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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Oct.‑Dec. 1923), pp383‑424

Text and images are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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p383 The Neronian Sacra Via

The region to the east1 of the Forum, stretching from the regia to the arch of Titus (see Fig. 1), is to most modern scholars no less than to the world at large a terra incognita. While less familiar than its more famous neighbors, the Forum and the Palatine, it was, however, not unknown in mediaeval times, since the ruthless privateers of that period made it also their prey, after the Forum had ceased to satisfy their greed for building materials. The portion of the region further to the west naturally suffered most from their barbarous invasion, and the splendid edifices which formed a p384monumental wall between it and the Forum were torn in pieces even to their foundations for their treasures of marble, travertine and tufa. That their vandalism was extended also further up the slopes to the very top both of the Sacra Via and the Nova Via has been shown, in the modern excavations, by the wreck of walls and even of foundations wrought in the relentless search for the huge blocks of travertine belonging to the great pillars which marked so conspicuouly the whole region.


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Figure 1. — Region of the Upper Sacra Via.

With the modern revival of interest, a half century ago, in the buried remains of the more important centres of ancient Rome's political life, the excavations were confined, for a considerable time, to the Forum itself. The region to the east of it, though closely bound to it, from the earliest times, by the Sacra Via, received but little notice, owing in great part to the false views prevailing concerning the ancient topography of the whole region. In 1878‑79, however, modern scholars began to turn their attention to it for the first time.2 The excavations at that period, though extending along the whole line of the Sacra Via, were carried on the south but half way to the Nova Via, while the space to the north was left untouched. On account of the vast amount of earth to be removed,3 the general level reached was still six metres above the remains of the better Roman period. At 1.10 m below the rude mediaeval remains, the pavement of the ancient Sacra Via itself, though of a late period, was, however, laid bare throughout its entire length,4 with a well-built sewer beneath it, both of which were recognized by Lanciani as ancient, though assigned to the period of Severus.5 At that time also the extensive remains of corridors, cryptoporticus and rooms were discovered behind the basilica of Maxentius, in some of which the ancient frescoes were still preserved,6 as well as the older walls incorporated later in the structure of the western apse of the basilica.7 While the attention of the excavators, as of the public, was focussed, at that time, upon the more striking revelations in the atrium Vestae, the recognition of the existence of the great building to the east of it, with which we are at present especially concerned, was at least foreshadowed by discovery of the great travertine pillars in and near the atrium (see Fig. 2), which, though themselves removed in the Middle Ages, were still traceable by their p385imprint on the walls by which they had been partly enclosed at a later time,8 as well as of the massive concrete foundations north of the atrium, the top of one of which is shown in the accompanying illustration (Fig. 2), upon which rested the porticus to which they belonged, commonly known as the porticus Margaritaria.9 In 1883 still further remains of the same great structure, or group of structures, were brought to light, stretching from the atrium Vestae to the arch of Titus, which were correctly recognized later by Lanciani10 as parts of a single architectural unit, though attributed to the Severan period.11


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Figure 2. — Foundation Wall of the Arcade North of the Atrium Vestae.

In 1899‑1900 the work was again resumed and the excavations were carried, at certain points between the Sacra Via and the Nova Via, to the level of the Augustan period two metres below.12 p386Beneath the pavement of the Sacra Via of the same period was found also an earlier sewer of cut stone, which had been in part restored in concrete faced with reticulate of the Augustan type.13 The upper pavement of the later imperial period, which was erroneously held to be mediaeval, was wholly destroyed as well as almost all the remains of another below it of the early empire.14 The two massive concrete foundation walls opposite and parallel to the basilica of Maxentius, which are still so conspicuous a feature in this region, were also, at this time, brought to light.15 These walls,16 which rise from one to two metres above the Augustan Sacra Via, on top of which they were partly built, were at once recognized as the foundations of a monumental colonnade, or porticus, which was held to be closely united in origin with the basilica of Maxentius, to whose period they have been commonly assigned.17 Between the line of this porticus and the newly-found Nova Via, the remains were discovered also of a number of rows of small square rooms, which were held to be a part of the porticus Margaritaria18 mentioned above, although in a plan made in 190019 they bear correctly the name of horrea. At the same time on the north between the Sacra Via and the basilica of Maxentius, the remains were found, at a lower level, of a group of smaller rectangular rooms arranged in rows on either side of a common back wall and opening on broad passage-ways or courts with herring-bone pavements of an early type. This group of structures, which from their general plan were recognized as horrea, were held to be the famous horrea piperataria of Domitian.20 But few remains were brought to light further to the north, though a number of walls had been seen and reported early in the last century at various points under and near the basilica of Maxentius.21

In 1908 during the progress of an investigation of the structural history of the atrium Vestae, the coincidence in orientation as well as agreement in type of construction was discovered between the p387massive concrete foundations opposite the basilica of Maxentius (Fig. 3) referred to above and those belonging to the arcade north of the atrium. Later examination revealed the fact, moreover, that they not only belonged to a single structure but that this structure formed a part of much larger building, or, better, group of buildings, extending along the entire course of the Sacra Via as well as along the slopes of the Palatine and Velia on either side of it. The main features of this larger architectural whole, of which the various groups here referred to are but the disiecta membra, are still traceable, though in part concealed by later restorations and broken by the mediaeval vandals.


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Figure 3. — Foundation Walls of the South Arcade.

Though closely united to the greater and more famous public monuments on the adjacent hills, the more humble group of buildings, consisting in the main of private shops and houses, which occupied the depression between these hills and was bound together by the Sacra Via, may be regarded as both architecturally and structurally independent. The exact time at which it began to be regarded as a distinct district is not known. The antiquity of p388the yearly contest for the head of the October equus between its inhabitants, known as the Sacravienses, and the dwellers in the Subura points clearly, however, to its popular, if not formal, recognition at a very early period. During the later republic, the residential character of the quarter gradually yielded its place of importance to the commercial fame of the district, which, at a later time, assumed a permanent form in the complex group of structures known as the horrea piperataria et Vespasiani.

The general extent of the district differed but little, probably, at the various periods in its history. Its exact boundaries, however, suffered somewhat from the various changes in general plan, especially that following the fire of Nero in 64 A.D., as is clear from the new line of the streets on two, if not three, sides of it after that catastrophe. The limits of the region towards the north are uncertain, except in the late empire. On the south the Nova Via formed, probably, the line of separation between the district and the Palatine through all the different periods. In its earlier history, however, it ran at some distance from the foot of that hill, though probably parallel to it. The exact boundary of the region toward the east is not clear. On the west it reached originally the lower end of the Forum, though, at a later time, its actual limits were pushed somewhat to the east by the erection of the regia and the buildings associated with it. Towards the east and west the district was divided by the saddle between the Palatine and the Velia into two distinct parts. With the latter of these divisions only, that towards the west, to which the name of Sacra Via was commonly restricted by the ancients, are we concerned at this time.

Owing to the natural configuration of the ground, which rose abruptly on the north and south and less rapidly towards the east, the district showed at all periods much diversity in level. Many of these irregularities were corrected in later times by the creation of a series of broad artificial terraces by which the complex group of buildings was carried to the heights of the hills on either side, while the more gradual ascent toward the east was overcome by a gradual rise in the level of these buildings, following the natural slope of the ground though broken at regular intervals by a more abrupt change in elevation.

Unlike the Forum, the region of the Sacra Via as a whole shows but few changes in its general orientation, especially during its earlier history. In the orientation of the monuments of that period belonging to the precinct of Vesta, which formed the boundary between p389the region of the Sacra Via and the Forum, the supremacy of the religious formalism of the Etruscans over the practical sense of the Romans is clearly evident.22 Further to the east, however, the line of direction imposed by the natural configuration of the site prevailed until the rise of the new quarter after the fire of Nero, when the original orientation yielded to that of the south side of the Forum.

The Forum maintained, until a very late period, the general level established by the master-builders of the Golden Age, which the modern excavations have restored to us almost in its entirety. In the quarter towards the east, on the contrary, the natural conditions of its site and the almost entire absence of any great monumental structures during its earlier history, as well as its frequent devastation by fire, led to much diversity in level at different points at the various periods. It has been, therefore, impossible for modern excavators and scholars alike to adopt any one level which may serve as a fixed point of reference throughout the whole region. Two principal levels are, however, especially conspicuous, which may be used as such points of reference, or data, in the present discussion. The lower of these, which is that of Augustus, is most easily recognizable in the Sacra Via in its present form, which rises from 12.60 m above sea level23 at the fornix Fabianus,24 just north of the temple of Julius Caesar, to about 28.30 m at its highest point 7 m east of the arch of Titus. The second of these more important levels, though supported throughout a part of the region in on lofty substructures a number of metres in height, lies immediately above that of Augustus below. This level, which is to be assigned, as will be seen later, to the period following the great fire of Nero, rose along its main axis, which is marked by the new Sacra Via, from 12.60 m at the east end of the Forum, where it coincides with that of the preceding period, to 26 to 26.50 m at the point of junction of the Sacra Via and the clivus Palatinus. Below these two levels, to which the larger number of the existing remains belong, some more fragmentary remains are or have been visible at two, if not three, p390distinct elevations, representing as many or more periods in the history of the district, which correspond in general to the levels of the Forum of the same time.25 A brief consideration of these earlier levels may be of assistance in the discussion of those of the later period with which we are here more immediately concerned.

