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File:Detail of an embossed scene on bronze plate showing Shalmaneser III in a chariot and Assyrian archers. From a Balawat gate, Iraq, 859-824 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul.jpg
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The Inscription of Shalmaneser III on the Gates of Balawat
(semi-divine Assyrian King Shalmaneser III , who walked with gods)
1. Shalmaneser , the great king, the powerful king, the king of hosts, [the king of Assyria ] …
2. the pitiless one, who subjugates the rebellious … [who a rival]
3. has not. The great, the incomparable, the heroic one, … [clothed]
4. with splendor, who fears not opposition [who from the rising of the sun]
5. to the setting of the sun commands …
( Marduk with winged sky-disc battles animal symbols for his cousins)
6. is powerful. In those days, through the great lord, Merodach ( Marduk ) …
1. … [After that the gods] had placed in my hands the insignia of mankind,
( Ashur , warrior son to Marduk )
with the help of Assur ( Osiris ) , the great lord, my lord, and of the god
who loves my priesthood, [I trod] the summits of all mountain- ranges
2. to the extremities of them all, [as far as] the sea of Nairi and the sea of Zamua- sa-Bittani 1 and the great sea of Syria . The country of the Hittites , to its very extremities, like a mound
(stele of semi-divine giant king Shalmaneser III )
3. swept by the wind, I ravaged … I spread over the country of the Hittites the [terror] of the glory of my sovereignty. In my passage from the sea2 I erected a great image of my majesty, (and) set (it) up along with that of Assur-irbe.1
4. … I marched [to] the great [sea] I purified my weapons in the waters I offered sacrifices to my gods I received the tribute of all the kings of the shores of the sea.
5. … I erected [an image of my majesty beside] the sea I wrote upon it I set it up overlooking the sea. From the country of Enzite to the country of Dayaeni , from the country of Dayaeni to
6. [the country of] … I possessed myself [of Arzashkun , the royal city of Ara]me, of the land of Ararat , I threw (it) down, dug (it) up and burnt (it) with fire. While I was staying in Arzashkun , Arame, of the country of Ararat , to the multitude of his forces
1. trusted and gathered all his troops to give combat and battle he came against me. I utterly defeated him I cut his fighting-men to pieces. I slew with weapons 3000 of his soldiers. With the bodies of his warriors
2. I filled the broad plain I took from him his engines of war, his royal treasures (and) numerous war-material. To save his life he ascended an inaccessible
( Adad , the Thunder God of many cultures, due to his alien weaponry)
mountain. Like Hadad ( Adad ) 2 I overthrew the widespread land of Qute .3 From the city of Arzashkun to the country of Guzan ,
( giant semi-divine king with 2 antelope below air gods in stormy sky-disc )
3. from the country of Guzan to the country of Khupushkia , like the stormy Air- god (thunder god Adad, Air-god Enlil ) I roared upon them. I displayed over the country of Ararat the splendor of my sovereignty. Akhuni the son of Adini , who, with the permission of the kings my fathers, power and strength
4. had acquired, (whom) at the beginning of my reign I had shut up in his city, whose crops I had gathered, whose plantations I had cut down, to save (his) life had crossed the Euphrates (and) the city of Shitamrat , a mountain-peak which hangs from the sky like a cloud, for
5. his stronghold had taken. For the second time1 I pursued after him the mountain-peak I besieged. My soldiers swooped upon them like birds of prey.2 I captured 17,500 of his troops. Akhuni with his troops, his gods, his chariots
6. (and) his horses, I caused to be brought before me I carried (them) to my city of Assur (named after alien god Ashur )[and settled them among the people of my own land.]
1. In the eponymy of Samas-bel-utsur,3 in the time of Merodach – sum-iddin the king of Babylonia ,4 Merodach-bel-usâte his brother revolted against him. They divided the country into (two) factions. Merodach-sum-iddin to ask help to Shalmaneser sent
2. his ambassador. Shalmaneser , the impetuous chief, whose trust is Adar ,5 took the road he gave the order to march against Akkad 6 I approached the city of Zaban 7 victims before Hadad ( Adad / Ishkur ) 8 my lord
3. I sacrificed. I departed from Zaban to the city of Mê-Turnat I approached9 the city I besieged, I captured his fighting-men I slew his spoil I carried away. From the city of Mê-Turnat I departed to the city of Gannanate 1
4. I approached. Merodach-bel-usâte , the lame king, ignorant how to conduct himself, came forth against me to offer combat and battle. I utterly defeated him his fighting-men I slew in his city I shut him up. His crops
5. I gathered in his plantations I cut his river I dammed up. In a second expedition, in the eponymy of Bel-bunâya,2 on the 10th day of the month Nisan, I departed from Nineveh . The Upper Zab
6. and the Lower ( Zab ) I crossed. To the city of Lakhiru I approached. The city I besieged, I captured. Its fighting-men I slew, its spoil I carried away. From the city of Lakhiru
1. I departed. To the city of Gan[na]nate I approached. Merodach-bel-usâte came forth like a fox from his hole towards the mountains of Yasubi he set his face. The city of Arman
2. he took for his stronghold. The city of Gannanate I captured its fighting-men I slew, its spoil I carried away. I ascended the mountains after him. In the city of Arman I shut him up the city I besieged, I took. His fighting-men
3. I slew, his spoil I carried away. I put Merodach-bel-usâte to death with weapons. Of the miserable soldiers who (were) with him not one did I leave. When Merodach-sum-iddin had conquered his enemies, [and] Shalmaneser
4. the powerful king had fulfilled the desire of his heart, he exalted thee, O great
( Marduk with 2 left hands, & his animal symbol Mushhushshu)
lord Merodach ( Marduk ) ! Shalmaneser the king of Assyria ordered the march to Babylon he arrived at Kutha ,3 the city of the warrior of the gods4
5. the exalted ones, (the city) of the Sun-god ( Utu ) of the south. At the gate of the temple he prostrated himself humbly, and presented his sacrifice he made offerings. He entered also into Babylon , the bond of heaven to earth (rivaling Enlil’s Nippur Command) , the seat of life1
(E-Sagil, Marduk’s ziggurat temple residence in Babylon)
6. he ascended also to Ê-Sagil ( Marduk ‘s temple residence in Babylon) , the palace2 of his gods as many as there are before Bel ( Enlil , or Marduk ) and Beltis (spouse Ninlil , or Sarpinat ) he was seen to pass and he directed their path. Their propitiatory sacrifices (and) pure offerings on Ê-Sagil
I. he lavished. He visited all the shrines3 in Ê-Sagil and Babylon : he presented his pure sacrifice. He took also the road to
(E-Zida, Nabu’s ziggurat residence & Tower of Babel in Borsippa)
2. Borsippa ,4 the city of the warrior of the [god]s,5 the angel (?) supreme. He entered also into Ê-Zida ( Nabu’s temple residence in Borsippa ) 6 … he prostrated himself before the temple of his immutable oracle, and in the presence of Nebo ( Nabu ) and Nana ( Nanaya )
3. the gods his lords he directed reverently his path. Strong oxen (and) fat sheep he gave in abundance. He visited all the shrines3 in Borsippa and Ê-Zida each time
4. he offered libations (?). For the men of Babylon and Borsippa , the vassals of the great gods, he made a feast, and gave them food (and) wine with embroidered robes he clothed (them) with presents
5. he endowed them. After that the great gods had favorably regarded Shalmaneser , the powerful king, the king of Assyria , had directed his face, had granted the desire (?) of his heart and strength, (and) had heard his prayers, I departed from Babylon [to] the country of Chaldæa 1
6. I descended. To the city of Baqâni , a fortress of Adini the son of Dakuri I approached. The city I besieged, I captured. His numerous soldiers I slew their rich spoil, their oxen (and) their sheep, I carried away. The city I threw down, dug up (and) burned with fire. From the city of Baqani I departed the Euphrates hard by it I crossed. The city of Enzudi ,
(the overwhelming terror of Marduk from the air)
7. the royal city of the aforesaid Adini , I approached. As for Adini the son of Dakuri , the terror of the glory of Merodach the great lord overwhelmed him , and I received from him … silver, gold, copper, lead, iron, muskanna wood, ivory, (and) elephants’ skin. While I was staying [on the shores] of the sea,2 the tribute of Yakin the king of the maritime country
8. and of Musallim-Merodach the son of Amukkani, silver, gold, lead, copper, [iron], muskanna wood, [ivory, and] elephants’ skin, I received.
74:1 See Records of the Past, new series, p. 149, note 6.
75:2 [Rather Nerra the demon of pestilence. See my Lectures on the Religion of the Babylonians , pp. 195, 311–314.— Ed. ]
75:3 [Also called Gutium. It was the district which lay to the east of Assyria , and in early Chaldean geography included Assyria itself. Here, however, the term is extended so as to include not only Kurdistan, but also the district between Assyria and Lake Van.— Ed. ]
76:2 [More exactly “vultures.” The zu or “vulture” was the symbol of the god of “the storm-cloud” who was believed to have stolen the laws and attributes of Bel (“ older” Bel is Enlil ) for the benefit of mankind, and to have been punished for the theft by transformation into a vulture. See my Lectures on the Religion of the Babylonians , pp. 293–299.— Ed. ]
76:7 On the southern bank of the Lower Zab.
