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Bill Thayer

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Article on p550 of

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

Velia: the ridge or spur that stretched out from the middle of the north side of the Palatine towards the Oppius (Dionys. V.19), more commonly called Summa Sacra Via (q.v.) in later times, and marked by the arch of Titus (for a theory that the Velia was the eastern half of the Palatine, see Gilb. I.104‑109).a It was reckoned as one of the seven hills on which the Septimontium was celebrated (Fest. 341). The name appears more frequently in the singular (Varro, LL V.54; Liv. II.7; XLV.16; hemerol. Amit. ad VIII Kal. Iun.), but also in the plural (Varro, loc. cit.; Non. 531; Fest. 154; Asc. in Pison. 52; Dionys. I.68 Οὐελίαι).1 The hill is described by Dionys. (V.19) as ὑψηλὸν ἐπιεικῶς καὶ περίτομον; and a primitive grave found in 1908 near the arch of Titus lay at about 28 metres above sea-level, whereas virgin soil was found in the lowest part of the forum valley at 3.60 metres, and in connection with the excavation of the Sepulcretum, at 10.63 metres (AJA 1923, 390 sqq.). The original height of the ridge may have been somewhat diminished by the construction of the Domus Aurea of Nero (q.v.). The meaning and derivation of the Velia is as uncertain now as it was in antiquity (Varro, LL. V.54: Veliae unde essent plures accepi causas in quis quod ibi pastores Palatini ex ovibus ante tonsuram inventam vellere lanam sint soliti, a quo Vellera dicuntur). The Velia is regularly mentioned in extant literature in connection with the aedes deum Penatium and the domus Valeriorum, under which rubrics the references will be found (Jord. I.1.196; 2.416‑419; HJ 1; Gilb. I.38‑39, 101‑109).

The Authors' Note:

1 ὑπ᾽ Ἐλαίας, Dionys. V.48.

Thayer's Note:

a What and where exactly the Velia was is by no means certain. Platner's "ridge or spur that stretched out from the middle of the north side of the Palatine" is just another conjecture, specifically mentioned as such in a detailed paper by Rebert in which yet other solutions are proposed: The Velia: a Study in Historical Topography, TAPA 56:54‑69 (1925).

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Page updated: 3 Mar 14