previous next


A colony near the Po and Dora rivers, founded probably ca. 25 B.C., about the time that the capital of the Salassi (Augusta Praetoria Salussorum) was founded. Both reflect Roman strategic needs and tactical initiatives in the area W of the Po valley. The Romans also needed new centers for veterans and for those incolne whom the Lax Pompeia de Gallia Citeriore had Romanized.

All these sites (often cited as outstanding examples of urban grid planning or of the Augustan fortified city) were presumably brought into being according to a perfectly regulated and predetermined plan of the Roman land surveyors. The plan of the center of the city at Torino is unequivocally Roman in origin, connected with the geometric format of the castra metatio. Enclosed within a powerful defensive square, its area (ca. 800 x 700 m) is quite close to the canonical measurements fixed by Hyginus for the foundation of a fortified city.

The inner city was divided into four sections by the intersection of the cardo and the decumanus; the blocks were further divided by cardines and decumani minores. The perfect unity of the plan is evidenced by the position of the towers at the ends of the principal streets, where four gates, according to tradition, opened to meet the cardo and the principal decumanus.

Remains of the ancient boundaries are still visible within the city, and the walls reveal an open rubble core faced on the inner side with a refined opus incertum of pebbles from the river bed, interrupted by a double course of flat brick. The outer side of the wall had a curtain formed by a false brick facade. The best known section of these walls was for some time the section next to the Chiesa della Consolata. However, other notable remains had come to light in all periods, even beneath the present-day Public Health building and beneath the Academy of Sciences in the vicinity of Via Roma. The bombings of WW II brought to light a long section of the circuit wall in the area closest to the Porta Principalis sinistra (Porta Palatina); it is still the best preserved even though mediaeval defensive structures were built over it.

The Porta Palatina, considered one of the most beautiful examples of an urban gate, has two vaulted openings to permit the passage of vehicles and a smaller one at either side for pedestrians. The architects of this gate knew well how to harmonize the solidity of a defensive structure with the refined elegance of a palace facade. The chronology of this gate is still under discussion, though its unity with the Augustan circuit wall would seem to obviate attribution to the Flavian and Trajanic periods.

The characteristics of the Porta Palatina are repeated in two other gates in the city: the marble Principalis Dextra, destroyed in 1635, recorded in a sketch by Giuliano da Sangallo; and the Porta Decumana, whose remains are still visible in the facade of the Palazzo Madama.

The Roman theater is still partly visible in the area adjacent to the Porta Palatina, partly hidden by a wing of the Palazzo Reale. Built close to the city walls in order to avoid a natural gradient in the land, the theater occupied nearly an entire block. On two sides it was bounded by two streets while the porticus post scaenam was its N boundary, right next to the city walls.

The remains still preserved in the former royal garden show that in a period following the original construction the building was enlarged and the rectangular enclosure replaced by a more traditional front. The new and larger semicircle, with strong pilasters buttressing the walls, exceeded the boundary set by the earlier facade and encroached on the roadbed of the neighboring street. White marble slabs covered the podium which was decorated with false pilasters.

In the Middle Ages, an initial phase of dissolution and disorientation of Roman organization may usually be observed, but in Turin the perfect symmetry of the Roman plan has been continuously preserved.


C. Promis, Torino Antica (1865); G. Bandinelli, Torino Romana (1929); P. Barocelli, “Appunti sopra le Mura Romane di cinta di Torino,” Atti della Società Piemontese di Archeologia e Belle Arti (1933); C. Carducci, “L'Architettura in Piemonte nella antichità,” Atti del X Congresso di Storia dell'Architettura (1957); S. Finocchi, “I nuovi scavi del Teatro Romano di Torino,” Bollettino della Società Piemontese di Archeologia e Belle Arti (1962-63) 142ff; id., BdA 49.4 (1964).


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: