A nerd walks into a 2,000-year-old bar

Sometimes I really can’t believe I was here. A couple thousand years ago, if you wanted to meet up with a friend in Ostia, you could say, “I’ll meet you at that bar, you know, the one on Diana Street just off Main.” They have bar food, too, and a beer garden out back — the arched doorway in the photo leads out there and you can see a little of it.

Ostia Antica was the main port of ancient Rome. Unlike Pompeii, it’s not frozen at a moment in history; there are all sorts of centuries jumbled up here. It was not small; this computer animation shows just how fully developed it was, with dozens of large buildings including a half-coliseum theater.

On Ostia’s eastern side, Decumanus Maximus was the main street — literally: the “big decumanus,” with decumanus being the term for the largest east-west road in a Roman city or military camp. Here’s a street sign. A 2,000-year-old street sign, I kid you not:

(in that the third picture, I highlighted the letters so they’re a little more readable)

So, if you were walking down Decumanus Maximus, and you turned on Via Diana and walked past some two-story apartment blocks, you’d be here at this bar. You could grab food to go from the street-facing counter or go inside — there’s the menu on the wall, a fresco above those three marble shelves, with pictures of the different foods available.

Click here to read more about this bar and the other rooms in this building. Definitely scroll down for the illustrations and photos that show what it looked like when people ate and drank here. They’ve got better pictures of the “beer garden” (OK, courtyard), and they translate more of the signs and inscriptions found there. (A lot of the inscriptions in ancient Roman cities are quite dirty, some of them relating to which prostitutes are the best at particular services, etc. You have been warned 😉 )

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