76:9 “The waters of the Turnat” or Tornadotos, the modern Diyaleh.
77:3 Fow Tel Ibrahim . Men from Kutha were brought to Samaria by Sargon , 2 Kings xvii. 24, 30.
78:1 [This is a play on the Accadian names of the two cities which constituted the later Babylon , Ka-Dimirra, “the gate of God,” sometimes misinterpreted “the gate of the gods,” and Din-Tir, which by a false etymology was mistranslated “seat of life.”— Ed. ]
78:2 Compare Is. vi. 1, where the heavens are called a “palace” filled by the train of the Lord.
78:3 Bit-ili or “Beth-els .”
78:4 Here written Dur-’Siabba “the fort of ’Siabba.”
78:6 [ Ê-Zida , “the immutable house,” was the name of the sanctuary of Nebo at Borsippa, as E-Sagil, “the house of the high head,” was that of the sanctuary of Merodach ( Marduk ) at Babylon . Both names had come down from the pre-Semitic age.— Ed. ]
Chariot, Balawat Gate - History
Narrative art is art that tells a story, either as a moment in an ongoing story or as a sequence of events unfolding over time. Some of the earliest evidence of human art suggests that people told stories with pictures.
Narrative Art tells a story. It uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations. What distinguishes Narrative Art from other genres is its ability to narrate a story across diverse cultures, preserving it for future generations.
Among the vehicles of narrative are articulated language, pictures, still or moving, gestures, and an ordered mixture of all those substances narrative is present in myth, legend, fables, tales, short stories, epics, history, tragedy, comedy, pantomime, paintings, stained-glass windows, movies, local news, conversation. Moreover, in this infinite variety of forms, it is present at all times, in all places, in all societies indeed narrative starts with the very history of mankind there is not, there has never been anywhere, any people without narrative.
Although there are some common features to all narrative art, different cultures have developed idiosyncratic ways to discern narrative action from pictures. Prior to the advent of literacy most narrative art was done in a simultaneous narrative style with very little overarching organization. Once literacy developed in different parts of the world pictures began to be organized along register lines, like lines on a page, that helped define the direction of the narrative. This method of linking scenes together led to other ways of telling stories in the 20th century, namely the newspaper, comic strips and comic books.
In painting in traditional Western art since the Renaissance, the concept of history painting covers most narrative scenes.
The Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms defines “Narrative Art” as: Art which illustrates or tells a story. It usually describes self-explanatory events from daily life or those drawn from a text, well-known folk tale or myth. Some of the stories told in paint are rather straightforward, easily read by most viewers: simple pictures. Others convey content through more obscure symbols, using details freighted with personal, often cryptic meaning—complex images that perhaps reflect the complex circumstances of their creation. But all suggest a basic and enduring fascination with a story well told, with a tale well painted.
Narrative art history
The term “Narrative Art” first appeared in the mid-1960s. In previous decades, what was to be described later as “Narrative Art” was referred to by individual categories such as “history” or “genre” painting. The umbrella term of “Narrative Art” can apply to any time period and any form of visual narrative, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, performance and installation art. It is thought that the most popular forms of visual narrative today are painting and video art, with performance and installation art the runners-up.
Though it requires sophisticated conventions to make the narrative clear, narrative art occurs very early in the history of art. A number of reliefs in the European Bronze Age Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin show monscenic narratives of hunting or battle, the former sometimes indicating the movements of hunter or prey with indications of their tracks in a way similar to modern diagrammatic illustrations. One of the earliest works of Ancient Egyptian art is the Narmer Palette relief in the Louvre Museum, which shows a victory of King Narmer (c. 31st century BC) in several scenes.
Narrative art was employed extensively in the Neo-Assyrian Period. Most significantly, the walls of the major Assyrian royal palaces (the Northwest Palace of Assurnasirpal II at Nimrud, the Central Palace of Tiglath-Pileser III at Nimrud, the Palace of Sargon II at Khorsabad, the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, and the North Palace of Assurbanipal at Nineveh) were lined orthostats sculpted in low relief with scenes depicting the activitives of the king (hunting, battle, and ritual). Sometimes, scenes were also depicted on glazed bricks or wall paintings (e.g. at Til Barsip). Bronze bands decorating the doors of Assyrian temples and palaces were also sometimes decorated with scenes of the king’s activities in narrative style. The most famous of these are the “Balawat Gates” commissioned by Shalmaneser III for his palace at Balawat (ancient Imgur-Enlil) additional fragmentary bronze gate bands dating to Assurnasirpal II have been found at Balawat, and very poorly preserved fragments from other sites, such as Khorsabad, Nimrud, Assur, and Tell Hadad.
The lives of Jesus and Buddha, the founders of new religions, their followers, and in the case of Buddha also the former lives, were to provide new subject-matter for narrative art, as did elements of older religions such as the Labours of Hercules. Trajan’s Column is an exceptional example of Imperial Roman narrative art. In Christian art the Life of Christ in art and Life of the Virgin supplied the most common subjects, based around the incidents celebrated in the major feasts of the church calendar, but the lives of saints gave many others.
Book illustrations are found from ancient times in several cultures, and are very often narrative in nature. There appear to have been some lavishly illustrated books in Western Late Antiquity, no doubt belonging to wealthy collectors, including both classic literary texts (Vergilius Vaticanus and Vergilius Romanus) and biblical texts the Quedlinburg Itala fragment seems to have had between two and four images facing every text page, and to have been more densely illustrated than any subsequent biblical text in an illuminated manuscript.
Examples of Narrative Art can be seen very early in the history of art. A number of reliefs in the European Bronze Age rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin show narratives of hunting or battle, and Narrative Art is also evident in Egyptian tomb paintings. Greek vase paintings from the 6th century BCE also display narratives that describe both mythological and actual events.
Narrative art genres:
Narrative art is as old as humanity. Some of the oldest examples of art tell the stories of heroes, gods, rulers and legends of times past. Storytelling is central to the history of visual art across nearly every culture and time period in human history.
Narrative Art can also be seen in “History painting”—defined as painting consisting of subject matter drawn from classical history, poetry and religion. Scholars believe that the use of the word “history” to denote narrative painting almost certainly goes back to the influential 15th-century humanist Leon Battista Alberti, and it is at this time that narrative painting first acquired its status as the preeminent mode of expression. In his treatise on painting, De Pictura, Alberti wrote, “The great work of the painter is the narrative.” From the Renaissance to the 19th century, history painting was regarded by academics as the highest, most worthwhile kind of painting.
History paintings were traditionally regarded as the highest form of Western painting, occupying the most prestigious place in the hierarchy of genres, and considered the equivalent to the epic in literature. Multi-figure history painting was the noblest form of art, as being the most difficult, which required mastery of all the others, because it was a visual form of history, and because it had the greatest potential to move the viewer. He placed emphasis on the ability to depict the interactions between the figures by gesture and expression.
“Genre painting”—defined as painting which portrays scenes from daily life, usually having a narrative quality and often making a moral point—is another important type of Narrative Art. This subject matter was first used by Dutch 17th-century artists, including Jan Vermeer, and much later by 20th-century artists, including Norman Rockwell.
As one art scholar pointed out, genre paintings of the 19th century are “not really scenes of daily life at all, but scenes of a devoutly desired daily life that existed among all those who cherished and created genre paintings.” Regardless of their basis in reality or fantasy, genre scenes were much admired and appreciated in the mid-1800s.
When Modern Art came into vogue, painting and sculpture with a narrative quality fell swiftly out of favor. In fact, Narrative Art was disparaged as tired, outdated and passé. In the 1940s, the New York School of art valued a more liberated, abstract take on artistic expression, and the movement rejected and rebelled against familiar narrative themes involving history, religion and literature, branding this work mediocre and unimaginative.
By the late decades of the 20th century, a changing cultural climate brought renewed appreciation for realism and storytelling through art, paving the way for Narrative Art’s resurgence to critical commendation. Although Abstract Expressionism had been favored by critics and art connoisseurs, Narrative Art’s popularity with the general public never wavered, pointing to its ability to cross cultural and social boundaries in its plainspoken, genuine style.
Narrative art types:
Narratives occur in a space and unfold in time. In narrative art, the artist chooses how to portray the story, represent the space, and how to shape time within the artwork. Narrative art can be categorized into various types, also known as modes or styles. A piece of artwork is not limited to only one type of narrative. An artwork may have a narrative type as a whole, as well as portions of the artwork itself that depict separate types of narratives. Several of these types are covered below. A depicted action in itself can suggest a scene or setting:
You can imagine the Trojan War taking place at Troy without having to depict the actual city of Troy. You can show Achilles dragging Hector’s body around the city of Troy without having to depict the walls of the city. Nonetheless, the idea that each action is limited to a specific place can still pertain, because the Trojan War did take place at Troy and Achilles did drag Hector’s body around the city.
A simultaneous narrative is a type of narrative that has very little visually discernible organization to those who are not acquainted with its purpose. It can focus on geometric or abstract designs as well as the placement or arrangement of items within the artwork. Simultaneous narratives concentrate on repeatable patterns and redundant systems with a focus on dualities. The interpretation of a simultaneous narrative is dependent on the reason for its creation or its creator because this would convey who would be able to interpret it as it was meant to be.