Concerning the original configuration of the ground occupied later by the quarter to which the Sacra Via gave its name, but little direct evidence remains. It is usually held to have been a somewhat gradual slope extending along the northwestern side of the Palatine or, as more commonly represented in the maps of the ancient city, leading up to a small round summit close to but detached from that hill, which has been regarded as the ancient Velia, or Veliae. It is clear, however, from the ancient writers as well as from the existing remains that it was, rather, a somewhat elevated "saddle" between the Palatine and the hill opposite to it with the shallow depressions, or valleys, to the east and west of it, at the bottom of which flowed the earlier streams from the neighboring hills, the line of which is marked by the later sewers. Concerning the hill which forms the boundary on the south of the region, the Palatine, little difference of opinion prevails. The position and extent of the opposite hill and its relation to the region under discussion are, however, less well recognized. According to ancient writers,26 especially Dionysius, from the beginning of the Sacra Via (caput Sacrae Viae) near the Colosseum to the vicinity of the modern church of S. Pietro in Vincoli, not far from but above the Forum27 as well as the Subura,28 ran a "somewhat high and steep ridge," or λόφος, "which the Romans called the Velia."29 On the heights of this ridge lay the Carinae,30 which formed, as it were, a natural rampart above the Subura.31 Since, as is clear from these and other ancient references, the name Velia must be applied only, as in the passage in Dionysius referred to above, to this ridge with its immediate slopes, it is evident that the Sacra Via and the region bearing its name did not lie within the limits of the Velia, from which it is carefully distinguished by Augustus,32 but below it, following the general line of the low valley between it and the Palatine.

The original elevation of the "saddle" between the two hills, p391the later summa Sacra Via, and of the valleys to the east and west of it can be but approximately determined at present. The level of the virgin earth at the lowest part of the Forum valley, which is but a short distance from the beginning of the Sacra Via, is 3.60 m above sea level.33 From this point, the valley, hemmed in by the abrupt sides of the hills on the north and south, rose originally by an easier slope along the valley to the east. Less than a hundred metres from the valley below, at the northeastern corner of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, virgin earth was found, in connection with the excavation of the sepulcretum, at 10.63 m.34 Concerning the original level along the upper Sacra Via, no exact data have been reported. Along the earlier street leading to the Palatine, however, eleven metres east of the arch of Titus, a primitive grave consisting of a broken amphora was found in 1908 at p392about 28 m, as can be seen in the photograph here shown (Fig. 4). The original level of the ground can have been, therefore, but a little higher at this point, which is at almost the same level as the top of the "saddle" to the east of the arch. For the determination of the exact elevation of the natural terraces which rose on either side of the Sacra Via along the slopes of the Palatine and the Velia but few data are at present available. The level is, however, clear at the west end of the later atrium Vestae from the remains of the primitive grave found in 1902 referred to below, the top of which is at least 14.50 m above sea level, while a little further east in the centre of the peristyle, the original cappellaccioº was laid bare, a few years ago, at from 16 to 16.50 m. That the foot of the Palatine at this point lay further to the south originally than has been commonly held seems very probable for the following reason. In 1902 the remains of a cappellaccio pavement — which are still visible — were found in the rear of the republican atrium Vestae which seem to belong to the very early Nova Via.35 We know from Cicero36 that, between the Nova Via and the foot of the Palatine, there existed, from very ancient times, a grove connected with the cult of Vesta. It is evident that the foot of the Palatine might, at that period, have lain considerably further to the south than the line usually suggested, which coincides practically with that of the present Nova Via, since it is less than twenty metres from the remains of the earlier via just mentioned.


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Figure 4. — Early Remains near the Arch of Titus.

The sides of the rude paths representing the Sacra Via and the Nova Via as well, both of which lay outside the original city, were used by the earlier settlements on the neighboring hills as burial-places for their dead. Apart from the graves of the famous sepulcretum near the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, but one grave has been found along the course of the earliest road to the Palatine. This grave, which, as stated above, lay beside the clivus Palatinus near the arch of Titus, consisted, when found, of a half-amphora much broken by the later sewers near by. Beside the cappellaccio pavement in the rear of the atrium Vestae a similar grave was, as already stated, found in 1902, which must be assigned also to a very early time. During this early period, which is commonly held to have extended from the ninth century to the sixth century B.C., little change occurred in the general features of the region, so far as can be at present determined.

p393 The general line of direction of the primitive Sacra Via and of the upper Nova Via differed but little from that of the later republican streets.

For the establishment of a fixed level corresponding to that in the Forum at 10.60 to 10.90 m above sea level,37 the data at present are very meager. That such a level existed is, however, rendered certain not only by the close connection between this district and the Forum below, but by the erection of a goodly number of monuments at the western end of it at the same general period as that to which the buildings in the Forum and Comitium at this level are to be assigned. But scanty remains of the various structures belonging to this period have, however, been brought to light, apart from a few broken pavements and sewers. Owing to the gradual filling in of the swampy valley below, the slope of the whole region towards the east became, at this time, much less steep, which is especially marked along the line of the Sacra Via. No data are accessible for the determination of the levels to the north of this street. The Nova Via to the south lay, as later, considerably higher, throughout its entire course, than the Sacra Via.

The orientation of the region as a whole remained, probably, unchanged. With the inclusion of the Forum and the Sacra Via in the pomoerium and the rise of the regia and the buildings connected with it as a new religious centre for the enlarged city, the line of direction of the lower part of the Nova Via and possibly of the Sacra Via as well was, however, changed to conform to that of the new monuments, which, in accordance with the Etruscan ideas, were oriented with reference to the points of the compass.

The general plan of the region differed, probably, little from that of the following periods. Its boundary on the north is not clear. On the south, however, the district extended to the Nova Via or a little beyond. Towards the east no change seems to have occurred, but towards the west its extent was considerably lessened by the erection of the new group of buildings connected with the cult of Vesta. The Sacra Via and the Nova Via continued to form, as earlier, the main lines of communication between the Forum and the Palatine. No remains of the Sacra Via itself have so far been identified at this level. Along the clivus Palatinus, however, though no traces of a regular pavement have been discovered at this level, a thin stratum of hard-beaten earth was noted in 1908 which may have served as a ruderatio for one, if not for the pavement p394itself. A considerable portion exists also of a large sewer on either side of the line of this via. That on the east of the via, the course of which was at this point practically identical with that of the Augustan clivus, which is still visible, lies at 2.60 m below the marble plinth of the arch of Titus, which is 30.41 m above sea level. It was, as seen in 1908, at least 60 cm high and 45 cm wide and was made of thin cappellaccio slabs set on end. Several small sewers emptied into it from the east which belonged to the same period or that immediately following. The sewer on the west of the clivus, which was well preserved, resembled in general type and dimensions that just described. The material used was also cappellaccio. The site of the Nova Via is still not free from uncertainty. On the south side of the republican atrium Vestae, as has been said above, a considerable portion of a cappellaccio pavement still exists which is identical in type with those in the Forum at the corresponding level. While it seems almost certain that this pavement represents the Nova Via of this period, it is possible that it belonged to an open space adjoining the atrium and that the Nova Via lay a little further up the slope. No remains of any such street have, however, been found at this level.

Concerning the cross-streets by which the Sacra Via of this period was connected with the district to the north of it, but little is known. From the general character of the region, however, and its close relation to the market district centering, later, in and around the macellum, it is likely that several such streets existed from a very early time, though but one or, possibly, two are mentioned by ancient writers. It is probable that the street east of the basilica Aemilia already existed, though no remains have been found earlier than those of the period of Sulla.38 Whether this street is to be identified with the Corneta, which lay between the Sacra Via and the macellum on the site of the temple of Peace, is wholly uncertain.39 Since, between the temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the so‑called temple of Romulus, the line of buildings along the Sacra Via at the lower as well as at the upper levels is continuous, no side-street can have existed at this point until a very much later time. On the east side of the temple of Romulus, however, an ancient street is still traceable, the remains of which are of the late republic or the early empire, but its rise may well be assigned, for the following reasons, to this period if not earlier. Not far from the Forum, p395according to a contemporary of Augustus,40 ran a very old street which led to the heights of the Velia, known as "the street leading to the Carinae" (τὴν ἐπὶ Καρρίνας φέρουσαν ὁδόν), at the top of which lay the ancient temple of Tellus and at the lower end the no less famous shrine of the Penates. Since between the temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the summa Sacra Via the remains of no other cross street have been found, it seems clear that the street mentioned by Dionysius must have lain not far from if not on the exact line of the street under discussion. Concerning the course of the upper portion of this via, but little is known. It is certain, however, that the temple of Tellus lay a little to the northeast of the basilica of Maxentius and the street to the west of it, though its exact site has not been determined. For the lower part of the street and the temple of the Penates so closely connected with it, the evidence is, fortunately, more conclusive. Behind the so‑called temple of Romulus is a small building of tufa blocks known commonly as the temple of the Sacred City,41 which, apart from the late restorations in brick-faced concrete, is held to be wholly of the period of Vespasian. The existing remains of the earlier building are, however, of two periods, as can best be seen in the fine wall on the east facing the basilica of Maxentius. Toward the top and at the north end of this wall is an irregular line marking the extent of a fire by which the building was in part destroyed. Above and beyond this line a few courses of large peperino blocks are still left belonging to the restoration following this catastrophe which, from their original structural unity with the adjoining temple of Peace and their type of construction, belong clearly to the period of Vespasian. The lower portion of the wall, on the other hand, is built of finely cut blocks of Anio tufa laid in courses varying in height to conform to those of the fine travertine doorway in the centre, which forms a structural part of the building. This portion of the wall, which is necessarily earlier than that of the time of Vespasian resting upon it, must be assigned, from its materials and methods of construction, to the period of Augustus. As has been recognized for many years,42 on almost exactly this spot "not far from the Forum" and "on the slopes of the Velia" lay the very early temple of the Penates, which was rebuilt, according to his own statement,43 by Augustus. It seems clear, therefore, that, in the lower p396portions of this wall, we must recognize the remains of that famous temple in its later form. Since the temple faced — and still faces — east, it is no less clear that the street on that side of it, which in its orientation still agrees, except at its lower end, with the temple, is that which led to the Carinae. Inasmuch as the original temple of the Penates, so closely united to the nearby cult of Vesta and the regia, was built at the early period under discussion, if not previous to it, the via upon which it lay may safely be assigned to the same time. On the south side of the Sacra Via, no cross streets have so far been identified at this level.

