Monte Testaccio Rome

Monte Testaccio is an artificial hill in Rome. It was formed between 140 B.C. and 250 A.D. from fragments of broken pottery, hailing from the millions of amphorae that were utilized in order to transport the goods that were unloaded in the river port along the Tiber. The pottery fragments were called testae in Latin, what led to the name Testaccio, now the neighbourhood’s name.

Monte Testaccio Rome

Monte Testaccio Rome
Layers of shards.

The Monte Testaccio has a height of around 45 meters and a perimeter of 700 meters. Since the urns in which olive oil was transported could only be used once, the supply of broken pottery never finished.

Obviously Monte Testaccio is an important archaeological source of knowledge about daily life in the Roman Empire, supplying information about a.o. the food habits of the Romans and about their commercial relationships, since many of the amphorae contain not only information about their locations of origin (mainly Baetica – present day Andalusia – and Bizacena – north Africa), but also brush-written details about the shipments, including the dates, the contents and the controls performed during transportation.

Thus it is known that the oldest urns stem from around 140 BC and the latest ones from around 250 AD.

On the basis of the amphorae it has been calculated that the average Roman used about 6 kilos of oil per year. The Monte dei Cocci is thought to be made up of some 25 million broken urns.

Fun and games and food and drink

Under pope Alexander IV the Monte Testaccio became the background for carnival celebrations. These were often rather cruel. In one game pigs and wild boar were thrown down the hill and whoever managed to pierce them with a lance got to keep them. The first time this happened was in 1256 and the last time was around 1470, when pope Paul II abolished the custom.

In the 17th century two gentlemen called Pietro Ottini and Domenico Coppitelli bought the area adjacent to the hill. They dug several caves into the hillside and started turning them into osterie.

Later big banquets called Ottobrate were held in the area.

Monte dei Cocci – Rome

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