This type of narrative is common in cultures that are oral in nature rather than literate. This is because simultaneous narratives require human agency in order to be understood as originally intended. This is common in illiterate societies because of a lack of ways to transpire information from one generation to another without a written language. Thus simple patterns and dualities are used because they can be easily remembered and referenced to by those for whom the piece of art is meant.
A monoscenic narrative is a type of narrative that represents a single scene. There is no repetition of characters and there is only one action taking place. The scene is one that is easily identifiable in context of the narrative and is of significant importance.
Under this definition, most art that is usually not considered a narrative would fit under the monoscenic narrative type. Narrative art is art that tells a story, either as a moment in an ongoing story or as a sequence of events unfolding over time. This in retrospect makes a good portion of art narrative art. Landscapes and portraits however do not meet the criteria of the definition provided, though they might be, depending on the artist’s intention.
Exekias was an ancient Greek vase-painter and potter. A good portion of his vase work included scenes from Greek mythology. He was known for his ability to capture the most critical points of a story and illustrate them into one simple scene. The amphora portraying Achilles killing Penthesilea is such an example.
This monoscenic narrative illustrated on this amphora exemplifies a vital part of the Trojan saga. It is the moment in which Achilles and Penthesilea fall in love. In the heat of battle, Achilles battles Penthesilea and with a fatal blow, causes her helmet to be pushed back. When their eyes meet, it is said that they fall in love. This is ruined by Achilles’ inability to control his bloodlust. Due to this tragedy, Achilles refuses to fight and from this many consequences arise that eventually could be linked to his demise.
British art tradition
A line of development of narrative art begins with William Hogarth, the English painter. His monoscenic depictions of crucial moments in a narrative were taken up in the 19th century by other British painters. The Victorian terms applied to this style were “subject painting” or “anecdotic” painting.
A continuous narrative is a type of narrative that illustrates multiple scenes of a narrative within a single frame. Multiple actions and scenes are portrayed in a single visual field without any dividers. The sequence of events within the narrative is defined through the reuse of the main character or characters. It emphasizes the change in movement and state of the repeating characters as indicators of scene or phase changes in the narrative.
Column of Trajan
The Column of Trajan depicts one event: the Dacian Wars. This continuous narrative can be broken down into a series of events. These events flow from one scene to another without any physical indicators such as vertical lines. Because of how the narrative is read, from standing in front of the column, it seems to ebb right to left and then left to right which is common in continuous narratives.
The narrative becomes rather hard to read as the column gets higher. Research suggests that the column was originally planned to be read while walking a circular staircase around the column itself . The story then would not ebb and continue on in a sequential manner.
The ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ (a misnomer as it is really an embroidery not a tapestry) tells the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The theme of the Bayeux Tapestry is treason and deception. The narrative reflects a partisan Norman view of the events of the conquest of England. Though the tapestry seems to be framed because it is separated by registers, horizontal lines, it is still a continuous narrative. Registers are needed in order to separate a story to fit within a certain area. If cut up and placed next to each other, a continuous narrative would exist. A continuous narrative does not have any separation between scenes and actions.
A synoptic narrative depicts a single scene in which a character or characters are portrayed multiple times within a frame to convey that multiple actions are taking place. This causes the sequence of events to be unclear within the narrative. Synoptic narratives typically provide visual cues that convey the sequence, but still might be difficult to decipher for those unfamiliar with the story.
Chaddanta Jataja, Amaravati
An instance of a synoptic narrative is one represented in a medallion from the stupa at Amaravati. It, like many synoptic narratives, can be difficult to interpret. The medallion is meant to present the reader with the story of Buddha’s previous birth as the elephant Chaddanta. The center of the medallion has only decorative carving, which is a visual cue on how the medallion is meant to be interpreted which is in a circular pattern. Other than that subtle visual cue the artist leaves very little indication of the order.
A panoramic narrative is a narrative that depicts multiple scenes and actions without the repetition of characters. Actions may be in a sequence or represent simultaneous actions during an event.
Siphnian Treasury North Frieze
The Siphnian Treasury at Delphi has four marble friezes, one for each cardinal direction. These four friezes depict panoramic narratives through the use of carvings of the marble. The north frieze is an illustration of a battle between the Olympic gods and the giants. In the far left two giants attack Zeus in his chariot, who is no longer visible due to deterioration. Hera is seen finishing off a giant to the right of Zeus with Athena behind her (further right) fighting two giants. To the right of Athena is her brother Ares who is fighting two other giants with one already dead at his feet. There are multiple narratives taking place with each combatant in varying scenes. The dead giant at Ares’ feet was downed by Athena but Ares is depicted as moving forward in the narrative by stepping over the corpse.
A progressive narrative portrays a single scene in which characters do not repeat. However, multiple actions are taking place in order to convey a passing of time in the narrative. A progressive narrative is not to be interpreted as a group of simultaneous events but rather a sequence that is dependent on its location. Actions displayed by characters in the narratives compact present and future action into a single image.
A sequential narrative is very much like a continuous narrative with one major difference. A sequential narrative focuses on enframement to develop temporal progression. Each scene and action is represented within its frame as a unit. Each frame is a particular scene during a particular moment. A sequential narrative is the type of narrative generally used in comics and manga.
The Gates of Rome
To get a good overview of what the gates of Rome this website of maquettes by André Caron of Québec, Canada gives an excellent visual idea of how they once appeared. His models of ancient Rome are wonderful. This is the website.
The Porta Salaria
I’ll begin the tour of the Gates of Rome with one of the most famous entrances, the Porta Salaria built along the Quirinale Hill, the northern fortifications of Rome on the via Salaria, the salt road that connected the city to the Adriatic Sea. Salt was a major commodity used for everything from spice to preservation of foods.
The Gate doesn’t exist any longer, but this was where Alaric and the Visigoths breached the wall on August 24, 410. This event has erroneously been called the Fall of Rome. It’s not the case. The Western Roman Empire continued until 476. The Eastern Roman empire continued until 1453.
Porta Salaria replaced the ancient Porta Collina built by Servius Tillius in the earlier Servian Wall. In the 4th century it was known as the Porta Sancti Silvestri, named after the Pope Sylvester I who was buried in the Catacombs of Priscilla, about 3km from here. Sylvester was the Bishop of Rome from 314-335. According to legend he cured the Emperor Constantine of leprosy by baptising him. However, this is a legend. Most believe Constantine was never baptised.
Sack of Rome 410 – Joseph Noel Sylvestre-1890
Porta Salaria was finally dismantled in 1921 and replaced with the Piazza Fiume, a small square honoring the Italian soldiers who fought and died during World War I in the Battle of the Piave River and the victory of Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia).
After Alaric and the Visigoths came through Porta Salaria in the year 410 they looted the city for 3 days, taking gold, silver and gems. They broke into the Mausoleums of Augustus and Hadrian and stole the funerary jars, spilling to the ground the ash remains of 3 centuries of Rome’s greatest families. Romans were tortured into revealing the whereabouts of their wealth.
Porta Salaria did indeed fall to Alaric and his army but many believe the Gate was actually opened to them by some disgruntled Roman slaves. The city’s food supply was cut off and although the wealthy still had enough, the poor were starving.
Favorites of Honorius – John William Waterhouse – 1883
The Emperor Honorius (reign 393-423) goes down as one of the worst Emperors in Roman history. He wasn’t even in Rome when it was sacked. Honorius was in Ravenna at the time Alaric entered the Porta Salaria. Ravenna the Governing Capital of the empire since 402.
According to the historian Procopius, one of the royal eunuchs, the poultry tender, informed the Emperor that Roma had perished. Honorius cried out that it had just eaten out of his hands. When the eunuch explained that the city of Rome had fallen and not the Emperor’s pet chicken, Honorius was greatly relieved.
Genseric Sacking Rome – Karl Briullov 1836
In 455, Pope Leo I opened the Gates to Genseric and the Vandals in order to reduce the amount of destruction to the city. The Gates were spared but the city was so completely looted of all riches, it gave rise to the word vandalism.
It’s not clear which gates were opened to the Vandals but it would most likely have been Porta Salaria or one of the northern gates.
The Salaria Gate was damaged during the Gothic Wars (535-554). It held against the siege weapons of the 536 Ostrogoth attack but the damage was great. It was rebuilt by Belisarius in 547 after the Byzantine Army routed the Ostrogoths out of Rome.
In 1870, the gate was blown up by the Army of the Italian Unification. It was rebuilt in 1873 but finally torn down in 1921. Rome’s affair with the Porta Salaria had reached the end of the line. It was replaced with the Piazza Fiume, honoring the Italian soldiers who fought and died during world War I in the Battle of the Piave River and the victory of Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia).
The Porta Pia
In 1559, Pope Pius IV (Medici) was elected as the leader of the Catholic Church. Among his civic improvements in the city, he commissioned the new Porta Pia, a gate equidistant between the Porta Salaria and the Porta Nomentana. After it’s completion in 1564, the Porta Nomentana was closed. Today there is nothing left of Porta Nomentana. You can barely make out one of the towers of the old gate as a part of the foundation in the British Embassy of Rome on via Nomentana.
The design and execution of the gate in 1561 went to the then 86 year old Michelangelo Buonarroti. There is a story that the Pope received three designs for the Gate and chose the least costly version.
