A Tourist in Rome - Servian Wall and Gates

Location:Various locations, see text below
Metro:Various locations, see text below
Time:about 10 minutes per location
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time (except as noted below)

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 It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, and was itself superceeded by the taller, stronger and much larger Aurelian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)
Termini

The longest surviving stretch of the Servian Wall, and the most easily accessible, is on the left side (as you face the station) of the front of the Termini train station (1st-4th photos below). The nearest metro station is, of course, Termini. The wall is nowadays behind a protective iron fence (but I snuck the camera between the bars for the 3rd abd 4th photos). This part of the wall was the northeastern boundary of the city. A part of the wall is also found in the McDonald's inside the station (5th-8th photos below).

    
Servian Wall outside of Termini
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Servian Wall outside of Termini
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Servian Wall in front of Termini Train Station (in front of the left side of the station, as you face the station)
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Servian Wall in front of Termini Train Station (in front of the left side of the station, as you face the station)
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Servian Wall inside the McDonald's in Termini Train Station
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Servian Wall inside the McDonald's in Termini Train Station
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Servian Wall inside the McDonald's in Termini Train Station
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Servian Wall inside the McDonald's in Termini Train Station
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Via Antonio Salandra

A part of the wall that makes me wonder "how could they have done that?" is at the north end of Via Antonio Salandra, where it intersects Via Giosue Carducci and turns into Via Piedmonte. This is about 4 blocks straight north from the Repubblica metro station. At this intersection, a segment of the wall was chopped into three parts during the 19th century to let the roads pass through. Couldn't they have respected history and made a roundabout? The longest section of this wall is under a porch, behind columns and an iron fence (1st and 2nd images below). Another part is a small section at the top of brick repairs (4th image below). The third section of the wall is actually inside a building behind a large glass wall. When the workers inside that building saw that I wanted to see the wall, they were kind to me and welcomed me inside (3rd photo below).

    
Servian Wall on Via Antonio Salandra
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Servian Wall inside business on Via Antonio Salandra
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Servian Wall on Via Antonio Salandra
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Servian Wall on Via Antonio Salandra
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Piazza Albania
Location:1/3 of the way from the Circo Massimo metro station to the Piramide metro station
Metro:Circo Massimo
Time:about 15 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Two very cool pieces of the wall are at the western end of Piazza Albania and the nearby Via di Sant'Anselmo, about 1/3 of the way from the Circo Massimo metro station to the Piramide metro station. The part in the piazza is shown in the 1st photo below, and features an arch for a defensive catapult from the late Republic. Just a short walk uphill along Via di Sant'Anselmo shows an awesome stretch of the wall where you can easily see both sides of the wall, and also a cross-section of the wall in order to learn a bit about its construction (2nd and 3rd photos below).

    
Servian Wall in Piazza Albania
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Servian Wall on Via di Sant'Anselmo
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Servian Wall on Via di Sant'Anselmo
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Piazza Manfredo Fanti
Location:Three blocks east from Santa Maria Maggiore, or four blocks southeast from Termini
Metro:Vittorio Emanuele or Termini, located along my Southeastern Sights Walking Tour
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

In the Piazza Manfredo Fanti stands the Roman Aquarium, a large white domed building, with a few blocks of the Servian Wall in front of it (1st and 3rd photos below). Remains of brick houses are at the same site (2nd photo below) which had been built against the old wall, which can be seen at the left edge of the image. The neighborhood is not the greatest; the Aquarium looks rather dilapidated, the fountain in front is not running, and a burned car (4th image below) was on the street just outside the piazza. Was this some form of protest that I don't understand, or was it crime?

    
Servian Wall fragment in Piazza Manfredo Fanti
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Brick houses built against the Servian Wall in Piazza Manfredo Fanti
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Servian Wall fragment in Piazza Manfredo Fanti (at bottom of image)
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Burned-out car next to Piazza Manfredo Fanti
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Largo Magnanapoli (Porta Sanqualis)
Location:Behind Trajan's Market, just down the street from the entrance to the Museum of Imperial Fora
Metro:Colosseo or Cavour
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable during banking hours

Largo Magnanapoli is a small traffic circle behind Trajan's Market, just down the street from the entrance to the Museum of Imperial Fora. The nearest metro stop is Cavour, and a walk from there along Via Leonina, Via della Madonna dei Monti, Via Tor de Conti, and Salita del Grillo is a superb way to spend some time in Rome (this is "my" neighborhood when I'm a Tourist in Rome). OK, the payoff of the two courses of blocks of the Servian Wall (1st and 2nd photos below) in the center of the traffic circle is not much at the end of this walk, but there's a hidden treasure there, too.