No certain remains have as yet been discovered of the various private houses and lines of shops for which the region was even at this time especially noted, except a network of small sewers along the north side of the Sacra Via between the temple of Antoninus and Faustina and that of Romulus,44 which, since they are cut by the later sewer of the Sullan time, may be referred to this general period. Under the east end of the imperial atrium Vestae, however, not far from the earlier line of the Nova Via, the remains of a primitive altar have been found the upper portions of which, when discovered, were composed of sacrificial ashes.45 While no certain proofs have been found so far, it seems probable that this altar is to be identified with that of Aius Locutius, which still existed in the time of Cicero.46

Under the arch at the east end of the Forum and the temple of Julius Caesar, the remains are still visible of a street at 11.90 m above sea level belonging to the time of Sulla.47 Rising from this street along the slopes on either side of the Sacra Via, by which, as earlier, the whole district was bound together, considerable remains have very recently been identified also of various structures which, from their level and general plan as well as their type of construction, must be assigned to the same period. Of these remains, which have been as yet but partly classified, the most important consist of a large number of small rooms or shops which form an almost unbroken line along the south side of the infima Sacra Via, with the less abundant remains of a corresponding row on the opposite side of the street. Of the walls of these rooms, all of which were restored or entirely replaced in the following period of Augustus, the foundations p397only are, as a rule, traceable. They consist throughout of roughly cut blocks of the grayish yellow tufa so common at this period in the Forum.48 The pavement of a considerable number of the rooms, which is made of thick slabs of Monte Verde tufa,49 is still preserved, as well as the tufa curbs of the wells which seem to appear regularly inside of each of them. The remains of the monotonous line of shops on the north side of the Sacra Via are broken by a group of six rooms on either side of a corridor, which was discovered in 1903.50 These rooms, which are still visible to the east of the sepulcretum, are most probably the cellars or basement rooms of shops or private houses above them. Towards the top of the Sacra Via, below the pavement of the later horrea, a lithostraton pavement51 also was found in 190552 belonging, it is probable, to a private house of the period. On the opposite side of the Via, across from the west end of the basilica of Maxentius, a similar but smaller group of rooms was found, resembling the basement shops of Pompeii, to which a flight of steps led down from the street above.53 The construction in general is that of the late republic and the walls of the rooms are faced with quasi-reticulate of the Sullan type.54 A few remains of the shops opening upon the street to the east of the basilica Aemilia at this time have also been found in the course of the modern excavations. On the north of the Sacra Via no remains of the period have as yet been identified beyond those just mentioned. Between the Sacra Via and the Nova Via, many scattered remains belonging to this time are still traceable, especially in and near the precinct of Vesta, which will be discussed at a later time.

The remains of the Sacra Via itself are very scanty. The most important of these are a few blocks of an earlier pavement below the steps at the east end of the temple of Julius Caesar at 12.50 m above sea level, which, as is clear from their level and relation to the remains immediately above them, belong to this period. To the west of the arch of Titus also, immediately below the well-preserved pavement of the Augustan period, a small but fine piece of the clivus Palatinus of this time was brought to light, a few years ago, a little p398over 29 m above sea level, beside which was a broad sewer, the sides of which are of thick slabs of Monte Verde tufa set on edge.55 No remains of the other streets of the period have been identified, except a few uncertain remains of that which lies to the east of the so‑called temple of Romulus.

The general level of the new quarter is in harmony with that of the Forum of the Sullan period,56 to which it was closely united, while in slope it differed little, so far as can be determined, from that of the period immediately following. The elevation of the street by which the region of the Sacra Via was separated from the Forum towards the west was 11.90 m above sea level. Rising gradually from this level, a few blocks of the original pavement of the Sacra Via have very recently been identified, as has been noted above, at the northeast corner of the temple of Julius Caesar at 12.50 m, while the level of the Via in front of the temple of Romulus is not much above 14 m above sea level, as shown by the pavement of the shops opening upon it. At its point of junction with the clivus Palatinus, it is probable that the street did not rise much above 27 m, since the level of the pavement of the following period is 27.60 m. The level of the portion of the district lying between the Sacra Via and the Nova Via, as of the Nova Via itself, has not been determined. It is, however, probable that the Nova Via was raised to a higher level, towards the west, than earlier, since the ramp to the Palatine belonging to this period57 led up to it from a lower level.

Owing to the limited data at our command, but little is known, at present, of the exact extent of the new quarter at this level. It is probable, however, that it differed only slightly from that of the following period. The general course of the Sacra Via and of the clivus Palatinus as well remained unchanged. Concerning the street to the south of the regia, the evidence which follows is fortunately conclusive. In front of the regia towards the east, a small triangular area is still traceable, along the south side of which lay a row of small rooms or shops similar to those along the Sacra Via to the east. Since the first of these rooms, immediately adjoining the regia, extends across the line of this street, it is clear that the street did not exist at this period. While no remains have been found so far of the Nova Via itself, it is certain that it shared in the general restorations from its inclusion in a list of streets mentioned in an inscription concerning street repairs.58 Of the side streets on the p399north, that east of the basilica Aemilia lay a trifle further to west than later, as is shown by the remains of a row of rooms below the present street.59 It is clear from the remains that the street to the east of the so‑called temple of Romulus underwent a certain amount of restoration though it maintained its earlier course. No traces have been as yet found of any cross streets connecting the Sacra Via and the Nova Via, though the existence of one or more is rendered practically certain from references in ancient writers. The ramp west of the atrium Vestae, which formed a shorter means of communication with the northwest portion of the Palatine was, possibly, first built at this period.

The few monumental structures of the period belonging to the district, apart from those connected with the regia and the cult of Vesta, show no traces of restoration.

Concerning the date to be assigned to the rebuilding of the region at the new level, little need be said, since it is not only closely united to, but practically a continuation of, the new Forum which arose at the time of Sulla.60 That it is to be assigned to that period is rendered more certain, also, by the relation of the remains at this level to those of the Augustan period immediately above them, as well as by the materials and methods of construction, which are those of the time of Sulla.

No remains have been as yet found — or at least identified — of any structures built or restored by Julius Caesar in this region, though his work in the Forum is not lacking in importance,61 unless it be a few broken walls above the Nova Via, which are faced with reticulate of a type seemingly earlier than that of Augustus.

A little above, but plainly distinct, from the remains of the Sullan period just described, an extensive restoration of the whole region is clearly recognizable which corresponds in level and orientation to that of the Forum of the Augustan period.62 The remains at this level, which, for the Sacra Via and its immediate vicinity, is the present level, differ little in general character from those of the preceding period. Along the lower part of the Sacra Via and the clivus Palatinus, they consist, in the main, (1) of small rooms or shops on either side of these streets identical in plan with those just below them, which they replaced, and (2) of private houses in the rear of these shops which are, at least in part, of a semi-official character. p400In construction, however, these buildings differ markedly from those of the Sullan period at the lower level. The foundations both of the shops and of the houses, so far as at present classified, are wholly of concrete of the Augustan type.63 The walls of the shops resting on these foundations are of Anio tufa, into which are set at certain points blocks of travertine, while the walls of the houses behind them are in great part of concrete faced with tufa reticulate or broken roof-tiles of the Augustan type. Along the upper Sacra Via, the simple line of shops is replaced on the north and partially at least on the south64 by a group of structures which resembles in plan the ancient horrea, or bazaars, consisting of a number of small rectangular rooms arranged in rows on either side of a common back wall with broad open passageways or courts between the rows. The walls of these rooms are faced in part with reticulate and in part with broken roof-tiles, which belong, however, clearly to the same general period, since the body of the walls is identical in character throughout. The passageways are covered with herring-bone pavement of an early type. The original pavement of the Sacra Via has been in great part preserved and consists of selce blocks of irregular shape but carefully fitted together. These blocks are often of immense size, measuring at times from two to two and a half metres in their greatest diameter and a metre or more in height. Extensive remains also exist of the clivus Palatinus, including a great part of the original pavement with the sidewalks, or crepidones, of travertine on either side. Along the lower part of its course, the general line of direction of the clivus, which is almost perpendicular to that of the Sacra Via is northeast to southwest, but somewhat less than halfway to the front of the domus Flavia it diverges slightly to the east. A little beyond this point, the remains have been found of a monumental arch with but one opening, which, from its level, orientation and relation to adjoining monuments, must be assigned to the same general period as the street which it spans. The type of construction, as shown most clearly in the mass of concrete in which the stone foundations of the arch were set, is also of the Augustan time. But few certain traces have been found of the Nova Via of this time. Of the less important streets of the district also, scanty remains are left, though their general course is clear.

