1902 Encyclopedia > Rome > Ancient Rome - Remains of the Period of Kings (753-509 B.C.)

(Part 23)



Remains of the Period of Kings (753-509 B.C.)

Great Wall of Servius

The most important remains of the regal period are the great wall, principally the work of Servius Tullius, by which he included within one circuit the separately fortified hills which were then inhabited,—the Palatine, Capitoline, Aventine, Quirinal, and Ccelian, and added two more, the Esquiline and Viminal. These seven hills formed the Septimontium (Varro, L.L.,iv. 41, vi. 24). Of even earlier date was the fort (Liv., i. 33) on the top of the Janiculum, connected by walls with the Pons Sublicius, some massive foundations of which still exist, though now buried near the church of S. Pietro in Montorio. Existing remains show that the great wall is of more than one date ; part is probably earlier than Servius, and may be remains of the wall which, according to Livy (i. 36, 38) and Dionysius (iii. 37), was planned and in part carried out by Tarquinius Prisons ; it would seem impossible that a work of such gigantic magnitude could have been begun and completed in the lifetime of one man. It should, however, be remembered that a complete circuit of new wall was not required in this undertaking ; each, probably, of the five hills first inhabited had its own fortifications, and these were utilized in the line of the new wall. The space thus included was divided by Servius for political, military, and religious purposes into four regiones (Varro, L. L., v. 46-54)— (1) the Suburana, including the Ccelian, and probably most of its adjacent valleys, with the Subura, the Carina?, and part of the Esquiline—the derivation of Suburana from sub urbe is from Junius, quoted by Varro ; (2) Esquilina, the main part of the Esquiline, including the Oppius and Cispius (es-quil-ise, dwellings outside, cf. in-quil-inus); (3) Collina, the Viminal and Quirinal, which were called "colles"in contradistinction to the other five hills, which were called "montes" ; (4) Palatina, the Palatine and its adjacent spurs, the Velia and Germalus. It will be observed that these four regiones do not include the Aventine, the Capitol, and some of their adjacent valleys,—an omission for which it is not easy to account.

