We are frequently told by the “Global Warmers” that this is the “Hottest EVER!!!”. In fact, they are doing it again, now, with 2010 being touted as among the 3 or so “Hottest EVER!!!!” despite the mountains of snow all over Europe, the UK being at a near standstill under excessive snow, the US and Canadian West both getting dumped on big time with snow, California having had a very cold spring, a dismal cool summer, and ski resorts all over open at record early dates. Oh, and Australia (that was being touted as drying to death a couple of years back) has been cold and with record wet and rain. Similarly, places like the mountains of Latin America are getting a load of cool rain. Oh, and while the Arctic is having an absolutely normal ice year, the Antarctic continues to add loads of new ice (as it has done for many years now).
So I thought it might be a nice time to explore what evidence might exist that it was warmer than this in the past.
A great deal is said about the Medieval Warm Period (as the Warmers try to erase it from history, but it’s Inconveniently Close enough that we can point at things like records of grape growing in England…) so I thought I spend just a few moments on The Roman Optimum. Another, earlier, warm cycle.
The Wiki for the Roman Optimum seems to have been removed (as there has been a consistent effort to re-write history by the Global Warming Cabal at Wiki) but there are still other places where you can find information about it. Luckily, some historians and scientists are not willing to erase a life’s work for Political Correctness. For example, these folks report on a study of ocean shells as a temperature record. They show that the Roman Optimum was a very warm time indeed. It ran from about 250 BC to about 400 AD. I’ve bolded a couple of bits:
Oxygen isotope values for the two oldest bivalves in the study show a cold spell between 360 BC to 240 BC that has some of the coldest temperatures in the entire series of observations that stretch to about 1660 AD. Following this period it seems that temperatures increased rapidly such that temperatures from 230 BC are significantly higher. In fact a shell from 130 BC recorded the highest temperature in the entire 2,000-year dataset.
Between 230 BC and 40 AD there was a period of exceptional warmth in Iceland that was coincident with the Roman Warm Period in Europe that ran from 200 BC to 400 AD. This Icelandic shell data series suggests that the RWP had higher temperatures that those recorded in modern times.
By 410 AD there had been a return to cooler temperatures presaging the onset of a cold and wetter era called the Dark Ages Cold Period between 400 AD and 600 AD.
Notice that when it is warm, civilization flourishes. When it’s cold, we enter chaos and a Dark Ages. We’ve just been through a warm period with a great advancement of civilization. Now the sun has reduced it’s output and we’re getting record Cold in Norway, snow in the UK, …
But is there anything else we could do to put a face on The Roman Warm Period? From the wiki on Ostia we have a clue:
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site that was the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) northeast of the site and close to the modern town of Ostia. “Ostia” in Latin means “mouth”. At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome’s seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 kilometres (2 mi) from the sea. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.
A drop in sea level. Hmmm….
Though I note in passing that they also mention sedimentation but don’t make it clear how 2 miles of land gets laid down by ‘sediments’ even above water level… but yes, sediments do wash out to sea on a constant basis, filling in the seas and oceans of the world and… raising the sea level in the process. Yet sea level is lower now.
But haven’t we been told that we’re all doomed due to unprecedented sea level rise Real Soon Now?
(RSN is commonly used by Unix / Linux programmers in an emphatic voice to mean “No, I’ve not even begun to do that, but I’m going to tell you I’ll do it Real Soon Now so you will go away.” when pestered about schedules by management… implying that it really will NOT be Real Soon Now ;-)
If the sea level has risen in the past, how can it be unprecedented now? And if we are no warmer now than then, what caused it to be warmer then and with higher sea level?
I’ll just add in passing that much of modern Constantinople / Istanbul is built on top of what WAS a harbor during the Roman Warm Period. So it’s not exactly like this is the only case of a harbor being found on dry land today.
So it looks rather like the sea level was quite a bit higher over a fairly large area during the Roman Warm Period and that it was quite a bit warmer then. (There are villas from the era that now sit in cool places, built wide open to the elements as though they expected much warmer conditions.)
