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PORTA (πύλη), the gate of a city, citadel, or other open space enclosed by a wall, in contradistinction to JANUA which was the door of a house or any covered edifice. The word πύλη is often found in the plural, even when applied to a single gate, because it consisted of two leaves (Thuc. 2.4, &c.).

In tracing out the walls of an Italian city with the ceremony described under POMERIUM the plough was lifted and carried across the openings to be left for the gates. The number and position of city gates in ancient Greece and Italy naturally varied according to circumstances. The old Etruscan custom was to give three gates to a walled city, dedicated to the three chief deities of the Etruscans: the same custom may possibly be seen in the three gates of Roma Quadrata (Plin. Nat. 3.66, where an alternative tradition of four gates is mentioned): two of these were the Porta Mugonia and Porta Romanula (Varro, L. L. 5.164). The ancient walls of Paestum, Sepianum, and Aosta enclose a square: in the centre of each of the four walls was a gate; the arrangement, however, was obviously affected by the nature of the ground, and the size of the city. Thus Megara had five gates; Thebes seven; others, as Rome, many more.

The gates in ancient Greek walls were formed in various ways, showing progressive art in building. We may give, from Reber (Gesch. d. Baukunst, 231), four distinct methods:--1. The simple straight lintel, consisting of a long and massive block, as in the “Lion” Gate of Mycenae (see woodcut on p. 185). 2. Stones projecting one beyond another in a step form from each side, and so gradually approaching till they can be topped by a flat lintel: an example is afforded [p. 2.467]by a gate at Phigalia. 3. A gable shape, formed

Gate at Phigalia.

by two massive stones meeting in an angle, as shown in a gate at Delos. 4. A refinement on

Gate at Delos.

No. 2, where the stones approach gradually, cut into shape, sometimes with a slight curve, till they join at the apex: they sometimes begin their slope from the ground, as in the gates of Missolonghi and Thoricos, shown by Baumeister (Denkm. Taf. xv.), or, in a more developed form, they are straight in their lower part, as the gate of Ephesus. When the arch was introduced

Gate at Ephesus.

[ARCUS], the construction of the gate itself varied only as regards its size: but there were many differences and improvements as regards its defence. From early days the importance of flanking bastions had been seen; these were at first simple projections of the wall at right angles (see an example of the gate at Orchomenus in Guhl and Koner, p. 64), from the summit of which the defenders could shoot, and this developed into bastions formed by circular swellings of the wall on each side of the gate, and thence into regular flanking towers, round or square [TURRIS], often with additional defences, such as are shown in the gate of Posidonia, or Paestum [MURUS p. 186]. An additional security to the entrance was given by a double gateway, having an outer and inner gate with a space between. At Messene the space between was circular, so that the wall at that part had the shape of a round tower pierced by two opposite openings (see plan in Guhl and Koner, p. 65). This system of double gates was very early, as in the second and third gateways of the fortress at Tiryns (see Plan, Vol. I. p. 655); and it is instructive also in this early fortress to see how the besiegers were exposed to fire when they forced one gateway and passed round to the next. Care was taken here, and elsewhere, that the right or unshielded side should be towards the wall in their approach.

At Como, Verona, and other ancient cities of Lombardy, the gate contains two passages close together, the one designed for carriages entering, and the other for carriages leaving the city. The same provision is observed in the magnificent ruin of a gate at Trèves. (See woodcut.) In other instances we find only one gate for carriages, but a smaller one on each side of it (παραπυλίς, Heliodor. n viii. p. 394) for foot-passengers. Each of the fine gates which remain at Autun has not only two carriage-ways, but exterior to them two sideways for pedestrians. (Millin, Voyage dans les Departemens, &c., vol. i. ch. 22; Atlas, Pl. 18, figs. 3, 4.) Such sideways are well seen in the Porta d'Ercolano of Pompeii, of which there is a woodcut in Vol. 1. p. 384. When there were no sideways, one of the valves of the large gate sometimes contained a wicket (portula, πυλίς: ῥινοπύλη), large enough to admit a single person. The porter opened it when any one wished to go in or out by night. (Plb. 8.20, 24; Liv. 25.9.)

The contrivances for fastening gates were in general the same as those used for doors [JANUA], but larger in proportion. The wooden bar placed across them in the inside (μοχλὸς) was kept in its position by the following method. A hole, passing through it perpendicularly (βαλανοδόκη, Aen. Tact. 18), admitted a cylindrical piece of iron, called βάλανος, which also entered a hole in the gate, so that, until it was taken out, the bar could not be removed either to the one side, or the other (Thuc. 2.4; Aristoph. Wasps 200; βεβαλάνωται, Aves, 1159). Another piece of iron, fitted to the βάλανος and called βαλανάγρα, was used to extract it (Aen. Tact. l.c.). When the accomplices within, for want of this key, the βαλανάγρα, were unable to remove the bar, they cut it through with a hatchet (Thuc. 4.111; Plb. 8.23, 24), or set it on fire (Aen. Tact. 19). [For the portcullis, see CATARACTA]

The gateway had commonly a chamber, either on one side or on both, which served as the residence of the porter or guard. It was called τυλών (Plb. 8.20, 23, 24). Its situation is shown in the following plan. (See woodcut.) [p. 2.468]The Porta Ostiensis, the finest and best-preserved of the gates in the Aurelian wall, affords an instance of the more elaborate kind:--“The central part of the gate with its arched doorway is of travertine, the outer arch is grooved, to receive a portcullis [CATABACTA], and from the inner and higher arch two travertine corbels project, which received the upper pivots of the doors, the lower ones being let into holes in a massive travertine threshold. Above this stone archway is a battlemented wall of brickfaced concrete, pierced with a row of 7 arched windows, opening into a gate chamber with similar windows on the inside. On each side are two brick-faced towers with semicircular projections on the outside.” (Middleton, Rome, p. 494.) In the gates of Como and Verona the gatehouse is three stories high. At Trèves it was four stories high in the flanks, although the four stories remain standing in one of them only, as may be observed in the annexed woodcut. The length of this building is 115 feet;

Gate at Trèves.

its depth 47 in the middle, 67 in the flanks; its greatest height, 92. All the four stories are ornamented in every direction with rows of Tuscan columns. The gateways are each 14 feet wide. The entrance of each appears to have been guarded, as at Pompeii, first by a portcullis, and then by gates of wood and iron. [CATARACTA] The barbican, between the double portcullis and the pair of gates, was no doubt open to the sky, as in the gates of Pompeii. The gate at Trèves was probably erected by Constantine. (Compare also Guhl and Koner, 1.62, 2.48; Baumeister, Denkm. 804; Reber, Hist. of Ancient Art, 189, E. T.)

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Aristophanes, Wasps, 200
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.111
    • Polybius, Histories, 8.20
    • Polybius, Histories, 8.23
    • Polybius, Histories, 8.24
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 9
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