Line of Servian Wall

Excavations of the last fifteen years have done much to determine the line of the Servian wall (see Plate VII.), especially the great works undertaken in laying out a new quarter of the city on the Quirinal, Esquiline, and Viminal, which have laid bare and then mostly destroyed long lines of wall, especially along the agger. Beginning from the Tiber, which the Servian wall touched at a point near the present Ponte Rotto, and separating the Forum Olitorium (outside) from the Forum Boarium (inside), it ran in a straight line to the Capitoline Hill, the two crests of which, the Capitolium and the Arx, with the intermediate valley the Asylum, were surrounded by an earlier fortification, set (Dionys., ix. 68) epi lophois . . . kai petrais apotomois [Gk.]. In this short space there were three gates,—(1) the Porta Flumentana next the river (see Cic, Ad Att., vii. 3 ; Liv., xxxv. 19, 21); (2) Porta Triumphalis, site unknown and usually only mentioned in connexion with triumphal processions (see Cic, In Pis., 23 ; Joseph., Bell. Jud., vii. 5, 4),— it was probably not used except on the occasion of triumphs ; (3) Porta Carmentalis, close to the Capitolium. From the Capitoline Hill the wall passed to the Quirinal along a spur of elevated ground, afterwards completely cut away by Trajan. Close to the Capitol was the gate afterwards called the Porta Ratumena, whence issued the Via Lata (Plut., In Publ., 13; Plin., H.N., viii. 42). Remains of the wall and foundations of the gate exist in Via di Marforio, Nos. 81 C and 81 E. After passing Trajan's forum, the first remains of the walls are on the slope of the Quirinal in the Colonna gardens. Near the foot of the Quirinal was the Porta Fontinalis (Liv., xxxv. 10). A piece of the wall has been exposed in the new Via Nazionale, and also an archway under the Palazzo Antonelli, which has been thought to be the Porta Fontinalis. This arch is, however, only 6 feet 6 inches wide and (to the springing of the arch) 5 feet high, which seems too small for one of the principal gates. The Porta Sanqualis (see Festus, ed. Müller, p. 345) was also on the Quirinal, probably on the slope between the Trevi fountain and the royal palace. Its position is indicated by the existence of some tombs which give the line of the road. On the . north-west of the Quirinal was the Porta Salutaris (Festus, p. 327 ; Liv., ix. 43), probably near the " Quattro Fontane." In the Barberini palace gardens, and especially in those of the Villa Barberini (Horti Sallustiani), extensive remains of the wall have been recently exposed and destroyed,—which was also the fate of that fine piece of wall that passed under the new office of finance, with the Porta Collina, which was not on the line of the present road, but about 50 yards to the south (see Dionys., ix. 68 ; Strabo, v. 3). Thus far in its course from the Capitol the wall skirted the slopes of hills, which were once much more abrupt than they are now ; but from the Porta Collina to the Porta Esquilina it crossed a large tract of level ground ; and here, by the construction of his great agger, Servius gained the strength which elsewhere was given by the natural formation of the hills. The whole line of this agger has been recently traced and mostly destroyed. About the middle of it the Porta Viminalis was found in 1872 ; it stood, as Strabo says, hupo meso to chomati [Gk.], and from it led a road which passed through the Porta Chiusa (ancient name unknown) in Aurelian's wall. Foundations of the Porta Esquilina were found in 1876 close behind the arch of Gallienus. The further course of the wall across the valley of the Colosseum, with its Porta Querquetulana and Porta Ccelimontana, probably a little beyond, is, the least known part of the circuit. Hence the wall skirts the slopes of the Ccelian to the valley along which the Via Appia passed through the Porta Capena, near the church of S. Gregorio. Its line along the Aventine is fairly distinct, and near S. Balbina and in the Vigna Torlonia are two of the best-preserved pieces,—the former 11 courses high (22 feet), the latter 25 (50 feet). Under the Aventine it appears to have touched the river near the existing foundations supposed to be those of the Pons Sublicius. The Porta Trigemina was close by the bank. Hence to our starting-point the river formed the defence of the city, with its massive quay wall, —the kale akte [Gk.] of Plutarch (Rom., 20). A fragmentary passage of Varro (L.L., v. 163) mentions two other gates, Naevia and Rauduscula, "the bronze gate," but their positions are unknown. The site of the Porta Navalis is also very doubtful; it was probably not in the Servian wall.

Its Construction

The wall is built of blocks of tufa, usually the softer kinds, but varying according to its position, as in most cases the stone used was that quarried on the spot. In some places a good deal of peperino is used. The blocks average from 23 to 24 inches in thickness—roughly 2 Roman feet—and are laid in alternate courses of headers and stretchers. The best preserved piece of wall—that on the Aventine in the Vigna Torlonia—has one complete arch and the starting of another ; their sills are about 34 feet from the ground outside, and probably level with the ground inside (see fig. 8).

FlG. 8.—Part of Servian wall on Aventine.

These arches, though built of the harder stone, are not later insertions, but are contemporary with the wall itself. The blocks, both beds and vertical joints, are very carefully worked and set in mortar; in most cases they are bevelled round the joints. Some blocks are of great length,—amaxioi lithoi [Gk.] Dionysius calls them. At this place the wall is hacked with a thick mass of concrete ; the use of the arched openings is doubtful: they may have been embrasures for catapults.

Agger of Servius

The discoveries of recent years have shown the correctness of the description given by Dionysius (ix. 68) of the great agger, with its wall and foss, begun by the earlier kings and completed by the last Tarquin. Fig. 9 shows it in section ; the earth taken from the foss (which was 100 feet wide at the bottom by 30 deep) was heaped up to form the agger, and was kept in its position by a lofty retaining wall on the front and a lower one behind. The outer wall was in places strengthened with massive buttresses closely set, or with towers ; in other places it had no projections. The back wall, the position of which shows the thickness of the agger, is in parts about 33 feet from the front one, but it varies in this respect ; in other parts the agger appears to have been more

FIG. 9.—Section and plan (double scale) of wall and agger of Servius. A, A. Undisturbed earth of fossa. B. Earth heaped up to form the agger. C. Road at brink of fossa. D. Wall and buttress. E. Back retaining wall of agger. F. Level to which the fossa was filled up and built upon under the empire.

