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ROMA (Ῥώμη, Strab. Ptol. et alii: Eth. Romanus, Eth. Ῥωμαῖος), the chief town of Italy, and long the mistress of the ancient world.


Situation 719
Climate 721
I. Traditions respecting the foundation of Rome 722
II. The city of Romulus 724
    Pomoerium 724
    Gates of the Palatine city 727
III. Progress of the city till the building of the walls of Servius Tullius 729
    Legend of Tarpeia--Porta Janualis, and Temple of Janus 729
    Regions of Servius 733
    Septimontium 734
IV. Progress of the city till the time of Augustus 735
    Regions of Augustus 737
    His municipal regulations 739
    Augustan Rome 740
V. History of the city till the building of the walls of Aurelian 741
    Fire under Nero 741
    Changes under subsequent Emperors 741
VI. Decline and Fall of the city 742
    Rome in the time of Constantius II. 743
    The Barbarians at Rome 743
    Rome under the Popes 745
VII. Population of Rome 746
I. Walls and gates of Servius Tullius 748
    Survey under Vespasian, and circumference of the city 756
    False and doubtful gates 757
    Transtiberine wall 757
II. Walls and gates of Aurelian and Honorious 758
III. The Capitol 761
IV. The Forum and its environs 772
    The Sacra Via 773
    Vicus Jugarius and Vicus Tuscus 775
    The Comitium 775
    The Forum under the Kings 778
      during the Republic 783
      under the Empire 789
V. The imperial Fora 797
VI. The Palatine, Velia, and Nova Via 802
VII. The Aventine 810
VIII. The Velabrum, Forum Boarium, and Circus Maximus 812
IX. The Caelian hill 817
X. The district S. of the Caelian 819
XI. The Esquiline and its neighbourhood 822
XII. The Viminal, Quirinal, and Pincian hills 828
XIII. The Campus Martius, Circus Flaminius, and Via Lata 832
XIV. The Transtiberine district 840
XV. Circi, Theatres, and Amphitheatres 843
XVI. Baths 847
XVII. Bridges 848
XVIII. Aqueducts 850
Sources and Literature of Roman Topography 851


Rome was seated on the Tiber, and principally on its left bank, at a distance of about 15 miles from its mouth. The observatory of the Collegio Romano, which is situated in the ancient Campus Martius, lies in 41° 53′ 52″ N. lat., and 12° 28′ 40″ long. E. of Greenwich.

Rome lies in the vast plain now called the Campagna, which extends in a south-easterly direction about 90 miles from Cape Linaro, a little S. of Cività Vecchia, to the Circaean promontory; whilst its breadth is determined by the mountains on the NE. and by the Mediterranean on the SW., in which direction it does not exceed about 27 miles in its greatest extent. Looking from any of the heights of Rome towards the E., the horizon is bounded from the N. almost to the S. by a nearly continuous chain of mountains, at a distance varying from about 10 to 20 miles. This side offers a prospect of great natural beauty, which, to the lover of antiquity, is still further enhanced by the many objects of classical interest which it presents. In the extreme north, at a distance of about 20 miles, lies the round and isolated mass of Soracte. Then follows the picturesque chain of the Sabine Apennines, in which the peaked and lofty summit of Lucretilis, now Monte Gennaro, forms a striking feature. A few miles farther S., at the spot where the Anio precipitates its waters through the chain, lies Tibur, embosomed in its grey and sombre groves of olives. More southward still, and seated on the last declivities of the Sabine mountains, is the “frigidum Praeneste,” celebrated for its Sortes and its temple of Fortune (Cic. Div. 2.4. 1), and, like the neighbouring Tibur, one of the favourite resorts of Horace. (Od. 3.4.) A plain of 4 or 5 miles in breadth now intervenes, after which the horizon is again intercepted by the noble form of Mons Albanus (Monte Cavo), which closes the line of mountains towards the S. This mass is clearly of volcanic origin, and totally unconnected with the Apennines. The mountain awakens many historical recollections. Its summit was crowned by the temple of Jupiter Latiaris, the common sanctuary and meeting place of the Latin cities, conspicuous from the surrounding plain, and even visible to the mariner. Beneath lay Alba Longa with its lake; at its southern foot Lanuvium, and on its northern declivity Tusculum, consecrated by the genius and philosophy of Cicero. To the S. and SW. of Mons Albanus there is nothing to obstruct the view over the undulating plain till it sinks into the sea; but on the W. and NW. the prospect is bounded to a very narrow compass by the superior elevation of Mons Janiculus and Mons Vaticanus.

