All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in March 2010.
Veduta delle antiche
Mura di Roma (Book
C4) (Day 5) (View D7) and (View
C12) (Rione Ripa)
In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
The walls along the river
The Plate (No. 99)
This fine view of the ancient walls of Rome which Giuseppe Vasi included in Book V (published in 1754), was most likely engraved some ten years earlier for Vedute di Roma sul Tevere, the first book of etchings by Vasi; this explains its size, which is smaller than the other views, and its landscape format.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below.
In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Fontanone dell'Acqua Paola;
2) S. Pietro in Montorio; 3) Monte Testaccio; 4) Sepolcro di Caio Cestio.
1), 2), and 4) are shown in detail in other pages. The small map shows only 3) and 4) because 1) and 2) are very distant from the site shown in the etching.
The view in April 2009
The area shown in the plate was significantly modified in the late XIXth century by the construction of a large slaughterhouse, by the redesign of the river bed and by a railway bridge across the river (the photo shown above was taken from a train). Monte Testaccio, the artificial hill made up of broken testae (ceramic vases used for the transportation of olive oil) was rightly regarded as an archaeological site and it was almost unaffected by these changes and by the development of Testaccio, a modern quarter.
(left-above) Monte Testaccio seen from the east; (left-below) Monte Testaccio seen from the former slaughterhouse; (right) detail showing the fragments of broken "testae" which make up the hill
Olive oil was a key commodity for the ancient Romans; apart from its use for cooking and as food, it was utilized as fuel for the oil lamps which lit the city nights. Approximately at the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius or some time earlier, oil supplies mainly coming from Spain and northern Africa were carried to the warehouses along the river in a particular kind of testae; unlike the most common ones (see image used as background for this page) these pots had a much rounder shape, which made reutilization of them impossible after they had been emptied of their precious content. It was an early case of massive waste disposal caused by a lack of recycling.
Modern fountains by Pietro Lombardi: (left) of Rione Ripa near Ospizio di S. Michele; (right) of Rione Testaccio
The testae were broken and piled up in an orderly fashion in an empty space behind the warehouses and lime was sprinkled to stop fermentation of the oil left in the pots; seals and painted labels have allowed archaeologists to identify the origin and date of the testae; records indicate that the last vases were dumped in 251, probably because after that year the storage of oil was relocated from Rome to Ostia.
In 1921 the modern quarter of Testaccio was detached from Rione Ripa and it became a rione of its own, an event which was celebrated by a fountain showing many testae. The fountain of Rione Ripa was quite erroneously placed in Rione Trastevere.
(left) The only remaining tower of the walls along the river; (right) stretch of the walls leading to Piramide di Caio Cestio
One tower is all that is left of the walls along the river, while
those leading to Piramide di Caio Cestio have been preserved; a section of them however cannot be visited because it is included in municipal or private properties.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Molto in uso furono negli antichi tempi i lavori di creta, credo io, perchè non era
ancor in tanta copia lo stagno, il rame, e l’argento, come nei nostri secoli si vede;
perciò ne formavano non solo le tegole, le pentole, ed altri utensili di cucina, ma
facevano ancora maravigliosi vasi, urne sepolcrali, e statue, ornandone tempj e
prospetti di case magnifiche; onde il Re Numa ai sette collegj, che erano in
Roma aggiunse quello de' siguli, e per comodo loro assegnò ad essi il luogo
vicino al Tevere, tanto per prevalersi delle acque, quanto per buttarci gli
avanzi inutili; ma accortosi il popolo Romano, che a poco a poco si sarebbe
impedito il corso delle acque, fu decretato, che non più nel Tevere, ma nel sito,
ove ora vediamo il monte si gettassero i rottami de' lavori di creta, che testa
dicevasi in latino. Fu perciò in tal modo accresciuto il masso, che si formò un
monte alto 160. piedi, e di circuito un terzo di miglio, e dicesi corrottamente monte
Testaccio: vi erano ancora i vetrari, e i legnajuoli. Ultimamente poi vi sono state
incavate delle grotte per conservarvi del vino, che vi si mantiene freschissimo:
onde nell'estate vi concorre del popolo a gustarlo.
Next plate in Book 5: Monasterio di S. Paolo fuori le
Next step in Day 5 itinerary: Monte Aventino e Vestigi del Ponte Sublicio
Next step in your tour of Rione Ripa: S. Maria del Priorato