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Aurelian Walls

Aurelian Walls

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The Aurelian Walls is a line of city walls built between 271 and 275 in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, during the reign of the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

s Aurelian
Aurelian
Aurelian , was Roman Emperor from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire in 273. The following...

 and Probus.

The walls enclosed all the seven hills of Rome
Seven hills of Rome
The Seven Hills of Rome east of the river Tiber form the geographical heart of Rome, within the walls of the ancient city.The seven hills are:* Aventine Hill * Caelian Hill...

 plus the Campus Martius
Campus Martius
The Campus Martius , was a publicly owned area of ancient Rome about in extent. In the Middle Ages, it was the most populous area of Rome...

 and, on the right bank of the Tiber
Tiber
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing through Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It drains a basin estimated at...

, the Trastevere
Trastevere
Trastevere is rione XIII of Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber, south of Vatican City. Its name comes from the Latin trans Tiberim, meaning literally "beyond the Tiber". The correct pronunciation is "tras-TEH-ve-ray", with the accent on the second syllable. Its logo is a golden head of a lion on a...

 district. The river banks within the city limits appear to have been left unfortified, although they were fortified along the Campus Martius.

Construction


The full circuit ran for 19 kilometres (11.8 mi) surrounding an area of 13.7 square kilometres (5.3 sq mi). The walls were constructed in brick-faced concrete, 3.5 metres (11.5 ft) thick and 8 metres (26.2 ft) high, with a square tower every 100 Roman feet (29.6 metres (97.1 ft)).

In the 5th century, remodelling doubled the height of the walls to 16 metres (52.5 ft). By 500 AD, the circuit possessed 383 towers, 7,020 crenellations, 18 main gates, 5 postern gate
Postern
A postern is a secondary door or gate, particularly in a fortification such as a city wall or castle curtain wall. Posterns were often located in a concealed location, allowing the occupants to come and go inconspicuously. In the event of a siege, a postern could act as a sally port, allowing...

s, 116 latrine
Latrine
A latrine is a communal facility containing one or more commonly many toilets which may be simple pit toilets or in the case of the United States Armed Forces any toilet including modern flush toilets...

s, and 2,066 large external windows.

History



By the third century AD, the boundaries of Rome had grown far beyond the area enclosed by the old Servian Wall
Servian Wall
The Servian Wall was a defensive barrier constructed around the city of Rome in the early 4th century BC. The wall was up to 10 metres in height in places, 3.6 metres wide at its base, 11 km long, and is believed to had 16 main gates, though many of these are mentioned only from...

, built during the Republican period in the late 4th century BC. Rome had remained unfortified during the subsequent centuries of expansion and consolidation. The need for better defences became acute during the crisis of the Third Century
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression...

, when barbarian tribes flooded through the Germanic frontier and the Roman Army
Roman army
The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome , the Roman Republic , the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire...

 struggled to stop them. In 270, the barbarian Juthungi
Juthungi
The Juthungi were a Germanic tribe in the region north of the rivers Danube and Altmühl in the modern German state of Bavaria....

 and Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 invaded northern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, inflicting a severe defeat
Battle of Placentia
The Battle of Placentia was fought in January 271 between a Roman army led by Emperor Aurelian and the Alamanni , near modern Piacenza....

 on the Romans at Placentia (modern Piacenza
Piacenza
Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza...

) before eventually being driven back. Further trouble broke out in Rome itself in the summer of 271, when the mint workers rose in rebellion. Several thousand people died in the fierce fighting that resulted.

Aurelian's construction of the walls as an emergency measure was a reaction to the barbarian invasion of 270; the historian Aurelius Victor
Aurelius Victor
Sextus Aurelius Victor was a historian and politician of the Roman Empire.Aurelius Victor was the author of a History of Rome from Augustus to Julian , published ca. 361. Julian honoured him and appointed him prefect of Pannonia Secunda...

 states explicitly that the project aimed to alleviate the city's vulnerability. It may also have been intended to send a political signal as a statement that Aurelian trusted that the people of Rome would remain loyal, as well as serving as a public declaration of the emperor's firm hold on power. The construction of the walls was by far the largest building project that had taken place in Rome for many decades, and their construction was a concrete statement of the continued strength of Rome.

