Rome – Gate of St. Sebastian

Who could help admiring those two massive semi-circular towers? They are part of the old Wall of Aurelian, though the basement upon which they rest is more recent, having been faced and strengthened by marble blocks taken, in all probability, from the Temple of Mars, which stood to our right along this Appian Way. It is easy for us to see the difference between the more recent masonry by Honorius, in the early part of the fifth century, and the battle-scarred face of the older wall above.

Under the ancient archway of the Porta Capena, which stood over this road, nearer the city, the Apostle Paul passed on his way to Nero’s Council Chamber when he came as a prisoner from Caesarea ; and there, 57 B. C., the Senate and people of Rome, a mighty concourse, received Cicero upon his return from banishment. Beneath the arch before us, that of the Aurelian Wall, passed the last triumphal pro-cession which entered the city, that of Marc Antonio Colonna, after the victory of the battle of Lepanto in 1571.

It would require a volume to describe the scenes of conflict and of splendor that have taken place in the shadow of these grim old towers, whose walls have been assaulted by every known engine of war, and yet, in their defaced and battered condition, still keep watch and ward over the famous Appia Via, the queen of the world’s highways. On the other side of this gateway, over the arch, is a Gothic inscription which recounts the repulse on this spot of unknown invaders. The gates of Rome have seen more historic events during the sixteen hundred years of their existence than almost any other monuments in the world.

Beyond the gateway we may see the lower portion of a column and a section of an arch. They belong to the so-called Arch of Drusus, which spans the road at that point.

The Arch of Constantine, where the continuation of the Appian Way (within the city known as Via Triumphalis) merges into the Sacra Via, is about one and one-quarter miles beyond this gateway.

Apart from the memories of the past, which invest this place with deep historic interest, there is always a degree of bustle and confusion about it which imparts to it a strong local coloring that never fails to attract the interest of strangers from other lands. To the left of the gateway there is usually a mounted policeman, an almost invariable adjunct to Roman gateways, for here baggage and merchandise are examined and duties collected before they are allowed to enter the city.

Turning away from this entrance, which admitted into Rome all the vast throng that came over the Appian Way through so many centuries, we shall take our stand next on this road about one mile from here.