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
The stretch of the Aurelian walls between the Castrense amphitheatre and Porta Asinaria, visible from the city side of the walls on the walkway in the gardens of viale Carlo Felice, is interesting because of its construction characteristics, its complex recent history and the urban context it is part of, between the two important basilicas of San Giovanni and Santa Croce di Gerusalemme. The walls, making use of different pre-existing structures, are very high, with a double level of arches and several levels of walkways, which was necessary to overcome the slope of a small valley there in ancient times. This construction peculiarity strongly influenced the state of preservation of the monument, which has fallen down and been rebuilt several times over the ages. The appearance of this stretch, used for different purposes since the 13th century, when an oratory dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch was opened in one of the towers, changed significantly when Gregory XIV opened the tree-lined avenue connecting the two basilicas and again when the full height of the walls became visible after the demolition of the ATAC warehouses and the restorations in the early part of this century.
Pictures by permission from Roma Capitale-Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali
Further reproduction prohibited
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.
At a much lower level that the modern day Piazzale Appio is the ancient Porta Asinaria. Originally constituted by a single archway between two quadrangular towers, the gate enabled traffic to transit along the secondary route of the via Asinaria. In the 5th century, the structure was fortified by the construction of two semi-circular towers flanking the existing ones and the construction of a secondary door for the guards; this was because of its strategic position in terms of accessing the Lateran basilica. The scene of numerous battles, from the Greco-Gothic was (535-554) and the conflict between the Empire and the Papacy (1084), the gate, named Porta Lateranensis, Porta S. Johannis Laterani or Porta de Laterano, continued to serve as a defensive outpost until it was definitively abandoned following the raising of the surrounding ground level as a result of the construction project planned by Gregory XIII and the opening of Porta San Giovanni during the Jubilee in 1575.
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