La Stanza Gialla

The earliest fortification walls on the Aventine, made of wooden posts, are traditionally attributed to Romulus, while Ancus Marcius is said to have added the hill to the city and furnished it with stone fortifications. No archaeological evidence of the latter structure has yet been found. The Aventine was certainly included on the defensive walls built by Servius Tullius in the 6th century BC, of which some conspicuous remains are still preserved under the church of Santa Sabina.

Having crossed the saddle between Caelian and Aventine hills, the walls then encircled the Smaller Aventine following viale G. Baccelli, past Santa Balbina, and going in the direction of San Saba.

In the area between Santa Balbina and San Saba was located the porta Naevia, from which originally started the via Ardeatina. Following a curvilinear path, the walls then reached piazza Albania, where (approximately in the middle of viale Aventino) the via Ostiensis started from the porta Raudusculana.

An etiological myth connects the porta Raudusculana to a certain Genucius Cipus, praetor paludatus of 239 BC who is said to have grown horns on his head as he walked out of the gate. Legend has it that a horned bronze head of Genucius was attached to the gate in commemoration of the event.

At this point the walls climbed uphill toward the summit of the Aventine following via Sant'Anselmo until the porta Lavernalis, and then down to the Tiber through the area now occupied by the church of Santa Sabina.

The path of the walls below the Aventine is uncertain: it is possible that the western side of the city was never fortified; instead two walls perpendicular to the river closed off the city north of the Capitoline hill and the south of the Aventine. In the stretch between the Aventine and the Tiber was therfore located the porta Trigemina, while the porta Flumentana and porta Carmentalis were between the Capitoline and the Tiber. Nonetheless, it seems more likely that also the western side of the city was closed off by a stretch of fortification walls that ran parallel to the river and connected the Capitoline to the Aventine.

The inscription carved on the so-called "Altar of the Vicomagistri", now at the Vatican Museums, allows to identify some of the Roman streets on the Aventine. It mentions a vicus portae Naeviae and a vicus portae Raudusculanae: both branched off the vicus Piscinae Publicae that ran along the depression between the Smaller Aventine and the Aventine proper. The vicus Altus mentioned in the inscription was recently identified on the ground north of via di Santa Sabina, which in turn should correspond to the ancient vicus Armilustri or, according to a more recent hypothesis, the clivus Publicius.