Garden of the Porticus Liviae
- exedra (site element)
- fresco (visual work)
- niche (architectural element)]
- shrine (structure)
Located on the Oppian hill between the Clivus Suburanus and the later Baths of Trajan (Thermae Traiani) in the Subura, the Porticus Liviae is represented on three fragments of the Severan Marble Plan (FUR). The public porticus was constructed on the site of the grand Domus of Publius Vedius Pollio, who bequeathed his property to Augustus upon his death.
Augustus constructed the Porticus in the name of his wife, Livia. With her son Tiberius, Livia dedicated the complex to Concordia in January 7 BCE. (Ovid Fast. 6.637–48; Suet. Aug. 29; Cassius Dio 54.23.6,55.8.2 | Trans.). The complex was accessed via two flights of stairs from the Clivus Suburanus.
The Porticus (ca. 120 x 75 m.) was enclosed by an outer wall and a roofed double colonnade. There are large rectangular and circular exedrae set behind the individual porticoes. In the center of the Porticus was a large rectangular central feature, and four small features were located at the corners of the colonnades. Scholars debate whether the large central feature was a fountain or, more likely, a shrine to Concordia, dedicated to marital concord and harmony, a major theme of Augustan propaganda. Ovid mentions a shrine to Concordia (Ovid Fast. 6.637–48). The function of the four smaller features located at the corners of the colonnades is also uncertain; perhaps, they were fountains or small niches for the display of statues.
The Porticus featured a central garden. Pliny writes of a single, productive vine stock that covered the walkway with shade (Pliny, HN 14.11), creating a pergola-like effect. The vines were also productive, reportedly producing twelve amphorae of wine per year. A collection of paintings was also displayed in the Porticus (Ovid, Ars Am. 171–72; Strabo 5.3.8). As in other porticoes, Romans would stroll, meet their lovers, or make appointments to meet each other here (Plin. Ep. 1.5.9).
Excavations in 1984 identified pre- and post-Augustan phases, but provided no information about possible gardens. The excavations suggest that the Porticus remained in use until the fifth century CE, but that by the mid-sixth century the Porticus was being used for burials.
1984- C. Panella
- A. Carandini and P. Carafa (eds.), The Atlas of Ancient Rome: Biography and Portraits of the City, 2 vols., Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2017. Trans. (worldcat) | Italian (worldcat)
- A. Claridge, Rome, 2nd Ed., Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 339-340. (worldcat)
- D. Favro, The Urban Image of Augustan Rome, pp. 132-133, 171, 174. (worldcat)
- E.M. Steinby (ed.), Lexicon topographicum urbis Romae IV, Roma, Edizioni Quasar, 1999, “Porticus Liviae” (C. Panella), pp. 127-129; “Subura” (K. Welch), pp. 379-383. (worldcat)
17 April 2021