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Bill Thayer

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 p412  Porta Praenestina

Article on pp412‑413 of

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

Porta Praenestina: the present Porta Maggiore, a double arch of the Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus (q.v.), built by Claudius over the Via Praenestina (q.v.) and the Via Labicana (q.v.), and afterwards incorporated in the wall of Aurelian (DMH). These two roads separated just before passing under the aqueduct, the Labicana branching off to the right and the Praenestina to the left, and the two archways are  p413 at a very slight angle with each other, inasmuch as the course of the roads is at first almost parallel. The whole structure is of travertine, 32 metres high and 24 wide, and the two principal arches are 14 metres high, 6.35 wide and 6.20 deep. In the central pier is a small archway, 5.10 metres high and 1.80 wide, now closed and almost entirely below the present level of the ground. Above this, and at the same level in the north and south piers, are other arched openings, with engaged Corinthian columns and an entablature. The attic is divided longitudinally by string courses into three sections, each of which has an inscription (CIL VI.1256‑1258), the upper one recording the original construction by Claudius but probably revised by Trajan (Mél. 1906, 305‑318), and the other two, restorations by Vespasian and Titus.1 Immediately outside this gate, between the two roads, is the Sepulcrum Eurysacis (q.v.), belonging to the end of the republic. It stood about 3.50 metres below the modern level.

Aurelian incorporated this double arch in his wall, and Honorius2 changed it very considerably: he certainly built a curtain wall with two openings (on the right-hand one was CIL VI.1189), thus forming a courtyard. With this building scheme seem to go the square towers at each end on the outside; while the semicircular tower in the middle over the tomb of Eurysaces may belong to Aurelian. The latest ancient road level is 1.50 m. below the modern.

[image ALT: A view of the island in the Tiber at Rome, taken in about 1925.]
From a drawing in the

The right-hand opening was blocked at a later date (Ill. 38). In 1838 these fourth-century additions were removed and the arches of the aqueduct exposed to view (Jord. I.1.357; Reber 528‑532; PBS I.150). The gate appears in the sixth century (Procop. BG I.18), when we have our first record of it, as the porta Praenestina. This name continued in use during the Middle Ages, along with Sessoriana and Labicana, but gradually gave way to Maior, which has survived in its modern designation (T X.380‑383; DuP 92‑93; D'Esp. Fr. i.81; BC 1917, 195‑207).

The Authors' Notes:

1 Of these three sections only the upper two were used for the two aqueducts, the lower one being purely ornamental.

2 The statement that the arch was closed by Honorius (PBS cit.) is erroneous; cf. Gell and Nibby, Mura di Roma, 349, and pl. xiv.

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Page updated: 1 Feb 10