Servian Wall

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Servian Wall
Rome, Italy
Servian Wall-Termini Station.jpg
A preserved section of Servian Wall next to Termini railway station.
Map of ancient Rome.svg
A map of Rome showing the seven Hills of Rome (pink), the Servian Wall (blue) and its gates. The Aurelian Walls (red) were constructed in the 3rd century AD.
TypeDefensive wall
HeightUp to 10 metres (33 ft)
Site information
Open to
the public
Open to public.
ConditionRuinous. Fragmentary remains
Site history
Built4th century BC
EventsSecond Punic War
Garrison information

The Servian Wall (Latin: Murus Servii Tullii; Italian: Mura Serviane) was an ancient Roman defensive barrier constructed around the city of Rome in the early 4th century BC. The wall was up to 10 m (33 ft) in height in places, 3.6 m (12 ft) wide at its base, 11 km (6.8 mi) long,[1] and is believed to have had 16 main gates. In the 3rd century AD it was superseded by the construction of the larger Aurelian Walls.


The wall is named after the sixth Roman King, Servius Tullius. Although its outline may go back to the 6th century BC, the currently extant wall was built in the 4th c., during the Roman Republic, in response to the sack of Rome after the Battle of the Allia by the Gauls of Brennus.


The wall was built from large blocks of tuff (a volcanic rock made from ash and rock fragments ejected during an eruption) quarried from the Grotta Oscura quarry near Rome's early rival Veii, presumably after its defeat by Rome in the 390s.[2] In addition to the blocks, some sections of the structure incorporated a deep fossa, or ditch, in front of it, as a means to effectively heighten the wall during attack from invaders.

Along part of its topographically weaker northern perimeter was an agger, a defensive ramp of earth heaped up to the wall along the inside. This thickened the wall, and also gave defenders a base to stand while repelling any attack. The wall was also outfitted with defensive war engines, including catapults.


The Servian Wall was formidable enough to repel Hannibal during the Second Punic War. Hannibal famously invaded Italy across the Alps with his elephants, and had crushed several Roman armies in the early stages of the war. However, the wall was only ever put to such a test as Hannibal once: in 211 BC Hannibal brought his Carthaginian army to Rome as part of a feint to draw the Roman army from Capua. When it was clear that this had failed, he turned away, without approaching closer than 3 mi (4.8 km) to Rome, as a Roman army sallied out of the Servian walls and pitched a camp next to Hannibal's. During the Roman civil wars, the Servian walls were repeatedly overrun.[3]

The wall was still maintained through the end of the later Republic and then the Empire. By this time, Rome had already begun to grow outside the original Servian Wall. The organization of Rome into regions under Augustus placed regions II, III, IV, VI, VIII, X, and XI within the Servian Wall, with the other sections outside of it.[citation needed]

The wall became unnecessary as Rome became well protected by the ever-expanding military strength of the Republic and of the later Empire. As the city continued to grow and prosper, it was essentially unwalled for the first three centuries of the Empire. When German tribes made further incursions along the Roman frontier in the 3rd century AD, Emperor Aurelian had the larger Aurelian Walls built to protect Rome.[4]

Present day[edit]

in via di Sant Anselmo

Sections of the Servian Wall are still visible in various locations around Rome. The largest section is preserved just outside Termini Station, the main railway station in Rome (including a small piece in a McDonald's dining area at the station). Another notable section on the Aventine incorporates an arch for a defensive catapult from the late Republic.

in via Salandra

Gates along the Servian Wall[edit]

The Porta Esquilina was originally a gateway in the Servian Wall. In the later Roman Empire, it became known as the arch of Gallienus and was the starting point of the via Labicana and via Tiburtina.

The following lists the gates that are believed to have been built, clockwise from the westernmost. (Many of these are inferred only from writings, with no known remains.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fields, Nic; Peter Dennis The Walls of Rome Osprey Publishing; 10 Mar 2008 ISBN 978-1-84603-198-4 p.10.
  2. ^ Tenney Frank (1924). The Letters on the Blocks of the Servian Wall.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Watson, pp. 51–54, 217.


  • Watson, Alaric (1999). Aurelian and the Third Century. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-07248-4.
  • Coarelli, Filippo (1989). Guida Archeologica di Roma. Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milano.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°54′06″N 12°30′06″E / 41.90167°N 12.50167°E / 41.90167; 12.50167