The plain marked out by these natural boundaries is intersected by two considerable rivers, the Tiber and the Anio. The former, at first called Albula, and afterwards Tiberis or Tibris (Liv. 1.3 ; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Verg. A. 8.330, &c.), entering the plain between Soracte and the Sabine chain before described, bends its yellow course to the S. At a distance of about 3 miles from Rome, it receives the Anio flowing from the eastward, and then with increased volume passes through the city and discharges itself into the sea at Ostia. The course of the Tiber marked the limits of Etruria: the angular territory between it and the Anio is attributed to the Sabines; whilst on the southern side the line of the Anio and of the Tiber formed the boundary of Latium.

The Campagna of Rome consists of undulating ridges, from which scanty harvests are gathered; but the chief use to which it is applied is the pasturing of vast herds of cattle. These, with the picturesque herdsmen, mounted on small and half wild horses and armed with long poles or lances, are almost the only objects that break the monotony of a scene where scarce a tree is visible, and where even the solitary houses are scattered at wide intervals. Yet anciently the Campagna must have presented a very different aspect. Even within sight of Rome it was thickly studded with cities at first as flourishing as herself; and in those times, when “every rood of ground maintained its man,” it must have presented an appearance of rich cultivation.

Such is the nature of the country in the immediate neighbourhood of Rome. The celebrated group of [p. 2.720]seven hills--the site on which the eternal city itself was destined to rise--stands on the left bank of the Tiber. To the N. of them is another hill, the Mons Pincius or Collis Hortorum, which was excluded from the ancient city, but part of it was enclosed in the walls of Aurelian. The Tiber, at its entrance into Rome, very nearly approaches the foot of this hill, and then describes three bold curves or reaches first to the SW., then to the SE., and again to the SW. The distance from the spot where the Tiber enters the city to the SW. point of the Aventine is, in a direct line, about 2 miles. At the extremity of the second, or most eastern reach, it divides itself for a short space into two channels and forms an island, called the Insula Tiberina. At this spot, at about 300 paces from its eastern bank, lies the smallest but most renowned of the seven hills, the Mons Capitolinus. It is of a saddle-back shape, depressed in the centre, and rising into two eminences at its S. and N. extremities. On its N. or rather NE. side, it must in ancient times have almost touched the Collis Quirinalis, the most northerly of the seven, from which a large portion was cut away by Trajan, in order to construct his forum. The Quirinalis is somewhat in the shape of a hook, running first to the SW., and then curving its extreme point to the S. Properly speaking, it is not a distinct hill, but merely a tongue, projecting from the same common ridge which also throws out the adjoining Viminal and the two still more southern projections of the Esquiline. It will be seen from the annexed plan, without the help of which this description cannot be understood, that the Quirinal, and the southernmost and most projecting tongue of the Esquiline, almost meet at their extremities, and enclose a considerable hollow--which, however, is nearly filled up by the Viminal, and by the northern and smaller tongue of the Esquiline. These two tongues of the Esquiline were originally regarded as distinct hills, under the names of Cispius, the northern projection, and Oppius

  • A. Mons Capitolinus.
  • B. Mons Palatinus.
  • C. Mons Aventinus.
  • D. Mons Caelius.
  • E. Mons Esquilinus.
  • F. Collis Viminalis.
  • G. Collis Quirinalis.
  • H. Collis Hortorum (or Mons Pincius).
  • I. Mons Janiculus.
    • a. Velia.
    • b. Germalus.
    • c. Oppits.
    • d. Cispius.
    • e e. Tiberis Fl.
  • 1. Prata Quinctia.
  • 2. Prata Flaminia.
  • 3. Subura.
  • 4. Carinae.
  • 5. Caeroliensis.
  • 6. Velabrum.
  • 7. Forum Boarium.
  • 8. Vallis Murcia.

[p. 2.721]the southern one ; But they were afterwards considered as one hill, in order not to exceed the prescriptive number of seven. S. of the Esquiline lies Mons Caelius, the largest of the seven; and to the W. of it Mons Aventinus, the next largest, the NW. side of which closely borders on the Tiber. In the centre of this garland of hills lies the lozenge-shaped Mons Palatinus, facing on the NW. towards the Capitoline, on the NE. towards the Esquiline, on the SE. towards the Caelian, and on the SW. towards the Aventine.

It may be observed that, of the seven hills above described, the Quirinal and Viminal are styled colles, whilst the others, though without any apparent reason for the distinction, are called montes. It cannot depend upon their height, since those called colles are as lofty as those dignified with the more imposing name of montes; whence it seems probable that the difference originated in the ancient traditions respecting the Septimontium. A less important eminence, called Velia, which was not reckoned as a distinct hill, projected from the NE. side of the Palatine towards the Esquiline, and separated the two valleys which in after times became the sites of the Forum Romnanum and of the Colosseum. The Germalus was another but still smaller offshoot, or spur, of the Palatine, on its western side.

