti, in addition to the names of the magistrates of the Urbs those of the local magistrates, thus offering a sort of concordance between the eponymous names of central time and local time. Like some of these fasti, they also recall significant Roman events of the past year. They differ from all other municipal fasti however, by recalling local events, at least in certain years, thus presenting, in synchrony, an overview of events in central and local life."

"A careful analysis of the text shows that the recorded events, both for Rome and for Ostia, have one thing in common: the notices are all related to extraordinary events (for example, we do not find any mention of recurring acts that were performed, as part of his function, by a magistrate, Roman or local). These extraordinary events can further be subdivided into two broad categories. On the one hand, they concern disturbing or unfortunate events; on the other hand, happy or beneficial events - in any case with positive connotations. There are relatively few notices related to Ostia. Among the disturbing or unfortunate events are fires (66 AD?, 114 AD), trees struck by lightning (91 AD), but also deaths or the mourning of the city at the arrival of the remains of L. Caesar in 2 AD. Among the happy or beneficial events for the city and its inhabitants are the construction or restoration of public buildings, as well as games accompanying one or other of these dedications. There are more notices related to Roman events. Among the negative phenomena are fires and natural disasters; conspiracies; the deaths of magistrates during their term of office; the deaths of the Emperor and of members of the imperial family, as well as, in some cases at least, the provisions which accompany them. The death of a Vestal, reported for the year 115 AD, is probably not natural but rather follows a conviction."

The places of discovery of the fragments and the original location

The fragments of the marble plaques that have been found so far had all been reused for the decoration of walls and floors. In the words of Raissa Calza, Guido Calza's wife, who was present during the 1938-1942 excavations: "The long marble slabs, shattered and dispersed later, were often used in the late period as thresholds for doors. After the first accidental discovery, we took care to remove the smooth marble slabs that served as thresholds of late houses at each new discovery to examine the reverse". All plaques seem to have been removed at the same time: fragments of a single slab were sometimes found at places lying far apart. One place of discovery, the Edificio con Opus Sectile (III,VII,8), suggests that the reuse took place around 400 AD. Two major concentrations of fragments have been found: on and near the Foro di Porta Marina (IV,VIII,1), so near the beach, and on and to the south-west of the Forum.

The places of discovery of the fragments, indicated by black dots. From Zevi 1997, page 16.

The oldest fragments refer to the years 49-44 BC, but there must have been older entries. The last preserved fragment is of the year 175 AD. The preserved fragments together cover a width of 13,30 meters, with a height of about two meters. It is still not clear to which building they were originally attached. They may of course have been moved from one building to another, for example in the second century, when much of Ostia was rebuilt.

The references to Ostia

The annals record the appoint of duoviri ("mayors") and pontifices Volkani (priests of Vulcan, the main religious authorities) in Ostia. Other events related to the city are discussed below.

In 2 AD Lucius Caesar, grandson of Augustus, had died in Massilia (Marseille, France). The Fasti say that his body was carried through Ostia by magistrates clothed in black, followed by a crowd carrying burning tallow-candles, while the buildings were decorated fittingly (EDR119948).

TECTA EST. HOMINV[m plus ---g]
INTA MILLIA CAN[delis ardentibus]
OBVIAM PROCESSE[runt. Magistratus]
OSTIENSIVM PVLLA[ti corpus tulerunt]

In 37 AD a similar event occurred that must have attracted a large crowd in the harbour. It is described by Suetonius. Caligula brought back the ashes of his exiled mother Agrippina and his brother Nero (not to be confused with the future Emperor).

Incendebat et ipse studia hominum omni genere popularitatis. Tiberio cum plurimis lacrimis pro contione laudato funeratoque amplissime, confestim Pandateriam et Pontias ad transferendos matris fratrisque cineres festinavit, tempestate turbida, quo magis pietas emineret, adiitque venerabundus ac per semet in urnas condidit; nec minore scaena Ostiam praefixo in biremis puppe vexillo et inde Romam Tiberi subvectos per splendidissimum quemque equestris ordinis medio ac frequenti die duobus ferculis Mausoleo intulit. Gaius himself tried to rouse men's devotion by courting popularity in every way. After eulogising Tiberius with many tears before the assembled people and giving him a magnificent funeral, he at once posted off to Pandateria and the Pontian islands, to remove the ashes of his mother and brother to Rome; and in stormy weather, too, to make his filial piety the more conspicuous. He approached them with reverence and placed them in the urn with his own hands. With no less theatrical effect he brought them to Ostia in a bireme with a banner set in the stern, and from there up the Tiber to Rome, where he had them carried to the Mausoleum on two biers by the most distinguished men of the order of knights, in the middle of the day, when the streets were crowded.
Suetonius, Caligula 35. Translation J.C. Rolfe.

