An engraving of a historical event in Portus, from 1595, by Jan van der Straet
Jan van der Straet, An Orca at Ostia, ca. 1595. Cooper Hewitt Collection.
Plinius Senior, Naturalis Historia, IX,v,14-15 - 'A killer whale was actually seen in the harbor of Ostia, locked in combat with the emperor Claudius. She had come when he was completing the construction of the harbor, drawn there by the wreck of a ship bringing leather hides from Gaul, and feeding there over a number of days, had made a furrow in the shallows: the waves had raised up such a mound of sand that she couldn't turn around at all, and while she was pursuing her banquet as the waves moved it shorewards, her back stuck up out of the water like the overturned keel of a boat. The emperor ordered that a large array of nets be stretched across the mouths of the harbor, and setting out in person with the praetorian cohorts gave a show to the Roman people, soldiers showering lances from attacking ships, one of which I saw swamped by the beast's waterspout and sunk.'