Porta Stabia Gate Print E-mail
Written by Allison Emmerson   


Although it was one of Pompeii’s most heavily trafficked gates, as well as the earliest of those standing in 79 CE, only a small area immediately surrounding the Porta Stabia has been explored. The gate itself was uncovered in 1851. Constructed of Sarno Limestone in the Opus Quadratum building style (large rectangular blocks off-set on top of one another with no mortar used to bind them), it is contained within a barrel-vaulted space that is preceded by a corridor leading between the city walls. Into the eastern wall of this corridor are set two semi-circular niche shrines – similar to the lararia found in houses, shops, and restaurants across the city - one directly above the other. Excavations into the sidewalk below the shrines in the summer of 2006 revealed a small stepped altar and evidence for associated ritual activity, including pottery, burned bone, and a broken terracotta figurine.

Immediately outside the gate, an inscription in the Samnite language Oscan was discovered standing to the east of the road to Stabiae. This inscription records the restoration of the road by two Pompeian Aediles, Marcus Suettius and Numerius Pontius.

To the west of the gate the road is flanked by a narrow sidewalk and an Opus Reticulatum (pyramidal stones set into the mortar of the wall in diagonal rows to create the look of diamond-shaped stones) wall 1.25m high and .45 m wide with a rounded top, beyond which the ground slopes away sharply into the ancient defensive fossa (ditch). To the east is a wider sidewalk flanked by two tombs of the schola type, i.e. semicircular benches set on low platforms. The northernmost of these was excavated in 1874. This tomb is large, measuring nearly six meters from one end to the other. At its center back is an altar-like structure, which, judging from comparanda elsewhere in the city, was likely once topped by a column and stone urn. As is typical for a schola tomb, each arm of the bench is carved in the shape of a griffin’s leg. No associated inscription was found during the 1874 explorations, but two small boundary stones identifying the tomb’s owner were found during further work carried out in the summer of 1889. These specified that the owner of the tomb was Marcus Tullius, the son of Marcus, and that the location for the tomb had been granted by the town council.

The southernmost schola tomb standing outside the Porta Stabia was excavated during the explorations of 1889. In size and style, this tomb is quite similar to that of Marcus Tullius, but it features a funerary inscription carved into the back of its seat. This inscription tells us that the tomb belonged to Marcus Alleius Minius, the son of Quintus, of the Menenia tribe, who had served as a duumvir, i.e. one of the two men who headed the town council. The town council also granted Marcus Alleius the land for his tomb. Given that their tombs stood on public land and that Marcus Alleius is specified as having been a duumvir, we can be certain that both of these men were members of the Pompeian elite. Based on analyses of their inscriptions and forms, the tombs of Marcus Tullius and Marcus Alleius Minius have been dated to the Augustan perio

According to August Mau, a third schola tomb was found just south of the tomb of Marcus Alleius, but could not be explored due to the danger posed to a modern house that sat above it.

Recently, the remains of two additional tombs have been uncovered outside the Porta Stabia, roughly sixty meters south of the gate. Both tombs had been heavily damaged by modern building activity prior to their excavation, but they appear originally to have been podia with interior burial chambers, likely topped by altars or aediculae (small roofed structures imitating temples). The northernmost tomb, which is in very poor condition, is entered from the south. Inside, it features a vaulted burial chamber designed to hold cinerary urns in niches and on masonry benches lining the walls. The southernmost tomb is of a similar design. Inside its chamber, cinerary urns were found within small rectangular niches set into the walls. This tomb chamber was also accessed from the south, via a door made of a solid slab of white limestone that was secured by a bronze lock. Several pieces of graffiti are preserved on the front of the door, a testimony to the many travelers who passed through this Pompeian necropolis.

It is likely that these two tomb podia originally stood quite near to the crossroads of the north/south road leading out of the Porta Stabia and running between Pompeii and Stabiae, and the east/west road between Naples and Nuceria, which ran along the southern side of Pompeii. Other tombs uncovered on the south side of the city around the Porta Stabia probably flanked one of these two roads.


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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 May 2010 14:11
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