Perhaps in 66 AD and probably for Ostia a fire is recorded (EDR121468).

[----]M ARSIT

In 91 AD a tree was struck by a bolt of lightning on ground owned by a Volusius. The lightning was buried by aedilicii (EDR121541).

[---]AR[.]S. IN [fundo?]
MINE ICTA COND[itum per]

The event is reminiscent of a ritual burial in the Domus Fulminata. In the Domus di Giove Fulminatore an altar was found with a dedication in Greek to "Zeus descending in thunder and lightning".

In 94 AD the crypta Terentiana was restored (EDR121547).


This crypta, together with a chalcidicum (written as calchidicum), had been built in 6 AD by Terentia, daughter of Aulus and wife of Cluvius, as attested by two other inscriptions, found in the Caseggiato dell'Ercole and Terme Bizantine (EDR105754 and EDR105758). We are told that the building was on ground owned by Terentia and that the construction was based on a decree of the city council. We should probably think of a vestibule and a porticus, perhaps linked to a basilica. The same woman dedicated a well-head in the temple of the Bona Dea in regio V (EDR105755).

In 104 AD an unknown building, obviously of some importance, was restored (EDR121605).

[--- v]ETVSTATE CORR[uptum ---]
[---] RESTITVTVM [---]

On August 21 in 112 AD the temple of Vulcanus was restored (EDR121630). For the identification of this temple countless proposals have been made.


On January 1st in 115 AD a fire started in a vicus of which the name has not been preserved (EDR121643). Several buildings burned down.

K(alendis) IANVAR(iis) INCENDIVM ORTVM IN V[ico? ---]

Ostia was divided into five or more regions (regiones), and each region was made up of wards (vici). One candidate for the area that burned down are the Hadrianic Garden Houses, below which traces of a fire have been found.

Most likely the temple of Serapis in regio III is mentioned in the annals (EDR121657). In that case it was donated to the city by a private person, Caltilius P..., and inaugurated 24 January 127 AD, the birthday of the Emperor Hadrian.


The city erected a statue of the future Emperor Marcus Aurelius on April 26, his birthday, in 140 AD (EDR076921).

VI K(alendas) MAI(as) STA[tua M(arci) Aurel]I CA[esaris ---]
PVBLICE PO[sita ---]

In 146 AD Publius Aufidius Fortis, perpetual patron of the colony, organized at own cost games for three days, at the occasion of the dedication of silver statues of Honos and Virtus, Honour and Virtue (EDR121674).

[--- P(ublius)? Au]FIDIVS FORTIS P(atronus) P(erpetuus) C(oloniae) OB DEDICATIONE(m) STATVARVM ARGENT(earum)

In 147 AD an inundation of the Tiber is reported at the end of March (EDR121675).

[---]X K(alendas) APRIL(es) AQVA MAGNA FVIT

In 152 AD an Ostian citizen organized gladiatorial combats and perhaps also a venatio, a hunting spectacle or combat of wild beasts (EDR121679). The occasion was the dedication of a basilica, built at own cost. In 1945 Giovanni Becatti argued that this is the Basilica at the forum, but this conflicts with the earlier construction date suggested by the masonry. Also at own cost this citizen erected statues of deities "of the people of Ostia", following up a vow made on May 31 in 148 AD. The suggestion that these were statues of the Genius and Fortuna of the people of Ostia, placed on the forum, is an educated guess.

[glad(iatoria) munus venatio]NE LEGITIMA EDIDIT IN QVA [---]
[dedic(avit) Genii et Fort(unae) po]PVLI OSTIENSIS QVAS POS(uit) S(ua) P(ecunia) IN [foro]
[ex v(oto) s(uscepto) ---]I PR(idie) K(alendas) IVNIAS IVLIANO ET TORQ[uato co(n)s(ulibus)]

A religious calendar

Seven fragments of a religious calendar were found together with one of the fragments of the Fasti. A date in the first half of the first century AD has been suggested. The calendar was probably put on display together with the annals. Some of the feasts mentioned are the Fordicidia, Cerialia, Parilia, Vinalia and Robigalia. Related games (ludi) are also listed, and days that were N(efastus), "irreligious" (also days on which judgment could not be pronounced or assemblies of the people be held).

Drawing of the fragments of the calendar.
EDR111919. Image: CIL XIV Suppl., 4547.

Photo of the fragments of the calendar.

[jthb - 1-Nov-2021]