All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in June 2009.
Porta Salaria (Book 1) (Day 2) (Map A2) (Rione Colonna) and (Rione Trevi)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
The walls between Porta Salara and Porta Pia
The Plate (No. 3)
Porta Salaria (or Salara) was named after the road which started at the gate and reached the Adriatic Sea; this road was important for the trade of salt (It. sale) which was needed for food preservation and for cheese production. From the salt-works near Ostia salt was shipped to Rome by barge and then it reached the inner parts of the Italian peninsula (such as Sabina) through Via Salaria. The horses of the short caravan shown in the plate bear the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XIV.
In the description below the plate Vasi says that Emperor Nero was killed four miles off this gate (see his assumed tomb); Vasi adds that the Vestals who broke their vow of chastity were buried alive in a field (Campus Sceleratus) outside the gate. The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below which shows: 1) Porta Salara; 2) Breach of Porta Pia; 3) Horti Sallustiani; 4) Villa Paolina. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Colonna (left) and Rione Trevi (right).
Porta Salaria was greatly damaged in 1870 by the artillery of the Italian army. A new gate was built after the annexation of Rome to the Italian Kingdom, but a few years later it was pulled down to allow an easier flow of traffic to new housing developments along Via Salaria.
The two round towers which protected the gate were pulled down and two funerary monuments were found in their foundations. They were reconstructed in the small garden of a bizarre house; originally the building was used by the guards at the gate; in the XIXth century it was given a mock medieval/Renaissance appearance and a large baroque portal.
One of the two monuments is dedicated to Quintus Sulpicius Maximus, a boy of eleven who won a contest in Greek poetry at the time of Emperor Domitian. His parents had his poem finely engraved at the sides of the statue which portrays the boy dressed as an adult.
Gaius Crispus Sallustius was a friend of Julius Caesar and was appointed by him proconsul of Africa Nova (today's Algeria). At the death of Caesar in 44 BC the political career of Sallustius came to an end. With the fortune he had made in Africa he built a large villa in the northern part of Rome, where he wrote several books covering the main historical events of his lifetime. Eventually the villa was acquired by Emperor Tiberius and it became a favourite residence of the Roman emperors. The ruins of the Horti Sallustiani were one of the attractions of Villa Ludovisi and several statues were found on the site.
In the late XIXth century the ground of the area was levelled and the main building of the Horti ended up in a sort of hole. Today it belongs to the Chamber of Commerce of Rome and it is used as a conference room. The site has also a medieval house built above the Roman structures which was modified by Cesare Maccari, a painter best known for his fresco at Palazzo Madama portraying Cicero revealing Catilina's plot (external link).
In the XIXth century the balance between prints showing monuments of ancient and of modern Rome changed in a significant manner. The market was more interested in the ruins of Rome's glorious past than in the theatrical architectures of the Baroque period. For this reason Gaetano Cottafavi, who in 1842 illustrated a very detailed guide of Rome by Rev. Jeremiah Donovan, decided to add to the most usual views of ancient Rome, the print (partially) shown above portraying the Horti Sallustiani. In the background it is possible to see the casino of Villa Paolina, built in 1750 ca. by Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga. This cardinal was a collector of fine arts and his (imaginary) gallery was the subject of a famous painting by Giovanni Paolo Pannini (external link).
At the death of the cardinal, the villa was sold to the Colonna di Sciarra. In 1816 it was bought by Paolina Borghese, one of the sisters of Napoleon Buonaparte, hence the current name of the Villa. After several other changes of ownership the property was bought by France in 1951 for its Embassy to the Holy See (the French Embassy to Italy is in Palazzo Farnese).
The Walls between Porta Salaria and Porta Pia
The short stretch of walls between the two gates retains memories of the history of Rome and of Italy and in addition to these the only remaining necessarium (what an appropriate name!) out of 260 such facilities which still existed in the XVIth century.
The column celebrates the Breach of Porta Pia, through which the Italian Army entered Rome on September 20, 1870. A few meters away there is a beautiful coat of arms of one of the Della Rovere popes (either Sixtus IV or Julius II).
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Next plate in Book 1: Porta Pia
Next step in Day 2 itinerary: Villa Albani
You have completed your tour of Rione Colonna!
Start your tour of Rione Trevi: next step: Porta Pia.