The Port of Ancient Neapolis
The port of ancient Naples (Neapolis) was where Piazza Municipio (photo, right) stands today. The sea extended from the modern square to modern Piazza Bovio (about two hundred meters out of sight on the left of the photo), forming a bay protected by two promontories to the east and west (graphic, below), occupied today, respectively by the church of Santa Maria Portosalvo (well out of sight along the coast line to the left in this photo) and the Maschio Angioino (Castelnuovo) (the fortress on the right).
view in the photo is from a point above the city hall
looking south. Most of the modern square is where water
used to be, and the modern port of
Naples extends well out into the sea. (When the Maschio
Angioino was built in 1300 it was right at water’s
edge.) In ancient times, the port was established on the
western side of the bay, better sheltered from western
and southern winds. The ancient port shown in the
graphic below indicates the point where three Roman
vessels (photo, below) were uncovered during excavation
for the new metropolitana
subway line. That point in the photo (right) is in the
lower-left quadrant of the photo (marked by yellow
construction equipment and a white tarpaulin).
Neapolis was a busy and important port. At the end of the fourth century BC massive dredging had to be carried out in order to keep the port functional. Excavations have shown that a pier of wooden poles and calcareous stones was built at the end of the first century AD, and quays were built as late as the second century AD. The port remained in use in the approximate configuration shown in the graphic for a very long time, well into Byzantine times after the Gothic wars. This is where the ships loaded and unloaded their freight, part of which fell into the sea to become archaeological finds for us.