Archive for May, 2015

Terme_Taurine_Tepidarium in Centumcellae. By AlMare (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Terme_Taurine_Tepidarium in Centumcellae.
By AlMare (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The continued expansion of trade across the Empire meant that within only a few decades of the completion of the Claudian port, it was at straining point again. So in the reign of the Emperor Trajan, we see once again a major improvement to the ports system in general. Leaving Portus to one side for a moment, there was much work on the wharves within the city of Rome itself, indicated by new warehouses and reinforced riverbanks. Trajan also built a new port at Centumcellae to the north-west of the city. It is not clear whether any port facilities existed here before this time. This had both an outer and inner basin similar to that found at Portus although on a smaller scale.

Image from page 475 of "Das Leben der Griechen und Römer : nach antiken Bildwerken" (1882)
Harbour at Centumcellae (from a book of c1812)
Image by Internet archive book images (https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/)

There has been much speculation about the function of this particular port. Some historians have suggested that it took over from Ostia, or Portus as a base of the Roman naval fleet. Others suggested that its primary function was as a refuge for ships bound for Portus in bad weather. A third suggestion is that it was a more local port serving trade from Gaul and Hispania. Interestingly, the port is still functioning today as the Rome berth for Mediterranean cruise ships. In addition to these improvements there is also evidence of improvement work at Ancona and Brindisium to the facilities in those ports along with the building of additional warehouses in the port of Ostia.

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Back to the weekly butterfly and dragonfly survey of the patch. Its a beautiful day and so am hopeful for plenty to record.

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My first stop is the Damselfly pool. Its a good start as there are 6 Large Red Damselflies including a tandem pair. This really is excellent as I had been worried that the water quality issues might have killed off all the nymphs. Large Red are the earliest species to emerge on this site and so I am hopeful that the other Damselfly species (4 recorded last year) will also be OK.

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Moving on the lake edges are thick with vegetation. Large White; Orange-Tip and Brimstone are all present in good numbers, but no blue butterflies. At the western end I also found a Comma butterfly.

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

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There is still much breeding activity going on with Moorhen and Coot still on nests.

Moorhen

Moorhen

The Greylag geese still have 7 young, now growing fast and there are 5 Mallard young. But no evidence that any Canada Geese have bred this year.

Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese

Mallard

Mallard

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Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

RSPB Radipole

RSPB Radipole

Our final morning in Dorset before heading back to London is spent at the RSPB Radipole reserve in the heart of Weymouth.

RSPB Radipole

RSPB Radipole

As we make our way around the reserve we are serenaded by the song of Reed Warblers and Cetti’s Warblers and are fortunate to get some views of these elusive birds in the the reed-beds. We hear the call of Beaded Tits on a couple of occasions but they remain out of sight. A single Long-tailed Tit is another addition to the species seen on this trip. The most unusual bird of the morning is a Hooded Merganser (an American species). This bird was first seen in June 2008 and has stayed at Radipole ever since apart from occasional trips to other spots along the south coast. It is officially regarded as an escape from a bird collection but there is never certainty. Regardless it is a very attractive bird.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The joy of our morning walk is the host of Butterflies particularly Brimstones, but we also see Common Blue; Holly Blue; Small White; Green-veined White; Speckled Wood and Large White.

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

Common Blue

Common Blue

Its been an excellent few days with over 100 species of bird seen, but not just seen; but great views as well.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Lesser Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia curruca)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Day 3 of our trip to Dorset and we headed off to the Purbeck area of Dorset where we were being taken around for the day by guide Niel Gartshore.

Our first stop is at Lychett Bay on Poole Harbour. The wet meadows here produce our first sightings of Little Egret along with Teal, Redshank and Lapwing. As the tide rises a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits leave the harbour for the wetlands.

Lychett Bay

Lychett Bay

Little Egret

Little Egret

From here we change habitat completly and head for Morden Bog near Wareham which is a stretch of heathland, a habitat now almost restricted to Dorset and Hampshire. We can hear the speciality species of Woodlark, Tree Pipit and Dartford Warbler but it seems for a long while that we wont see them. Then Niel spots a Woodlark in flight which lands in tree in plain sight and gives excellent views. A short way further on a Tree Pipit repeats this scenario and again we have great views of it perched in a tree. But still no good views of Dartford Warbler, then suddenly they are calling around us and a number of perched individuals are seen distantly but clearly.
A Northern Wheatear perched on a bush was an unexpected but welcome suprise.

