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XXI

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The Castra Praetoria of Sejanus and Tiberius-  Joe Geranio


I love how numismatics and archaeology go hand in hand.  The Castra Praetoria walls and some towers still exists today.    Castra Praetoria* the barracks of the praetorian guard, built by Tiberius at the instigation of Sejanus in 21‑23 A.D. when these troops were quartered permanently within the city (Suet. Tib. 37; Tac. Ann. IV.2; Cass. Dio LVII.9.6; Schol. Iuv. X.95). They were in the extreme north-eastern part of Rome, just beyond the inhabited district (Plin. NH III.67; Suet. Nero 48; Not. Reg. VI), about 500 metres east of the agger, on a site that was one of the highest in Rome (59‑60 metres above sea-level), and commanded both the city and the roads leading to the east and north-east. The camp was constructed on the usual Roman model, forming a rectangle 440 metres long and 380 wide, with rounded corners. The longer axis, the cardo maximus, ran nearly north and south, and at its ends, in the middle of the shorter sides, were the porta praetoria and the porta decumana. It is not certain, however, whether the porta praetoria was on the north side or the south (HJ 387‑388 north, Antonielli, BC 1913, 31‑47 south). The cardo maximus did not divide the castra equally, and the gates at its ends, porta principalis dextra on the west and porta principalis sinistra on the east, were 190 metres from the north side and 250 from the south.1


[image ALT: A very old brick wall about 2 stories high. It is <a href='view.asp?key=PART'>part</a> of the <a href='view.asp?key=Castra%20Praetoria'>Castra Praetoria</a> in <a href='view.asp?key=Rome'>Rome</a>.]

The original walls of Tiberius (AJA 1912, 398) are of brick-faced concrete, 4.73 metres high where they are still preserved (see below), and had battlements and turreted gates (Ill. 13) (Tac. Hist. III.84;Herod. VII.11.12). The tower with three windows shown in the illustration is pre-Aurelianic, and there are traces of battlements above, contemporary with period II of the city wall: cf. PBS X. pl. VII. On the inside of the wall were rows of vaulted chambers occupied by soldiers, some of which, on the north and east sides, are still visible. They were 3 metres high, of opus reticulatum lined with stucco, and above them ran a paved walk for the guards (for the discovery of these p107and other chambers in the castra, see BC 1872‑3, 5, 12‑14; 1876, 176‑178). A view of the principia is perhaps to be found on one of the 'Aurelian' panels of the Arch of Constantine (PBS III.263). As would be expected from the importance of the praetorian guard, thecastra are mentioned frequently in the literature of the empire (Tac. Ann. XI.31XII.69XIII.14XV.5359;Hist. III.84Suet. Claud. 21; Hist. Aug. Did. Iul. ii.6Max. et Balb. x.5; Frag. Vat. 195; Herod. II.6, 7;VII.11, 12; Chron. 147) and in inscriptions (CIL VI.9277, 9661, 9992), especially those on lead pipes, which show the care expended by successive emperors on the water supply of the barracks (CIL XV.7237‑7244;2LA 438‑442, Nos. 103‑127).

Two interesting coin types of Claudius represent on the reverses his reception in the praetorian camp after the murder of Caligula: the legends are respectively imper(atorrecept(us), which is shown in the type with a soldier on guard, and praetor(ianusrecept(us) (i.e. in fidem), i.e. the acceptance by Claudius of the fealty of the praetorians — an idea well symbolised by the clasping of hands (BM Imp. p. cliii; Claud. 5, 8‑10, 20‑25, 28‑37, 38 and p174 n.‡ = Cohen, Claud. 40‑46, 77‑80).

The regular name of the barracks was castra praetoria, but they seem also to have been called vulgarlycastrum praetorium (CIL XV.7239 b, c) and castrae praetoriae (ib. d); and in the Middle Ages castra custodiae (BC 1914, 399, 402). The cohortes urbanae were also quartered here before the construction of the Castra Urbana.

Aurelian incorporated the castra in his line of fortification, which joined the castra at the north-west corner and again near the middle of the south side. The north and east wall of the castra thus formed the continuation of the Aurelian wall, and its original height was increased by an addition of 2.5 to 3 metres at the top and by digging away the soil about its foundations to a depth of 2.3 metres (Homo, Aurélien 244‑245, 266‑268). The original wall can be distinguished from that of Aurelian by the difference in brickwork and by the outline of the battlements (LR fig. 171 shows Aurelian's battlements, and not those of Tiberius; for the latter, see RA 41‑46, and especially fig. 46, in which both the lines of battlements are seen). The gates on the north and east sides were also walled up by Maxentius (?). In 312 Constantine disbanded the praetorian guard and dismantled their barracks, presumably by destroying the inner walls that had not been used by Aurelian (Zos. II.17; Aur. VictCaes. XL.25; Lact. de mort. pers. 26), although a part of the west wall is reported as standing in the sixteenth century (LS II.243; HJ 389, n41).

