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p358 Navalia

Article on pp358‑360 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.


Navalia: the docks for ships of war on the left bank of the Tiber. There is no doubt of the existence of such docks in the campus Martius, opposite the Prata Quinctia (q.v.; see Liv. III.26.8: L. Quinctius . . . trans Tiberim contra eum ipsum locum ubi nunc navalia sunt, quattuor iugerum colebat agrum, quae prata Quinctia vocantur; Plin. NH XVIII.20: quattuor sua iugera in Vaticano, quae prata Quintia appellantur). These indications of locality are sufficiently vague, and various sites have been proposed. Hülsen places them below the narrowest part of the river, in the neighbourhood of the Palazzo Farnese (HJ 485‑486).

If the reference to Rome were certain, the earliest mention of them would be in a line of Ennius (ap. Serv. ad Aen. XI.326: idem campus habet textrinum navibus longis); but they were in any case in existence in 167 B.C. (Liv.xlv. 35.3; 42.12: naves regiae . . . in campo Martio subductae sunt; cf. Polyb. XXXVI.5[3].9).

But the fact that we are told that in 179 B.C. M. Fuluius locavit . . . porticum extra portam Trigeminam, et aliam post navalia [et] ad fanum Herculis, et post Spei a Tiberi ad aedem Apollinis Medici (Liv. XL.151) has led Hülsen (DAP 2.vi.246‑254) to argue that, as the porticus post navalia [et] ad fanum Herculis — the argument seems to apply whether we omit the et of the MSS. or not — must be intermediate between the other two porticus, those extra portam Trigeminam and post Spei, we have an indication of the existence of other earlier Navalia further downstream just north of the porta Trigemina. But the very existence of the last portico depends on our acceptance of Becker's correction of the reading of the MSS., which give post Spei ad Tiberim aedem Apollinis Medici (q.v.). Still, it would be difficult to suppose that any other temple of Hercules was meant than that of Hercules Victor; and if we refer the passage to the navalia in the campus Martius, the temple of Hercules must have been one of the two near the circus Flaminius (see Hercules Custos, Hercules musarum) and the porticus becomes altogether too extensive.

It is also very natural to suppose that the navalia of the early republic (the first mention of navalia comes in reference to 338 B.C., Liv. VIII.14: naves Antiatium partim in navalia Romae subductae) were under the protection of the Servian walls, and therefore situated on the Tiber bank between the porta Carmentalis and the porta Trigemina. And the description of the arrival from Epidaurus of the sacred serpent of Aesculapius and especially the words 'egressis legatis' in Val. Max. I.8.2, which show that the ship had reached its destination (v. Aesculapius, aedes) in 291 B.C., and the account of the landing of Cato the younger on his return from Cyprus (Plut. Cat. min. 39; Vell. II.45), which describes his landing at the navalia and passing through the forum to deposit the treasures of Ptolemy in the aerarium Saturni and on the Capitol, both suit such a site.

On the other hand, it seems very doubtful whether the expression of Procopius (BG iv.22) in regard to the ship of Aeneas, which was preserved in his days at the navalia ἐν μέσῃ τῇ πόλει need refer to the forum Boarium.

All the other passages in which the navalia are mentioned — e.g. Cic. de or. I.62 (a restoration by Hermodorus in 99 B.C.), Paul. ex Fest. p360179: Navalis porta a vicinia navalium dicta (where a city gate is certainly not in question), Plin. NH XXXVI.40 — do not give us any topographical indications, so that it is not certain to which navalia they refer.

Hülsen also thinks that a coin of Antoninus Pius (Coh. No. 17; cf. Zeitschr. f. Num. 1900, 32) represents, not a bridge, but the navalia with the Aventine in the background (cf. Mitt. 1886, 168; 1900, 352‑354).1 A painting known to us only by drawings, which had been attributed to the Aventine (Mitt. 1896, 213‑226) has been rightly referred to Puteoli by Hülsen (HJ 322), Dubois (Pouzzoles antique 201‑219) and Carcopino (Rev. Arch. 1913, ii.253‑270; cf PBS VII.57‑58; CIL VI.36613).

The fragment of the forma Urbis (61) with the inscription NAVALEMFER, which Hülsen had brought in as an argument, he now prefers to omit, as the external characteristics of the fragment make it impossible to place it in the neighbourhood of the circus Maximus; so that it probably belongs to the region of the horrea, south of the Aventine (HJ 145, n81; but the necessary alterations have not been made in the plans attached to KH).

See also Richter 201‑203; Merlin 131‑133.


The Authors' Note:

1 See, however, JRS 1911, 187‑195.


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