The walls were built in the short time of only five years, though Aurelian himself died before the completion of the project. Progress was accelerated, and money saved, by incorporating existing buildings into the structure. These included the Amphitheatrum Castrense
Amphitheatrum Castrense
The Amphitheatrum Castrense is a Roman amphitheatre in Rome, next to the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It is the second ancient amphitheatre of Rome after the Colosseum.-History:...

, the Castra Praetoria
Castra Praetoria
Castra Praetoria were the ancient barracks of the Praetorian Guard of Imperial Rome.-History:According to the Roman historian Suetonius, the barracks were built in 23 AD by Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the praetorian prefect serving under the emperor Tiberius, in an effort to consolidate the several...

, the Pyramid of Cestius
Pyramid of Cestius
The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid in Rome, Italy, near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery. It stands at a fork between two ancient roads, the Via Ostiensis and another road that ran west to the Tiber along the approximate line of the modern Via della Marmorata...

, and even a section of the Aqua Claudia
Aqua Claudia
Aqua Claudia was an aqueduct of ancient Rome that, like the Anio Novus, was begun by emperor Caligula in 38 AD and completed by Emperor Claudius in 52 AD. Its main springs, the Caeruleus and Curtius, were situated 300 paces to the left of the thirty-eighth milestone of the Via Sublacensis...

 aqueduct
Roman aqueduct
The Romans constructed numerous aqueducts to serve any large city in their empire, as well as many small towns and industrial sites. The city of Rome had the largest concentration of aqueducts, with water being supplied by eleven aqueducts constructed over a period of about 500 years...

 near the Porta Maggiore
Porta Maggiore
The Porta Maggiore , or Porta Prenestina, is one of the eastern gates in the ancient but well-preserved 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome....

. As much as a sixth of the walls is estimated to have been composed of pre-existing structures. An area behind the walls was cleared and sentry passages were built to enable it to be reinforced quickly in an emergency.

The actual effectiveness of the wall is disputable, given the relatively small size of the city's garrison. The entire combined strength of the Praetorian Guard
Praetorian Guard
The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

, cohortes urbanae
Cohortes urbanae
The cohortes urbanae of ancient Rome were created by Augustus to counterbalance the enormous power of the Praetorian Guard in the city of Rome and serve as a police force...

, and vigiles of Rome was only about 25,000 men – far too few to defend the circuit adequately. However, the military intention of the wall was not to withstand prolonged siege warfare; it was not common for the barbarian armies to besiege cities, as they were insufficiently equipped and provisioned for such a task. Instead, they carried out hit-and-run raids against ill-defended targets. The wall was a deterrent against such tactics.

Parts of the wall were doubled in height by Maxentius
Maxentius
Maxentius was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 312. He was the son of former Emperor Maximian, and the son-in-law of Emperor Galerius.-Birth and early life:Maxentius' exact date of birth is unknown; it was probably around 278...

, who also improved the watch-towers. In 401, under Honorius
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

, the walls and the gates were improved. At this time, the Tomb of Hadrian across the Tiber was incorporated as a fortress in the city defenses. Totila
Totila
Totila, original name Baduila was King of the Ostrogoths from 541 to 552 AD. A skilled military and political leader, Totila reversed the tide of Gothic War, recovering by 543 almost all the territories in Italy that the Eastern Roman Empire had captured from his Kingdom in 540.A relative of...

, king of the Ostrogoth
Ostrogoth
The Ostrogoths were a branch of the Goths , a Germanic tribe who developed a vast empire north of the Black Sea in the 3rd century AD and, in the late 5th century, under Theodoric the Great, established a Kingdom in Italy....

s, decided to destroy the walls in 545, to remove from the Byzantines
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 the possibility of defending Rome in the ongoing Gothic War
Gothic War (535–552)
The Gothic War between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy was fought from 535 until 554 in Italy, Dalmatia, Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. It is commonly divided into two phases. The first phase lasted from 535 to 540 and ended with the fall of Ravenna and the apparent...