At the east end of the Forum, the level of the Augustan period, which coincides with that of Julius Caesar, is 12.60 m above sea p401level. From this level, which is 70 cm above that of the Sullan period below, the new district rose along its main axis, represented by the line of the Sacra Via, to 28.30 m above sea level at the highest point now traceable, 7 m east of the arch of Titus, while the level of the summa Nova Via at its point of junction with the clivus Palatinus was about two metres higher. The slope along the line of the Sacra Via is much less steep than in the early period, owing to the gradual filling in of the Forum valley below. At the lower part of its course, between the regia and the street leading to the Carinae, it is but 2.75 cm to a metre, while beyond this point it increases rapidly to 6.25 cm rising to 8.75 cm at a short distance from the top.

Though it is certain that the structures to the north of the Sacra Via lay somewhat higher than the earlier ones, but few data are at present available. The buildings between the Sacra Via and the Nova Via, with a few exceptions, as well as the Nova Via itself, were also considerably raised at this time, as can be seen from the existing remains.

The orientation of the region was in general the same as in the preceding period.

Throughout this period, the region maintained its traditional character as a quarter of shops and private houses. Its general plan remained, therefore, unchanged. The Sacra Via and its continuation, the clivus Palatinus, retained their earlier courses. The Nova Via seems at this time to have been pushed a little further to the south, unless, as suggested above, this had already been done in the previous period. The line of the street adjoining the basilica Aemilia also was moved a trifle further to the east owing to the erection at this time of the porticus of Gaius and Lucius.65 The street in front of temple of the Penates suffered seemingly little change, though the temple itself was, as we have seen above, entirely rebuilt.

In connection with the raising of the general level of the district, the earlier sewer of cut stone below the Sacra Via was restored in concrete faced with reticulate.66

No traces have as yet been found of any new public buildings erected at this level. The older monuments, however, especially the temples and other religious structures were rebuilt with a splendor not unworthy of comparison with that of the neighboring Forum. Of these monuments the most illustrious were the regia — belonging p402rather, however, to the Forum than to the Sacra Via — which was built wholly of blocks of Luna marble, with the neighboring temple of Vesta, the more modest temple of the Penates on the Velia, and the shrine of the Lares on the summa Sacra Via, no traces of which have as yet been identified.

Although the period to which the rebuilding of the whole region is to be assigned is clear, the exact date is uncertain. It seems likely, however, that these changes accompanied or followed shortly after the establishment of the new level at the east end of the Forum which marked the completion of the regia in 36 B.C. and the dedication of the temple of Julius Caesar in 29 B.C. In 12 B.C. a destructive fire swept over the region from the northwest, from which many of the buildings on the north of the Sacra Via suffered greatly, especially the temple of the Penates, which was seemingly burned to the ground, since it was entirely rebuilt by Augustus, according to his own statement.67 The line of shops further to the east were also much injured. Of the greater public buildings on the south of the street the regia alone escaped unscathed, though the atrium Vestae, if one may judge from the remains, was not wholly destroyed. Concerning the temple of Vesta, the evidence is not clear, but the domus Publica was burned, as was shown, in the excavations of 1882, by the extensive traces of fire.68 The temple of the Lares on the summa Sacra Via also was destroyed,69 though the shops suffered less injury than those on the opposite side of the Via. While no general rebuilding of the region followed the catastrophe, the temples were rebuilt, as stated above, and the other buildings restored, while the domus Publica was added to the atrium Vestae.

At a number of points near the junction of the Nova Via with the clivus Palatinus of this period, considerable remains have been found of walls which from their relation to the adjoining buildings and their type of construction cannot be referred to any period earlier than that of Nero. Since it is clear from their level and orientation, as well as from their structural independence, that they did not form a part of the later domus Aurea, they must be accepted as belonging to its predecessor, the domus Transitoria, the site of which stretched from the middle of the Palatine, where extensive remains of it have, in recent years, been brought to light below those of the domus Aurea, to the Esquiline on the north.

p403 Scarcely had the last touches been given to this earlier and but little less beautiful palace of Nero, when it, with the whole region of the Sacra Via, was swept over by the fiery wave of destruction which engulfed the greater part of the city in 64 A.D. With this fire the first chapter of the structural history of the Sacra Via comes to an end. Its narrow, winding streets with their reminders of a thousand years were abandoned and its historic houses and shops lay buried beneath feet of broken walls and earth — to be restored to the light again only after almost two thousand years. Out of the ruins there arose, phoenixlike, a more splendid group of structures at a new level and with a new orientation, the general plan of which is still clear, though the walls themselves are much broken and, in certain parts, destroyed by the following centuries of restoration. With its buried walls and vanished streets, the old-time character of the region also disappeared and the thronging quarter of the people was replaced by stately arcades and spacious halls forming but an architectural link between the Augustan Forum below and the oriental splendors of the entrance court of the great palace above, with the golden statue of its builder towering over it all.

In the structural palimpsest revealed by the spade of the excavator which we are here considering, the writing of the earlier times, as has been shown briefly above, appears too often in blurred and broken lines. Owing to its more abundant remains, the work of the later period with which we are most nearly concerned is, however, more easily traced, though concealed in many places by that of later restorers. Of the remains more commonly recognized as belonging to this period, apart from those of the atrium Vestae, which have been discussed elsewhere,70 the most important are the following: (1) the foundation walls and travertine bases upon which rested the colonnade, or better, arcade,71 on the north of the Atrium Vestae with the row of small rooms in its rear; (2) the two massive foundations of concrete belonging to the arcade in front of and parallel to the basilica of Maxentius; (3) a number of rows of small, square concrete foundations, several of which can be seen in the accompanying illustration (Fig. 5), on which rested the pillars supporting the broad porticus in the rear of the arcade, extending from the atrium Vestae to the arch of Titus; and (4) a few broken travertine bases in the rear of the basilica of Maxentius. In addition to these better known remains, a number of others have been found or identified during p404more recent years between the earlier atrium and the arch of Titus, as well as an extensive structure, or better, group of structures on the north of the Sacra Via corresponding in general extent and plans to that on the opposite side of the Via. The most conspicuous of these remains are (1) the retaining walls of unfaced concrete supporting the terrace on which lay the later Nova Via and that immediately above it, with a number of cross-walls belonging to the row of rooms on the south of the same street; (2) the massive concrete foundations of the lofty arcade on the north of the Sacra Via, extending originally from the via on the east of the basilica Aemilia to the summa Sacra Via, with a considerable number of the travertine bases on which rested the pillars forming the arcade; (3) a number of bases also of the pillars supporting the porticus behind this arcade, corresponding to that on the other side of the Via; p405and (4) a very few but important remains of the pavement of the Sacra Via itself.


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Figure 5. — Concrete Foundations
of the South Porticus.

The elevation of the new quarter as a whole differed greatly from that of the previous period, being raised in general from one to three metres, though at a few points attaining the height of almost a dozen metres above the earlier buildings (Fig. 6). In the steepness of its slope towards the east also, it shows a marked change, resembling not a little the gradient of the early times. The level of the east end of the Forum, which had escaped unscathed from the fiery wave of destruction of 64 A.D., remained, as in the last period, 12.60 to 12.70 m above sea level. The lower part of the new Sacra Via, which had been transformed into a monumental avenue of approach to the lordly palace above, the domus Aurea, with the street forming the boundary of the region along the east front of the p406basilica Aemilia, retained, it is likely, the same level, though no remains of the Via itself remain at this point. Almost a hundred metres to the east under the front of one of the small rooms belonging to the so‑called temple of Romulus, the line of which coincides almost exactly with that of the front of the sidewalk beside the Sacra Via of this period (see Plate III), a small piece of selce pavement has been preserved at 16.70 to 16.80 m above sea level; which belongs almost certainly to the Via of this period. The level in front of the Constantinian porch on the south of the basilica of Maxentius, where a fine piece of pavement remains (see Fig. 7), is from about 22.50 to 23.10 m high. The exact level beyond this point is not known, since no remains of the street exist. At the point of junction with the clivus Palatinus it was, however, not more than 26 to 26.50 m above sea level. The level of the Nova Via towards the west is not clear. From the cross street behind the atrium Vestae, where its level is about 23.40 m, it rises to 32.30 m at its junction with the clivus Palatinus. The arcades on either side of the Sacra Via, which were reached by a short flight of steps, lay from 2.20 to 2.80 m higher than the street below. The exact level of the lower portion of that on the north is not known. A little over twenty metres to the east of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, however, where the first remains of the superstructure are found, it differs but little in elevation from the arcade on the south side of the Via. At the west side of the via to the Carinae, its level was 19.40 to 19.50 m, while, on the opposite side, it lay almost a meter higher. Concerning the level beyond this point no data are at present accessible. The arcade on the south rose from about 15 m at its beginning near the temple of Vesta by an easy gradient to the cross street opposite the via to the Carinae, where its level was, like that of the arcade on the north, 19.40 to 19.50 m above sea level. Beyond this street it resumed its course at from 20.20 to 20.30 m, attaining at its highest point, the junction of the Sacra Via and the clivus Palatinus, about 28.30 to 2840 m. Concerning the level of the porticus on the north of the Sacra Via, but few data are accessible. It is probable, however, that it differed little from that of the porticus on the south. This porticus, which extended, as has been said, from the atrium Vestae to the clivus Palatinus on the east, rose by a succession of level areas, or artificial platforms, of uncertain width, which conformed in general to the slope of the arcade in front.


