Monday, February 3, 2014

Roman Walls and Ports

Some of Rome's ancient walls are still standing. In the third century AD, the Aurelian Wall was constructed. Emperor Aurelian (AD 270-275) started the wall which was completed by his successor Probus (276-282). The intent was to defend against the Germanic barbarians who were threatening the heart of Italy. The walls enclosed the seven hills of Rome and were about 11 miles around. The walls continued as a defense until 1870. The city has spread outside the walls but most of the important historical sites are within. The wall had 18 gates and over 350 towers, though not all survive.

One gate in the wall is the Porta Asinaria, which is the "Gate of the Donkeys." Certainly the troops (themselves barbarians hired to guard the city) were a bunch of jackasses when they opened up for the Goths in 546, who then looted the city. The gate is no longer in use. A much larger passageway is right nearby, the Porta San Giovanni which is now a regular street.

Porta Asinaria (the little white bit between the two towers)

Outside Porta San Giovanni

Inside of Porta San Giovanni

Another small gate is nearby, letting Via Nola go outside the walls right by the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem) and Amphitheatrum Castrense, an amphitheater whose walls were incorporated into the Aurelian Wall. It saved the builders a bit of work!

Via Nola gateway, amphitheater no longer visible from inside

The port leading out to the Appian Way is more famous and in better shape, but we did not visit it. If we ever go back, we probably will, since that port leads out to one of the larger catacombs, San Sebastiano.

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