Monte Testaccio: daily life in ancient rome

Archaeology Rome

Monte Testaccio, or Monte dei cocci  as it is also called by the Romans, is an artificial hill entirely made of broken amphorae dating back to the times of Ancient Rome. 

It is located near the East bank of the Tiber, in the Southern part of Rome, close to the ancient Horrea Galbae, area of storage for oil, wheat, wine and other products during the Roman Empire age.

The mound is made of thousands of pieces of amphorae used by the Romans to carry olive oil. They generally were a standard model that could carry 70 liters of oil (18 US gallons). After being emptied the vessels were thrown away and year after year accumulated to form the mound. Mount Testaccio was formed between 140 and 250 AD and is now an archaeological area.

The amphorae were often stamped with information about the weight of the oil content, the geographic origin, the producer of the amphora and the name of the inspector who weighed it. From this the archaeologists gained many insights about the oil trade in ancient Rome.  

The use of the site as dump for amphorae ceased around 260 AD, probably because Rome’s quays were moved to a different location. In Medieval times Carnival celebrations used to be held over the hill. Then, from the 15th Century, it became the terminating place of the Easter ritual of Via Crucis, also due to a resemblance with Mount Calvary.  

Nowadays the area is especially popular for night time entertainment with many restaurants and clubs that are located right at the base of the mound. Some of them even have bathroom windows from where you can see the two thousand year old pieces of amphorae.

If you would like to include the visit of Monte Testaccio in one of our archaeological tours, please contact us.