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Figure 6. — Foundation Walls of the Arcade
on the West of the Clivus Palatinus.

The region as a whole shows a new and consistent orientation (see Plate III). The lower portion of it, towards the west, however, p407while conforming in its main lines to the new plan, remained unchanged in certain special cases. The regia and the temple of Vesta on the south, which, so far as can be determined at present, were left untouched by the fire, retained their earlier religious orientation, although in the case of the regia this had been slightly modified at an earlier time to agree with the line of the Sacra Via on the north. The atrium Vestae, on the other hand, to which the domus Publica had been added after the fire of 12 B.C., was included in the general plan and rebuilt on the new orientation, with the exception of the west wall, which continued to follow the line of the earlier ramp to the Palatine. The temple of the Penates on the lower slopes of the Velia opposite, with, it is possible, some other monuments near it, retained, like the regia, its original orientation. The via to the Carinae, on which it lay, with the shops beside it, agreed with the new orientation in its lower course. In front of and beyond the temple, it conformed to the line of direction of the temple — a line of direction fixed for all future time by the erection in the next period of the magnificent temple of Peace. The upper portion of the district, as well as the entire course of the new Sacra Via with the lofty arcades on either side of it and the Nova Via, were made to conform in their orientation to that of the great monuments along the south side of the Forum, though certain structures not far from the northeast corner of the basilica of Maxentius are shown on the plans72 as retaining the older line of direction. The clivus Palatinus, also, the course of which lay at right angles to the Sacra Via, maintained the same orientation throughout its whole course, influenced doubtless by the orientation of the magnificent palace in the centre of the Palatine to which it led. In the great vestibulum and the adjacent portions of the domus Aurea on the slope to the east of the summa Sacra Via, the same orientation prevailed until the time of Hadrian, when the axis of the great temple of Venus and Roma, which rose on this spot, was made to coincide with the major axis of the Colosseum, though the arch of Titus retained the earlier line.

In general extent, the district differed but little from that of the previous periods, including, as earlier, the region between the upper slopes of the Velia and the Nova Via to the north and south and the clivus Palatinus and the Forum on the east and west. Owing to the establishment of the new orientation and general plan, the exact limits of the district were, however, it is probable, much changed, p408especially on the north and south. On the north the presence of the later monumental structures and the lack of systematic excavation make it impossible to establish any exact boundary. It is clear, however, from the remains west of the via to the Carinae that the arcade which existed further to the east along the Sacra Via extended also along this part of its course. No traces have been found, however, of any buildings of the period in the rear of this arcade. The northern limit of the district to the east of the via leading to the Carinae is no less uncertain, since, according to a plan made by eye-witnesses of the remains brought of the light in the sixteenth century,73 the group of structures below the basilica of Maxentius continues without interruption, though probably at a higher level, considerably further to the north than now traceable. On the south the Nova Via, though on a somewhat different line, formed, as earlier, the limit of the district. The new quarter, in its narrower sense, was bounded on the east by the clivus Palatinus on the side towards the Palatine. Owing to the presence of remains belonging seemingly to this period, immediately to the east of the basilica of Maxentius, the fixing of a definitive line between the porticus on the north of the Sacra Via and the front of the domus Aurea is not, at present, possible. Though the district on the west reached technically to the Forum, the group of buildings associated with the regia and the cult of Vesta were more commonly held to belong to the Forum, with the exception of the domus Publica, which was spoken of as lying on the Sacra Via.

The general plan of the new district was simple (see Plate III), forming a part merely of the greater scheme, which included this whole part of the city. On the artificial terraces which had been built up along the slopes of the Palatine and the Velia opposite, long straight lines of structures were erected rising one behind another on either side of the new Sacra Via (see Plate IV, Sections A‑A and B‑B). This double group of structures, forming a regular rectangle except for its western end, was divided roughly into two smaller groups on either side of the via by wide cross streets, the beginning of which was marked probably by lofty monumental arches. These streets, which together form the minor axis of the new quarter, conformed to the new orientation, as has been already said, except along the upper part of that on the north, the via to the Carinae. The western portion of the region as a whole, owing to the presence of its important religious monuments, agreed p409only in part with the lines of the new plan. On the north of the Sacra Via but few remains are now traceable. While, as is plain from the concrete foundations still remaining, the new arcade along this side of the Via was prolonged to the western end of the district, the temple of the Penates behind it and possibly some other monuments in its vicinity were left untouched. From the remains of the shops along the via to the Carinae beyond the temple, it is possible, however, that this portion of the region was partly rebuilt in conformity to the general plan. The regia on the south shows no signs of reconstruction at this time, while the temple of Vesta, which was completely destroyed by the fire, seems not to have been restored until a later time. The atrium Vestae, on the other hand, was wholly rebuilt, at this period, and incorporated in the new scheme, with the Nova Via in its rear. The eastern portion of the district, owing to the private character of the buildings and the almost entire absence of monumental structures, offered less hindrance to the imperial architects in their systemization of the new quarter. The rectangular spaces on either side of this part of the Sacra Via were covered with vast open halls, or portici,º which extended from the slopes of the Velia behind the later basilica of Maxentius to the terrace supporting the Nova Via. These open halls were united with the less regular structures towards the west by lofty arcades along their front, which joined the whole region also with that lying between the Nova Via and the great palaces in the centre of the Palatine.

Of the greater streets, which served not only as the boundaries but also the framework of the new region, the remains are fragmentary. Their general course and construction are, however, clear. The Sacra Via, which formed not only the centre but the main axis of the district, extended in a straight line from its entrance into the Forum at the fornix Fabianus, north of the temple of Julius Caesar, to the vestibulum of the domus Aurea, which occupied the entire width of the earlier saddle between the two hills, with the exception of the small space on which stood the age-old temple of Jupiter Stator. The elevation of the Via towards the west, at its entrance into the Forum, was, as has been said above, 12.60 to 12.70 m above sea level. From this level it rose very gradually for about 85 m to the two cross streets to the north and south, where it was not far from 17 m high. Beyond this point it rose much more rapidly for almost 60 m to the portico in front of the basilica of Maxentius, where its level was from 22.50 to 23 m (see Plate IV, p410Section B‑B), while at its point of junction with the clivus Palatinus it was from 26 to 26.50 m above sea level. Along the lower part of the Via its slope was not above 5 cm to the metre. Further to the east, however, it increased rapidly to not less than 8 cm to a metre, while the upper part of its course shows a general gradient of not far from 7 to 8 cm to the metre, so far as can be determined from the existing remains. Owing to the presence of the regia on the south, the Via was little if any wider in the lower part of its course than in the Augustan period. Beyond the small area in front of the regia, however, the street assumed its true proportions, being 29.50 to 30 m, that is 100 Roman feet, in width from building to building. Although the remains of the Via proper are very fragmentary in general, it is clear that it consisted originally (1) of a wide space paved with selce with one or two steps on either side of it leading up to (2) a broad sidewalk, or crepido, from which, in their turn, three or four steps led to the lofty arcades above. But two or possibly three small pieces of the pavement have been so far identified. The first of these consists of two fine polygonal blocks of selce of medium size at 16.70 to 16.80 m above sea level, under the doorway to the small room on the east belonging to the temple of Romulus. Sixty metres further to the east in front of the porch of the basilica of Maxentius, a considerable stretch of the same pavement, 8 metres long and a little more than 2 metres wide, has been preserved, which rests immediately upon the walls of the shops of the preceding period, as can be seen in the accompanying illustration (Fig. 7). The blocks of this pavement are more regular in shape and much smaller than those of the Augustan Via.74 They measure normally not more than 70 to 80 cm in their largest diameter and are but 45 to 50 cm high. They seem well cut and show but little sign of use. On either side of this paved space, two steps or, in the upper part of the Via, one step led up to a wide sidewalk, or crepido, for pedestrians, which, including the steps to the arcade above, was about 5 m wide. Its exact height above the pavement of the street is not certain, since no remains of its pavement have survived in situ. That it cannot have lain less than 60 cm and, further to the east, 30 cm above the Via is clear from the height of the fragmentary walls of the earlier period on which it rested. Its general level as well as its existence is rendered more certain not only by these walls but more especially by the remains of a series of small rooms lying 60 to 80 cm above the street on the artificial platform formed by them, the p411front of which coincides with that of the crepido, and by the survival in situ of the bases of a number of honorary statues, which form a row along the edge of the earlier sidewalk. On the north the front line of the temple of Romulus and of the porch on the south of the basilica of Maxentius coincides in a similar manner with that of the earlier walk.


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Figure 7. — The Neronian Pavement of the Sacra Via.º

At a short distance from the top of the new Sacra Via in front of the vestibulum of the domus Aurea, the clivus Palatinus, diverged, as earlier, towards the south. The new clivus, flanked on one side by the lofty arcade and on the other by the no less stately front of the Golden House, rose in an unbroken line to the area before the great palace of Nero in the centre of the Palatine, the broken walls of which are still in part visible below those of the following period. No remains of the clivus proper have been so far identified in the lower part of its course, with which alone we are here concerned. Its general line, which lay at right angles to that of the Sacra Via, and its limit on the west are, however, plain. Its exact elevation is not certain, since no remains of its pavement have been preserved. Its p412level at its point of divergence from the Sacra Via was, however, not more than 26 to 26.50 m above sea level, from which point it rose to about 31.75 m at its junction with the Nova Via. Its width is somewhat less than that of the Sacra Via below, since the distance from the arcade along its west side to the front of the domus Aurea cannot have much exceeded twenty metres. From the remains which are left, it is certain that the clivus consisted, like the Sacra Via, of which it is but a continuation, of a paved space in the middle with a broad sidewalk, or margo, on one, if not on both sides. From this walk, a short flight of steps led, on the west, to the arcade above, while on the east rose the more magnificent approach to the Golden House.