Morden Bog

Morden Bog

Morden Bog

Morden Bog

Dartford Warbler
Dartford Warbler
Photo by Paul Ritchie (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelizardwizard/)

Woodlark
Woodlark
Photo by Tom Lee (https://www.flickr.com/photos/68942208@N02/)

Tree Pipit
Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/)

As we are leaving I receive a text message that a very rare Red-Footed Falcon has been located again at the spot in Wareham where it had first been seen a couple of days previously. As we are only 5 minutes away we make our way to a lay-bay outside of Wareham and begin searching the trees for the bird. Neil spots it hunting over the reed-bed and we are treated to an aerial display as it jinks and twists in an effort to catch its prey. Eventually it flies straight off from the reed-bed and we presume it has succeeded and gone off to enjoy its catch. To our great delight it was soon relocated perched in a tree giving excellent if distant views.

Falco vespertinus Falco cuculo
Red-footed Falcon
Photo by Michele Lamberti (https://www.flickr.com/photos/60740813@N04/)

Red-footed Falcon; Falco vespertinus
Red-footed Falcon
Photo by Vitalii Khustochka (https://www.flickr.com/photos/phenolog/)

Having seen the falcon we resume our journey to Middlebere, another site on Poole Harbour. On arriving at the hide we quickly locate a Spoonbill but there is little else of interest until a Barn Owl gives us a brief fly past. As we are leaving the hide a Hobby flies over and a marsh Harrier is seen distantly on the heathland. At least 2 more Dartford Warblers are found along with good numbers of Stonechat.

Middlebere

Middlebere

Spoonbill showing off its bill
Eurasian Spoonbill
Photo by Ian (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ian-s/)

After leaving Neil at Wareham Keith and I make our way back to Weymouth and spend an hour before dinner on the reserve at Radipole.

RSPB reserve at Radipole Weymouth

RSPB reserve at Radipole Weymouth

An excellent days birding and our thanks to Neil for showing us the sites and driving us round.

Further details of Neil’s trips and holidays in Dorset can be found at: http://www.callunabooks.co.uk/dorset_guiding.html

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Eurasian Spoonbill [sp] (Platalea leucorodia)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus)
Eurasian Hobby [sp] (Falco subbuteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Cuckoo [sp] (Cuculus canorus)
Western Barn Owl [sp] (Tyto alba)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit [sp] (Periparus ater)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Dartford Warbler [sp] (Sylvia undata)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Treecreeper [sp] (Certhia familiaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Tree Pipit [sp] (Anthus trivialis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Yellowhammer [sp] (Emberiza citrinella)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Day 2 of our Dorset trip sees us at Ferrybridge on the Chesil Lagoon, a body of tidal water connected to Weymouth Bay.

Chesil Lagoon at Ferrybridge

Chesil Lagoon at Ferrybridge

Our target species is Little Tern as this is one of the last remaining breeding sites for this species. We soon locate some on the opposite side of the lagoon along with Common Tern.

Little Tern at nest (Taken from TV feed)

Little Tern at nest (Taken from TV feed)

We then set off towards the end of the Lagoon and near the reserve centre we locate a couple of Whimbrel; an Oystercatcher; two Dunlin and some Meadow Pipits.

Whimbrel

Whimbrel

Next stop is Portland Bill a large rocky peninsular off land which protrudes 6 miles out from the coast at Weymouth.

Portland

Portland

Portland

Portland

Walking from the village at Southwell we find a Fratillery butterfly (possibly Marsh Fratillery) and some Wall Browns on the western side of the peninsular. Arriving at the Coast guard station we see some birds on the fence and identify Stonechat and Black Redstart. A little way further along two other birders tell us they have been watching a male Common Redstart and soon we too are enjoying cracking views of one of the most attractive of UK summer visitors.

Common Redstart (m)

Common Redstart (m)

Common Redstart
Male Common Redstart
photo by Robert Andersson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/robban_andersson/)

Moving on we search the Auks for one of the pair of Atlantic Puffin which are here (?nesting) but can only find Guillimots and Razorbills along with Kittiwake and Fulmar.

Razorbills

Razorbills

Gullimots

Gullimots

There is little movement of birds but we do see a Northern gannet out to sea. But as we retarce our steps from the point we find another Black Redstart. It may have only just flown in from crossing the English channel.

Black Redstart (f)

Black Redstart (f)

We make our way up the east of the peninsular to the Bird Observatory and stop to report our sightings and see if there is anthing in their garden. All we find are butterflies – a Red Admiral; a Holly Blue and a Speckled Wood.

We begin the walk back to Southwell. We hear a Pheasant and a Cuckoo without locating either.

