In 1958 Vasari, writing about the Life of Baldassarre Peruzzi, mentiones a cycle of frescoes representing scenes of melee combats “the way the Romans used to fight”;
the artworks are not in the castle (Rocca di Giulio II), but on the walls of the main reception room of Ostia Antica’s bishop’s palace. It is named after cardinal Raffaele Riario, bishop of Ostia from January 1511.
They were painted between 1511 and 1513, around 1615 they were mysteriously covered by white paint then in the 18 th century by grotesque elements. They were discovered by chance in 1979 by father Geremia Sangiorgi.
There are 15 frescoes describing two wars fought by Trajan. Each one is separated by pilasters decorated as candlesticks which hold up a magnificent frieze with inscriptions and allegorical pictures.
The ancient model of the frames comes from the Trajan column. The frescoes in Ostia are very similar to those of a coeval work: the bigger and more complex cycle by Jacopo Ripanda in Bologna in Palazzo Santoro. Someone thought that Ripanda could have been the author of these frescoes too.
The choice of the subject was due to the fact that they wanted to move from modern times to ancient times, contemporary facts and contents, Trajan’s wars against the Barbarians reflected Julius II’s declaration of war against king Louis XII of France, to stop him from spreading his influence to central Italy. The theme is the expulsion of the new Barbarians.
Riario also had a new wing built. It has a grand apartment on the first floor which was included between the previous house. St. Aurea and the walls built in 1471. Doors and windows were framed with stones and on each lintel you can see the coat of arms of Riario and in some cases ‘Riarius episcopus ostiensis romanae ecclesiae camerarius’.