A brilliant, readable, and wonderful discussion of everything we know about one Roman town. Meiggs discusses every aspect of Ostian life, from its foundation when Rome was a village squabbling with its neighbors through the years when Ostia was the port at which the commerce of the world docked -- and then through the long decline and abandonment. Meiggs weighs the literary evidence, archaeology, inscriptions, carefully laying out what we know, what we need to study more closely, and what we perhaps can never rediscover.

Everything is closely argued and carefully sourced, yet each page is pleasant to read. Meiggs, uniquely, had the knack of writing simultaneously for scholars and students, for professional historians and for casual readers. There is never the slightest suspicion that arguments have been simplified for the benefit of students, yet every section of the book is lively and energetic.

I know of no better study of an ancient place.