Saturday, March 2, 2013

Termini Part 4 - Porta Maggiore

Porta Maggiore
Termini Part 1
Termini Part 2
Termini Part 3

Porta Maggiore (also know as Porta Prenestina) is one of the best places in Rome to get an idea of what the aqueducts were all about for the simple reason that this is one of the highest points in Rome, about 45 meters above sea level. Among the aqueducts that came through the area are the Anio Vetus built in 275 BC, Aqua Marcia (144 BC), Aqua Tepula (125 BC) and the Aqua Julia (33 BC) and of course the Aqua Claudia. Today it's a busy traffic circle where a number of tram and bus lines meet.

The Two Channels
As you can see in the pictures, the "porta" is actually a huge double arch supporting a pair of aqueducts. It was started by Caligula in 38 and finished by Claudius in 52. It supports channels for two aqueducts, the Anio Novus and the Aqua Claudia. It was eventually incorporated in the Aurelian Wall and and over time was nearly hidden behind various additions including a large watch tower.
Tomb of Eurysaces
Finally in 1838 the later additions were demolished and the charming Tomb of Eurysaces (also known as the Tomb of the Baker) was discovered beneath the 5th century watch tower. This monument commemorates one Marcus Virgilius Eurysaces a wealthy baker and his wife Atistia. The odd looking cylinders represent vessels in which large masses of dough were kneaded. If you look closely you can see a square socket at the bottom of the horizontal cylinders. Staining around the sockets indicates they once held metal replicas of the kneading paddles. The vertical cylinders are not solid but are constructed from three stacked vessels.

The inscription along the tops of the vertical cylinders reads:


This is the monument of Marcus Vergilius Eurysaces baker, government contractor, obviously.

The word "apparet" is often translated as "public servant", reading it an abbreviation of "apparitoris". I prefer a simpler interpretation: "apparet" is a complete verb: 3rd person singular, present, active, indicative meaning "it (the monument) makes apparent".

Other Stuff I Didn't Take Pictures Of This Trip...

There are many other interesting bits of the ancient world in the area of course. On the north side of the railroad tracks lies the Subterranean Basilica, an underground facility that may have been a neo-Pythagorean temple.  Unfortunately it's not open to the public.

There are quite a few underground columbaria dating from the late republic. One of the largest is the Tomb of the Statilii, built for the slaves and freedmen of the family of Titus Statilius Taurus in the Augustan period. In use for well over a century it contains 634 memorial inscriptions of which 428 were of slaves. The first Titus Statilius Taurus (there were 4, plus a 5th named Sissena Statilius Taurus) was himself one of the most important of the Augustan generals, second only to Agrippa. Among many other accomplishments he built the first permanent amphitheater in Rome. Although it's not generally open Centro Ricerche Speleo Archeologiche  has, I believe, provided small group tours in the past.

A few blocks south of Porta Maggiore is the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It's built over an imperial complex dating to the time of Septimius Severus and includes the Amphitheatrum Castrense along with a number of other buildings. The amphitheater was partially destroyed in the 16th century and the extant portion now encloses a garden adjacent to the church.

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