Michelangelo died in February of 1564, three years after he started working on the Porta Pia. By the time the gate was completed in 1565, much of the original design was altered.
The outer gate was added in 1868 as a defense against the Italian Unification army but on the 20 th of September 1870 the Porta Pia fell to the Risorgamento, the rise of the new Italy. The Vatican was the last hold out to Italy’s Unification.
Bersagliere take Porta Pia – Michele Cammarano
For Italian patriotism, the 20 th of September marks the anniversary of the breach of the Porta Pia. The road leading to the gate is called the via 20 Settembre in honor of the date.
The walls and the Gate were defended by barely 13,157 soldiers against the fast moving sharp shooting Bersagliere Infantry, the Pride of Piemonte. Together with the rest of the Italian Unification Army, they amassed over 50,000.
The fight at this point was merely symbolic. Pope Pius IX (Mastatai-Ferretti) wanted a show of resistance just to establish the historical point that the city was not handed over to the new government. It took 3 hours of canon fire to break through the wall. There were 68 casualties 49 soldiers from the Italian Unification Army and 19 from the Papal guards.
The Bersagliere Museum inside the Porta Pia is a curious couple of rooms filled with costumes, dioramas, photos and written memories of the September 20 th victory. There is also an interesting scale model of the famous battle.
In 1926, Porta Pia was the site of another historic event when the Italian anarchist Gino Lucetti, threw a bomb against the car carrying Il Duce, Benito Mussolini. The bomb failed to detonate. Lucenti was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He died in the prison on the island of Ischia in a 1943 allied air raid.
Recently the remains of what many consider to be the Campus Sceleratus (the evil fields) were dug along the via 20 settembre, near the Porta Pia. Campus Sceleratus was where Vestal Virgins who broke the vow of chastity were buried alive.
The Porta Tiburtina
From the Porta Pia walk towards the Castro Pretorio Metro station and follow Viale Castro Pretorio to the Porta Tiburtina. You can see the remains of the Porta Praenestina on via Monzambano just off the Viale Castro Praetorio. This was a gate along with the Porta Clausa and Porta Principalis Dextra were primarily used for military access to the Castro Pretorio, the Praetorian camp set up by the Emperor Tiberius in the 1st century. Constantine disbanded the Praetorian guards in the 4th century.
Porta Tiburtina on the via Tiburtina (very close to the Termini Train Station) is one of the oldest gates in the city. The gate started out as a 1st century BC arch built by Augustus to handle the confluence of three aqueducts Aqua Marcia, Aqua Julia and Aqua Tepula. The Arch was restored several times in the 1 st and 2 nd centuries as testified by the dedications still visible over the arch. In the 3rd century it was incorporated into Aurelian’s wall in the 3 rd century.
This photo is of the gate from the inside of the wall. It is the better side for photographs. The exterior entrance to the gate is the more important side but it is obscured by a protective iron gate.
However, even if you can’t get a good photo, you can see the ancient majesty of this 1st century BC arch. The top channel for the Aqua Julia is dedicated to Augustus. The dedication lists the accomplishments of Augustus (Pontifex Maximus, Council for the 12 th time, Tribune for the Plebs for the 19 th time, imperator for the 13 th time) and how he restored the channels of all the aqueducts in 5 BC.
The middle channel for the Aqua Tepula (from 212) is dedicated to Emperor Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus). Caracalla claims, after his many titles, to have repaired the Aqua Tepula by cleaning the source and cutting through mountains to bring the new Aqua renamed Antoniniana, after himself, of course.
The 3 rd and lowest channel for the Aqua Marcia (from 79) is dedicated to the Emperor Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian. Titus lists all his political achievements and claims the restoration of the Aqua Marcia after it was destroyed by time and restored back to good use.
It is often called the Porta San Lorenzo because of its proximity to the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura (St Lawrence Outside the Walls). Yes, this is the Basilica that purports to contain the tomb, the relics and the iron grill that caused the death of Saint Lawrence in the year 258.
Many people also refer to the gate as Capo di’ Bove or Porta Taurina because the Augustan arch in the center of the gate is decorated with bull skulls wearing garlands, a decorative motif known as a bucranium, a reference to blessing of sacrifice. The bull skull motif was brought back as a decorative motif by Andrea Palladio in the 16 th century.
One last note about the Porta Tiburtina. This is the site where in 1347 the populist leader Cola di Rienzo won his biggest victory against the wealthy Barons of Rome.
This was the first populist revolt in Rome in over 1400 years. Another wouldn’t come to the city until 1922 when Mussolini’s Black Shirts marched on Rome.
Cola di Rienzo was run out of Rome soon after the fight at the Porta Tiburtina. He came back in 1354 but the same mob he once led against the wealthy class turned on him and killed him as he tried to escape.
From the Piazza di Porta San Lorenzo, walk through the train station to the other side and turn left down via Giovanni Giolitti, past the ancient Tempio di Minerva Medica and into the Piazza di Porta Maggiore.
Porta Praenestina (now called Porta Maggiore) was built in the year 52 by the Emperor Claudius as an Aqueduct arch. This is not only the best preserved 1st century city gate but also a great example of how the aqueducts were integrated into the city walls.
Two sources of water, the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus both ran through this arch. The arch and the Aqueduct system was fortified in 271 and incorporated into the Aurelian Wall fortifications.
The columns holding up the pediments between the arches look eroded by time, but according to Yale Art Historian Diana E. E. Kleiner they were created this way back in the 1st century as a design choice by Claudius. It was kind of modern art of the 1st century.
Over the years the arch was restored by Emperor Vespasian and then his son, Emperor Titus. The Latin inscriptions on the attic are dedications by Claudius, Vespasian and Titus on how they built and repaired the arch, paying all expenses with their own money.
In 52 AD, the inscription tells how Claudius, at his own expense, brought the Aqua Claudia from the Caeruleus and Curtius springs. In 71 AD, Vespasian adds that he too, at his own expense, restored the confluence of the Aqueducts that had fallen to disrepair for nine years. In 81 AD, the Emperor Titus added, also at his own expense, that he further repaired and restored the structure that was built by Claudius and repaired by his father Vespasian.
Behind Porta Maggiore is the Tomb of the Baker, the burial tomb of Marcus Virgilius Eurysaces , a former slave who became a freeman and then a very wealthy baker. He built the tomb for himself and his wife, Atistia sometime between 50BC and 20BC. Even though it sits next to the Porta Maggiore, it predates the arch by close to 100 years. This (along with the Pyramid of Cestius at Porta San Paolo) is one of the best preserved funerary monuments of ancient Rome.
When it was built, the Tomb of the Baker sat a fairly good distance outside of the Servian Wall. When Aurelian incorporated the Arch of Claudius and the confluence of aqueducts into his new Porta Maggiore, the Tomb of the Baker remained outside the gate, but just barely.
From Piazza Maggiore, head down the via Eleniana to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The Basilica was built on the location of the Praetorian Guards since the time of Emperor Tiberius in the 1st century. When Constantine disbanded the Praetorians in the 4th century he claimed the site for his Villa where he lived with his mother, Helen.
Follow the road past the Basilica and take a left turn on the via Nola. You’ll see the remains of the ancient Castrense Amphitheater . It was the second largest amphitheater (next to the coliseum) in Rome. These days it’s mostly used as a garden for the Basilica.
If you walk along the Viale Castrense near Santa Croce in Gerusalemme you can still see the curve of the large amphitheater.
Follow the Viale Castrense and in less than 10 minutes you’ll arrive to the Porta Asinaria and the Porta San Giovanni.
The Porta Asinaria (Gate of the Donkeys) was actually a minor gate in the fortifications.
The original gate was just a small opening used by farmers on donkeys coming into the city.
The twin towers that flank the gate were added in the 5 th century when the Basilica of St John in Lateran became the Papal seat of Rome in the 4 th century.
This minor gate has played an important role in some of the great shakeups of Rome’s history.
This was the Gate where, in 536, General Flavius Belisarius entered an exhausted and badly beaten Rome.
The Gothic wars of 535-554 was the longest onslaught against the fortifications of Rome.
Sack of Rome – Evariste Vital Luminais 19th century
In 537, Vitiges and the Ostrogoths destroyed many of the aqueducts leading into Rome, removing most of the city’s water supply. The forces of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I under the command of Belisarius held the city from the attacking Goths, but on December 17, 546, while Belisarius was fighting the Goths outside the walls, Totila and his army of Ostrogoths came through the Porta Asinaria.
As in the 410 breach of the Porta Salaria, some disloyal and disgruntled Roman soldiers opened the gate for Totila. The city was sacked and plundered until the reinforcements of Byzantine troops arrived and put them on the run.
Henry IV drives Pope Gregory VII from Rome
In June of 1083, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV came through this gate when he removed Pope Gregory VII and set himself up in the Papal quarters of the Basilica of St John in Lateran. After Pope Gregory VII excommunicated Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor responded by proclaiming Clement III as the new Pope.
In May 1084, the Norman, Robert Guiscard (known as the Weasel) came through the Asinaria Gate with 36,000 Norman troops and defeated Henry IV, rescuing Pope Gregory VII and sacking the city, just because he could. Pope Gregory accompanied Robert Guiscard south to Salerno. Both Guiscard and Pope Gregory died a year later, 2 months apart.
