View Page: The Evolution of a Monumental Space: The Baker's Tomb and Porta Maggiore
University of Washington Honors Program in Rome

The Evolution of a Monumental Space: The Baker's Tomb and Porta Maggiore
Section Two 2 of 7

The Baker's Tomb
Rendering of the Complete Tomb
Porta Maggiore
Originally categorized as freedman art, the inventive design of the Baker’s Tomb has been frequently dismissed as a consequence of its owner’s predictable need to show his wealth. While this view permits classification of the non-traditional monument as garish and even obnoxious, a more general analysis of the structure fosters an appreciation of its refreshing idiosyncrasies.

The Baker’s Tomb sits against Porta Maggiore, directly east of the gate, between its two main arches. The first of the 30-foot-tall tomb’s three stories is a three-course foundation of blocks laid in the stretcher arrangement. Vertical cylinders make up the second story. These stubby paired columns, which are separated by squared pilasters, are believed to represent stacks of the kneading devices used in early bread making. Horizontal epitaphs bearing the baker’s name and profession reside between the second and third stories. The most prominent element to the monument’s design is the third story, whose three existing façades hold lattices of doughnut-shaped indentations. The missing east façade may have once held a large relief sculpture of Eurysaces and his wife, spanning the entire third story. A frieze sits between the third story and the cornice, which exhibits prominent dental molding. The small relief sculpture narrates the art and industry of baking, thus complementing the epitaph.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Porta Maggiore was one of only four out of the sixteen original Aurelian gates still in use (Platner 120). The masterful Porta Maggiore has been lauded for its breathtaking craftsmanship since the year of its dedication in the first century. Pliny the Elder, a prolific encyclopedist, observed the “high standard of work, which supplied all seven hills of Rome, and claims that there was none more remarkable in the entire world” (Levick 111).

The monstrous, travertine double arch stands 80 feet tall and more than 100 feet wide. The twin arches are 45 feet tall and 20 feet wide, and each of the three piers that support the arches contains a door that is framed by columns with Corinthian entablature and slanted Ionian cornices. Above the portals is a three-course attic. The inscription on the top register credits Claudius as responsible for introducing Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus into Rome in 52 AD. The middle register describes the restoration of 71 AD by Vespasian, and the lower register describes that done ten years later by Titus.