These folks have a nice map of what the place looked like then:
While these folks have a map as it looks today:
You get to click the links as I’m not sure of the propriety of using the link in a display in the page.
That’s not just a change from “silt” as the whole coastline is further out now.
I think this counts as an “existence proof” of both higher temperatures AND higher sea levels during the Roman Warm Period. From the evidence in sea shells to the archeology in the ground, it’s pretty clear that we’ve been significantly warmer in the past. AND that was a time when civilization flourished. It was followed by a cold turn, when things by and large fell apart. So tell me again exactly WHY it was warmer then? And why THAT could not be causing our present “warming”? (Even though we are clearly still far cooler than they were then, as we don’t have a port in Ostia Antica and the Port Of Theodosius is also still above water, even as we excavate it.)
And if we are not now significantly different from all the times in the past when we’ve had these cyclical warm / cold cycles, what in the world are we worried about? And how can you say that any of it has to do with Carbon Dioxide?
The simple truth is that the world is driven by the sun and the climate has natural cyclical oscillations longer than our memories. Some run out to about 1500 years, and there is even evidence for a 5000 year cycle. When we define climate as “30 year average of weather”, we are simply fooling ourselves that our puny lifespan matters.
We are not the center of the Universe.
We are not the center of the Solar System.
We are not the center of the cycles of climate change.
Preserving the Wiki Page
As Wikipedia has become infested with PC Zealots who rewrite any article a Skeptic might find useful, I’ve taken to preserving the article as I found it rather than bothering to link to it. The link is useless after a few weeks anyway. To that end, here is the Wiki about Ostia Antica as of the time of this writing:
Ostia Antica is a large archeological site that was the harbour city of ancient Rome, which is approximately 30 kilometres (19 mi) northeast of the site and close to the modern town of Ostia. “Ostia” in Latin means “mouth”. At the mouth of the River Tiber, Ostia was Rome’s seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 kilometres (2 mi) from the sea. The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.Contents [hide]
1.2 Sacking by pirates
1.3 Imperial Ostia
1.4 Late-Roman and sub-Roman Ostia
1.5 Sacking and excavation
2 Visiting Ostia Antica
3 In popular culture
7 External links
Ostia may have been Rome’s first colonia. An inscription says that Ostia was founded by Ancus Marcius, the semi-legendary fourth king of Rome, in the 7th century BC. The oldest archaeological remains so far discovered date only the 4th century BC.” The most ancient buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC, notably the Castrum (military camp); of a slightly later date is the Capitolium (temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). The opus quadratum of the walls of the original castrum at Ostia provide important evidence for the building techniques that were employed in Roman urbanisation during the period of the Middle Republic.
Sacking by pirates
In 68 BC, the town was sacked by pirates. During the sacking, the port was set on fire, the consular war fleet was destroyed, and two prominent senators were kidnapped. This attack caused such panic in Rome that Pompey Magnus arranged for the tribune Aulus Gabinius to rise in the Roman Forum and propose a law, the Lex Gabinia, to allow Pompey to raise an army and destroy the pirates. Within a year, the pirates had been defeated.
The town was then re-built, and provided with protective walls by the statesman and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Map of Ostia Antica.
Ostia public latrinae.
The town was further developed during the first century AD under the influence of Tiberius, who ordered the building of the town’s first Forum. The town was also soon enriched by the construction of a new harbor on the northern mouths of the Tiber (which reaches the sea with a larger mouth in Ostia, Fiumara Grande, and a narrower one near to the current Fiumicino International Airport). The new harbor, not surprisingly called Portus, from the Latin for “harbor,” was excavated from the ground at the orders of the emperor Claudius. This harbour became silted up and needed to be supplemented later by a harbor built by Trajan finished in the year AD 113; it has a hexagonal form, in order to reduce the erosive forces of the waves. This took business away from Ostia itself (further down river) and began its commercial decline.