than 50 feet thick. Between the railway station and the Dogana a line lofty piece of the front wall remains, with traces of the Porta Viminalis and of the lower back wall. Unfortunately the whole of the bank or agger proper has been removed, and the rough back of the great retaining wall exposed. Both tufa and peperino are used; the blocks vary in length, but average in depth the usual 2 Roman feet. The railway cutting which has destroyed a great part of the agger showed clearly the section of the whole work : the strata of different kinds of soil which appeared on the sides of the foss appeared again in the agger, but reversed as they naturally would be in the process of digging out and heaping up. Dionysius (ix. 68) states the length of the agger to have been 7 stadia—that is, about 1400 yards—which agrees (roughly speaking) with the actual discoveries. Originally one road ran along the bottom of the foss and another along its edge ; the latter existed in imperial times. But the whole foss appears to have been filled up, probably in the time of Augustus, and afterwards built upon ; houses of mixed brick and opus reticulatum still exist against the outside of the great wall, which was itself used as the back wall of these houses, so that we now see painted stucco of the time of Hadrian covering parts of the wall of the kings. Another row of houses seems to have faced the road mentioned above as running along the upper edge of the foss, thus forming a long street. As early as the time of Augustus a very large part of the wall of the kings had been pulled downand built over, so that even then its circuit was difficult to trace (Dionys., iv. 13).

Masons' Marks

A very curious series of masons' marks exists on buildings of regal period, especially on the stones of the agger wall and those of the small celke on the Palatine near the Scalae Caci. They are deeply incised, usually on the ends of the blocks, and average from 10 to 14 inches in length : some are single letters or monograms ; others are numbers ; and some are doubtful signs. e.g., ___, which may be the numeral 50 or the Etruscan CH. Fig. 10 shows the chief forms from the Palatine and Esquiline.

The Servian city did not include what is now the most crowded part of Rome, and which under the empire was the most architecturally magnificent, namely, the groat Campus Martins, which was probably to a great extent a marsh. It was once called Ager Tarquiniorum, but after the expulsion of the Tarquins was named Campus Martins from an altar to Mars, dating from prehistoric times (Liv., ii. 5).


Of that wonderful system of massive arched sewers by which, as Dionysius (iii. 68) says, every street of Rome was drained into the Tiber considerable remains exist, especially of the Cloaca Maxima, which runs from the valley of the Subura, under the Forum (see Plate VIII.), along the Velabrum, and so into the Tiber by the round temple in the Forum Boarium ; it is still in use, and well preserved at most places. Its mouth, an archway in the great quay wall (kale akte [Gk.]) nearly 11 feet wide by 12 high, consists of three rings of peperino "voussoirs," most neatly fitted. The rest of the vault, and walls is built of mixed tufa and peperino. Pliny (H.N., xxxvi. 24) gives an interesting account of what is probably this great sewer, big enough (he says) for a loaded hay-cart to pass along. The mouths of two other similar but smaller cloaca? are still visible in the great quay wall near the Cloaca Maxima, and a whole network of sewers exists under a great part of the Servian city. Some of these are not built with arched vaults, but have triangular tops formed of courses of stone on level beds, each projecting over the one below,—a very primitive method of construction, employed in the Tullianum (see fig. 11).

Great Quay Wall

The great quay wall of tufa and peperino which lined both banks of the Tiber for a considerable distance also belongs to the regal period, and was a work of great solidity and strength ; it is now mostly destroyed by the action of the river. In later times this massive wall was extended, as the city grow, all along the bank of the Campus Martius, and, having lost its importance as a line of defence, had frequent flights of stairs built against it, descending to the river. Some of these are shown in one of the fragments of the marble plan (see Jordan, For. Dr. Rom. ; Frag. 169). In 1879 a travertine block was dredged up inscribed P . BARRONIVS . BARBA . AED . CVR . GRADOS . REFECIT, dating from the 1st century B.C. This records the repair of one of these numerous river stairs. The name "pulchrum littus" is not a classical term, but simply a translation of Plutarch's kale akte [Gk.].

