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p361 Nova Via

Article on pp361‑362 of

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


Nova Via: so called in distinction from the Sacra via, the second of the two streets in Rome before the empire which were known as viae, and itself of great antiquity (Varro VI.59: quod vocabulum ei pervetustum ut novae viae quae via iam diu vetus). It began at the north-east corner of the Palatine, near the temple of Jupiter Stator, where it branched off from the Sacra via, and ran along the north slope of the hill to its north-west corner (Liv. I.41.4: ex superiore parte aedium per fenestras in novam via versus — habitabat enim rex (Tarquinius Priscus) ad Iovis Statoris), between the aedes Vestae and the lucus Vestae (Cic. de div. I.101: a luco Vestae qui a Palatii radice in novam viam devexus est). At its beginning it was called summa nova via (Solin. I.24: Tarquinius Priscus ad Mugoniam portam supra summam novam viam (habitavit)), and at the north-west corner of the hill, above the temple of Vesta, p362infima nova via (Gell. XVI.17.2: araque ei (Aio Loquenti) statuta est quae est infima nova via; Liv. V.32.6: in nova via ubi nunc sacellum est supra aedem Vestae; 50.6; 52.11; Cic. de div. II.69; Varro V.43: unde escendebant, ad infimam novam viam locus sacellum Velabrum).

Along this line, on the north side of the hill, the Nova via of the empire has been excavated. Its pavement lies at 23.40 metres above sea-level behind the atrium Vestae and at 32.30 metres at its junction with the clivus Palatinus. The earlier pavement has been found at least at one point beneath the later (NS 1882, 234‑238, 413; 1884, 191; CR 1905, 76; AJA 1923, 392). It is possible that the original road was a little to the north of the later, and that the successive enlargements of the atrium Vestae and the building of the enormous substructures of the imperial palace which now span the street changed its first line somewhat.1 At the north-west corner of the Palatine the straight line of the Nova via is blocked completely by the large hall belonging to the complex of buildings between the bibliotheca Augusti and the lacus Iuturnae (Mitt. 1902, 73‑74), but it is connected with the clivus Victoriae above and the forum below by a flight of steps and an inclined way. It is evident, therefore, that the construction of the temple of Augustus (q.v.) and the adjacent structures changed the conditions so completely that the original course of the street beyond this point is only a matter of conjecture. We are told, however, that it ended in the Velabrum (Varro VI.24: in Velabro qua in novam viam exitur; V.43 loc. cit.; V.164: alteram Romanulam ab Roma dictam quae habet gradus in nova via (sic Scaliger; novalia, vulg.) ad Volupiae sacellum), and also that in Ovid's time it was connected with the forum (Ov. Fast. VI.396: qua nova Romano nunc via iuncta foro est). There is no doubt that the original street ran into the Velabrum (cf. however, NS 1882, 234‑238), near the Porta Romanula (q.v.), which is usually placed near the church of S. Teodoro, although the relation between the Nova via and the clivus Victoriae becomes thereby somewhat dubious. The connection with the forum referred to by Ovid may have been effected by an inclined way turning to the north. It has been suggested that the original road followed the supposed line of the Palatine pomerium (Tac. Ann. XII.24) on the north and west sides of the hill (Hermes 1885, 428; HJ 37), but this is very doubtful.

In Greek the Nova via appears as ἡ καινὴ ὁδός (Plut. Cam. 14; de fort. Rom. 5), and Festus cautions against an incorrect, but evidently common, pronunciation of the name (293: disiuncte . . . ut ne novamviam quidem sed novam viam).a

(Pais, Ancient Legends 273‑274; Gilb. II.114‑117; III.422‑423; Théd. 173, 356; AJA 1923, 384 sqq.; ZA 103; Mem. Am. Acad. V.121).


The Authors' Note:

1 For the façade of a house of the Antonine period, see Architettura ed Arti Decorative, III (1924), 16, 17.


Thayer's Note:

a Pedantry has a very ancient pedigree: the locals don't pronounce the name of their own neighborhood right. But leaving aside my wonderment at the gall some people have in "correcting" common speech (the very foundation of language), we have similar pronunciations in modern English: a classic case is that of West Point, the place in New York state that is home to the U.S. Military Academy. News anchors and people reading from books or maps say Wést Póint (two words), but anyone who has had any intimate acquaintance with the place says Wéspoint (one word, accented on the first syllable, and that t drops out).

What we have here is surely much the same phenomenon: to locals and people who knew the street, the Novavia was a special entity in its own right, not just a nova via. Grammarians unfamiliar with it then came by and corrected them. . . .

Here's substantiation, pretty much — although the Sacra Via rather than the Nova Via:

A small three-line ancient Roman epitaph.

Tombstone of Publius Curius Eupor,
a flute-player in the Sacra Via.
(Capitoline Museums. The pen is exactly 14 cm long.)

Note the careful interpuncts at every place where one is needed. Sacravia was viewed as one word, at least by this stonecutter.


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Page updated: 1 Aug 13