Whether there existed an open space or avenue on the north between the porticus and the front of the domus Aurea corresponding to the clivus Palatinus opposite cannot at present be determined. If the structures of which remains have been reported at various times75 under the platform of the temple of Venus and Roma are, as seems clear from the old plan published by Hülsen,76 a continuation of the porticus destroyed by the basilica of Maxentius, the existence of such a street at this period is impossible. In the absence of more definite data, no conclusion can at present be reached.

Of the Nova Via, the younger companion of the Sacra Via through its many vicissitudes, but few remains of the period are left. Its course as well as its general level are, however, clear from the buildings on either side of it, though its beginning towards the west and its connection with the Forum are at present uncertain. Behind and below the sacellum Juturnae a travertine base has recently been noted which is not only identical in type with the large travertine bases for which the whole district is so notably conspicuous, but is in line with those along the north side of the Nova Via further to the east (see Plate III). Inasmuch as it differs radically in orientation from the buildings near to and above it, it seems at least possible that it marks a continuation of the Nova Via towards the west and its connection with the Forum by a monumental flight of steps, as well as by the earlier ramp between the precincts of Vesta and Juturna, which was restored at this time. Since no traces of the via proper have been identified towards the west, the elevation cannot at present be determined. Opposite the line of the cross street of the period behind the atrium Vestae,77 however, its level was probably p413about 23.60 m. About 58 m towards the east, its present level is 28.60 m,78 while at the point of junction with the clivus Palatinus, it is about 31.75 m. In the upper part of its course, its slope conforms closely to that of the Sacra Via below it. The general change in orientation of the whole district is clearly marked in the upper part of the Nova Via by the remains of a few of the earlier retaining walls on both sides of it, which maintain their earlier line of direction.79 A considerable tract pavement of the upper Nova Via has been preserved. These remains, although at the level of the period under discussion, seem, from their type, to point to a reuse of old material or, possibly, a later restoration. On either side of the new Nova Via was a low raised walk, or crepido, of travertine about 1.35 m wide and 40 cm high, a small portion of which still exists (Fig. 8). Behind and above this crepido, the remains are still left on both sides of the street of a row of massive travertine bases, on which rested a series of large square piers supporting a lofty façade not unworthy p414of comparison with that on either side of the Sacra Via. While in form and general proportions resembling the piers of the latter more famous arcade, the pillars on both sides of the Nova Via are somewhat smaller, measuring but 1.18 to 1.20 m × 1.35 m. In the rear of this façade on the south was a line of small rectangular rooms or shops. The remains of these rooms along the upper Nova Via, which were replaced later by others differing somewhat in size, as will be shown in a later paper, consisted, in large part, of foundations for the cross walls with a portion of brick-faced concrete wall in their rear. Towards the west the unfaced retaining wall of the terrace above alone remains. That a similar row of rooms or shops also existed, at least in the original plan of the district, on the opposite side of the street is probable, though the fine walls now visible are wholly of a later period. Below this line of rooms, there existed, at least in the later period, a corresponding row at the lower level, opening probably upon an open passageway or street, as is suggested by the large size of the travertine bases for a line of piers in front of them.


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Figure 8. — Sidewalk on the North of the Nova Via.

The via to the east of the basilica Aemilia seems to have suffered no change at this period.

The via to the Carinae, on the other hand, was largely rebuilt in conformity to the new level while, in the lower part of its course, the new orientation, differed little, if any, from that of the previous period. The level of this street at its point of junction with the Sacra Via was about 17 m, since it lay at least 2.50 m below the arcade above, which, as will be shown later, was about 19.40‑19.50 m above sea level. From this point it rose by an easy gradient to the front of the temple of the Penates where its level was, it seems clear, not more than a metre higher. In its lower course the via conformed to the general orientation of the new district. A short distance to the north of the arcade, however, not far from, if not exactly opposite, the south wall of the temple of the Penates, this line yielded place to that of the adjoining temple, as is clear from the remains of a travertine base and of a brick-faced concrete wall attached to it on the top of which was built the apse of the basilica of Maxentius, both of which show the original orientation.80 Of the via itself a considerable number of paving blocks still remain, which seem, from their position and type, to belong to an earlier period. The width of the street was 7.40 to 7.50 m. On either side near its junction with the Sacra Via, four massive bases of travertine are traceable, which p415supported, it is probable, a monumental arch marking the entrance to the via.

On the south side of the Sacra Via and directly opposite to that just described, lay a corresponding broad street or passageway, the site of which was occupied later by the groups of rooms forming the eastern end of the atrium Vestae of the period of Hadrian.81 This street, unlike that on the north, was not a main artery of the city's life, but merely a secondary street uniting the Sacra Via and the Nova Via. Its level at its beginning, like that of the via opposite, was about 17 m above sea level. Owing to the existence of the later buildings above it, no data are obtainable concerning its elevation further to the south. It is probable, however, that, like the narrow street which replaced it behind the later atrium Vestae,82 it was connected at Nova Via above by a flight of steps. The width of the street is, as of that on the north, 7.40 to 7.50 m, as is shown by the traces of the four massive travertine bases on which rested, probably, a monumental arch corresponding to that opposite.

Concerning the sewers of the period but little has been reported. It is clear, however, from the few data accessible that an extensive system existed. The large sewer seen and destroyed in 1878,83 the line of which was parallel to the front of the basilica of Maxentius, may well have been the main artery of the system belonging to this region, since many smaller sewers were found opening into it on the side towards the Palatine. This sewer, which was built of brick-faced concrete, was 2 m high and 80 cm wide, and its roof was in certain parts round and in others pointed.

The various parts of the new district were united into an architectural whole by the long lines of lofty arcades on either side of the Sacra Via and along the west side of the clivus Palatinus. In front of these arcades, which were separated from the street below by the broad sidewalk, or crepido, on either side of it, ran a line of three, or, towards the east, of two steps, above which a short flight of four steps led, between the piers, to the floor of the corridor behind, which lay from 2 to 2.80 m higher than the Via below. These steps, the remains of two of which are shown in the accompanying illustration (Fig. 9), are of travertine and are, roughly, 30 cm (a Roman foot) high and 45 cm (a Roman foot and a half) wide. Owing to the general plan of the district, the length of the two greater arcades p416differed somewhat. That on the north which extended, at least in the original design, as is clear from the remains, from the street east of the basilica Aemilia to the top of the Sacra Via, was between 195 and 200 m long. The arcade on the south, however, reaching from the area before the entrance to the precinct of Vesta to the clivus Palatinus, was but 186 m (630 Roman feet) in length. The exact length of the arcade beside the clivus Palatinus is, at present, unknown. The entire width of the arcades, exclusive of the steps along the front, was 11 m (37 Roman feet) while the corridor inside measured but 6.40 m (22 Roman feet). In general slope the arcades followed quite closely that of the Via below, though differing somewhat towards the west. Concerning the level of the lower part of that on the north, no data are obtainable, since no remains except of the concrete foundation walls are now traceable. Fifteen to sixteen metres east of the temple of Antoninus and Faustina, a small portion is still visible of an open gutter, or water channel, of travertine, the line of which crosses that of the concrete foundations, in which it is embedded. Its relation to the structures near is not clear. Almost 6 m to the east of this gutter, the concrete walls rise p417about a metre, above which the traces of the massive bases of two large piers are still visible, similar to those on either side of the cross streets further to the east referred to below. The level of the floor of the arcade, which rises normally 1.20 m (4 Roman feet) above the concrete foundations, was about 17.10 to 17.20 m above sea level, as shown by the remains just described. Beyond this point the level rose gradually to the west side of the via to the Carinae where, as shown by the remains, it was 19.40 to 19.50 m. (see Plate IV, Section A‑A). Four or five steps led down from the arcade to the via, which lay at this point somewhat more than 17.50 m above sea level. On the opposite side of this via, where the remains of three piers on either side of the arcade are still preserved or clearly traceable, the level rises abruptly, since the floor of the arcade, which was reached by a flight of at least seven or eight steps, lies at about 20.30 m above sea level. Although no data are accessible concerning the exact level further to the east, owing to the erection of the basilica of Maxentius, the front wall of which rests directly upon the remains of that of the arcade (see Plate III), it is probable that it did not differ essentially from that of the better-preserved arcade on the opposite side of the Sacra Via.


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Figure 9. — Steps of the Arcade on the South of the Sacra Via.

On the south side of the regia a short flight of steps led from the open space east of the Forum, the elevation of which differed little seemingly from that of the preceding period, to a small, irregular-shaped area between the regia and the precinct of Vesta (see Plate III), the level of which was about 15 m above sea level. About 5 m to the east of the doorway leading from this area to the court before the atrium Vestae, a flight of four steps led up to the western end of the arcade on the south, the floor of which lay at a level of from 15.80 to 15.90 m. From this point the arcade rose, with a gradient of about 5.50 cm to a metre, for a little over 68 m to the cross street connecting the Sacra Via and the Nova Via, where its elevation was 19.40 to 19.50 m (see Plate IV, section A‑A). On the eastern side of this street, which, like the via to the Carinae opposite, lay much lower than the arcade to the east and west of it, the level rose by a flight of seven or eight steps to 20.20 to 20.30 m. Beyond this point the upper portion of the arcade, like the Via below, ascended much more rapidly, with a general slope of about 7.25 cm to a metre, to the junction of the Sacra Via with the clivus Palatinus, where it reached a height of 28.30 to 28.40 m. For the level of the arcade on the west of the clivus Palatinus, no reliable data are at hand. It is probable, however, p418that it differed little in its general slope from that of the clivus itself.