Ostia itself was provided with all the services a town of the time could require; in particular, a famous lighthouse. Ostia contained the Ostia Synagogue, the earliest synagogue yet identified in Europe; it created a stir when it was unearthed in 1960-61. By 1954 eighteen mithraea had also been discovered: Mithras had his largest following among the working population that were the majority of this port town. Archaeologists also discovered the public latrinas, organized for collective use as a series of seats that allow us to imagine today that the function was also a social moment. In addition, Ostia had a large theatre, many public baths, numerous taverns and inns, and a firefighting service.
Trajan too, required a widening of the naval areas, and ordered the building of another harbor, again pointing towards the north. It must be remembered that at a relatively short distance, there was also the harbor of Civitavecchia (Centum Cellae), and Rome was starting to have a significant number of harbours, the most important remained Portus.
Late-Roman and sub-Roman Ostia
Santa Aurea, Ostia
Ostia grew to 50,000 inhabitants in the 2nd century, reaching a peak of some 75,000 inhabitants in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Ostia became an episcopal see as early as the 3rd century, the cathedral (titulus) of Santa Aurea (illustration, left) being located on the burial site of St. Monica, mother of Augustine; she died in an inn in the town. In time, naval activities became focused on Portus instead. A slow decadence began in the late Roman era around the time of Constantine I, with the town ceasing to be an active port and instead becoming a popular country retreat for rich aristocrats from Rome itself (along the lines of Brighton’s relationship to London in the 18th century).
The decaying conditions of the city were mentioned by St. Augustine when he passed there in the late 4th century. The poet Rutilius Namatianus also reported the lack of maintenance of the city in 414.
With the end of the Roman Empire, Ostia fell slowly into decay, and was finally abandoned in the 9th century due to the repeated invasions and sackings by Arab pirates, including the Battle of Ostia, a naval battle in 849 between Christian and Saracens; the remaining inhabitants moved to Gregoriopolis.
Sacking and excavation
Ostia housed a late imperial mint; this coin of Maxentius was struck there.
A “local sacking” was carried out by baroque architects, who used the remains as a sort of marble storehouse for the palazzi they were building in Rome. Soon after, foreign explorers came in search of ancient statues and objects. The Papacy started organizing its own investigations with Pope Pius VII; under Mussolini massive excavations were undertaken from 1938 to 1942. The first volume of the official series Scavi di Ostia appeared in 1954; it was devoted to a topography of the town by Italo Gismondi and after a hiatus the research still continues today. Though untouched areas adjacent to the original excavations were left undisturbed awaiting a more precise dating of Roman pottery types, the “Baths of the Swimmer”, named for the mosaic figure in the apodyterium, were meticulously excavated, 1966-70 and 1974-75, in part as a training ground for young archaeologists and in part to establish a laboratory of well-understood finds as a teaching aid. It has been estimated that two thirds of the ancient town have currently been found.
Visiting Ostia Antica
The site is no longer on the coast, due to sediments changing the local topography. Ostia Antica is 3 kilometers inland from the beach town of Lido di Ostia, just south of Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport. The site is open to visitors, except on Mondays. It is easily reachable by a short rail trip from Rome or from the airport or Lido di Ostia by other means of ground transport. In Rome, the Rome-Lido railway line begins at the “Piramide” metro station and the standard metro ticket (currently €1.-) is valid for the trip to Ostia Antica. Over the weekend there is a train about every 15 minutes. To get from Leonardo da Vinci-Fumicino airport to Ostia Antica the following may be useful. Buy BIT MetroBus tickets from the rail station, you will see a small shop just to the right of the main FS ticket desk. Each BIT ticket is valid for 75 minutes of validation, ensure that you remember to validate your ticket using the machine behind the bus driver. The bus leaves from a stop at the junction between terminals 2 and 3 and about 10 minutes past the hour. The signs on the busses are pretty useless and it would be best to ask the driver if he is going to Ostia Lido. The bus ride is about 35 minutes and terminates at Piazzale della Statione del Lido. Change to the Metro using the second of your BIT tickets and travel two stops towards Rome. The stop is actually called Ostia Antica and the archaeological site is just to the North over a foot bridge. The entrance fee is currently 6.50 Euros. Return is the reverse procedure and the busses allegedly depart back to Fumicino at about 10 minutes to the hour. A taxi fare for this route is about 20-25 Euros each way.