Within the castra was the shrine of the standards of the guard (CIL VI.1609; Herod. IV.4.5VI.8.5‑7), a tribunal, on which these standards were set up, restored by the statores attached to the barracks (CIL VI.3559; WS 1902, 356‑358), a shrine of Mars (CIL VI.2256), and an p108armamentarium, or imperial armoury, mentioned twice by Tacitus (Hist. I.38, 80) and in two inscriptions (CIL VI.999, 2725; RE II.1176).

In the north part of the castra, east of the north gate, was an altar of Fortuna Restitutrix, of which the remains were found in 1888 in a room paved with black and white mosaic (NS 1888, 391; BC 1888, 401; CIL VI.30876).3 Certain antiquarians of the sixteenth and fifteenth centuries speak of an arcus Gordiani near the porta Chiusa (for reff. see HJ 390, n45; LS I.169; BC 1913, 38), and this has been connected by some with architectural fragments found in the via Gaeta and the viale Castro Pretorio (BC 1872‑3, 103, 233‑237). One or more such arches may very probably have stood in or near the castra, but there is no evidence of an arch of Gordian,a or that the fragments discovered belonged to that arch mentioned in the Renaissance (BC 1913, 37‑42). For further discussion of the castra, see Gilb. III.198‑199; HJ 385‑390; LR 439‑442 (the relief from an arch with a Victory is at Ny-Karlsberg, No. 511); for tabulae lusoriae found within it,BC 1877, 81‑100; for inscribed amphorae in the camp and vicinity, BC 1879, 36‑112, 143‑195; 1880, 82‑117; CIL XV.4529‑4898 passim). The latest study of it is in PBS X.12‑22 (by I. A. Richmond).  FROM:  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Castra_Praetoria.html


Here are a few photos of the wall that exist today.  The lower part is from the Tiberian period.  The coin from the Claudian period below is the camp that was started under Sejanus and Tiberius.  21-23 A.D.  Photos of wall from CC lis. Mike Bishop.


Lower part of the wall is from Tiberian period.  21-23 A.D.



Castra Praetoria: north wall  Photo and Text from Mike Bishop under cc lis.

The site of the castra praetoria in Rome as it appears on the Google Earth coverage, showing the well-preserved north wall and, to the left, the north-east corner, which preserves its original curvature. The wall on this side is a palimpsest, with the Aurelian walls built on top of the Tiberian ones, preserving them in remarkable detail. Looking S



Claudius Commemorates His Accession



Claudius. AD 41-54. AV Aureus (19mm, 7.66 g, 1h). Rome mint. Struck AD 44/5. Laureate head right / IMPER RECEPT, Claudius seated left, holding scepter; to left, signum; all within distyle building with crescent in pediment and flanked by crenelated walls with arched entries; all set on crenelated wall with two arched entries. RIC I 25; von Kaenel Type 22 (V332/R339; an unlisted die combination); Calicó 361a. 


According to the historian Suetonius (Claud. 10.1-4), the Praetorian Guard appointed Claudius emperor following the assassination of his nephew and predecessor Gaius. Found cowering behind a palace curtain, the new emperor was immediately removed to the Praetorian camp which had been constructed almost fifteen years earlier under Sejanus, and located at the northeastern outskirts of the capital. For the next several days, Claudius remained under the Guard’s “protection”, while diplomatic maneuvers secured senatorial acceptance of his succession. Because of the Guard’s strategic involvement in these events, Claudius rewarded them with an donative, renewed annually for the next several years, ostensibly commemorating their protection of him during the first days of his reign, but, in fact, acknowledging their central role in his accession.  cngcoins.com


ClaudiusAD 41-54. AR Denarius (18mm, 3.55 g, 11h). Rome mint. Struck AD 44-45. Laureate head right / Battlemented wall inscribed IMPER RECEPT enclosing praetorian camp in which Fides Praetorianorum stands left, aquila before him; behind, pediment with fortified flanking walls. RIC I 26; von Kaenel Type 21; RSC 44.   cngcoins.com