Rome, Septizodium


Septizodium: decorative wall in Rome, built to hide the substructure of the bathhouse of the Palatine.

Site of the Septizodium

Directly north of the curve of the Circus Maximus the emperor Septimius Severus (r.193-211) built the Septizodium,note a tall decorative façade for the royal palace on the Palatine, hiding the substructure of the Severan Baths. Originally, a monumental entryway to the palace was supposed to be built here, but the project was never completed because of bad omens.

The Septizodium was demolished in the Renaissance – a row of cypresses now marks the spot – but we do know it was built from natural stone: Numidian marble and Egyptian granite. The splendid façade contained statues of the seven planets in niches: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. For the traveler who had first come through the slums and had then walked under the dripping Porta Capena, this would have been the first true confrontation with the imposing architecture of the capital of the Mediterranean empire.