    
Servian Wall fragment in Largo Magnanapoli
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Servian Wall fragment in Largo Magnanapoli
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On the northern edge of the circle, at no 157B is a branch of the Bank of Italy. Go inside the courtyard and there's a guardhouse to the left where they'll give you nasty looks and run out to "greet" you. After you ask to see the "Roman Gate" they'll show you that just across the path from the guardhouse, on the right, is a glass door behind which is one of the few remaining gates of the Servian Wall - this is the Porta Sanqualis. For some reason, photos are strictly forbidden. I even went back a second day to try to get a picture of it but you'd have thought I was trying to rob the bank, those guards came rushing out from their post so quickly waving their hands. It was kind of fun, but still really pissed me off. Anyhow, although I could not get a photo, there's one at lower-left, so raspberries to the bank. There, I feel a little better now.

    
Porta Sanqualis, not my photo
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The 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 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
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The Arch of Gallienus
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The architrave of Arch of Gallienus
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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
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Porta Caelimontana

Porta Caelimontana was one of the gates in the Servian Wall. It is located near the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo on Via di San Paolo della Croce, right off Via Claudia, the road that runs southeast from the Colosseum. The nearest metro stop is Colosseo. Once Rome expanded, the gate became obsolete and was altered into a simple archway. In the first century AD a branch of the Aqua Claudia called Arcus Caelimontani was built to supply water to the Caelian Hill. The aqueduct crossed this spot by resting on top of the archway, and its remains are still visible today.

    
Porta Caelimontana is the small arch that the road passes through
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Another piece of the Arcus Caelimontani near the Porta Caelimontana
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Piazza di Porta Capena
Location:Across the street from the southern end of the Circus Maximus, along the Via della Terme di Caracalla
Metro:Circo Massimo
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

Porta Capena was a gate in the Servian Wall from which Via Appia (the Appian Way) originally started. The remains of that gate stand across the street from the southeastern end of the Circus Maximus, in Piazza di Porta Capena, along the Via della Terme di Caracalla. The Via della Terme di Caracalla was once the start of the Appian Way, whereas now it starts 3/4 mile further south. The remains are a chunky rectangular ruin made of bricks and overgrown with plants. The ruin we see today might actually have been part of a house or another structure built against the old wall rather than the gate itself, but the placement is correct for it to be the Porta Capena.

    
Remains of the Porta Capena gate in the Servian Wall
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Remains of the Porta Capena gate in the Servian Wall
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Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
Location:Across the street (Via del Teatro di Marcello) from San Nicola in Carcere
Metro:Colosseo or Circo Massimo and Bus #160, or see it on my To the Forum Boarium and Beyond Walking Tour instead
Time:about 10 minutes
Cost:Free
Hours:Viewable at any time

The Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino exists today as several large arches at a busy intersection, with a few scattered remants on either side. The demolition of some medieval houses led to the discovery that they had been built making use of a very old Roman portico; it is located at the foot of Monte Caprino, the southern peak of Campidoglio. Some archaeologists believe the portico to be Portico Triumphalis, a sort of arch of the 1st century BC on the path followed by the triumphal processions. This portion of the Servian Wall was characterized by a roofed arcade, up to this gate. The materials and styles of this gate are characteristic of the first century BC. This might be the Portico Minucia referred to in ancient texts. The main part of the portico, which is obvious when you look across the street from the church of San Nicola in Carcere is shown in the 1st photo below, and that view is looking at what I'll call the "front" of the monument. Closer views from this angle are in the 2nd and 3rd photos below, the view slightly to the left is shown in the 4th photo below, the view straight on to the left side is shown in the 5th photo below, and the view from the right, clearly showing that this was an arcade between two walls of arches, is in the 6th photo below.

    
Front view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Front view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Front view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Front and left-side view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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The left side of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Right-side view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Other fragments of the arcade are visible to the left (uphill) of these large arches across from the church, toward the Theatre of Marcellus (1st and 2nd photos below). A few fragments are also visible across the street in the corner of the Sacred Area of San Omobono (3rd photo below).

    
Columns to the left of the main portico, across the street from the Church of St. Nicolas by the Prison, whch were part of Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Columns to the left of the main portico, across the street from the Church of St. Nicolas by the Prison, whch were part of Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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Columns to the right of the main portico, in front of the Sacred Area of San Omobono, whch were part of Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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The view from behind the portico is shown in the 1st photo below. When I turned around 180 degrees from the point where I took that 1st photo from, I could see more columns heading up the hill toward the Tarpeian Rock, as in the 2nd photo below. Walking beyond those columns and facing back toward the portico yields the view in the 3rd photo below. It looks like maybe there was a T-shape involved here, with the base of the T coming from the Tarpeian Rock along the street named Vico Jugario, and the crossbar of the T going right and left along Via del Teatro di Marcello. Looking up from the front of the portico yields the view in the 4th photo below.

    
Rear view of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino (and Church of St. Nicolas by the Prison across the street)
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Looking back from behind the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino shows more pillars going off in that direction, toward the Tarpeian Rock
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The view from far behind the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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The view up from the front of the Triumphal Portico di Monte Caprino
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