Rare stone marking the border of ancient Rome unearthed

Only ten other stones of this kind have been discovered in the city of Rome – the last was unearthed 100 years ago.

Archaeologists in Rome have recovered a border stone dating to the reign of Emperor Claudius that once marked the sacred, military, and political perimeters of the ancient city.

The stone measures 1.9m x 0.74m x 0.54m and is in very good condition. Image: Ara Pacis Museum.

The huge travertine border stone, known as a cippi, was unearthed last month during excavations ahead of a rerouted sewer system beneath the recently restored Mausoleum of Emperor Augustus and the surrounding Piazza Augusto Imperatore.

The inscription on the cippi has revealed it was installed during the reign of Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) to mark the newly-extended limits of the pomerium – a consecrated area of land that separated the city from the outer territories of the Empire.

Important religious and political spaces, including the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, were situated within the pomerium. It was forbidden to farm, live, or build in the area, or to enter carrying weapons.

Due to its sacred significance, the boundary of the pomerium was rarely altered. Only Emperors Vespasian and Titus in AD 75 and Hadrian in AD 121 are known through epigraphic sources to have also moved it.

Claudia Parisi Presicce, director of the Archaeological Museums of Rome, said in a press conference that the stone has a symbolic and civic meaning, in that ‘the founding act of the city of Rome starts from the realisation of this ‘pomerium’.

It is reported that only ten other stones of this kind have been discovered in Rome – the last was unearthed 100 years ago.

The inscription lists the titles and honours of Emperor Claudius. Image: Ara Pacis Museum.

According to a statement from the Ara Pacis Museum, where the stone is currently exhibited in a temporary display, the extension of the pomerium is an expression of Claudius’ ambition and vision of the city’s power.

In due course, the stone will be rehoused permanently at the Mausoleum of Augustus.

Look out for further information about the discovery, the Ara Pacis, and the Mausoleum of Augustus, in an in-depth feature in Minerva #192 (available November/December 2021).