Rome in the news: This Old House

Archaeologists have discovered a new 6th century house near the Quirinal, according to several news reports. Sixth century BCE, that is, which is pretty impressive — that makes this house, which is well-preserved, the standing equivalent of the post-holes on the Palatine (the ‘huts of Romulus’).

Romulean huts.

The new house seems to be on the same plan, but is considerably more impressive-looking:

Archaeologists previously thought that this area was a necropolis.

The house was found within the circuit of the Servian walls. The lead excavator, Mirella Serlorenzi, thinks that this means the walls encircled the inhabited 6th-century city. Others had previously argued that the walls actually circled individual hills (behind paywall, sorry; discussion here, in Italian; full, but outdated, description of the walls in English). Excavations are ongoing, so the matter isn’t quite closed yet (and may not be fully determined). Ancient sources suggest that the 6th century walls did encircle the city, but that conflicts with the evidence for the Gallic sack of 390 BCE (which some have argued didn’t happen quite as the Romans claimed it did — see around p. 318).

Map of Rome, including hills and Servian wall (agger).

Aside from trying to figure out what the house was used for and who lived there (priest?), this discovery may also give archaeologists incentive to search near other parts of the Servian walls — and may increase some of scholars’ trust in Roman accounts of Servius Tullius, whose life story is in many ways unbelievable.

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