While London’s tube had much of its 12 lines and 250 miles of track in place well before the mid 20th century, Rome is still struggling to add its third metro line. The problem is an age-old one: the metro runs deep underground and is deep enough so that the tunnels themselves do not interfere too much with Rome’s layers of buried civilisations. The stations and air vents, however, need to come to the surface and, much to the frustration of the construction company, they more often than not strike valuable archaeological areas.
The first line (the unchronologically-named line B) was completed in the 1950s, and the second (line A) followed in the 1980s after 20 slow years of archaeological digs. But what hope is there for a new line C? With a completion date set for 2015, the president of the company building the new metro line, Giovanni Ascarelli, admits that the infrastructure project is already way behind schedule.
Archaeological Finds on Line C
Several recent finds from the metro works are of great importance they were announced today at Palazzo Massimo by three archaeologists working on the project: Roberto Egidi, Mirella Serlorenzi and Fedora Filippi. They include:
- an auditorium believed to have been from the age of Hadrian in piazza Venezia about five metres in front of the monument to Vittorio Emanuele;
- Nero‘s Greek gymnasium near Nero’s thermal baths on Corso Vittorio Emanuele (in front of the church Sant Andrea della Valle);
- traces of a canal that drained the marshy ground of the Campus Martius;
- parts of the Aurelian wall built in 271 AD;
- traces of machinery and equipment used in building the Colosseum;
- remains of human habitation from the Eneolithic and Bronze Ages (from the fourth to the third millennia BC) near the site of Gabii.
According to Filippi, there is now enough evidence to redraw part of the map of the Campus Martius (Field of Mars the large flat area of ancient Rome between the Capitoline Hill, the Tiber and the Quirinal Hill, used at times for military training).
Work on line C began in 2006, but if the works for line A are anything to go by, Romans may not be travelling underground between Grottarossa and Pantano for quite some time yet. Line C is planned to have stations at Ottaviano (north of St Peter’s), at the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia and San Giovanni. By 2011 work is planned to begin for a fourth line D so Romans can expect to see quite a few more holes in the ground cordoned off with orange plastic nets on the route between piazza Venezia and EUR.
According to this article by Ann Wise in abcnews, the area of Largo Argentina was one of the planned metro stations for line C but these were scrapped when archaeological excavations couldn’t find a suitable space that wouldn’t damage the Roman temples currently being excavated in the area (also in the vicinity are Crypta Balbi and Pompey’s theatre).
The most important discovery in the current line C project is Hadrian’s auditorium, dating from around 135 AD and also referred to by ancient writers. During excavation work probing for space for the piazza Venezia metro station, archaeologists came across two sets of yellow marble steps. They now believe these are of the small theatre built at the emperor’s own expense.
Photos by the Superindency of Archaeological Heritage of Rome.