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Bill Thayer

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 p414  Porta Romana

Article on pp414‑415 of

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

Porta Romana: one of the three (?) gates of the early Palatine city (Varro, LL V.164: alteram Romanulam ab Roma dictam, quae habet gradus in nova via ad Volupiae sacellum (see Palatium, p376); VI.24: Velabro  p415 . . . sepulchrum Accae . . . qui uterque locus extra urbem antiquam fuit non longe a porta Romanula; Fest. 262: Romanam portam vulgus appellat ubi ex epistylio defluit aqua; qui locus ab antiquis appellari solitus est statuae Cinciae, quod in eo fuit sepulcrum eius familiae. Sed porta Romana instituta est a Romulo infimo clivo Victoriae; qui locus gradibus in quadram formatus est. Appellata autem Romana a Sabinis praecipue quod ea proximus aditus erat Romam; ib. 263: Romana porta apud Romam a Sabinis appellata est quod per eam proximus eis aditus esset; ib. 269 is quite fragmentary). Romanula is, however, clearly an incorrect form (Jord. I.1.176; Glotta I.295). The topographical indications (infimo clivo Victoriae — proximus aditus Romam — quae habet gradus in nova via ad sacellum Volupiae) point to a site on the west side of the Palatine at the foot, or lower part, of the Clivus Victoriae (q.v.), where steps led down to the Nova via. The sacellum Volupiae is wholly unknown. Although the original course of the clivus Victoriae is uncertain, the gate was probably situated a little south of the church of S. Teodoro (Jord. I.1.176; Gilb. I.42, 121‑122; II.114‑115; Ann. d. Inst. 1884, 203‑204; RE I. A. 2189; Richter 34; for the presentation of another view according to which the gate was at the north corner of the hill, at the junction of the three existing ramps, or stairways, from the Nova via, the forum, and the Velabrum see WR 241; Mél. 1908, 256‑258). Support of this view is sought in the statement of Festus 'qui locus gradibus in quadram formatus est,' which seems to mean that the gate stood on a raised stone area approached by steps on all sides.

According to another explanation than that given by Festus (Krestchmer, Glotta I.295), the name porta Romana is evidence that the Palatine settlement was not called Roma, since this designation of this gate indicated that it opened towards Roma which was then the district of the Velabrum and forum Boarium. Platner (in CP 1917, 196) pointed out that had this been so, some trace of the transfer of the name to the Palatine would have been found in tradition. The old view, according to which Roma could be connected with ruma, rumon, 'a stream,' made it easy to explain the gate as the river-gate; but if the name is a tribal name, 'why can we not explain the porta Romana most easily by supposing that this powerful Etruscan clan, or family, dwelt at this north-west corner of the hill — where tradition puts the first settlement, and that the gate, as well as the whole enclosure, got its name from this fact?' A still later view is that of Herbig (BPW 1916, 1440 ff., 1472 ff., summarised by Nogara in DAP 2.xiii.279 and BC 1916, 141), that Roma is the latinized form of the Etruscan ruma, 'breast' (cf. Varro, RR II.11.5: mamma enim rumis sive ruminare) and as a proper name means 'large breasted,' i.e. strong or powerful.

Another inference from Festus' statement is that the real site of the gate had been forgotten, and identified with that of the tomb of the Cincii, probably not far away.

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Page updated: 18 Jun 09