Subura was a populous vicus or
district in central Rome, situated in the low-lying area between the
Viminal and Esquiline hills. A busy, crowded, noisy, dirty area,
Subura housed trades and
manufacturing, as well as crime, prostitution, and the poor. Inscriptions
and epitaphs attest variously to the presence here of a Jewish synagogue,
a shoemaker, an ironmonger, a wool merchant.
The region was approached by the Argiletum,
a street of booksellers and cobblers which exited from the
Roman Forum between the
Curia and the
Basilica Aemilia and ran
parallel to the Cloaca
Maxima (covered and paved over in the 2nd century BCE). This main
thoroughfare leading to Subura was incorporated in 97 CE by
section) into Nerva's
(see remains of the
Transitorium). Leaving the center of Rome, the road passed in view
of the Baths of Trajan and
split off into the clivus
suburanus, which ended at the Porta Esquilina in the Servian
writes that Julius Caesar, before he became pontifex maximus,
lived here in a modest house.
Propertius reminds Cynthia of their vigilacis furta Suburae, "stolen
times of wakeful Subura" (El.4.7.15).
Juvenal locates a stall for training food carvers here, describing it in
summer as ferventi Subura, "boiling hot" (Sat.11.51).
To this unsavory district Juvenal connects mortal threats of fire, falling
rooftiles, assaults, and mille pericula saevae urbis, "the
thousand dangers of a savage city" (Sat. 3.8-9 ). Mocking
Hannibal's lust for power, Juvenal quotes his desire to plant his banner
in the middle of Subura (Sat.10.156).
At a wealthy man's banquet, Juvenal's disgusted Poorman is served an ugly
Tiber fish that grew fat in the Cloaca Maxima and hid in the mid-Subura
Subura is cited in both Persius (Sat. 5.32) and
2.17.1, 5.22.5-9, 7.31.12, 10.94.5, 12.18.2, 12.21.5).