On the opposite bank of the Tiber, Mons Vaticanus and Mons Janiculus rise, as before remarked, to a considerably greater height than the hills just described. The former of these lies opposite to the Pincian, but at a considerable distance from the river, thus leaving a level space, part of which was called the Ager Vaticanus, whilst the portion nearest the river obtained the name of Prata Quinctia. To the S. of Mans Vaticanus, and close to the river, at the extreme western point of its first reach, the Mons Janiculus begins to rise, and runs almost straight to the S. till it sinks into the plain opposite to Mons Aventinus. The open space between this hill and the southernmost curve of the Tiber formed the Regio Transtiberina. The sinuous course of the river from the Pincian to the Capitoline left a still more extensive plain between its left bank and the hills of Rome, the northern and more extensive portion of which formed the Campus Martius, whilst its southern part, towards the Capitoline, was called the Prata Flaminia.

From the preceding description it will be perceived that the Capitoline, Aventine, Caelian, and Palatine were completely isolated hills, separated from one another by narrow valleys. Those valleys which lay nearest the Tiber seem, in their original state, to have formed a marsh, or even a lake. Such was the Vallis Murcia, between the Palatine and Aventine, in later times the seat of the Circus Maximus ; as well as the low ground between the Palatine and river, afterwards known as the Velabrum and Forum Boarium; and perhaps even part of the Forum Romanum itself. Thus, in the combat between the Romans and Sabines, on the spot afterwards occupied by the forum, the affrighted horse of Mettius Curtius, the, Sabine leader, is described as carrying him into a marsh. (Liv. 1.12.) Nay, there are grounds for believing that the Tiber, in the neighbourhood of Rome, formed at a very remote period an arm of the sea, as pure marine sand is often found there. (Niebuhr, Lect. on Ethnogr. vol. ii. p. 39.)

In order to assist the reader in forming a clear idea of the nature of the Roman hills, we shall here insert a few measurements. They are taken from a paper by Sir George Schukburg in the “Philosophical Transactions,” An. 1777 (vol. lxvii. pt. 2. p. 594), and have been esteemed the most accurate. (Becker, Handbuch, vol. i. p. 83, note.) Other measurements by Calandrelli are also annexed. The latter are according to the Paris foot, which equals 12 785 inches English.

Height above the Mediterranean:--

Janiculum, near the Villa Spada 260
Aventine, near Priory of Malta 117
Palatine, floor of imperial palace 133
Caelian, near the Claudian aqueduct 125
Esquiline, floor of S. Maria Maggiore 154
Capitoline, W. end of the Tarpeian rock 118
Viminal and Quiirinal at their junction, in the Carthusian church, baths of Diocletian 141
Pincian, garden of the Villa Mledici 165
Tiber, above the Mediterranean 33
Convent of St. Clare in the Via de' Specchi. 27
Forum, near the arch of Severus 34

Measurements from Calandrelli, in his and Conti's Opuscoli astronomnici e fisici (ap. Sachse, Gesch. der Stadt Rom, vol. i. p. 69,7):--

  Paris feet
Janiculum, floor of the church of S. Pietro in Montorio (not the highest point of the hill) 185
Aventine, floor of S. Alessio 146
Palatine, floor of S. Bonaventura 160
Caelian, floor of S. Giovanni Laterano 158
Esquiline, floor of S. Maria Maggiore 177
Capitol, floor of S. Maria d'Araceli 151
Viminal, floor of S. Lorenzo 160
Quirinal, Palazzo Quirinale 148
Pincian, floor of S. Trinità de' Monti 150
Vatican, floor of S. Pietro. 93

In ancient times, however, the hills must have appeared considerably higher than they do at present, as the valleys are now raised in many places from 15 to 20 feet above their former level, and in some parts much more. (Lumisden, Ant. of Rome, p. 137.) This remark is more particularly applicable to the forum, which is covered with rubbish to a great depth; a circumstance which detracts much from the apparent height of the Capitoline; whose sides, too, must formerly have been much more abrupt and precipitous than they now are. The much superior height of the Janiculum to that of any of the hills on the W. bank of the Tiber, will have been remarked. Hence it enjoyed a noble prospect over the whole extent of the city and the Camtpagna beyond, to the mountains which bound the eastern horizon. The view has been celebrated by Martial (

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