A Tourist in Rome - Largo Magnanapoli

Location:41.89639, 12.48681 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
Hours:Viewable during banking hours

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 of 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 It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, called the Archaic Wall. [The Archaic Wall was built in the 6th-5th centuries BC from grey granular tuff blocks, 272 cm (9 feet) on a side, and can be seen along Via Venti Settembre, between Porta Collina (at Via Goito) and Largo Santa Susanna.] The Servian Wall 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, surrounding an area of 1.6 square miles. 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 Sanqualis, Porta Esquilina = Arch of Gallienus, and Arcus Caelimontani). 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)

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
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.
Servian Wall fragment in Largo Magnanapoli
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.

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
See all Servian Wall and Gates photos.

Since this is a still-existing gate in the Servian Wall, we'll begin our survey of the 16 gates here, and proceed clockwise around the wall from here.

See also:
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