The Porta San Paolo took its name, attested since the medieval age, from the Apostle Paul’s Church reachable by the via Ostiense which from here started its route towards Ostia. The gate was built under the Aurelian empire (270-275 A.D.) and included in the walls, for that called Aurelian Walls, which enclosed Rome after the first Barbarians’incursions. In its early stage the gate had two twin arches flanked by two semicircular towers. Substantial modifications were made under the emperor Maxentius (306-312 A.D.) when was built an internal double door in travertine, with two entries connected to the towers by two walls: a kind of fortified gatehouse was thus housed between the two doors. Afterwards, in occasion of the restauration of the walls wanted for defensive needs by the emperor Honorius (401-403 A.D.), the towers were taken up and the external gate was reduced to just one arch.

Other modifications were made in the byzantine age and also later, especially in the 15th and 18th century.The gate appears nowadays detached whereas it was originally connected to a strech of the Aurelian Walls, which slopes down from the S. Saba hill towards the Pyramid of Cestius. At first, in 1920, the gate was indeed separated from the walls descended from the hill in order to facilitate the traffic in the square, and then the strech of the walls connected to the Pyramid was bombed out in 1943, during the last II World War. Today the gate houses the Museum of the Via Ostiense: inside, are on dislay the model of the town of Ostia and the one of the harbour of Rome (Portus), and also inscriptions, frescos, and casts of other finds from the territory included between Rome and Ostia.

(A. Pellegrino)