Richardson, L. jr

Argiletum: The main approach to the Forum Romanum on the northeast, it connected the Subura and the forum square, debouching between the Comitium and the Basilica Pauli (Fig. 39). Because the expansion of the imperial fora gradually absorbed portions of the Argiletum, it is of some importance to be able to define its beginning and end at various periods. For Livy (Livy 1.19.2) and Servius (Servius ad Aen. 7.607) the Ianus Geminus stood ad imum Argiletum or circa infimum Argiletum, and a stretch of roadway with ancient paving still runs along the side of the Curia today, though in its passage through the Forum Nervae (Transitorium) its character as a road was probably obliterated. For Martial the Argiletum continued northeast of the Forum Transitorium and was a center of booksellers and cobblers (Martial 1.2.7-8, Martial 1.3.1, Martial 1.117.9-12, Martial 2.17). Probably it was always the main thoroughfare of the Subura and did not lose the name Argiletum until it divided into the Clivus Suburanus and Vicus Patricius. Martial's primae fauces Suburae would then be the area just behind the Forum Transitorium.

Various fanciful explanations of the name Argiletum were offered in antiquity, the most popular being that it derived from a Greek scoundrel (Varro Ling. 5.157; Servius ad Aen. 8.345). Because it was never called anything else, never via or vicus, and ran along the side of the Cloaca until the stream was culverted and put under the road in the second century B.C., the name may be connected with argilla.

Nash 1.151-53.

© The Johns Hopkins University Press