A Tourist in Rome - Arch of Gallienus

Location:On Via di San Vito, which is one block southeast from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore
Metro:Vittorio Emanuele, located along my Southeastern Sights Walking Tour
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Servian Wall (the black wall in the map below), also known as the Republican Wall, was a defensive wall constructed in the early 4th century BC, and named after the 6th king or Rome, Servius Tullius, who ruled from about 550 BC until about 510 BC. It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, and was itself superceeded by the taller, stronger and much larger Aurelian Wall, built between 271 AD and 275 AD. The Servian Wall was 32 feet tall in places, 12 feet thick at its base, and 7 miles long. It was built from large blocks of tufa. To my eyes, it looks like a rough wall made of square blocks piled on top of each other, with the joints being very well done. Here we are, 2500 years after its construction, and there are not really any gaps between the stones. It is believed to have had 16 gates, but only three still exist (Porta Esquilina = Arch of Gallienus, Arcus Caelimontani, Porta Sanqualis). The Servian Wall was maintained throughout the age of the Roman Republic and the early Empire, but by this time, Rome became well-protected by its military strength and the city was essentially not walled for the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. However, when German tribes attacked the frontier in the 3rd century, Aurelian had the larger Aurelian Wall built to protect Rome. In the end, even that was not enough.

    
Servian Wall (black) and Aurelian Wall (red)

The Arch of Gallienus, also known as the Arch of St. Vitus after the church the arch is located against, is located on the tiny road Via di San Vito, which is one block southeast from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The nearest metro stop is Vittorio Emanuele. Its original name was the Porta Esquilina, an ancient Roman arch in the Servian Wall. During the time of Augustus, two minor arches were added at the sides of the major one, giving the arch a monumental appearance. In 262, Aurelius Victor rededicated the arch to Gallienus (Emperor from 253 - 268 AD) and his wife Cornelia Salonina. The surviving single arch (1st and 2nd photos below) is made of white travertine, and is 29 feet tall, 24 feet wide, and 11 feet deep. The arch looks like it's about to fall down (especially evident in 3rd photo below); I hope it's been stabilized properly. The side arches still existed in the 15th century, but they were demolished when the church was built and no trace of them remains today. The inscription (photo below) "To Gallienus, the most clement princeps, whose unconquered virtus is only outdone by his pietas, and to Salonina, most holy Augusta, Aurelius Victor, the excellent man, [dedicated this] in complete devotion to their numines and majesties" was actually just the end of the original inscription. The large blank space above them had marble slabs with the beginning of the inscription. The holes for the metal pegs that mounted those marble slabs are still visible.

    
The Arch of Gallienus
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
    
The Arch of Gallienus
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
    
The architrave of Arch of Gallienus
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.

On the other side of the church, on Via Carlo Alberto, a very small fragment of the Servian Wall remains (photo below), jutting out from a yellow building onto the sidewalk, with bricks supporting the remains.

    
Servian Wall remains near the Arch of Gallienus
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
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