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p401 Porta Ostiensis

Article on pp401‑402 of

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


[image ALT: A large stone gate with one arch and two crenelated towers; in the background, a somewhat taller pyramid. It is the Porta S. Paolo or Porta Ostiensis in Rome, with the Pyramid of Cestius.]
41 PORTA OSTIENSIS, INTERIOR (p. 411)

Porta Ostiensis: a gate in the Aurelian wall through which passed the Via Ostiensis (q.v.) (Amm. Marcell. XVII.4.12 — the obelisk now at the p402Lateran 'per Ostiensem portam piscinamque publicam circo illatus est maximo'DMH). It had acquired the name which it still bears, under the modern form Porta S. Paolo, as early as the sixth century (Procop. BG II.4.3, 9; III.36: πύλη ἡ Παύλου τοῦ ἀποστόλου ἐρύνυμός ἐστι; Aethicus, p716 Gronov. (83 Riese): Ostiensem portam quae est domni Pauli apostoli). It seems to be mentioned as porta Latina by Magister Gregorius, who describes what should be the pyramid of Cestius in conjunction with it (JRS 1919, 20, 46, 56).

It is probable that, like the porta Appia and the porta Flaminia, it originally had a double arch; and this explains why there are two arches of travertine side by side in the inner gateway (Ill. 41), which belongs to a later restoration, as Aurelian does not appear to have constructed any of his gates with courtyards. The two arches of the outer gateway were suppressed at some unknown date, and replaced by a single arch in travertine with a very wide curtain, flanked by two semi-circular brick towers. Such towers should as a rule be attributed to Aurelian, but here they have been strengthened at a later date, and there are considerable traces of alterations throughout, though parts of the original curtain still remain. The rise in level at the time of Honorius has been greatly overestimated (LD 54, fig. 13). See BC 1927, 57‑59.

Adjacent to the gate on the right is the Sepulcrum C. Cestii (q.v.), and beyond it again was a postern for the exit of the road from the porta Trigemina, which fell into the via Ostiensis. Some of its pavement, discovered in 1824, may be seen in the ditch of the old Protestant cemetery. This postern was, according to some authorities, closed by Honorius (Jord. I.1.38; Mon. L. I.512; LF 44; T IV.7‑13); but it can well have happened much earlier (PBS X.21).


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Page updated: 28 Jun 07