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Bill Thayer

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A City Gate Ripped from its Context

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A 1937 photo of the Arco di Augusto.

The Fascist government of Italy usually did quite well by Roman remains: excavating, studying, restoring, landscaping: occasionally rebuilding from almost scratch (see the Porta Venere of Spello in Umbria, for example).

Here they didn't. Instead, they demolished some of the Roman walls and took down a very old bridge, or paved it over at least, by which the via Flaminia entered the city: anyway it's not there now, and the Ausa, in common with so many little creeks in cities the world over (like the Bièvre in Paris, or the Tiber in Washington, DC — yes, the Tiber) now runs thru an under­ground conduit. The gate itself, a triumphal arch erected to commemorate Augustus's restoration of the Flaminia, has been isolated in a meaningless plot of grass and made the centerpiece of a traffic circle. The photo above is a record of this process.

Although this gate seems to be the oldest remaining Roman triumphal arch, it was never a spectacular one, and rapidly wound up being used just as a city gate. Therein, maybe, lies the clue.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the crenellations, they're not medieval: some century other than ours decided this gate looked better in the medieval style. Fashions change.

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		This is what the Arco di Augusto looked like when I was there in October 1997. . . .

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Page updated: 31 Oct 17