Amanda Claridge, Helen Rendell
The city of Rome's interface with the Mediterranean Sea at the mouth of the Tiber river and southwards from Ostia to Lavinium (Pratica di Mare) is one of the most complex culture-historic environments in the Roman world. It is the mythical setting for the final episodes of Virgil's epic poem Aeneid, the story of Aeneas, where the Trojan hero and his companions, on their way to found a new Troy, first set foot in Italy and are received by Latinus, king of the Laurentes, in a grand palace in the woods. Aeneas marries Latinus' daughter Lavinia, together they found the new city of Lavinium, and their descendants go on to become the kings of Alba Longa and thence of Rome. Rome's first emperor Augustus, for whom Virgil's poem was written, possessed a Laurentine estate (called Laurentum) probably centred on a huge maritime villa at Tor Paterno, which continued to be enlarged and embellished by successive emperors, especially under the Antonines of the later 2nd century AD. The city of Lavinium, which had declined in the 2nd century BC, was revived under Augustus' patronage, as the centre of an important imperial priesthood, the Lauro-Lavinates. The Laurentine forests became imperial game parks, where elephant and camel herds were based under the care of special procurators, where the emperors' game keepers trained exotic imported wild animals for the hunt and for the arena. New populations of Laurentes, formed of army veterans, were settled in the territory of Lavinium, in the ager Laurens and around the Ostian lake. The sea front - the Laurentine Shore - was developed into a monumental 'maritime façade' to rival that at Alexandria, lined with the luxury villas of the imperial family and its elite circle, among them that of Pliny the Younger, described by him at length and exceptional detail in a letter of about AD100.