Aventine Hill

Aventine Hill

Infobox Hill of Rome
name =Aventine Hill
Latin name =Aventinus mons
Italian name =Colle Aventino
rione =Ripa
buildings =Roman Forum, Circus Maximus
people =Ancus Marcius, Lucius Opimius, Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, Naevius, Pope Sixtus III
events =Chariot racing,
Aventine Secession (494 BC),
Aventine Secession (20th century)
religion =Bacchanalia, Sacred fire of Vesta
mythology =Artemis, Bona Dea, Ceres, Cacus, Dionysus, Diana, Heracles, Mercury, Selene, Vertumnus|

The Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.


Its etymology is traced either from Aventinus or a son of Hercules and a Latin priestess Rhea, also called Aventinus. Servius's commentary on "Aeneid" vii.656 states:

:"The Aventine is a hill in the city of Rome. It is accepted that it derives its name from birds (aves) which, rising from the Tiber, nested there (as we read in the eighth book of a suitable home for the nests of ill-omened birds). This is because of a king of the Aboriginal Italians, Aventinus by name, who was both killed and buried there - just as the Alban king Aventinus was, he who was succeeded by Procas. Varro, however, states that amongst the Roman people, the Sabines accepted this mountain when it was offered them by Romulus, and called it the Aventine after the Aventus river in its area. It is therefore accepted that these different opinions came later, for in the beginning it was called Aventinus after either the birds or the Aboriginal King: from which it is accepted that the son of Hercules mentioned here took his name from that of the hill, not vice versa." [Maurus Servius Honoratus, [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Serv.+A.+7.657 Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil] ]

An alternate etymology comes directly from the founding of Rome. Romulus saw birds from Aventine Hill, not Palatine Hill, so Aventine Hill was aptly named as where Romulus saw his omen (birds = "aves"). [Skutsch, O. ["Enniana IV: Condendae Urbis Auspicia"] , "The Classical Quarterly", 1961. Retrieved on May_6, 2007.]


Virgil wrote that Cacus, whom Hercules killed, lived in a cave on Aventine Hill. Hercules killed him because Cacus had stolen the Cattle of Geryon that Hercules had to deliver. ["Brill's New Pauly: Encyclopaedia of the Ancient World". [http://www.paulyonline.brill.nl.turing.library.northwestern.edu/bnp.asp "Cacus"] , 2002. Retrieved on May_4, 2007.]

According to Livy, Remus chose the Aventine for his station of observation after the founding of the Rome, while Romulus chose the Palatine (book 6 of Livy's Ab urbe condita).

However, a number of other sources, including Ennius and Servius, place Romulus on the Aventine Hill. Thus, the etymology of the hill’s name has a more direct connection to the founding of Rome as it is where Romulus saw his birds (aves).

In modern times, the Aventine Hill actually consists of two hills: the northwestern hill and the southeastern hill. During Romulus' and Remus' time, the Aventine Hill only consisted of the northwestern hill. Remus stood on the southeastern hill. Eventually, the northwestern hill, where Romulus stood, and the southeastern hill, upon which Remus stood, both came together under the name of the Aventine Hill. As a result, mythologically, Romulus and Remus would have stood on the same hill. In order to preserve the image of the twins standing on different hills looking for omens, Romulus’ position was changed to Palatine Hill, where Romulus founded the city, and Remus remained on the Aventine Hill. [Skutsch, O. ["Enniana IV: Condendae Urbis Auspicia"] , "The Classical Quarterly", 1961. Retrieved on May_6, 2007.]


Ancient and medieval

The Aventine Hill did not become a part of Rome proper until long after the city’s founding. Strabo’s Geography has the Aventine Hill being incorporated into Rome by Ancus Marcius, who ruled from 640-616 BC as the fourth king of Rome, in order to further fortify the city and protect it from invaders. [Strabo. [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/5C*.html "Geography"] , November_6, 2006. Retrieved on May_8, 2007.] Common Roman mythology believes the Aventine Hill was incorporated into the city of Rome with the building of the Servian Wall during the reign of Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, in the mid-sixth century, BC. The wall itself, however, probably could not have been built before 393 BC when the Romans conquered Veii, which controlled a quarry that produced the specific type of stone of which the Servian Wall is made. Most scholars believe that the wall was built after an invasion and occupation by the Gauls in 387 BC.

The Aventine Hill was a suburb of Rome during the monarchy and early Republic until about 456 BC when a law was passed allowing plebeians to own property on the hill. Thus, the city began to outgrow its walls as it extended onto Aventine Hill and the Campus Martius. This expansion made it much easier for the Gauls to capture Rome. This invasion prompted a new wall to be built incorporating the new areas of the city, including the Aventine Hill. [Carter, Jesse Benedict. "The Evolution of the City of Rome from Its Origin to the Gallic Catastrophe"] , "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society", September_2, 1909. Retrieved on May_6, 2007.]


During the Fascist period, many deputies of the opposition retired on this hill after the murder of Giacomo Matteotti, here ending - by the so-called "Aventine Secession" - their presence at the Parliament and consequently their political activity.

The hill is now an elegant residential part of Rome with a wealth of architectural interest.

Popular culture references

The Aventine Hill is portrayed as a rough working-class area of ancient Rome in the popular Falco series of historical novels written by Lindsey Davis about Marcus Didius Falco, a 'private informer' who occasionally works for the Emperor Vespasian and lives in the Aventine. The same image is portrayed in much of the series "Rome", in which the Aventine is the home of Lucius Vorenus. In season two Vorenus and his friend legionary Titus Pullo seek to maintain order over the various gangs competing there for power.


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