Category Archives: Rome’s Municipalities

Aurelian Walls: Enclosing an Expanding Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Whenever one thinks of in Rome, Italy, most will conjure up images of amazing architecture or events that took place during the Golden Age of Rome. That would be fair since basic utilities and mundane daily activities typically go without recognition.

That’s not going to be the case today as we explore some city walls while we take a closer look at the Aurelian Walls!

Interior view of the Aurelian Walls near Porta San Sebastiano.

The Aurelian Walls are a line of city walls built between AD 271 – 275 during the reign of the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus. The walls enclosed all the Seven Hills of Rome plus the Trastevere district.

The banks of the Tiber within the city limits appear to have been left unfortified, although they were fortified along the Campus Martius. The entire enclosed area comprised 3,500 acres and superseded the earlier Servian Wall built during the 4th Century BC under Roman King Servius Tullius.

Map of Ancient Rome with the Aurelian walls (red) and the Servian Walls (blue).

By the 3rd Century AD, the boundaries of Rome had grown far beyond the area enclosed by the old Servian Wall due to expanse of the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic). Rome had remained unfortified during the subsequent centuries of expansion and consolidation due to lack of hostile threats against the city.

The citizens of Rome took great pride in knowing that Rome required no fortifications because of the stability brought by the Pax Romana and the protection of the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army). However, the need for updated defences became acute during the Crisis of the Third Century, when barbarian tribes flooded through the Limes Germanicus (Germanic Frontier) and the Roman Army struggled to stop them.

3rd Century AD Roman soldiers battling Gothic troops, as depicted on a contemporary Roman sarcophagus (c. 250 AD – National Museum, Rome).

In AD 270, the barbarian Juthungi and Vandals invaded northern Italy, inflicting a severe defeat on the Romans at Placentia (modern Piacenza) before eventually being driven back. Further trouble broke out in Rome itself in the summer of AD 271, when mint workers rose in rebellion causing 1,000 deaths in the fierce fighting that resulted.

Aurelian’s construction of the walls as an emergency measure was a reaction to the barbarian invasion of 270. The historian Aurelius Victor states explicitly that the project aimed to alleviate the city’s vulnerability.

Radiate of Emperor Aurelian.

It may also have been intended to send a political signal as a statement that Aurelian trusted that the people of Rome would remain loyal, as well as serving as a public declaration of the Emperor’s firm hold on power. The construction of the walls was by far the largest building project that had taken place in Rome for many decades, and their construction was a concrete statement of the continued strength of Rome.

Roman soldiers building Hadrian’s Wall.

The construction project was unusually left to the citizens themselves to complete as Aurelian could not afford to spare a single Legionarius (Legionary) for the project. The root of this unorthodox practice was due to the imminent barbarian threat coupled with the wavering strength of the military as a whole due to being subject to years of bloody civil war, famine, and the Plague of Cyprian.

Although the walls were built in only 5 years, Aurelian himself died before the completion of the project. Progress was accelerated, and money saved, by incorporating existing buildings into the structure.

These buildings included the Amphitheatrum Castrense, the Castra Praetoria, the Pyramid of Cestius, and even a section of the Aqua Claudia aqueduct near the Porta Maggiore. As much as one sixth of the walls is estimated to have been composed of pre-existing structures.

Sentry passage near Porta Metronia.

An area behind the walls was cleared to enable it to be reinforced quickly in an emergency. To aide in the reinforcement, sentry passages were also built

The actual effectiveness of the wall is disputable, given the relatively small size of the city’s garrison. The entire combined strength of the Praetorian Guard, Cohortes Urbanae (Urban Cohorts), and Vigiles Urbani (Watchmen of the City) of Rome was only about 25,000 men (which everyone knew this was far too few men to adequately defend the City).

However, the military intention of the wall was not to withstand prolonged siege warfare since it was not common for the barbarian armies to besiege cities. Instead, the wall was a deterrent against the hit-and-run raid tactics barbarian used against ill-defended targets.

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo.

Parts of the wall were doubled in height by Maxentius, who also improved the watch-towers. In AD 401 under Honorius, the walls and the gates were improved, and the Tomb of Hadrian (located across the Tiber) was incorporated as a fortress in the city defenses.

The full circuit ran for 12 miles surrounding an area of 5.3 square miles. The walls were constructed in brick-faced concrete, 11 feet thick and 26 feet high, with a square tower every 100 Roman feet (97 feet).

