In 9 CE, the colonia Fanum Fortunae (modern day Fano, Italy) received a triple-arched gateway with an inscription denoting it as a gift from Augustus Caesar. Built of gleaming white Istrian stone, the entryway marked where the Via Flaminia, a prominent road connecting Rome with Northern Italy, intersected with the main east-west road of Fano. This structure however was not unique; during his forty-five year reign, Augustus built numerous city gates, known as portae, and used them to demarcate his rule over the Roman empire.
This interdisciplinary paper combines architectural, epigraphic, and numismatic evidence to contextualize Fanum Fortunae’s city gate as one aspect of the princeps’s vision of Roman cities under his control. Previous scholars have studied in depth the colonia’s Augustan-era buildings, but I wish to single out Fano’s porta and consider its role in redefining the way ancient viewers saw and interacted with urban, inhabited spaces in this period. The princeps used successful infrastructural campaigns like gate and road building for propaganda. As seen with a coin commemorating the renovation of the Via Flaminia in 16BCE, the obverse depicts a statue of Augustus and a city gate in the background, and on the coin reverse, a cippus, a standard road marker measuring distance. Fano’s location, where the Via Flaminia abruptly turned north and began its final leg, made the colonia an ideal place for the princeps to further manifest his power through a grand, monumental gateway. The architectural structure’s three doorways and unusual double elevation redirected human and economic activity to this particular entrance. This gift of a city gate, redefined and reorganized the topography of Fanum Fortunae and altered its cityscape to suit Augustus’s political interests.
Visions of Ancient Cities...