In the evening we walk down to Nothe point at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour. On the rocks we find Ruddy Turnstones and a couple of Greenfinches. A small party of Sandwich Terns fly by

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Northern Fulmar [sp] (Fulmarus glacialis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Whimbrel [sp] (Numenius phaeopus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Little Tern [sp] (Sternula albifrons)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Murre [sp] (Uria aalge)
Razorbill [sp] (Alca torda)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Cuckoo [sp] (Cuculus canorus)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Northern Raven [sp] (Corvus corax)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Black Redstart [sp] (Phoenicurus ochruros)
Common Redstart [sp] (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)
Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera)

Keith and I are in Dorset for a few days birdwatching. Arriving from London by train early afternoon we drop our bags and make our way to Radipole Lake RSPB reserve which forms part of the Wey estuary just before it enters into Weymouth harbour. The information centre is a good place for some initial idea of what birds are to be found in the area. On the lake near the centre are a few Mallard and Tufted Duck plus some Herring Gulls and Cormorants. Swallows swoop low over the lake and a Reed Warbler flies past the observation window.

Radipole RSPB reserve

Radipole RSPB reserve

We were just about to set out around the reserve, when news comes that the Purple Heron that has been roosting at the other local RSPB reserve Lodmoor, which is on the eastern edge of Weymouth has been seen on Overcombe Pools. So a quick decision to change our plans and head for Lodmoor. Birding on the way through the reserve we add a few species before arriving at the Overcombe end of the reserve. Joining one watcher, we find that he has not seen the bird. We eventually decide to walk around the reserve to view the pools from the other side. We find another birder here but he too has not seen the bird. We wait patiently for an hour and then decide to go and get something to eat and return in time to see it come to roost that evening. It has been very consistant during the 7 or so days it has been present coming to roost in the reed-bed between 9 and 9.30pm.

Overcombe Pools Lodmoor RSPB reserve

Overcombe Pools Lodmoor RSPB reserve

At 8.30 we at back on the reserve at a point where we have a panoramic view of the reed-bed. At 9.20 a bird in seen in flight from the Overcombe end and flies right past where are standing – excellent views and no doubts it was a Purple Heron. Only a handful of these birds are seen in the UK every year so to get such good views is amazing.

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Purple Heron in flight
Photo by LIp Kee Yap (https://www.flickr.com/photos/lipkee/)

Its a 2 mile walk back to our hotel but it is with a light step at such a fantastic beginning to our trip.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Purple Heron [sp] (Ardea purpurea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Lesser Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia curruca)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

In the reign of Claudius, a new port was constructed 3 km to the north of the Tiber estuary and given the name Portus, which is Latin for harbour. It appears from the records that this was an area in which the only preceding activity appears to have been that of salt extraction. It is likely that any of us who have visited Rome have probably visited Portus without realising it, since the northern part of the dock complex now lies under Fiumicino airport to the west of the city. The new port complex consisted of a loading and unloading basin with wharves and warehouses together with a large artificial basin enclosed by two moles, which provided a safe anchorage for boats waiting their turn to unload at the docks.

taken from Keay, Earl and Felici 2011

taken from Keay, Earl and Felici 2011

The Claudian basin covered an area of around 200 ha and is estimated to have been around 7 m deep. It is thought that the likely loading and unloading wharves were in the south-eastern sector on the map. These facilities were linked to the River Tiber directly by canal (the Fossa Triana), which meant that the barges did not have to to go on to the open sea in order to access the route to the wharves in the city of Rome. Apart from the direct effects of the new port, the new canal system also appears to have had a marked effect on the prevention of floods within the city itself. The inner basin or Dasena covers just over 1 ha and his 3.5 m deep and it has been suggested that this was the transhipment area since it is linked directly to the Fossa Triana and onto the Tiber. The Fossa Triana became known in mediaeval times as Fiumicino which means little river and it is this that gave the modern name to the area and to the nearby international airport.
Apart from the actual docks archaeological excavation has also been able to partially reconstruct some of the buildings from this period and evidence suggests these are perhaps not quite as we might imagine dock buildings to be. For examples, the building known as the portico de Claudio was a large building hundred 80 m long, looking out onto the Claudio basin. It was known to have had a monumental façade and access to the warehouses behind. If you would like to see what these may have looked like there are reconstructions on The Portus project website at http://www.portusproject.org.