A latrine (circled in red) built into the wall near the Porta Salaria.

In the 4th Century AD, remodeling doubled the height of the walls to 52 feet. By 500 AD, the circuit possessed 383 towers, 7,020 crenellations, 18 main gates, 5 postern gates, 116 latrines, and 2,066 large external windows.

The Aurelian Walls continued as a significant military defense for the city of Rome until 20 September 1870, when the Bersaglieri of the Kingdom of Italy breached the wall near the Porta Pia and captured Rome. The walls also defined the boundary of the city of Rome up until the 19th Century, with the built-up area being confined within the walled area.

The Aurelian Walls remain remarkably well-preserved today, largely the result of their constant use as Rome’s primary fortification until the 19th Century. The Museo delle Mura near the Porta San Sebastiano offers information on the walls’ construction and how the defenses operated.

Section of Aurelian wall between the Porta Ardeatina and Porta San Sebastiano.

The best-preserved sections of the walls are found from the Muro Torto (Villa Borghese) to Corso d’Italia to Castro Pretorio; from Porta San Giovanni to Porta Ardeatina; from Porta Ostiense to the Tiber; and around Porta San Pancrazio.

From the northernmost location (moving clockwise), a list of gates (porte) is as follows: Porta del Popolo (Porta Flaminia) – where the Via Flaminia begins; Porta Pinciana; Porta Salaria – where the Via Salaria begins; Porta Pia – where the new Via Nomentana begins, Porta Nomentana – where the old Via Nomentana began; Porta Praetoriana – the old entrance to Castra Praetoria, the camp of the Praetorian Guard; Porta Tiburtina – where the Via Tiburtina begins; Porta 

Section of wall near the Pyramid of Cestius.

Maggiore (Porta Praenestina) – here 3 aqueducts meet and the Via Praenestina begins; Porta San Giovanni – near the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano; Porta Asinaria – where the old Via Tuscolana began; Porta Metronia; Porta Latina – where the Via Latina begins; Porta San Sebastiano (Porta Appia) – where the Appian Way begins; Porta Ardeatina; Porta San Paolo (Porta Ostiense) – next to the Pyramid of Cestius, leading to Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura, where the Via Ostiense begins.

From the southernmost location (moving clockwise), a list of gates in Trastevere is as follows: Porta Portuensis; Porta Aurelia Pancraziana; Porta Settimiana; and the Porta Aurelia-Sancti Petri.

We hope you enjoyed today’s wall climbing experience. Be sure to check us out for updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Aldrete, Gregory S. Daily Life In The Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, And Ostia, Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN 0-313-33174-X.

Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-288003-9.

Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-23943-5.

Aurelius Victor. De Caesaribus.

Mancini, Rossana. The Aurelian Walls of Rome: Atlas of a Masonry Schedule. Quasar, Rome, 2001. ISBN 88-7140-199-9.

Museum of the Walls official website

Rioni of Rome: An Administrative Division of the City

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

We are in love with The Eternal City and just can’t get enough. So let’s head there.

Today we are breaking down Rome (figuratively of course) as we take a look at the Rioni of Rome!colosseum-panoramic-view

Rione (pl. Rioni) is a traditional administrative division of the city of Rome. The term was born in Rome, originating from the administrative divisions of the city.

The word comes from the Latin word Regio (Region). During the Middle Ages the Latin word became Rejones, from which Rione comes.

Rione is an Italian term used since the 14th Century to name a district of a town. Currently, all the Rioni are located in Municipio I of Rome.

roma_rioni_mappaAccording to tradition, Servius Tullius, 6th King of Rome, originally divided the city into 4 Regiones. During administrative reorganization after the Roman Republic collapsed, the original Emperor Augustus created the 14 Regiones of Rome that were to remain in effect throughout the Roman Empire.

This was attested by the 4th Century Cataloghi Regionari, that name them and provide data for each. All but Transtiberim (the modern Trastevere) were on the left bank of the Tiber.

Ancient Roma

The regions were Porta Capena, Caelimontium, Isis et Serapis, Templum Pacis, Esquiliae, Alta Semita, Via Lata, Forum Romanum, Circus Flaminius, Palatium, Circus Maximus, Piscina Publica, Aventinus, and Transtiberim.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the decline of Rome, the population decreased and the division into Regiones was lost. During the 12th Century a division in 12 parts started being used, though not officially, but simply by the common use of the people.