For the determination of the more important architectural features especially of the two greater arcades, the data, though not abundant, are decisive. These arcades consisted of a double row of massive piers, 33 in number on the south of the Sacra Via with possibly a somewhat larger number, originally, on the north, between which ran a covered walk, or passageway, for pedestrians. A little less than halfway to the top of the Sacra Via, the regular line of the arcades was broken by the cross streets on the north and south. While it is possible that the lines of the arcades were entirely interrupted at this point, it seems more probable, from the existing remains of the large travertine bases described below, that the streets were spanned by monumental arches. The distance between the centres of the piers, their axial unit, was 5.30 to 5.40 (18 Roman feet). The covered passageway, or ramp, between the rows of pillars, which was 6.40 m wide, consisted of series of inclined planes interrupted at regular intervals of about 5.50 m by a low step. The piers which formed these arcades consisted of double plinths, on which rested massive square pillars measuring 1.35 m in width and 1.30 to 1.40 m in thickness. The plinths, which rose 1.75 m (6 Roman feet) above the concrete foundations, were composed of a central core of rough blocks of travertine, measuring often 1.80 to 2 m in length and 75 cm to a metre in width and thickness (see Fig. 10), with a revetment, probably of marble, though no remains have so far been identified. The lower part of the plinth measured normally about 1.80 to 1.85 m (approximately 6 Roman feet) in width, 2.50 m (8½ Roman feet) in thickness, and about 1 m (3½ Roman feet) in height. The upper portion was but a trifle smaller, as is clear from the imprints in the concrete walls by which the piers were, later, partly enclosed (see Fig. 2), as well as from a few fragmentary remains. The plinths on both sides of the cross streets on the north and south of the Sacra Via, — on which rested probably, as suggested above, the monumental arches at the entrance to these streets, — as well as those at the upper end of the arcades are of double width, though their thickness remains the same. Though no remains have been left of the square pillars above these plinths, their form and dimensions have fortunately been preserved in the impressions on the concrete pillars built against them at a later period,84 which will be discussed at another time. It is clear from p419these indubitable concrete records that the pillars, which were seemingly of travertine, measured, as stated above, 1.35 m (4½ Roman feet) both in width and thickness while, in plan, they resembled a Greek cross. The massive foundation walls of concrete on which the piers of the arcade rested are from 2.40 to 2.50 m wide and rise from 1 to 2 m above the remains of the preceding period, though at certain points, most notably near the junction of the clivus Palatinus and the Nova Via they are sunk many metres below that level (see Fig. 6). The concrete of which these walls is made is that characteristic of the period of Nero.85 The mortar is dark gray and very friable. The caementa, or aggregate, are very large and show an unusual quantity of travertine, a noticeable hall-mark of the work of the period in this section of the new city.


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Figure 10. — Travertine Foundations South of the Nova Via.

Though forming as a whole a single architectural group, the new district was divided, as has been said above, into two somewhat unequal parts by the line of the two cross streets on the north and south of the Sacra Via. The western half of the region, though p420conforming, in its main lines, to the new plan, retained much of its earlier character. The older monuments, owing to their religious nature, though incorporated in the general scheme and united to the newer structures towards the east by the lofty arcades just described, which formed a monumental façade in front of them, remained in great part unchanged in their level, orientation and general position.

Owing to the presence of the later buildings and the limited area of the modern excavations, but little is known of the buildings behind the arcade on the north side of the Sacra Via along this part of its course. Toward the east, however, the temple of the Penates, while much injured by the fire, as has been shown above, maintained its older position, though not seemingly restored until the following period. Along its east side, the remains of a line of shops are still visible beneath those of the later period, which from their orientation and type of construction may be assigned to this time.

The group of monuments on south forming the religious centre of the earlier city met with varying fortunes at the hands of Fate and the imperial architects. The regia, which had escaped unscathed from the great fire, not only retained its original level and orientation but shows no signs of restoration at this period. The evidence concerning the temple of Vesta is less clear. While it is certain that it retained its original orientation, its level has not been determined. Apart from an unfaced concrete wall which surrounds the lower part of the earlier podium towards the north and west, no clear traces of any further restoration have been found. Unlike its more illustrious neighbor, the regia, however, the house of the Vestals was burnt to the ground. It was, therefore, wholly rebuilt in conformity to the new plan, at a higher level and with the new orientation, as has been shown elsewhere.86 The ramp on the west of the atrium was also restored, though it retained the older orientation. In connection with the new atrium, a line of rooms or shops was built along its north side in the rear of the arcade to which it was structurally united (see Fig. 2).87 These rooms, which are eight or nine in number, including that which served as a vestibulum to the newly built atrium, are from 4.50 to 4.65 m wide and about 4.40 m long. The walls are 74 to 75 cm (2½ Roman feet) thick, except that in the rear, which was 89 to 90 cm (3 Roman p421feet). The type of construction both of the body of the wall and of the brick facing is that characteristic of the period of Nero.88

Between the cross street on the south of the Sacra Via and the atrium Vestae of this period, considerable traces still exist of a number of travertine bases similar to those which form so notable a feature of the upper portion of the region. The insufficient data afforded by the scattered remains render the exact nature of the structure to which they belonged somewhat uncertain. Since, however, the bases so far identified are in line with certain of those belonging to the great porticus to the east and the line of the more important walls of the later atrium Vestae coincides exactly with that of other pillars of the same building, it seems probable that this portion of the new district was occupied, as shown in the plan of the region (Plate III), by a lesser porticus forming practically a part of that to the east.89

The eastern portion of the new quarter, with its more modest structures and its freedom from public monuments, offered a clear field for the reckless activity of the building-mad emperor. Behind the magnificent arcades on either side of the new Sacra Via, this activity found expression in a spacious porticus, a type of structure which, though well known to the Romans through the great Saepta and the porticus Vipsania, was, according to an ancient writer, an especial passion of Nero.90 By these great structures, the pillars of which rose, row above row, behind the lofty arcades on either side of the new Via, the whole region was transformed into a fit foreground for the "far-gleaming portals of the dwelling of the new divinity" above.

The extent of the porticus north of the Sacra Via has not as yet been determined, owing to the incomplete data at present accessible concerning the excavations inside the basilica of Maxentius. That it differed little originally from that of the basilica is very probable, however, since the walls of the later building on the north, if not on the east, may well, like those on the south, have rested on the earlier foundations (see Plate III). This is made more probable by the remains of a narrow street which have been found along the back of the basilica. Towards the west the porticus extended to the via to the Carinae, while the line of rooms on the west side of that via point to its possible continuation further to the west. In level p422it followed closely that of the arcade in front, as can be seen from the remains now visible under the western part of the basilica. The porticus, so far as at present known, consists of four rows of square pillars sixteen in number except in the north row, which has but fifteen. The distance between the pillars is in general from 4.40 to 4.50 m, though the actual space is somewhat less between the row towards the south and the arcade in front, owing to the greater size of the piers belonging to the latter.


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Figure 11. — Remains of the South Porticus.

The porticus on the south, the remains of which are fortunately more numerous, as can be seen in the accompanying illustration from a photograph taken after the excavations of 1914 (Fig. 11), extended on the north from the arcade adjoining the Sacra Via to the terrace wall supporting the Nova Via on the south. On the east and west it was bounded by the clivus Palatinus, and the via opposite that leading to the Carinae, or to the atrium Vestae, if the smaller porticus on the west of that via be included. The level of the porticus, while following the general slope of the arcade in front of it, rose towards the east by a series of level areas, or artificial p423platforms, the width of which is uncertain. Towards the south little if any difference in level occurs. The plan of the porticus, like that on the north, is simple, consisting of eight rows of eighteen pillars each forming an open hall, the façade of which is formed by the arcade in front. Along the south side of this hall it is probable that there was a narrow passageway or open street, since the bases of the piers of the last two rows are considerably larger than the rest. The distance between the rows of pillars, — except that towards the arcade, which is a trifle less, — as well as between the individual pillars is from 4.40 to 4.50 m. The pillars, or piers, of this porticus, as of that on the north, while not unlike those of the arcades, are less massive and of a simpler form. They consist of a plinth on top of which rested a simple square pillar. These plinths, the height of which was the same as of the plinths of the arcades, were, so far as can be at present determined, from 1.80 to 2 m square and consist of a core of travertine blocks but a little less huge than those of the bases of the piers of the arcade, with a revetment, seemingly of travertine. The simple pillars which rose above these bases were 1.18 to 1.20 m (4 Roman feet) square. The foundations on which the piers rested, several of which can be seen in the illustrations above, (see Figs. 5 and 11), are about 2 to 2.20 m square. The concrete of which they are made is the same as that of the foundation walls of the arcades, which has been described above.91

With the rise of the broad avenue, flanked by the long lines of lofty arcades and splendid halls on either side, the Sacra Via with its long memories of the past vanished, and the new district became but a part of the vast scheme of magnificent palaces and gardens, endless colonnades and courts with which Nero sought to satisfy his mad passion for building, after the great catastrophe of 64 A.D. The four years of riotous building, and no less riotous living, coupled in Roman phrase with that other ill-omened four years when the people saw, for the first time, their whole city "engirdled with the palaces of their rulers,"92 came to an end. Nero passed, for the last time, from the marble-lined palace on the Palatine across the spacious vestibulum with its golden image towering high above the lordly avenue of the Sacra Via to the quieter gardens of the Esquiline. Within a few months, the thrifty Sabine passed up the great avenue as conqueror and avowed restorer of the stricken city. The great temples and other public monuments were rebuilt. New streets cut into pieces the unwieldy mass of the Golden House and the p424homes of the populace sprang up amid the ruins throughout the whole city. As a part of the great policy of restitution to the people of their stolen rights and possessions, the district of the Sacra Via, as will be shown at a later time, was given back to the people in a new form, its old-time character as a region of barter and trade again restored and the magnificent arcades and halls transformed into the great warehouses for the people, the horrea piperataria et Vespasiani. Sic transit gloria Mundi.

