A Tourist in Rome - Piazza di Porta Capena
|Location:||Across the street from the southern end of the Circus Maximus, along the Via della Terme di Caracalla|
|Time:||about 10 minutes|
|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 It superseded defensive walls that might have been dismantled in response to Etruscan demands, and was itself superceeded by the taller, stronger and much larger Aurelian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.
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.