Rome in the time of Shakespeare
Rome in the time of Shakespeare

Even if the areas were different from the ancient ones, they still used the same name Regio in Latin and Rione in the vulgar language.

The limits of the Rioni became more definitive and official in the 13th Century. Their number increased to 13 and it remained the same until the 16th Century.

In this period the limits were quite uncertain and the Rione was not a political entity, but only an administrative one. The Chief of a Rione was the Caporione.

During the Renaissance there was a deep reorganization and expansion of the city. Due to this, it became necessary to delimit the Rioni exactly.

In 1586 Sixtus V added to the 13 Rioni another one: Borgo, which before had been administered separately from the city. This situation, thanks to the low population increase, did not change until the 19th Century.

Roma - 1642
Roma – 1642

In 1744 Pope Benedict XIV, because of frequent misunderstanding, decided to replan the administrative division of Rome, giving the responsibility of it to Count Bernardini. The marble plates defining the borders of each Rione, many of which still exist, were installed in that year on the facades of houses lying at each Rione‘s border.

In 1798, during the 18th Century Roman Republic, there was a rationalization of the administrative division of the city creating 12 Rioni (with the modern Rione in parentheses): Terme (part of Monti); Suburra (part of Monti); Quirinale (Trevi); Pincio (Colonna); Marte (Campo Marzio); Bruto (Ponte); Pompeo (Regola and Parione); Flaminio (Sant’Eustachio); Pantheon (Pigna and Sant’Angelo); Campidoglio (Campitelli e Ripa); Gianicolo (Trastevere); and Vaticano (Borgo).

Soon after, during the domination of Napoleon, Rome was split up in 8 parts. Now called Giustizie (meaning “justices” in Italian) there were: Monti; Trevi; Colonna e Campo Marzio; Ponte e Borgo; Parione e Regola; Sant’Eustachio e Pigna; CampitelliSant’Angelo e Ripa; and Trastevere.

French Troops entering Rome (1798)
French Troops entering Rome (1798)

So the smaller Rioni were united to the large ones. At this time the French affixed in each street a plate with its name and the areas it belonged to.

After Napoleon lost his power there were no significant changes in the organization of the city until Rome became the capital of the newborn Italy. The needs of the new capital caused a great urbanization and an increase of the population, both within the Aurelian Walls and outside them.

In 1874 the Rioni became 15, with the addition of Esquilino, created by taking a portion from Monti. At the beginning of the 20th Century some Rioni started being split up and the first parts outside the Aurelian Walls started being considered part of the city.

In 1921 the number of the Rioni increased to 22. Prati was the last Rione to be established and the only one outside the Janiculum Walls of Pope Urbanus VIII.

Porta Portese in the Janiculum Walls
Porta Portese in the Janiculum Walls

The latest reform, which is still mostly valid, was made in 1972: Rome was divided into 20 Circoscrizioni (later renamed Municipi, one of which became later the independent municipality of Fiumicino) and 20 Rioni (which together form the Centro Storico) constituted the first one, Municipio I.

The 2 remaining, Borgo and Prati, belonged to the XVII Municipality until 2013. Since then they belong too to Municipio I.rome-today

The complete list of the modern Rioni, in order of number, is the following: 1 – Monti, with the Hills of Quirinal and Viminal; 2 – Trevi; 3 – Colonna; 4 – Campo Marzio; 5 – Ponte; 6 – Parione; 7 – Regola; 8 – Sant’Eustachio; 9 – Pigna; 10 – Campitelli, with the Hills of Capitol and Palatine; 11 – Sant’Angelo; 12 – Ripa, with the Hill of Aventine; 13 – Trastevere, with the so-called “8th Roman Hill” of the Gianicolo; 14 – Borgo, bordering Vatican City; 15 – Esquilino; 16 – Ludovisi; 17 – Sallustiano; 18 – Castro Pretorio; 19 – Celio; 20 – Testaccio; 21 – San Saba; and 22 – Prati.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey through Rome’s Administrative Districts throughout the years. Thanks for stopping by today and hope to see you back soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Castagnoli, Ferdinando; Cecchelli, Carlo; Giovannoni, Gustavo; Zocca, Mario. Topografia e urbanistica di Roma (in Italian). Bologna: Cappelli, 1958.

“Rione”. il Sabatini Coletti. Dizionario della Lingua Italiana.