Esther Boise Van Deman.

Rome, 1922.


Plates:

Thayer's Note: The two plates that accompany the article are given below in reduced sizes; a click on them will expand them in another window. The links to them in the text are to the expanded version, in its own window, so you can follow along easily as the text refers to them.


[image ALT: A detailed plan of two gigantic rectangular buildings supported by a rectangular grid of columns, more than a hundred of them in the case of the lower building; and a few smaller buildings, all of them facing onto a wide street. It is a plan of the Sacra Via in Rome at the time of Nero.]
Plate III. — The Neronian Sacra Via

[image ALT: Two cross-sections of a wide street; on either side of the street steep staircases rise to a level supporting a number of tall square statue bases. They are cross-sections, at two different places, of the Sacra Via in Rome at the time of Nero.]
Plate IV. — The Neronian Sacra Via — Cross-Section

The Author's Notes:

1 The general line of direction of this region is northwest to southeast. For the sake of convenience, however, the side of the Sacra Via now occupied in large part by the basilica of Maxentius is, throughout the present discussion, referred to as north and that towards the Palatine as south.

2 For the appearance of the region before the excavations, see B. Com. Rom. 1903, p21, fig. 6. Cf. Fig. 1.

3 Not. Scav. 1878, p234.

4 Not. Scav. 1878, p341; 1882, p219.

5 Op. cit. 1882, pp219‑20.

6 Op. cit. 1879, p264.

7 Op. cit. 1879, p312.

8 Op. cit. 1878, p341; 1883, p470. For these walls, or better strengthening pillars, see p403.

9 Op. cit. 1879, tav. VII; 1882, p228 and tav. XV.

10 Ruins and Excavations, pp207‑209.

11 Not. Scav. 1883, p470.

12 For the appearance of the Sacra Via at this period, see B. Com. Rom. 1903, p20, fig. 5. Cf. Fig. 1.

13 Not. Scav. 1899, pp78, 266, B. Com. Rom. 1899, p57. Cl. R. 1899, pp186, 322.

14 Not. Scav. 1899, p265. Cl. R. 1899, p467; 1900, p239.

15 Cl. R. 1899, p467. Röm. Mitt. 1902, p95. Cf. Not. Scav. 1900, plan opposite p220.

16 For the appearance of these walls at the time of their discovery, see B. Com. Rom. 1903, p24, fig. 7.

17 Röm. Mitt. 1902, p95. Cl. R. 1905, p76; 1906, p283. B. Com. Rom. 1899, p256.

18 Cl. R. 1900, p238. Cf. Lanciani, Ruins and Excavations, p208, fig. 83.

19 Not. Scav. 1900, plan opposite p220. Cf. Cl. R. 1906, p283.

20 B. Com. Rom. 1900, pp8‑13 and tav. I‑II. Cl. R. 1900, p239.

21 Nibby, R. A. II, p243; R. F., p203 and plan opposite p208.

22 For the conflict between these two forces in the Forum, see Van Deman, 'The Sullan Forum,' JRS XI, p6.

23 The levels here quoted have been reckoned from the data established by the School of Engineers of the University of Rome in their invaluable plan of the centre of the ancient city (Media Pars Urbis, Firenze, 1911). To avoid confusion the data used are those given on the plan itself without the correction of 14 cm necessary to bring them into harmony with the later data of the Italian Geographical Institute, as stated in the nota accompanying the plan.

24 For the site of the fornix Fabianus, see Van Deman, op. cit. p27.

25 For the levels of the Forum, see Van Deman, op. cit. p10.

26 Dionysius, I.67; V.19. Varro, Ling. Lat. V.48. For fuller references, see Jordan, Top. I.2, pp416 f. and notes 131‑134.

27 Dionysius, V.19.

28 Varro, Ling. Lat. V.48.

29 Dionysius, V.19.

30 For the site of the Carinae, see Hülsen, Top. pp262 ff.

31 Varro, loc. cit.

32 Res Gestae, IV.7.

33 For this level, see Van Deman, op. cit. p3.

34 Not. Scav. 1902, p100.

35 For this pavement, see Van Deman, The Atrium Vestae, p13 and pl. III, fig. 1.

36 de Divin. I.45.

37 For this level, see Van Deman, 'The Sullan Forum,' JRS XI, p4.

38 For these remains, see Van Deman, op. cit. pp11 and 16.

39 For this street, see Hülsen, Top. 1, n. 2.

40 Dionysius, II.67; VIII.79.

41 For a careful study of this building, see Phillip Barrows Whitehead, 'La chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano,' N. Bull. Arch. Crist. 1913, pp143‑165.

42 See Jordan, Top. I, 2, pp416 ff.

43 Res Gestae, IV.7.

44 Not. Scav. 1902, p96.

45 For the condition of this altar, when first found, see Van Deman, The Atrium Vestae, p19 and n. 1, and pl. IV, fig. 2. The upper part of the altar has now disappeared.

46 de Divin. I.45.101.

47 For this street, see Van Deman, 'The Sullan Forum,' JRS XI, p12.

48 For the use of this tufa in the Forum, see Van Deman, op. cit. p12.

49 For this variety of tufa, see Frank, A. J. A. XXII, 1918, pp182, 187, et al.

50 For the appearance of these rooms at the time of their discovery, see Röm. Mitt. 1905, p116, fig. 52.

51 For this type of pavement and the period of its use, see Van Deman, op. cit. p29.

52 Cl. R. 1905, p76.

53 Not. Scav. 1889, p266. B. Com. Rom. 1903, p27.

54 For the Sullan type of construction, see Van Deman, A. J. A. XVI, 1912, pp246 f.

55 For this sewer, see p391, Fig. 4.

56 For the Sullan Forum, see Van Deman, 'The Sullan Forum,' JRS XI, pp1 ff.

57 For this ramp, see op. cit. pp17 f.

58 Not. Scav. 1899, pp265‑66.

59 For these rooms, see Van Deman, op. cit. p30.

60 For this Forum, see Van Deman, op. cit. p30.

61 For the work of Julius Caesar in the Forum, see Van Deman, op. cit. p9.

62 See Van Deman, op. cit. p2.

63 See Van Deman, A. J. A. XVI, 1912, pp391 f.

64 For the remains of these structures on the south of the Sacra Via, see p385, Fig. 2.

65 For this porticus, see Van Deman, A. J. A. XVII, 1913, pp14‑28.

66 Not. Scav. 1899, pp78, 265; Cl. R. 1899, pp186, 322.

67 Res Gestae, IV.7; aedem Larum in summa Sacra Via, aedem Penatium in Velia . . . feci.

68 For the traces of fire, see Jordan, Top. I, 2, p285 and n. 115.

69 See above.

70 The Atrium Vestae, pp15‑20.

71 For the various structures here referred to, see Plate III.

72 Media Pars Urbis, pl. 2. Lanciani, Forma Urbis, pl. 29.

73 Mél. Arch. Hist. XI, pp161‑167 and pls. IIIIV.

74 For the pavement of the Augustan period, see p400.

75 Lanciani, Ruins and Excavations, pp74, 195. Hülsen, Drit. Jahresb. über d. Top. d. Stadt Rom. ap. Durm, Baukunst d. Etr. und Röm., p626, fig. 707.

76 Op. cit.

77 For this street, see p415.

78 See Plate IV, Section B‑B.

79 See Plate III, the wall in red south of the Nova Via, for one of these walls.

80 See Plate III; cf. Lanciani, Forma Urbis tav. 29.

81 For these rooms, see Van Deman, The Atrium Vestae, pp28‑32 and Plan C.

82 For this street, see op. cit., pl. IX, fig. 1.

83 Not. Scav. 1878, pp133, 163.

84 For the impression in one of these walls, see Fig. 2, the wall above the base.

85 For this concrete, see A. J. A. XVI, 1912, pp404 f.

86 The Atrium Vestae, pp15‑20 and Plan A.

87 Through a misinterpretation of the remains of the crepido belonging to the Sacra Via, a similar line of rooms was incorrectly assumed as existing on the opposite side of the arcade. See The Atrium Vestae, p16 and Plan A.

88 For the construction of the period of Nero, see A. J. A. XVI, 1912, pp404‑406.

89 In the earlier discussion (The Atrium Vestae, pp17f), this portion of the district was incorrectly held to belong to the Atrium.

90 Suetonius, Nero1631.

91 P418. See Fig. 11.

92 Plin. N.H. 36.24.


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