The Seven Mounts

The "festival of the Seven Mounts" (-septimontium-), again, has preserved the memory of the more extended settlement which gradually formed round the Palatine. Suburbs grew up one after another, each protected by its own separate though weaker circumvallation and joined to the original ring-wall of the Palatine, as in fen districts the outer dikes are joined on to the main dike. The "Seven Rings" were, the Palatine itself; the Cermalus, the slope of the Palatine in the direction of the morass that extended between it and the Capitol towards the river (-velabrum-); the Velia, the ridge which connected the Palatine with the Esquiline, but in subsequent times was almost wholly obliterated by the buildings of the empire; the Fagutal, the Oppius, and the Cispius, the three summits of the Esquiline; lastly, the Sucusa, or Subura, a fortress constructed outside of the earthen rampart which protected the new town on the Carinae, in the depression between the Esquiline and the Quirinal beneath S. Pietro in Vincoli. These additions, manifestly the results of a gradual growth, clearly reveal to a certain extent the earliest history of the Palatine Rome, especially when we compare with them the Servian arrangement of districts which was afterwards formed on the basis of this earliest division.

Oldest Settlements In The Palatine And Suburan Regions

The Palatine was the original seat of the Roman community, the oldest and originally the only ring-wall. The urban settlement, however, began at Rome as well as elsewhere not within, but under the protection of, the stronghold; and the oldest settlements with which we are acquainted, and which afterwards formed the first and second regions in the Servian division of the city, lay in a circle round the Palatine. These included the settlement on the declivity of the Cermalus with the "street of the Tuscans"--a name in which there may have been preserved a reminiscence of the commercial intercourse between the Caerites and Romans already perhaps carried on with vigour in the Palatine city--and the settlement on the Velia; both of which subsequently along with the stronghold-hill itself constituted one region in the Servian city. Further, there were the component elements of the subsequent second region--the suburb on the Caelian, which probably embraced only its extreme point above the Colosseum; that on the Carinae, the spur which projects from the Esquiline towards the Palatine; and, lastly, the valley and outwork of the Subura, from which the whole region received its name. These two regions jointly constituted the incipient city; and the Suburan district of it, which extended at the base of the stronghold, nearly from the Arch of Constantine to S. Pietro in Vincoli, and over the valley beneath, appears to have been more considerable and perhaps older than the settlements incorporated by the Servian arrangement in the Palatine district, because in the order of the regions the former takes precedence of the latter. A remarkable memorial of the distinction between these two portions of the city was preserved in one of the oldest sacred customs of the later Rome, the sacrifice of the October horse yearly offered in the -Campus Martius-: down to a late period a struggle took place at this festival for the horse's head between the men of the Subura and those of the Via Sacra, and according as victory lay with the former or with the latter, the head was nailed either to the Mamilian Tower (site unknown) in the Subura, or to the king's palace under the Palatine. It was the two halves of the old city that thus competed with each other on equal terms. At that time, accordingly, the Esquiliae (which name strictly used is exclusive of the Carinae) were in reality what they were called, the "outer buildings" (-exquiliae-, like -inquilinus-, from -colere-) or suburb: this became the third region in the later city division, and it was always held in inferior consideration as compared with the Suburan and Palatine regions. Other neighbouring heights also, such as the Capitol and the Aventine, may probably have been occupied by the community of the Seven Mounts; the "bridge of piles" in particular (-pons sublicius-), thrown over the natural pier of the island in the Tiber, must have existed even then--the pontifical college alone is sufficient evidence of this--and the -tete de pont- on the Etruscan bank, the height of the Janiculum, would not be left unoccupied; but the community had not as yet brought either within the circuit of its fortifications. The regulation which was adhered to as a ritual rule down to the latest times, that the bridge should be composed simply of wood without iron, manifestly shows that in its original practical use it was to be merely a flying bridge, which must be capable of being easily at any time broken off or burnt. We recognize in this circumstance how insecure for a long time and liable to interruption was the command of the passage of the river on the part of the Roman community.

No relation is discoverable between the urban settlements thus gradually formed and the three communities into which from an immemorially early period the Roman commonwealth was in political law divided. As the Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres appear to have been communities originally independent, they must have had their settlements originally apart; but they certainly did not dwell in separate circumvallations on the Seven Hills, and all fictions to this effect in ancient or modern times must be consigned by the intelligent inquirer to the same fate with the charming tale of Tarpeia and the battle of the Palatine. On the contrary each of the three tribes of Ramnes, Tities, and Luceres must have been distributed throughout the two regions of the oldest city, the Subura and Palatine, and the suburban region as well: with this may be connected the fact, that afterwards not only in the Suburan and Palatine, but in each of the regions subsequently added to the city, there were three pairs of Argean chapels.

The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy Page 23

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