Pomerium: Establishing Rome’s Religious Boundary

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Amongst our various travels and explorations, we sometimes come across legal codes and laws from Ancient Rome. One of our last visits was with the Administrative Subdivision of Rome.Inner and Outer Pomerium

Today we take a similar path as we investigate the religious boundary around the city of Rome, the Pomerium!

In legal terms, Rome existed only within its Pomerium. Everything beyond it was simply territory (Ager) belonging to Rome.

The Pomerium was also the religious boundary around cities within the Imperium Rōmānum. The term is a classical contraction of the Latin phrase post moerium, literally “behind the wall”.

AuguryThe Roman historian Livy writes in his Ab Urbe Condita that, although the word’s origin implies a meaning referring to a single side of the wall, the Pomerium was originally an area of ground on both sides of city walls. He states that it was an Etruscan tradition to devote this area by Augury and that it was technically unlawful to inhabit or to farm the area of the Pomerium.

The creation of this religious boundary had the purpose, in part, of preventing buildings from being erected too close to the wall. Although Livy writes that, in his time, houses were in fact built against the wall.

Tradition maintained that the Pomerium was the original line ploughed by Romulus around the walls of the original city, and that it was inaugurated by Servius Tullius. The legendary date of its demarcation, 21 April, continued to be celebrated as the anniversary of the city’s founding.Servian Wall

The Pomerium did not follow the line of the Servian Walls, and remained unchanged until the Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, in a demonstration of his absolute power, expanded it in 80 BC. Several cippi (white marker stones) commissioned by Claudius have been found in situ, and several have been found away from their original location.Inscription marking the Claudian Pomerium

These stones mark the boundaries and relative dimensions of the Pomerium extension by Claudius. This extension is recorded in Tacitus and outlined by Aulus Gellius.

Seven Hills of RomeThe Pomerium was not a walled area, but rather a legally and religiously defined one marked by cippi. It encompassed neither the entire metropolitan area nor even all the Seven Hills of Rome (the Palatine Hill was within the Pomerium, but the Capitoline and Aventine Hills were not).

The Curia Hostilia and the well of the Comitium in the Forum Romanum, 2 extremely important locations in the government of the city-state and its Empire, were located within the Pomerium. The Temple of Bellona was beyond the Pomerium.

The Magistrates who held Imperium did not have full power inside the Pomerium. They could have a citizen beaten, but not sentenced to death.Print

This was symbolized by removing the axes from the fasces carried by the Magistrate’s Lictors. Only a Dictator’s Lictors could carry fasces containing axes.

It was forbidden to bury the dead inside the Pomerium. During his life, Julius Caesar received in advance the right to a tomb inside the Pomerium, but his ashes were actually placed in his family tomb. However, Trajan‘s ashes were interred after his death in Caesar's TombAD 117 at the foot of his Column, which was within the Pomerium.

Provincial Pro Magistratus and Generals were forbidden from entering the Pomerium, and resigned their Imperium immediately upon crossing it. The boundary was the unbeatable form of the ban on armies entering Italy.

During a Triumphus armed soldiers marching through Rome in celebration of a victory were an exception to this rule. Although a General could only enter the city on the very day of his triumph, and would be required to wait outside the Pomerium with his troops until that moment.Triumph of Julius Caesar

Under the Res Publica Romana, soldiers also lost their status when entering, becoming citizens. Basically, soldiers in a Triumphus wore civilian dress.

The Comitia Centuriata, one of the Roman Assemblies, consisting of Centuriae (voting units, but originally military formations within the legions), was required to meet on the Campus Martius outside the Pomerium.

Theatre of PompeyPompey’s Theatre, where Julius Caesar was murdered, was outside the Pomerium and included a chamber where the Senate could meet. This allowed for the attendance of any Senators who were forbidden to cross the Pomerium, and thus would not have been able to meet in the Curia Hostilia.

Weapons were prohibited inside the PomeriumPraetorian Guards were allowed in only in civilian dress (toga), and were then called collectively cohors togata.

But it was possible to sneak in daggers (the proverbial weapon for political violence). Since Julius Caesar’s assassination occurred outside this boundary, the Senatorial conspirators could not be charged with sacrilege for carrying weapons inside the sacred city.Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,

Thanks for sticking with us today and we hope to have made a potentially boring subject matter a bit more palatable. Come back tomorrow and we will have something more adventurous.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



Beard, Mary; North, John; Price, Simon. Religions of Rome Volume 1: A History. Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-521-31682-8.

LivyAb Urbe Condita, I.44.

Pomerium. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Tacitus. Annales, XII, 24.