. According to Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

, one-third of the walls were razed.

Later use


The Aurelian Walls continued as a significant military defense for the city of Rome until September 20, 1870, when the Bersaglieri
Bersaglieri
The Bersaglieri are a corps of the Italian Army originally created by General Alessandro La Marmora on 18 June 1836 to serve in the Piedmontese Army, later to become the Royal Italian Army...

 of the Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 breached the wall near the Porta Pia
Porta Pia
Porta Pia is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. One of Pope Pius IV's civic improvements to the city, it is named after him. Situated at the end of a new street, the Via Pia, it was designed by Michelangelo in replacement for the Porta Nomentana situated several hundred meters...

 and captured Rome
Capture of Rome
The Capture of Rome was the final event of the long process of Italian unification known as the Risorgimento, which finally unified the Italian peninsula under King Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy...

. The walls also defined the boundary of the city of Rome up until the 19th century, with the built-up area being confined within the walled area.

The Aurelian Walls remain remarkably well-preserved today, largely the result of their constant use as Rome's primary fortification until the 19th century. The Museo delle Mura near the Porta San Sebastiano
Porta San Sebastiano
Porta San Sebastiano is the modern name for the ancient Porta Appia, a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, through which the Via Appia, now the Via di Porta San Sebastiano at that location, left the city in a southeasterly direction. It was refortified at the end of the 4th century and was again...

 offers information on the walls' construction and how the defenses operated. The best-preserved sections of the walls are to be found from the Muro Torto (Villa Borghese) to Corso d'Italia to Castro Pretorio; from Porta San Giovanni
Porta San Giovanni (Rome)
Porta San Giovanni is a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, Italy, named after the nearby Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.-History:It is made up of a single grand arch built for pope Gregory XIII in "opera forse" by Giacomo della Porta or, it is argued, Giacomo del Duca, who had collaborated...

 to Porta Ardeatina; from Porta Ostiense to the Tiber; and around Porta San Pancrazio
Porta San Pancrazio
The Porta San Pancrazio is a gate in the district Janiculum, Rome, Italy.It was built in 1854 by Virginio Vespignani. It replaces the old one which was erected at the time of Pope Urban VIII and later severely damaged during battles in 1849....

.

Gates




List of gates (porte), from the northernmost and clockwise:
  • Porta del Popolo (Porta Flaminia) – here begins via Flaminia
    Via Flaminia
    The Via Flaminia was an ancient Roman road leading from Rome over the Apennine Mountains to Ariminum on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, and due to the ruggedness of the mountains was the major option the Romans had for travel between Etruria, Latium and Campania and the Po Valley...

  • Porta Pinciana
    Porta Pinciana
    Porta Pinciana is a gate of the Aurelian Walls in Rome.The name derives from the gens Pincia, who owned the epponymous hill...

  • Porta Salaria
    Porta Salaria
    Porta Salaria was a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy, demolished in 1921.-History:Porta Salaria was part of the Aurelian Walls built by emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century, including pre-existing constructions in order to hasten the works. Under it passed the Via Salaria nova, which joined...

     – here begins via Salaria
    Via Salaria
    The Via Salaria was an ancient Roman road in Italy.It eventually ran from Rome to Castrum Truentinum on the Adriatic coast - a distance of 242 km. The road also passed through Reate and Asculum...

  • Porta Pia
    Porta Pia
    Porta Pia is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. One of Pope Pius IV's civic improvements to the city, it is named after him. Situated at the end of a new street, the Via Pia, it was designed by Michelangelo in replacement for the Porta Nomentana situated several hundred meters...

     – here begins the new via Nomentana
    Via Nomentana
    Via Nomentana is an ancient road of Italy, leading North-East from Rome to Nomentum , a distance of . It originally bore the name Via Ficulnensis, from the old Latin village of Ficulnea, about from Rome. It was subsequently prolonged to Nomentum, but never became an important high road, and merged...

  • Porta Nomentana
    Porta Nomentana
    The Porta Nomentana was one of the gates in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. It is located along viale del Policlinico, around 70 m east of Porta Pia. It is now blocked and merely a boundary wall for the British Embassy.-History:...