Tullianum and Carcer

The Tullianum is probably, next to the remains of Roma Quadrata, the earliest of the existing buildings of Rome. It is partly cut in the tufa rock of the Capitoline Hill and partly built of 2 feet blocks of tufa, set with thin beds of pure lime mortar, in courses projecting one over the other (see fig. 11). Its name is probably derived, not from Servius Tullius, as Varro (v. 151) asserts, but from an early Latin word, tullius, a spring of water ; its original use was probably that of a cistern or well. It was closed by a conical vault, arched in shape, but not not constructionally an arch, —very like the so-called "tomb of Agamemnon" at Mycenae, and many early Etruscan tombs. When the upper room with its arched vault, also of tufa, was built the upper part of the cone seems to have been removed, and a flat stone floor (a flat arch in construction) substituted. This cannot be other than the "carcer . . . media urbe imminens foro" of Livy (i. 33), who speaks also (xxxiv. 44) of an "inferiorem carcerem," and at xxix. 22 of a criminal being put in the Tullianum. That its use as a cistern was abandoned is shown by the cloaca which leads from it, through the rock, to a branch of the Cloaca Maxima. This horrible place was used as a dungeon, prisoners being lowered through a hole in the stone floor, —the only access. The present stairs are modern. The two chambers are vividly described by Sallust (Oat., 55). The entrance to the upper prison was on the left of the stairs leading up from the Forum to the Clivus Argentarius, the road to the Porta Ratnmena (see Plate VII.). Lentulus and the Catiline conspirators, as well as Jugurtha and other prisoners of importance, were killed or starved to death in this fearful dungeon, which is called to barathron [Gk.] by Plutarch (Marius, xii.). According to a doubtful tradition of the Catholic Church St Peter and St Paul were imprisoned in the Tullianum. The name Mamertine prison is of mediaeval origin. The front wall of the prison was restored in the reign of Tiberius 22 A.D., and bears this inscription on a projecting string-course—C . VIBIVS . C . F . RVFINVS . M . COCCEIV[S NERVA] COS. EX. S. C. 1 The floor of the upper prison is about 16 feet above the level of the Forum, to which access was given by a flight of steps—Scalae Gemoniae—on which the bodies of criminals were exposed ; Pliny (H.N., viii. 61) calls it the "stairs of sighs " (gradus gemitorii).


3 At an early date the term "Septimontium" had a different meaning (see Pint., Quies. Rom., 69 ; Burn, Rome,'p. 87).
4 Becker suggests (Handhuch, i. 386) that the Capitoline Hill was excluded on account of its sacred character, while the Aventine was not yet thickly populated, and the Janiculum was only occupied by the fort; see also Ann. Inst., 1861, p. 61.
5 See Sol., i. 13 ; Liv., ii. 49, xxiv. 47, xxv. 7; Ascon., Act Cic. in Toga, p. 90, Orell.

See Bruzza, in Ann. Inst., 1876, p. 72 ; Jordan, Topogr., i. p. 250.
It was specially that part of the Campus Martius which was named after the Circus Flaminius that was remarkable for its architectural splendour.
On this whole subject consult Nibby and Geli, Le Mura di Roma, 1S20 ; Piale, Porte del Recintoci Servio, 1833 ; Becker, De Rom.v Muris, Leipsic, 1842 ;
Lanciarli, Ann. Inst., 1S71, p. 40, Mon. Inst., ix. pi. xxvii., also Ann. Inst., 1857,
p. 62, and Mon. Inst., vi. pi. iv. ; Qnarenghl, Le Mura di Roma, ISSO (taken imni Lanciani) ; comp. Vitruvius, i. 5.
_» See Liv., i. 38, 50 ; Dionys., iv. 44.
See Bruzza, in Ann. Inst., 1876, p. 72 ; Jordan, Topogr., i. p. 250.
See Bruzza, in Ann. Inst., 1876, p. 72 ; Jordan, Topogr., i. p. 250.

1 Consules suffecti for 22 A.D.
2 See Tac, Hist., hi. 74, S5 ; Suet., Vit., 17.

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