In 1574,Pope Gregory XIII closed the Porta Asinaria when he inaugurated the brand new Porta San Giovanni, the glorious new entrance to the Basilica of St John in Lateran.
Porta Asinaria was left to decay over the years until the restoration of the 1950’s. It was restored again in 2004. The Donkey Gate is now one of the prettiest gates in Rome.
Porta San Giovanni
In the late 16 th century, Pope Gregory XIII had some of the best architects in the world in Rome. Civic architectural renewal was popular with the Popes of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The credit for the Porta San Giovanni usually goes to Giacomo della Porta, although some argue it was actually Giacomo del Duca, an architect who collaborated with Michelangelo on the Porta Pia in 1561.
Porta San Giovanni commands some of the worst auto traffic in the city. Pope Gregory XIII was right, the Porta Asinaria could have never handled this kind of traffic.
The most wonderful anecdote about the Porta San Giovanni surrounds its festival known as “The nights of San Giovanni”. It’s the Summer Solstice festival, the victory of light over darkness, or good over evil. The Festival of St John (San Giovanni) is on June 24 th . The night before the festival is also known as La notte delle Streghe (the Witch’s night), similar to Halloween.
According to the believers, on this night, the earth is filled with strange magic powers. Herbs picked on this night have super powers. Washing your face with dandelion leaves picked on this night could cure ailments, rubbing freshly picked mint on your body could enable true love, lying down in the dew of the grass could ensure pregnancy, St John’s Wort rubbed on the body could prevent misfortune, eating zucchini flowers on this night brings good luck and countless herbs and roots picked on this night would be the ultimate talisman to protect against evil.
It’s been said that the ghost of Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas, who convinced her husband to decapitate John the Baptist (St John) would haunt the gate every year on the night of June 23 rd . Some have even witnessed the ghostly shape of Salomé dancing by the gate.
At one time Romans would light bondfires by the gate to scare her away. These days there is just a candle lit procession, sometimes led by the Pope.
Snail vendors in front of the Basilica San Giovanni
Another Roman tradition by the Porta San Giovanni is the “Salita degli Spiriti” where the Romans would gather for the tradition of eating stewed slugs. Snail vendors set up their booth in front of the Basilica of San Giovanni.
The explanation is that the horns of the slugs represented conflict, antagonism and hatred. By eating them, the person would consume and digest all the resentment, cleaning themselves of all hostility. Enemies would become friends after a good bowl of stewed snails.
South of Porta San Giovanni is the Porta Metronia, a Gate was not well fortified and consequently bricked up during the Middle Ages. As traffic in Rome became more congested, the Gate was completely removed and replaced with 4 large arches over the streets leading in and out of the Piazzale Metronia.
If you visit the Servian Gate now known as the Arco di Dolabella, it’s a 5 minute walk down the via Della Navicella. Stop in the Church of Santa Maria in Domnica alla Navicella. It one of the best Byzantine Churches in Rome. Then walk a few minutes more and you’ll be in Piazzale Metronia.
The walk along the wall from Porta Metronia to Porta Latina is along a peaceful park filled with families and joggers. The park was once the ancient Pomerium, a sacred space inside the wall protected by gods, demons and other supernatural powers. It was forbidden to build structures or carry weapons in the Pomerium.
Legend states that Remus was killed by his brother Romulus for carrying weapons through the Pomerium.
These days, the laws of the Pomerium along the Aurelian Wall are still maintained. There are no dwellings, no buildings and no weapons. There is a sign posted explaining to all visitors that they are entering a sacred Pomerium.
Moving south, we come to the Porta Latina, the Gate that led to the Basilica of San Giovanni a Porta Latina.
According to the early Christian historian, Tertulian, the Porta Latina is where St John the Evangelist survived his martyrdom of being boiled in oil in the year 92.
Not wanting to give the Romans another try, John packed up and moved to the island of Patmos. It was on the island where he created the Book of Revelation, commonly known as the Book of the Apocalypse. In John’s telling, the world is destroyed by the Whore of Babylon riding a seven headed beast signaling the second coming of Jesus.
Although many modern day Christian Fundamentalists believe the Apocalypse is imminent, for John the Evangelist, it actually happened.
John was born in the year 15. He witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem in 66. He lived through the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79. It’s quite understandable how he thought the world was coming to an end. It is understandable how he thought the Whore of Babylon was Rome itself. It might have also had something to do with the food, wine and herbs he was consuming on the island of Patmos.
The 16 th century Chapel of San Giovanni in Oleo (St John in Oil) behind the Porta Latina, is the commemoration of the event. It’s an unassuming small chapel and no-one is really sure who designed it but credit has been given to some of the best architects of the day Donato Bramante, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Baldassare Peruzzi.
Like the rest of the wall, the height of the gate wall and towers were doubled at the beginning of the 5 th century, However, the gate itself was actually lowered to accommodate a sliding armored door, a new feature at the time.
From the Porta Latina, turn right and follow the Wall along the Viale delle Mura Latine. In about 6 minutes, you’ll arrive to the Porta San Sebastiano.
Porta San Sebastiano
Porta San Sebastiano is the largest of the Aurelian gates and the only gate that allows you inside, up to the towers and along the walls. It’s amazing, it’s free and by the way, it’s closed on Mondays.
In 2001, when a 40’ section of the wall collapsed, the entire 1,320’ walk along the San Sebastiano walls were closed to the public.
In 2006 it all reopened and the views are incredible. The rest of the museum includes photos and explanations of how the walls were built and restored.
The ancient looking mosaics on the floor inside the Porta San Sebastiano are from the 20 th century.
They were added around 1940 when Ettore Muti, hero Aviator of World War I, notorious womanizer and one time Secretary of the Fascist Party used the Porta San Sebastiano as his personal villa.
By 1942, Muti’s relationship with Mussolini deteriorated and on August 24 th , 1943 a group of policemen came into his villa and arrested him. He was taken into a forest and executed.
Originally named Porta Appia, the gate opened onto the via Appia Antica, one of the 1st of the great ancient Roman highways.
The name of the gate was changed to Porta San Sebastiano during the Middle Ages, a tie in to the Catacombs dedicated to Saint Sebastian a couple kilometers down the Appian Way.
The Porta San Sebastiano still opens out to the Via Appia Antica, the Queen of Roads that was once filled with funerary monuments and glorious villas. These massive remains still decorate the road. It’s a great walk, especially on Sundays when much of the via Appia Antica is closed to traffic.
On the exterior right side of the San Sebastiano Gate is a carving of Saint Michael, etched in 1327 as a commemoration of the Colonna family’s victorious Ghibelline army against the Guelph armies of King Robert of Anjou (King of Naples) and Rome’s Orsini family, both loyal to the Pope John XXII of Avignon.
Ghibellines were loyal followers of the Holy Roman Emperor. Guelphs were loyal to the Pope. Wars between these two political factions lasted from the 11 th through the 14 th centuries.
It was basically an age old rivalry between the Houses of Bavaria and Swabia. The Guelphs (from Bavarian Welfs) were wealthy merchant families in larger cities. The Ghibellines (from the Waiblingen, the ancestral home of the Hohenstraufen Swabians) were mostly land owners near smaller cities.
Things got even more confusing when the seat of the Papacy moved from Rome to Avignon, France between 1309 and 1377.
San Sebastiano’s Gate was redesigned in 1536 by Antonio da Sangallo the younger as a Tribute Gate for the visit of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, the same Emperor who was responsible for the 1527 Sack of the City, the worst destruction in the entire history of Rome. In 1536 a greatly embarrassed Charles V came to Rome in an attempt to smooth things over with the Vatican.
Triumph of Marcantonio Colonna 1571
The San Sebastiano Gate was spruced up again for the December 4, 1571 triumphal procession of Marcantonio Colonna, the hero of the Battle of Lepanto in the Gulf Of Corinth against the Ottoman Turks. This was the first major naval defeat of the Ottomans. The Vatican League was mostly sponsored by Spain and consequently the Spanish Admiral don Juan of Austria. However, home in Rome the victory was celebrated for home boy Marcantonio Colonna. When he returned home, Pope Gregory XIII (Boncompagni), the namesake of the Gregorian Calendar, gave Colonna the title of Captain General of the Papal armed guards.
It was a traditional Roman Tribute that included 170 chained Turkish prisoners in tow. This was the last traditional Roman Triumph that included prisoners in chains.
Just inside the gate is a much older arch known as the ‘Arch of Drusus’, named for Nero Claudius Drusus, brother of the Emperor Tiberius and second son of Livia Drusilla, the wife of Emperor Augustus.
Drusus took the title of Germanicus after conquering the German tribes north of the Rhine. In a true moment of historical irony, the victorious Drusus Germanicus fell off his horse while subjugating the conquered Germans and died shortly after.
It seems appropriate that Drusus Germanicus would have a triumph in Rome after his great victory, but most historians believe the Arch is actually part of the 2 nd century Aqua Marcia built by the Emperor Caracalla to bring in more water to his baths a short walk down the road.