     – here began the old via Nomentana
  • Porta Praetoriana – old entrance to Castra Praetoria
    Castra Praetoria
    Castra Praetoria were the ancient barracks of the Praetorian Guard of Imperial Rome.-History:According to the Roman historian Suetonius, the barracks were built in 23 AD by Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the praetorian prefect serving under the emperor Tiberius, in an effort to consolidate the several...

    , the camp of the Praetorian Guard
    Praetorian Guard
    The Praetorian Guard was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. The title was already used during the Roman Republic for the guards of Roman generals, at least since the rise to prominence of the Scipio family around 275 BC...

  • Porta Tiburtina
    Porta Tiburtina
    Porta Tiburtina or Porta San Lorenzo is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy, through which the Via Tiburtina exits the city.- History :...

     – here begins via Tiburtina
    Via Tiburtina
    Via Tiburtina is an ancient road in Italy leading east-northeast from Rome to Tivoli . It was built by the Roman consul Marcus Valerius Maximus around 286 BC and later lengthened to the territories of the Marsi and the Equi, in the Abruzzo, as Via Valeria. Its total length was approximately...

  • Porta Maggiore
    Porta Maggiore
    The Porta Maggiore , or Porta Prenestina, is one of the eastern gates in the ancient but well-preserved 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome....

     (Porta Praenestina) – here three aqueducts meet, and via Praenestina
    Via Praenestina
    The Via Praenestina was an ancient Roman road of central Italy.It was initially called Via Gabina, from Gabii, the ancient city of Latium where it ended...

     begins
  • Porta San Giovanni
    Porta San Giovanni (Rome)
    Porta San Giovanni is a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, Italy, named after the nearby Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.-History:It is made up of a single grand arch built for pope Gregory XIII in "opera forse" by Giacomo della Porta or, it is argued, Giacomo del Duca, who had collaborated...

      – near Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano
  • Porta Asinaria
    Porta Asinaria
    The Porta Asinaria is a gate in the Aurelian Walls of Rome. Dominated by two protruding tower blocks and associated guard rooms, it was built between 270 and 273, at the same time as the Wall itself...

     – here begins the old via Tuscolana
  • Porta Metronia
    Porta Metronia
    Porta Metronia is a gate in the third-century Aurelian Walls of Rome.The gate is located in the southern section of the wall. Located between Porta San Giovanni east and Porta Latina south....

  • Porta Latina
    Porta Latina
    The Porta Latina is a single-arched gate in the Aurelian Walls of ancient Rome. It marked the Rome end of the Via Latina and gives its name to the church of San Giovanni a Porta Latina...

     – here begins via Latina
    Via Latina
    The Via Latina was a Roman road of Italy, running southeast from Rome for about 200 kilometers.It led from the Porta Latina in the Aurelian walls of Rome to the pass of Mons Algidus; it was important in the early military history of Rome...

  • Porta San Sebastiano
    Porta San Sebastiano
    Porta San Sebastiano is the modern name for the ancient Porta Appia, a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, through which the Via Appia, now the Via di Porta San Sebastiano at that location, left the city in a southeasterly direction. It was refortified at the end of the 4th century and was again...

     (Porta Appia) – here begins the Appian Way
    Appian Way
    The Appian Way was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy...

  • Porta Ardeatina
  • Porta San Paolo
    Porta San Paolo
    The Porta San Paolo is one of the southern gates in the 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome, Italy. The Ostiense Museum is housed within in the gatehouse...

     (Porta Ostiense) – next to the Pyramid of Cestius
    Pyramid of Cestius
    The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid in Rome, Italy, near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery. It stands at a fork between two ancient roads, the Via Ostiensis and another road that ran west to the Tiber along the approximate line of the modern Via della Marmorata...

    , leading to Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura, here via Ostiense begins


Gates in Trastevere (from the southernmost and clockwise):
  • Porta Portuensis
  • Porta Aurelia Pancraziana
  • Porta Septimiana
  • Porta Aurelia-Sancti Petri

Gallery


External links