Route: AQUEDUCTS AND FOUNTAINS. THE MARVEL OF WATER
Piazzale Labicano Always visible. The gateway is…
You are along the route: THE WALLS OF ROME. PROSPECTS OF THE ETERNAL CITY
Beyond Porta San Lorenzo, the walls continue like a long brick snake, but the two faces have different histories. On the city side is the structure of the Felice aqueduct, built by Sixtus V in 1585; a solid structure, despite the apparent crumbling of the original materials used to build it, it brought water to the city until the 1970s. The outside parts aligns a succession of square towers placed at regular intervals of 100 Roman feet. It is a pity that there is an obvious gap in the walls at piazzale Tiburtino, because of the expansion of the fin de siècle expansion of the city, as it breaks the perception of the ancient defensive barrier up to Porta Maggiore. A walk along the walls reveals an unexpected façade very similar to that of a house, with doors and balconies and masonry structures. Many believed it to be a Roman insula, but it is actually a large building for storing and distributing water from the Marcia aqueduct which runs alongside it. Just beyond, a splendid walled door is still visible, probably a sign of the privileges of the powerful gens Licinia, who needed to get across the walls to access their properties, which had been cut in half by the walls.
Pictures by permission from Roma Capitale-Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali
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Piazza di Porta San Lorenzo
The gate, named after the via Tiburtina, was built by Aurelian, incorporating, as the internal part of the gate, the monumental arch built in Augustan times (5 BC) to enable the passage of three aqueducts (Aquae Marcia, Iulia and Tepula) above the road. The Augustan arch, of which the part facing city is still easily visible, is perfectly preserved, with its travertine covering, framed by Tuscan-style pillars and with bull’s heads decorating the keystones. Because of this decoration, the gate was named Porta Taurina in the Middle Ages. It is also known as Porta S. Lorenzo, as the Basilica of S. Lorenzo is nearby. The outline of the gate was built under the Emperors Arcadius and Honorius (401-402). During the papacy of Pope Sixtus V, in 1586-1590, work was done on this stretch of the walls to enable the passage of the Felice aqueduct, a cross-section of which is still visible after part of the walls were removed for the passage of the new via Tiburtina. The work done in the nineteenth century also uncovered the remains of an ancient tomb from the Republican Age, the presence of which has forced the gate to be oblique in appearance. Towards the outside, the gate was defended by two semi-circular towers, replaced in 1586 by quadrangular towers on the wishes of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, whose coat-of-arms is preserved on the southern tower.
The gate is on the south-eastern slopes of the Esquiline, an area crossed since ancient times by via Labicana and via Prenestina and numerous aqueducts. Between 38 and 52 AD, the Emperors Caligula and Claudius built two aqueducts: aqua Claudia and Anio Novus. A large double archway was then built, in square travertine bricks. The upper part contains images of the aqueducts with inscriptions commemorating the construction of the work by Claudius and the subsequent restorations by Vespasian and Titus (71 and 81 AD). When the Aurelian walls were built, the arches of the aqueducts were incorporated into the new city walls and the two archways acted as a gateway to the city. The gate was taken down during the papacy of Pope Gregory XVI in 1838. Outside the walls are the remains of the tomb of the baker Eurysaces from the late Republican period, which reproduces part of ancient bakery and is decorated with scenes depicting the preparation and sale of bread.
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