In popular culture
Ostia was featured in the novels I, Claudius and Claudius the God, both written by British novelist Robert Graves. The novels include scenes set at Ostia spanning from the reign of Augustus to the reign of Claudius, including the departure of Agrippa to Syria and Claudius’s reconstruction of the harbour. In the 1976 television series, Ostia was frequently mentioned but never actually seen.
Ostia forms the main setting for “The Roman Mysteries” series of historical novels for children by Caroline Lawrence. The first book is titled “The Thieves of Ostia” and centers on Nubia, Johnathan, Lupus and Flavia.
Ostia appears briefly towards the end of the Roman Empire section of the 1981 comedy film History of the World, Part I, where the main characters board a galleon (bearing the El Al logo) bound for Judaea. In the film, however, Ostia is only ever referred to as simply “the port”.
Ostia is mentioned several times in the HBO/BBC series Rome.
Ostia is mentioned in the 2000 film Gladiator, when the protagonist Maximus learns that his army is camped at Ostia and awaiting orders.
One of the wonders buildable in the “Rise and fall of the Roman Empire” mod for Sid Meier’s Civilization III is called the “Portus Ostiae”
The inscription originally placed on the main gate.
The theatre as seen from the ancient main road.
Inside the theatre.
Inside the theatre.
Remains of an apartment block from the early 2nd century A.D. near the center of the town
Mosaic floor in the baths, dating from the 2nd century A.D.
Warehouses along the old Tiber banks
^ OSTIA Harbour City of Ancient Rome (2008), “Ostia-Introduction”, “The ancient Roman city of Ostia was in antiquity situated at the mouth of the river Tiber, some 30 kilometres to the west of Rome. The shoreline moved seawards, due to silting, from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. Therefore Ostia is today still lying next to the Tiber, but at a distance of some three kilometers from the beach. Ostia is Latin for “mouth”, the mouth of the Tiber. The river was used as harbour, but in the Imperial period two harbour basins were added to the north, near Leonardo da Vinci airport. The harbour district was called Portus, Latin for “harbour”.”
^ “Ancus Marcius, the fourth of the kings from Romulus after the founding of the city [Rome] founded this first colony” (Anco Marcio regi quarto a Romulo qui ab urbe condita primum coloniam — deduxit).
^ Robert Harris, “Pirates of the Mediterranean” New York Times, 30 September 2006
^ L. Michael White, “Synagogue and Society in Imperial Ostia: Archaeological and Epigraphic Evidence” The Harvard Theological Review 90.1 (January 1997), pp 23-58; Anders Runesson, “The Oldest Original Synagogue Building in the Diaspora: A Response to L. Michael White” HTR 92.4 (October 1999), pp 409-433; L. Michael White “Reading the Ostia Synagogue: A Reply to A. Runesson”, HTR 92.4 (October 1999), pp 435-464.
Hermansen, Gustav 1982. Ostia: Aspects of Roman City Life (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press)
Meiggs, R. (1960) 1973. Roman Ostia 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press) The standard overview.
Packer, James E. 1971 The Insulae of Imperial Ostia” M.Am.Acad. Rome 31
Pavolini, C. ‘Ostia: Guida Archeologica Laterza (Rome:Laterza) (Italian)
Lorenzatti Sandro, Ostia. Storia Ambiente Itinerari Roma 2007 (Rome:Genius Loci)
External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ostia Antica
Ostia Antica, The Better Pompeii
Ancient Ostia Virtual panoramas and photo gallery (English/Italian)
Ostia — Harbor City of Ancient Rome including an introduction (English)
The Roman Theatre at Ostia Antica The Ancient Theatre Archive. Theatre specifications and virtual reality tour of the ancient theatre (English)
Ostia Antica online! — A practical resource for visitors Where to sleep, eat, what to visit, photos and so on. (English)
Ostia Antica online! — Main website with much more information, in Italian though (Italian)
Ostia Antica Travel Guide VIDEO including a Computer reconstruction (English)