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Sacra Via

Sacra Via

The oldest and most famous street in Rome. The Sacra Via (“Sacred Way”) proper began at the top of the Velia and terminated at the eastern end of the Roman Forum in the religiously significant area of the Regia, the Temple of Vesta, and the House of the Vestals. Triumphal processions passed down the road. In early times, the road was lined with the houses of kings and aristocrats.

Sacra Via

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 456-459.

The oldest and most famous street in Rome. It and the Nova via were the only streets in the city called viae before the imperial period, when we hear of a Via Fornicata, Via Tecta and Via Nova (qq.v.). Sacra via (ἡ ἱερὰ ὁδός) was the correct and well-nigh universal form of the name, and the reverse order, via Sacra, occurs, outside of poetry (e.g. Hor. Sat. I.9.1), with extreme infrequency (Plin. NH XIX.23; Not. Reg. IV; Suet. Vit. 17; Ascon. Cic. pro Mil. 14; CIL VI.9239, 9418, 9549). Further evidence for this is found in the word sacravienses (Fest. 178), and in the protest raised by the grammarians against the common practice of pronouncing the name as if it were a compound (Fest. 290: nec . . . appellari debere ait Verrius sed disiuncte, ut caeteras vias Flaminiam Appiam Latinam, ut ne Novamviam quidem, sed Novam viam).

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Additional source material

  • Ancient Library Sources (from Peter Aicher, Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, vol. 1, Bolchazy-Carducci: 2004) [Works cited]

    56. Temple of Rome and Venus. Sources.


    [In pagan families, a child absorbs idolatry from the cradle on.]

    Later, leaving the house during festivals and games,

    He stands in awe, gaping as the priests in laurel wreathes

    Tend the temples of pagan gods on the lofty Capitol,

    And the Sacred Way resounds with the lowing of cattle consigned

    To sacrifice on the altar of Rome (she too gets blood

    Like a goddess—even the name of a city has godhead here,

    Where the temples of Rome and Venus rise to equal height,

    And the incense meant for one is shared with its goddess twin);

    Impressed, and thinking whatever the noble Senate has sanctioned

    Must be true, he entrusts his faith to idols ….

    Prudentius, Against Symmachus 1.215-224

    [More primary sources and commentary]

  • Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project
  • German Archaeological Institute
  • Flickr images
  • Wikipedia

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