Close to the Porta San Sebastiano (and the Porta Latina) are two of the best examples of early burial tombs in Rome. The 4 th century BC Tombs of the Scipio Family and the Columbarium of Pomponio Hylas are off the tourist trail but they are very easy to get to. You can buy your tickets (5 euros) from inside the Museo delle Mura inside of the Porta San Sebastiano.
The Tombs of the Scipioni are famous for one of the greatest Roman Generals of all time, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, who defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama and consequently won the 2 nd Punic War for Rome against Carthage. However, Scipio Africanus was never buried here, nor was his adopted grandson, Scipio Aemilianus, the victorious General of the 3 rd and last war with Carthage.
The actual sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus, who died in 306 BC, is in the Vatican. The one on display in the Tomb is a very good copy.
The columbarium underground burial vault is from the 3 rd century BC. It is a small quadrangular room dug into the soft tufa stone filled with alcoves for funerary urns. In the center there is a large circular pillar, also used for funerary urns of Scipio family members.
A little further down the road is the Parco degli Scipioni, a small park with a few swings for children, a walk for dogs and strange looking shed that from first appearance looks like a tool shed.
It is in fact the entrance to the Hypogeum Columbarium of Pomponio Hylas, a 1 st century freedman who used the Columbarium for himself, his wife Pomponia and his family. The Columbarium was built and used between 14-54 AD.
In one of the later funerary altars of the Hylas Colombarium is the funerary urn of a woman named Paezusa. In life she was the hair dresser (ornatrix) to Claudia Octavia, the daughter of the Emperor Claudius and his 3 rd wife Messalina and the 1 st wife of the Emperor Nero. He killed her and sent her head to his girlfriend, Poppaea. Nero killed Poppaea (by accident) a few years later.
The guided tours are in Italian. Some of the guides do know a little English and can usually answer a few questions. You can purchase your tickets in the Museo delle Mura of the Porta San Sebastiano ( each) and a guide will be provided.
As you exit the Porta San Sebastiano, turn right and follow the wall down the Viale di Porta Ardeantina. It’s an easy 30 minute walk from the Porta San Sebastiano to the Porta San Paolo along the Viale di Porta Ardeantina. In about 15 minutes you’ll come to one of the most impressive fortifications of the wall created by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger in the 16th century.
Around 1537, Pope Paul III (Farnese) called on architect, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to fortify the walls against an imminent Ottoman attack. The Turks were already in Hungary and Croatia and making their way to Vienna and Venice. Their goal was to conquer Rome and replace the Christian Church with Islam.
Pope Paul III was more concerned with fortifying the walls around the Vatican but he did make a gesture to improve the rest of the city wall, at least till he got the bill.
A short walk later, you’ll arrive to the Porta Ardeantina.
These days Porta Ardeantina is just a small doorway in the wall, a slight jog off the wall just before you arrive to the massive thoroughfare known as the via Cristoforo Colombo. The gate has no towers and no defenses. It was most likely a secondary gate used for the military. Now it looks like a small doorway.
Four large arches were taken out of the Aurelian Wall to create access for the via Cristoforo Colombo. If you take a taxi from the Fiumicino (Leonardo Da Vinci) airport you’ll most likely go through the arches without ever knowing you’re entering the city through the ancient wall.
Porta San Paolo
Across the via Cristoforo Colombo and down the viale Marco Polo and you’ll arrive to the Porta San Paolo.
It was once known as the Porta Ostiensis that connected ancient Rome to the ancient seaport of Ostia by way of the via Ostiense. It still does.
The name of the Gate was changed to Porta San Paolo Gate in the Middle Ages as a tie in to the proximity to the Basilica San Paolo fuori le mura (St Paul outside the walls).
The gate towers were enlarged in the early 5 th century by Emperor Honorius’ Magister Militum, Flavius Stilicho. The double entrance to the Gate was added by Emperor Justinian’s Magister Militum, Flavius Belisarius in the 6 th century.
In the 1920s, the walls connecting the Gate were removed to allow for automobile traffic. In the 1930s Mussolini spruced up the gate as part of his plan to refresh the ancient monuments of the city. It was all part of his urban restoration to highlight the ancient monuments and link the glory of ancient Rome to the new glory Mussolini hoped to bring in the 20th century.
Mussolini intended to make Porta San Paolo part of the grand tour of his (Esposizione Universale Roma) expo that never happened. The San Paolo Gate would lead the visitors to the archeological site of ancient Ostia.
In 1924 he started construction on the Ostiense train station across the street from the San Paolo Gate. The train station was used for Hitler’s arrival to Rome in 1938 but the 1942 Expo never happened. By 1942, Mussolini was on the run.
In 1943, the allied raids on Rome bombed the sections of wall that once connected the gate to the Pyramid of Cestius. After the war, the rubble was cleaned up and now both the gate and the Pyramid are stand alone pieces.
In 1954 the Via Ostiense Museum opened inside the Porta San Paolo. There are a few rooms filled with prints and models illustrating the commercial importance of the road between Ostia and Rome. There are a few models here of Ancient Ostia and the Ports of Claudius and Trajan. They were created by Italo Gismondi, who spent 36 years building a scale model of ancient Rome of the 4 th century. The model is the highlight of the Museo della Civilta Romana in EUR.
The via Ostiense museum is open Tuesday – Sunday 9am-1pm. Even if you’re not interested in the exhibit, the admission is free and you get to climb around the ancient towers.
Adjacent to the Porta San Paolo is the Pyramid of Cestius, the 1 st century Mausoleum of Gaius Cestius, the Imperial Banquet Manager/Party Planner to the Emperor Augustus. With his fortune he built himself a Pyramid Tomb, a tomb for one. He built it in 330 days.
The reason the Pyramid is still with us is because it was incorporated into the Aurelian wall around 270 AD. This one was saved. There used to be another Pyramid near Castel Sant’Angelo but it ended up in the lime kilns.
The 119’ tall Carrara marble Pyramid of Cestius was restored in 2014 by the Yagi Tsusho LTD, the Japanese clothing company that also owns Moncler, one of Italy’s most prized fashions.
The Pyramid is open to the public on the 1 st and 3 rd Saturday of every month at 10:30am. It’s an accompanied tour. Reservations can be made by calling 06 5743193 or making them at the museum in the Via Ostiense Museum of the Porta San Paolo.
Visitors lower their bodies through a long (and low) passageway and finally emerge inside the burial chamber. The frescos on the wall are still in good condition. You can also see the tunnels dug in by the grave robbers.
From the Porta San Paolo, turn right and travel down the via Marmorata through the Testaccio neighborhood, a great place to stop for lunch.
Travel across the Ponte Sublicio (bridge) over the Tiber river and you’ll come to the next gate in the wall, the Porta Portese. Marmorata is for the marble that was unloaded there in ancient times.
The original Porta Portuensis was replaced by the current Porta Portese in 1644 as part of the Janiculum Wall of defense added by Pope Urban VIII (Barberini) as protection against Odoardo I Farnese, the Duke of Parma and his support of Venice, Tuscany and France.
The original Porta Portuensis was close to the Tiber River. It was here were transports were delivered from the Ports of Claudius and Trajan, the 1st and 2nd century Roman ports about 26 km down the river the Tiber. The modern location, now known as the Area Archeologica del Porto di Traiano is just behind the Fiumicino airport.
Porto di Ripa Grande-Gaspar van Wittel-1771
In later years, Porta Portese led to the Porto di Ripa Grande, a warehouse port on the Tiber river near the Tiburtina island. Ripa Grande also included a large Arsenal for building military ships in the 16 th century during the wars with the Ottoman Turks. The ramps going to Ripa Grande still exist just south of the Porta Portese and the Ponte Sublicio.
In 1798, the Arsenal was used by Napoleon to store stolen works of art. The Arsenal building still exists near the Porta Portese.
These days Porta Portese serves as the entrance to what many have called the largest open air flea market in Europe, possible the world. The first mile or so is filled with an endless canopy housewares and knockoff clothing. A couple of hours into the madness, the road takes a split and diverts to the actual flea market, filled with antiques (real and fake), memorabilia, jewelry, old records and tons of things you just have to buy even though you know they’ll end up in a junk drawer when you get home.
From Porta Portese we’ll head up towards the Gianicolo (Janiculum) Hill to the Porta San Pancrazio.
Porta San Pancrazio
Porta San Pancrazio replace the Porta Aurelia built along the ancient via Aurelia that traveled from Rome towards Genoa and over to France. The original Porta Aurelia gate is long gone, so is the original location.
Vitiges and the Ostrogoths broke through the Porta Aurelia in 537 during the Gothic Wars of 535-554 but they were driven back out of the city walls by Belisarius and the Byzantine Army.
During the Middle Ages Porta Aurelia was renamed San Pancrazio when the catacomb of the Christian martyr, Saint Pancras was discovered nearby.
In the 17th, Pope Urban VIII had a new gate built. Since this was a total rebuild, he removed the Porta Aurelia and rebuilt the new Porta San Pancrazio somewhere nearby. This version of the Gate was blown up by the French while they were fighting off the Roman Republic forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi
The new version, the one we see today, was built in 1854.
In 1870 the Roman Republic walked through the gate as part of the Italian Unification. This time they were led by General Nino Bixio, known to the Sicilians as the Butcher of Bronte from the brutal way he dealt with the bandit of Sicily near in Bronte, a town near Catania.