Administrative Subdivision of Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

On some days we travel, while on others we explore important battles or events. Sometime we take a closer look into the lives of people that impacted The Eternal City, for better or worse, while other days we investigate the laws that guided the Ancient Romans.

Well, it’s one of those days today as we explore the Administrative Subdivisions of Rome!1642

Before we dive into the nut & bolts of it, let’s take a step back to see the structure of Rome itself. The city was divided into Rioni (neighborhood or territorial subdivision)

The word derives from the LatinRegiones, the 14 Subdivisions of Rome imposed by Augustus. The term has been adopted as a synonym of quartiere in the Italian comuni.Quartieri

Amongst the Rioni, there are now 15 administrative subdivisions known as Municipi. Originally though the city was divided into 20 sub-municipalities.

There were originally 20 Municipi, becoming 19 in 1992 after a referendum and the subsequent separation of Fiumicino (XIX Circoscrizione) into an independent Comune. In 2013 their number was reduced to 15.

Since 1972 Rome has been divided into administrative areas, called Municipi, until 2001 named Circoscrizioni. They were created for administrative reasons to increase decentralization in the city.

Each Municipio is governed by a president and a council of 4 members who are elected by its residents every 5 years. The Municipi frequently cross the boundaries of the traditional, non-administrative divisions of the city.

Rome is also divided into several types of non-administrative units. The historic center is divided into 22 Rioni, all of which are located within the Aurelian Walls except Prati and Borgo.

These originate from the 14 Regions of Augustan Rome, which evolved in the Middle Ages into the 14 Regions of Medieval Rome. In the Renaissance, under Pope Sixtus V, they reached again the number 14, and their boundaries were finally defined under Pope Benedict XIV in 1743.

A new subdivision of the city under Napoleon was fleeting. There were no sensible changes in the organization of the city until 1870, when Rome became the capital of Italy.

The needs of the new capital led to an explosion both in the urbanization and in the population within and outside the Aurelian Walls. In 1874 a XV Rione (Esquilino) was created on the newly urbanized zone of Monti.

At the beginning of the 20th Century other Rioni were created. The last one was Prati, the only one outside the Walls of Pope Urban VIII, in 1921.Walls of Pope Urban VIII

Afterward, for the new administrative subdivisions of the city the name Quartiere was used. Today all the Rioni are part of the first Municipio, which therefore coincides completely with the historical city (Centro Storico).

An administrative reform in 2013 merged the existing Municipi into the current 15 Municipi, as listed below:

MunicipiMunicipio I (Historical Center): Prati; Municipio II: Parioli/Nomentano-San Lorenzo; Municipio IIIMonte Sacro; Municipio IV: Tiburtina; Municipio V: Prenestino/Centocelle; Municipio VI: Roma Delle Torri; Municipio VII: San Giovanni/Cinecittà; Municipio VIII: Appia Antica; Municipio IX: EUR; Municipio X: Ostia; Municipio XI: Arvalia Portuense; Municipio XII: Monte Verde; Municipio XIII: Aurelia; Municipio XIVMonte Mario; and Municipio XV: Cassia Flaminia.

Vatican City lies between Municipi I and XIII. In Rome’s Historic Center, the Rioni are asRioni follows: R. I – Monti; R. II – Trevi; R. III – Colonna; R. IV – Campo Marzio; R. V – Ponte; R. VI – Parione; R. VII – Regola; R. VIII – Sant’Eustachio; R. IX – Pigna; R. X – Campitelli; R. XI – Sant’Angelo; R. XII – Ripa; R. XIII – Trastevere; R. XIV – Borgo; R. XV – Esquilino; R. XVI – Ludovisi; R. XVII – Sallustiano; R. XVIII – Castro Pretorio; R. XIX – Celio; R. XX – Testaccio; R. XXI – San Saba; and R. XXII – Prati.

Portrait_of_Emperor_AugustusWe understand that this may not have been the most enjoyable trip for some, but it was a needed one all the same. Let’s just remember that without the foresight of Augustus to keep track of the city, Rome could have ended up a completely different place.

Stop back again soon. We’ll have some real adventures ready, we promise.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!



“Strutture territoriali” (in Italian). Comune di Roma. Retrieved 20 December 2013.

Jump up^ “Roma, sì all’accorpamento dei municipi: il Consiglio li riduce da 19 a 15”. Il Messaggero. 11 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.

Jump up^ “The “Rioni” of Rome”.