Evidence found suggests that major trade routes linked Portus to Carthage; Leptis magna; Hispania; Marseille; Alexandria and Greece. It quickly became the trading hub for the Roman Mediterranean, although the evidence from pottery, epigraphs and goods remains suggests that this trade was primarily based on the Western Mediterranean.
However despite these improvements, it seems that there was still a considerable amount of danger for shipping even whilst in the protected waters of the Claudian basin. In A.D. 62 it is recorded that 200 ships in the basin perished possibly during a storm,. In this same year there is also a record of a major earthquake in the Bay of Naples area and some historians have linked these two events together, suggesting that the earthquake resulted in a tsunami like wave, which was able to nullify the protective effects of the harbour wall. This large loss of shipping also gives us some indications of the quantity of shipping that may have been using the port at any one time.

"Ostiaplan-theater-corporation place" by Ursus - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ostiaplan-theater-corporation_place.jpg#/media/File:Ostiaplan-theater-corporation_place.jpg

“Ostiaplan-theater-corporation place” by Ursus – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ostiaplan-theater-corporation_place.jpg#/media/File:Ostiaplan-theater-corporation_place.jpg

When people talk about the Port of the city of Rome, they are usually thinking of the River port of Ostia, which was situated at the mouth of the Tiber. But at the height of the empire this was only part of a port system which had grown as the city and the empire expanded.

Ostia was the first Roman settlement outside the city. According to legend, it was founded by Ancus Marcius, the semi-legendary fourth King of Rome. From inscriptions, it seems that its foundation can be dated back to the seventh century BCE. However archaeological remains so far discovered can only take its date back to the fourth century and the oldest buildings currently viewable date from the third century BCE.

As well as being a trading port, it was also the Fleet base for the consular Navy and later for the Imperial fleet.
The port at Ostia was rebuilt around 68 BCE following its destruction of port along with the town by pirates. It was this attack, which led to the noted campaigns by Pompey the great against the Mediterranean pirates. The port and the town were reconstructed with a more defensive outlook and protective walls. There was a further redevelopment in the first century CE during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, which greatly enhanced the facilities of both the city and the port. However, in the years that followed, it became evident that for a number of reasons, the port at Ostia was no longer sufficient to cope with the amount of trade to and from Rome.

What was it then that led to the decision to expand the port system of Rome. Firstly Rome itself was increasing in size as a result of the expansion of the Empire. Secondly, the expansion of the Empire had opened up even greater trading opportunities and the need for more traffic between the capital and the outlying colonies. It should also be remembered that more trade meant more tax income and so there was a strong economic incentive for the imperial authorities to facilitate its expansion. Ostia itself had a number of geographical issues which prevented an expansion of any significant nature within the existing port. A sand bar near the mouth of the estuary limited the size of ship which could enter into the river. Sediment from this bar drifted northwards into the mouth of the Tiber and required regular dredging. As over-time Roman ships became bigger, this obviously caused a problem as they were not able to use the port facilities at Ostia. Records record that sometime after 194 BCE grain shipments to Rome were handled by the port at Puteoli on the Bay of Naples. It is not clear how this grain was then transported to Rome, but it is most likely that it was these shipped on smaller coastal vessels which were capable of using the Port at Ostia. As the shipments, and trading general, increased in volume, this in turn led to a another problem. Because of the estuarine nature of the port, there was very limited waiting space for boats, which had arrived but were not yet able to dock. This was due to a relatively limited capacity on the wharves at Ostia. Despite the modifications undertaken in the reign of Tiberius. It soon became evident that an entirely new solution needed to be found.

Before going any further, we should perhaps spend a few moments thinking about what happened to the goods once they had arrived at the port of Ostia. They were unloaded onto the wharves and stored in warehouses. From here, there were two options to transport them into the city. The first of these was trans-shipment by horse-drawn barge along the tiber to the numerous river wharves, which lined the Tiber. Some smaller ships could also have made it up the river to the city quaysides. The second was to transport them by road by means of the Via Ostiensis, which ran from Ostia into the city. Thus, in the early years of the common era, it was likely that grain shipments from North Africa or Egypt would arrive at Puteoli near Naples, be transferred to a coastal vessel for the journey north to Ostia and then finally be loaded onto river barge for the final journey into the city. Part of the solution that was required needed to make this journey more efficient.

Views of Paris (8)

Posted: May 23, 2015 in Paris
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Some pictures of great Statues from the Louvre Museum

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Lagoon Nebula

Posted: May 22, 2015 in Astronomy
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The Lagoon Nebula is found in the constellation Sagittarius and is approx 4-6,000 light years from Earth. It is approx 110 by 50 light years in size and contains an area of active star formation.

These are some colour filtered shots of the Nebula

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