From here we’ll head back down the hill to the center of the Trastevere and to one of the more unusual Gates of the Aurelian Wall, the Porta Settimana.
This version of Porta Settimana was built in 1498. It replaced one of the ancient Gates that led to the Tiber and onto the Ports of Claudius and Trajan.
Many think the name came from a monument to Septiminus Severus. The monument is long gone but some theories say it was at the entrance to the gardens owned by his son, Septiminus Geta, Emperor of Rome for a few months until he was killed by his brother Caracalla.
The 1498 gate was built by Pope Alexander VI (Borgia). What’s odd here is that the architectural merlons of the gate are in the swallowtail style of the Ghibbeline followers of the Holy Roman Emperor . The Papal Guelph merlons were squared off.
Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI) was one of the most notoriously bad Popes, the subject of countless books, films and TV sagas. His design choice might have coincided with his alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian I in 1495 to keep France out of Italy.
The exterior side of the Porta Settimana marks the beginning of the via Lungara that leads to the Regina Coeli Prison of Rome.
La Fornarina – Raphael – 1518-1520
Directly on the city side of the Gate, next to the gate is the house of Margherita Lutti, the Fornarina, the baker’s daughter and the love of the famous painter, Raphael Sanzio.
This is Raphael’s painting of ‘La Forniarina’. It is in the Palazzo Barberini, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome.
On her left arm is the band that reads Raphael Urbinas (Raphael was from the town of Urbino). It almost appears as an ‘I belong to Raphael’ armband.
From the Porta Settimana, follow the Tiber river north towards the Vatican. Continue north and cross over the Ponte Regina Margherita, the wife of King Umberto I, the 2 nd King of Unified Italy and the namesake of the most famous pizza in the world, the Pizza Margherita.
Porta del Popolo
The Ponte Regina Margherita will lead you to Piazza del Popolo and the next gate in the wall, the Porta del Popolo, the gate opening into the grand Piazza del Popolo named for the 11th century church of Santa Maria del Popolo that sits up near the gate.
The older Porta Flaminia, named for the via Flaminia that traveled from Rome to Rimini on the Adriatic coast, was actually about 430 feet from current gate. By the 15th century, the old Porta Flaminia was in bad shape and mostly buried in centuries of river silt.
In the 10th century the old gate was renamed Porta San Valentino due to the close proximity to the Catacombs of Saint Valentine about 20 minutes north on the via Flaminia. During the Middle Ages, most of the gates were renamed for Saints. Some of the ancient one like San Sebastiano and San Paolo kept their saintly names. Others did not.
As the legend goes, The Emperor Nero was entombed near a grove of Poplar trees close to the current Piazza del Popolo. Adjacent to what is now the Porta del Popolo, there was once a nut tree filled with black crows where Nero’s ghost would feast alongside demons and witches.
In 1099, after many complaints of frightened Romans, Pope Paschal II ordered the tree to be burnt down and a chapel built in it’s place. Nero’s tomb was dug up and thrown into the Tiber River.
In 1475, a Jubilee year,Pope Sixtus IV (Della Rovere) enlarged the Chapel into the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. He also had the new Porta del Popolo constructed about 430 ft from the old Porta Flaminia.
By the 16th century the Porta del Popolo became a major entry point for travelers from the north, so much so that less than 100 years after the Sixtus IV gate was built, Pope Pius IV (Medici) had it redone and enlarged to handle the traffic.
In 1562, Pius IV gave the commission to Michelangelo, but he was already working on the Porta Pia. He was also 87 years old. After Michelangelo’s refusal, Pius IV gave it to the Michelangelo copyist, Nanni di Baccio Bigio. He was a good copyist but a man Michelangelo never liked. Actually, Michelangelo never liked anyone.
The inner façade was designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini for Pope Alexander VII (Chigi) for the arrival of Queen Christina of Sweden in 1655. This was a big Catholic success story. Christina was a Protestant who converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome. That was the good story. Once she arrived, she became the source a scandals and wild parties.
A point of interest. On each side of the gate you can see the Papal shields of the two Popes who commissioned the work. On the exterior is the Papal Crest of the Medici, the 6 balls. The name Medici is associated with medicine and the balls might represent pills or cupping glasses. However, the Medici were not Doctors or Pharmacists. The number of balls changed over the years. In Florence, the major Medici city, you’ll see 5 balls on many of the shields. The 6 mountains under a star is the crest of the Chigi family and the Papal shield of Pope Alexander VII. The explanation might come from the hills surrounding Siena, the birthplace of the family wealth. As you walk through Rome you’ll many Papal shields. It’s fun to see which urban renewals were sponsored by which Popes.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the Porta del Popolo was the main entrance point for northern Europeans coming during the Age of Romanticism. Thousands of art lovers, writers, poets and painters came through this gate and rented rooms in the Piazza del Popolo or the nearby Piazza di Spagna. As traffic increased in the 19th century, the two side arches were added.
From here, we’ll take a short 20 minute stroll through the gardens of Rome’s Villa Borghese Park and end up at our last gate of the tour, the Porta Pinciana. If you walk along the via del Muro Torto you’ll see the retaining wall for an ancient garden (Horti Aciliorum) that predates the Aurelian Wall. Like many other pre-existing elements, it was incorporated into the wall in the Aurelian Wall of the 3 rd century.
The original Porta Pinciana from the 3 rd century was just a ‘Posterula’, a postern or narrow gate for military access. It was enlarged to a proper fortified gate in the 5 th century under the Emperor Honorius and defended by Belisarius against the Ostrogoths in 537.
There is another legend about the Porta Pinciana and Flavius Belisarius that circulated during the Middle Ages.
Emperor Justinian was always jealous of the Belisarius fame and according to the story, Justinian had Belisarius blinded and sent him to the Pincian Gate as a beggar for the remaining years of his life. The story is highly unbelievable. Belisarius and Justinian died within a week of each other and both were given fitting funerals. However, for a while during the Middle ages, the gate was known as the Porta Belisaria from the inscription (now lost) that read, ‘Date obolum Belisario’, give alms to Belisarius.
Porta Pinciana – Exterior side of Gate
In the 9 th century the Gate was closed and became known as the Porta Turata (Plugged gate) but it reopened during the reign of Pope Paul V (Borghese).
The Pope’s nephew, Scipione Borghese stored his art collection in the Villa Borghese, now one of the most popular museums in Rome. The Gate served as his personal entrance to the Villa.
The gate was closed off again when Napoleon advanced towards the Vatican in 1808 but by 187, it was repaired and reopened to the new communities springing up near the Borghese Park.
One last interesting anecdote about the Porta Pinciana. In 1974, Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped 820′ of the Aurelian Wall along the via Veneto up to the Porta Pinciana. The polypropylene fabric and dacron rope installation lasted 40 days. The reaction of Romans was mixed.
Between 1865 and 1925
The lyrics between 1865 and 1925
Spirituals were sung at churches with an active participation of the congregation (as it is usual in a Pentecostal church). Their lyrics mainly remain similar to those of the first negro spirituals.
They were often embellished and they were also called either "church songs" or "jubilees" or "holy roller songs". But some hymns were changed by African American and became "Dr Watts"
Dr Isaac WATTS was an English minister who published several books: "Hymns and Spiritual Songs", in 1707, "The Psalms of David" in 1717. The various Protestant denominations adopted his hymns, which were included in several hymnals, at that time.
Missionaries reported on the "ecstatic delight" slaves took in singing the psalms and hymns of Dr Watts.
In his book "The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States" (1842), the White minister Charles Colock Jones recommended highly some hymns of Dr Watts ("When I Can read My Title Clear", etc.). He wrote: "One great advantage in teaching them (slaves) good psalms and hymns, is that they are thereby induced to lay aside the extravagant and nonsensical chants, and catches and hallelujah songs of their own composing".
However, in the early 1800s, Black ministers took seriously the admonition of Dr Isaac Watts: "Ministers are to cultivate gifts of preaching and prayer through study and diligence they ought also to cultivate the capacity of composing spiritual songs and exercise it along with the other parts of the worship, preaching and prayer". So, homiletic spirituals were created by preachers and taught to the congregation by them or by deacons.
During the post-Civil War period and later, some congregation conducted services without hymnbooks. A deacon (or precentor) set the pitch and reminded the words in half-singing half-chanting stentorian tones. The people called their songs "long-meter hymns (because the tempo was very low) or "Dr Watts", even if they have not been written by this gentleman.
The particular feature of this kind of singing was its surging, melismatic melody, punctuated after each praise by the leader's intoning of the next line of the hymn. The male voices doubled the female voices an octave below and with the thirds and the fifths occurring when individuals left the melody to sing in a more comfortable range. The quality of the singing was distinctive for its hard, full-throated and/or nasal tones with frequent exploitation of falsetto, growling, and moaning.
The beats of Dr Watt's songs were slow, while there are other types of spirituals. These beats are usually classed in three groups:
- the "call and response chant",
- the slow, sustained, long-phrase melody,
- and the syncopated, segmented melody,
- "Call and response"
For a "call and response chant", the preacher (leader) sings one verse and the congregation (chorus) answers him with another verse.
