A stone known as a pomerium cippus, which marked the ancient boundary of the city of Rome, has been discovered during redevelopment work in the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.
The pomerium was a consecrated boundary area within which it was forbidden to farm, build, or carry weapons. Its extent was marked by large cippi (border stones). The recently discovered stone was laid in AD 49, when the boundaries of the pomerium were expanded by Emperor Claudius, who ruled between AD 41 and AD 54. It is believed that Claudius laid more than 140 of these cippi around Rome, but only 11 have been found so far, and the last discovery occurred more than a century ago, in 1909, making this latest find particularly significant.
The travertine stone, which measures 193cm by 74.5cm by 54cm, bears an inscription detailing Claudius’ titles and honours, and his decision to expand the pomerium. The new boundary incorporated a larger area into the city, including the Aventine Hill and the Campus Martius, but Claudius’ primary motivation is evident from the inscription, which states that he ‘extended and redefined the pomerium because he had increased the boundaries of the Roman people’, revealing that this act was less about the expansion of the city of Rome itself than it was a political statement celebrating Claudius’ expansion of the wider Roman Empire, including his conquest of Britain in AD 43.
Claudio Parisi Presicce, director of the Archaeological Museums of Rome, described the stone as ‘an extra piece of the jigsaw for the understanding of ancient Roman society’.