An entryway marked by a bloody period in the closing years of the Roman Republic, marred with constant war.

Setting and Scenery

Originally called Agonensis but renamed, Porta Collina or the Colline Gate was located at the north end of the Servian Wall (Dionys. 9.68). The Colline Gate was part of a sixteen gate network in the Servian Wall, named after king Servius Tullius. The gate takes its name from the Regio Collina, one of the four regions of republican Rome made up of the Collis Quirinalis (Quirinal Hill) and Collis Viminalis (Viminal Hill). The gate in the days of the Roman Republic was a major source of traffic with the Via Salaria and Via Nomentana roads diverging from the entrance with the Via Salaria diverting north and the Via Nomentana to the northeast. Within Rome, the street of Alta Semita running along the length of Collis Quirnalis links with the Vicus Iugarius leading into the Forum. The gate was also flanked by an agger, a raised natural fortification that comprised of a ditch and a moat lining across the perimeter of the ramparts.

Memories of Rome

The Colline Gate in the days of the Roman Republic was featured in numerous major events. The most publicised event of note, was the battle fought between Lucius Cornelius Sulla and the Marians in 82BC, during a period of civil war. Sulla had to regain control of Rome after Gaius Marius and his son supported by Lucius Cornelius Cinna took control of Rome and killed Sulla’s supporters, with Sulla marching on Rome with his armies (Malden, 1886). Many sources reported on the battle that took place, including Plutarch, Livy, Ampelius, Eutropius and Appian. The battle was hard fought between Sulla’s armies and the opposing Marians that comprised of Romans, Samnites and Lucanians, with Sulla and his allies including Marcus Licinius Crassus emerging victory with a total death toll estimated at 50,000 with 8,000 prisoners (Appian 1.92-93). The aftermath of the battle ended with Sulla executing Marius’ supporters and Marius himself committing suicide, cementing Sulla’s status as the dictator of Rome until his death in 78BC.

The gate was also one that the Romans used often against incoming invaders. Ancient sources regard the gate being used against the combined invading armies of Veientes and Fidenates Etruscans from the north in 447BC (Livy 4.21.8), the gate that Hannibal had camped beyond in the Second Punic War (Pliny 15.20.3) and the gate which the Gauls entered Rome in 390BC sacking the city (Livy 5.41). The gate as a result was designed to accommodate for a strong defence with trenches, constant repair and strengthening with planted artillery engines to fortify the entrance (Frank, 1918). This combined with the gate’s position marked the significance of this gate as an important defensive position to cover the north entrance of Rome against invaders.

The gate also had a minor significance in religion with Plutarch recounting the punishment for a Vestal Virgin breaking her vow of chastity. The punishment was severe through being buried alive near the Colline Gate (Plut. Numa 10). The geographer Strabo also makes mention of a sanctuary located outside the Colline Gate that housed an Erycine cult dedicated to Venus, however little evidence outside of Strabo’s word supports the notion (Anguissola, 2006). Overall the Colline Gate, though not being significant to the other gates of the Servian Wall, still held its own relevance as a strategic defensive position to cover Rome’s northern part of the agger. Its linkage with the Via Salaria and Via Nomentana emphasises the gate as an entryway for trade routes as the Via Salaria was used as a salt road, with the Sabines taking salt from the marshes at the mouth of the Tiber River (Platner and Ashby, 1929).

Modern Reports

Remains of the gate were found in 1872 in the Via Venti Settembre street during the construction of the north-east corner of the Ministero delle Finanze (Ministry of Finance), in a second period two great square bastions with facings of peperino volcanic, had been added to the fortifications just in front where the gate stood (Richardson, 1992). From archaeological reports on other sections of the Servian Wall, most of the material was, including that of the Colline was built from tufa (also named tufo or tuff), a light, porous rock formed by consolidation of volcanic ash that enabled concrete construction in masonry, which likely would have come from the Grotta Oscura quarries in Veii or from the Aventine (Frank, 1918). Travertine, a sedimentary form of limestone was also discussed to have been used as building materials with deposits found in Tivoli, and other gatherings at the Aventine and Pincian Hills (Frank, 1918). Investigations from the Viminal Gate and the Colline Gate show fragments of thick sections of the wall that show consistent repair proposed by archaeologist Lanciani, likely as a result of the civil wars that ensued in Rome at the time (Frank, 1918). Compared to the other gates of the Servian Wall, the Colline Gate has little physical remains and evidence to elaborate on the ruined defences, with only ancient sources and modern reports to fill the gaps that remain.


Ancient Sources

Appian, The Civil Wars, trans. White, H., (1913), Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Dionysus of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, trans. Cary, E., (1937), Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Livy, The History of Rome, trans. Roberts, C., (1912), E.P. Dutton and Co., New York

Pliny, The Natural History, trans. Bostock, J., Riley, H., (1855), Taylor and Francis, London

Plutarch, The Life of Numa, trans. Perrin, B., (1923), Harvard University Press, Cambridge

Modern Sources

Anguissola, A., (2006), “Note on Aphidruma 2: Strabo on the transfer of cults” in The Classical Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Frank, T., (1918), “Notes in the Servian Wall” in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol.22(22), 175-188, Archaeological Institute of America, Boston

Malden, H., (1886), “The Battle of the Colline Gate, B.C. 82” in The Journal of Philology, Vol.15(29), 103-110, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

Platner, S., Ashby, T., (1929), A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Oxford University Press, London

Richardson, L., (1992), A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, 302, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

Further Reading

Platner and Ashby, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, specifically the entries on the Servian Wall and Porta Collina.

Sulla, written by Wasson, D. in the Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Nathan Tsang

Nathan Tsang is a student at Macquarie University studying a Bachelor of Ancient History majoring in Greece, Rome and Late Antiquity. Although initially interested in the Romans at a young age, his interests shifted during the HSC to the Greek city-state of Sparta being fascinated by the popularity and culture of the ancient nation.