An example of such songs is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot":
Lead: Swing low, sweet chariot
Chorus: Coming for to carry me home
Lead: Swing low, sweet chariot
Chorus: Coming for to carry me home
Lead: If you get there before I do
Chorus: Coming for to carry me home
Lead: Tell all my friends, I'm coming too
Chorus: Coming for to carry me home
- "Slow and long-phrase song"
Here are some examples of negro spirituals with a slow, long-phase melody.
"I'm Troubled in Mind", by Spiritual Workshop Paris, click here
For the syncopated, segmented melody, the tempo is usually fast and the rhythm features a "swing". This concerns spirituals sung at church, by a group (not by a soloist). The rhythm of such a spiritual is based on the swinging of head and body. The swaying of the body marks the regular beat, but more or less strict in time. The singer takes the fundamental beat, almost monotonously, with his left hand, while he juggles it with his right hand
"Heaven" by JoAnne Stephenson, acc. Lorna Young-Wright click here
Between 1865 and 1925, many tunes were arranged as classical European pieces for choirs. Some negro spirituals had been sung during worship services.
Here are negro spirituals sung by a congregation during a worship service.
"His eye is on the sparrow", click here
The use of chariots.
Chariots were used in both war and peace. Reliefs and paintings from various lands show the chariot in use for hunting, processions and ceremonial rites. On such special occasions runners preceded the chariot calling bystanders to pay honor to the dignitary who was approaching ( Gen 41:43 Esth 6:11 ). In Hel. and Rom. periods the chariot was popular for processions and festive occasions and also chariot races in the arenas.
Numerous bas reliefs and inscrs. show the importance of the chariot in war. The number of chariots engaged in battles was listed, as were the numbers taken as booty. Thus Thutmose III claims to have taken 924 chariots in booty at Megiddo (ANET p. 237), and Amenhotep II lists 60 chariots of silver and gold and 1,032 painted wooden chariots among the booty of one of his campaigns (ANET p. 247). Shalmaneser III of Assyria lists 1,121 chariots and 470 horses as the booty for his campaign against Hazael (ANET p. 280), while at the Battle of Karkar in 853 b.c. he claims that Ahab the Israelite sent a contingent of 2,000 chariots to the battle (ANET p. 279). Assyrian and Egyptian records provide many more examples.
The second of three children, Dickinson grew up in moderate privilege and with strong local and religious attachments. For her first nine years she resided in a mansion built by her paternal grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, who had helped found Amherst College but then went bankrupt shortly before her birth. Her father, Edward Dickinson, was a forceful and prosperous Whig lawyer who served as treasurer of the college and was elected to one term in Congress. Her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, from the leading family in nearby Monson, was an introverted wife and hardworking housekeeper her letters seem equally inexpressive and quirky. Both parents were loving but austere, and Emily became closely attached to her brother, Austin, and sister, Lavinia. Never marrying, the two sisters remained at home, and when their brother married, he and his wife established their own household next door. The highly distinct and even eccentric personalities developed by the three siblings seem to have mandated strict limits to their intimacy. “If we had come up for the first time from two wells,” Emily once said of Lavinia, “her astonishment would not be greater at some things I say.” Only after the poet’s death did Lavinia and Austin realize how dedicated she was to her art.
As a girl, Emily was seen as frail by her parents and others and was often kept home from school. She attended the coeducational Amherst Academy, where she was recognized by teachers and students alike for her prodigious abilities in composition. She also excelled in other subjects emphasized by the school, most notably Latin and the sciences. A class in botany inspired her to assemble an herbarium containing a large number of pressed plants identified by their Latin names. She was fond of her teachers, but when she left home to attend Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College) in nearby South Hadley, she found the school’s institutional tone uncongenial. Mount Holyoke’s strict rules and invasive religious practices, along with her own homesickness and growing rebelliousness, help explain why she did not return for a second year.
At home as well as at school and church, the religious faith that ruled the poet’s early years was evangelical Calvinism, a faith centred on the belief that humans are born totally depraved and can be saved only if they undergo a life-altering conversion in which they accept the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Questioning this tradition soon after leaving Mount Holyoke, Dickinson was to be the only member of her family who did not experience conversion or join Amherst’s First Congregational Church. Yet she seems to have retained a belief in the soul’s immortality or at least to have transmuted it into a Romantic quest for the transcendent and absolute. One reason her mature religious views elude specification is that she took no interest in creedal or doctrinal definition. In this she was influenced by both the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the mid-century tendencies of liberal Protestant orthodoxy. These influences pushed her toward a more symbolic understanding of religious truth and helped shape her vocation as poet.
What did Napoleon do with the horses on the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin ?
The Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden, Berlin, circa 1900, © Fondation Napoléon
On 27 October, 1806, after the victories at Iéna and Auerstädt two weeks earlier, Napoleon rode in triumph into Berlin passing under the Brandenburg Gate. It would appear that the four-horsed chariot caught his eye, because Vivant Denon, director of the Musée Napoléon (the museum which was to become the Louvre) gave the order for the work to be brought back to Paris. Denon was travelling with the Grande Armée and it was his role to oversee the taking of art treasures and to arrange for their transport. Indeed, according to Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764-1850), the then rector of the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, the French generals used to call Denon the 'voleur à la suite de la Grande Armée' (thief on the coat tails of the Grande Armée). At the end of November of the same year, Denon paid a visit to Schadow (also sculptor of the chariot grouping) to see about the logistical problems of bringing the work back to Paris. Schadow wrote in his memoirs that they had to contact Emanuel Ernst Jury, the metalworker from Postdam who had assembled the group back in 1793 as a monument to peace.(1) Twelve enormous crates were made and packed with almost indecent haste. In fact, two of the horses had already been taken down by 3 December, and the whole cargo was to be dispatched by water to Paris on 21 December, 1806.(2)
The crates arrived at their destination six months later (16 June, 1807), unfortunately it would appear somewhat damaged, in that Denon asked for a space large enough in which to open them to perform the necessary repair work. He wrote to the emperor's architect, Fontaine, asking permission to use the Orangery at the Louvre for three months as a temporary storage place – just sufficient time to make the repairs and to decide on a definitive resting place for the imposing group.(3)
Back on the campaign trail, three weeks before the crates reached Paris, Napoleon was in Poland preparing for the battle of Friedland in his headquarters at Finkenstein (present day Kamienec). As usual, the emperor was running all the affairs of state via correspondence, and it was on the 30 May that he sent a letter to Interior Minister Champagny detailing his conclusions concerning the architectural competition for the Madeleine in Paris. The Madeleine had been demolished and Napoleon intended to rebuild it as a temple 'in the Greek style' to the glory of the Grande Armée. About 100 drawings were sent to the commission judging the competition. Deciding on the winner (a certain Cl. Et. De Beaumont) the commission sent the propositions to Napoleon, imagining that he would rubber stamp their decision. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Napoleon wrote back that de Beaumont's project had been the first he had rejected. What he wanted, he continued, was a temple not a church, something dedicated to the glory of the Grande Armée. In this respect, Barthélémy Vignan, was the man who got it right. Amongst exceedingly detailed instructions as to the interior decorations, Napoleon also noted that the quadrige (chariot and horses from the Brandenburg gate) should be placed outside that temple.(4)
In Paris, work on the sculpture group was continuing a-pace but, as Denon noted in a letter of 12 September to the administrator of parks and gardens (in charge of the Orangery), M. Lelieur, repairs were still under way and he could in no way envisage moving the chariot in its present state – worse still the three months were up! The quadrige was finally moved to the Dépôt des Menus Plaisirs (Versailles) on 26 October, 1807, and in his letter to the architect, Fontaine, Denon stressed that no time should be lost in the refurbishment of the work. As for the cost, the grand total for repairs came to the sum of 21,370 Francs, an amount which Denon felt excessive, but he grudgingly admitted that the craftsman Cauler's careful work did in fact deserve it.(5)
With the chariot and horses now repaired all that was missing was a final resting place. Given the recent example of the triumphal arch in front of the Tuileries palace, the so-called Arc de Triomphe du Caroussel (which was sufficiently complete for the Garde impériale to pass beneath it on their victorious return from Eylau and Friedland), crowned with the horses from St Mark's in Venice, the Champs-Elysées Arc de Triomphe would have been an obvious site for the Berlin group. As we saw above, the emperor himself had suggested the Madeleine. Denon however had other ideas. He was later to remark in 1808 (but it had clearly been his opinion at the end of 1807), he felt that the statue group would be dwarfed by constructions on the scale of the Champs-Elysées Arc de Triomphe and the Madeleine. On 9 September, 1807, Denon suggested that the group could be placed on a fountain (actually a sort of horse trough) on the Pont-Neuf facing the Place Dauphine, today the site of a statute of Henri IV. This apparently meeting with disapproval, Denon proposed on 12 October, 1807, a pedestal and statue without fountain on the same site. Again the proposal would appear to have fallen upon deaf ears.(6)
After that, silence. The chariot and horses appear to have been forgotten in Versailles. The construction work on the Madeleine limped on until 1813 (still only the foundations were visible) when Napoleon downgraded the original plan of temple to the glory of the Grande Armée to a mere church, the fountain/statue on the Pont-Neuf was never built, and with the arrival of the Prussian soldiers on their entry into Paris in 1814, the statue group was seized by the Prussians and taken back to Berlin, where it was to become a symbol of national identity, freedom and victory.(7)