Caesar first lived in a modest dwelling in
the Subura, but then moved to the Domus Publica when he became
Suetonius, Julius Caesar
The October Horse is the name given to the horse
(specifically, the right-hand horse of the winning chariot)
sacrificed to Mars each year after the race in the Campus Martius.
The head of this horse becomes an object of fierce contention
between two neighborhoods: those from the Sacred Way hope to mount
it on the wall of the Regia, and those from the Subura want to
attach it to the Tower of Mamilius.
The tail of the October Horse, however, is quickly
transported to the Regia so that some of its blood can trickle onto
the sacrificial hearth and make a link to Mars. Some people say that
this is offered to the War-god in place of a sacrificial victim
(not, as the story commonly goes, as a punishment visited upon this
creature because the Trojans, ancestors of the Romans, were defeated
by the Wooden Horse).
Lest you wonder, reader, where my book is sold,
Or waste time looking, I'll be your trusty guide:
Go to the shop of Secundus, the freedman of learned Lucensis,
Behind the Temple of Peace and the Forum of
My poor little book of poems: why would you live in a bookshop
On the Argiletum, when my shelves at home have room
Julius Caesar originally lived in a modest house in the
Subura, but moved to the Domus Publica on the Sacred Way after he
became the Pontifex Maximus.
Suetonius, Julius Caesar
The other day Gellianus, the auctioneer,
Was trying to sell a girl with a reputation
Equal to those who work the streets of Subura.
When the bidding stalled below his hopes
He tried to convince us the girl was clean
By pulling her to him against her will
And kissing her long and hard on the lips.
Perhaps you wonder what such a kiss
Accomplished? Every bidder withdrew.
[To visit my wealthy friend who lives on the Esquiline]
I have to climb the long incline of Subura's street
On sloppy paving stones that never dry,
And struggle to make my way past the long trains of mules
And masses of marble dragged along by rope.
[Umbricius, a friend of the poet, catalogues his
complaints about Rome before leaving the city for the countryside.]
“You and I, we live in a city that's propped, for the
On the sub-standard lumber the superintendent uses to keep
The place from collapsing, who tells us we can sleep in peace
As he plasters over cracks in a building poised to crumble.
I won't miss the fires here either, that midnight terror.
Downstairs, some hero is already calling for water and hauling
His things to the curb by the time the smoke has reached your
But you're oblivious: those who climb three flights of stairs
Burn last—the ones with nothing between themselves and the rain
But the tiles where the softly cooing rock-doves lay their eggs.
Even sleep is expensive in Rome; it won't be found
In apartments, that's for sure, and this sleeplessness ruins our
The noise of the traffic, when a cart gets stuck in a tight turn
Of the narrow street and blocks a flock of bleating sheep,
Would rouse a sunning seal, or the Emperor Claudius, from
But the wealthy have other means; called by important business,
A rich man floats through town on a litter the size of an
Catching up on his correspondence, his reading, and shut-eye,
Gently rocked to sleep in his little curtained world—
And he still gets there before us, however hard we wade
Against the crowd in front and are shoved by the crowd behind.
One man jabs me with elbows, another connects with an axle,
Followed by someone who knocks my head with a beam or a barrel.
My legs are smeared with muck and bruised by the crowd's
Kick, while the studs on a soldier's boot trace its shape on my
…Down the street a giant trunk of fir
comes bobbing along on wheels; another wagon
delivers a load of pine swaying dangerously above the crowds.
And if a single axle transporting Cararra marble
snaps and spills its mountain on the commoners below,
what's left of the bodies? Who troubles to find the limbs and
the bones of common people? When we get crushed, our corpses
vanish with our souls.
Consider next the multitude of dangers that night brings on;
Reckon the speed a tile attains in the distance between
That roof and your head, and how many leaking and broken vases
Are tossed from windows, as dents on the paving stones at the
Of impact attest. Only a man who is grossly negligent
And careless of his family's future would dare head out for
Without a will; as many mortal dangers lie in wait
For you to pass as open windows shine above your head.
So let it be your fervent prayer, your pitiful little wish
That the ladies above are content to dump only piss from their
Then there's the drunken punk who's angry from lack of action; …
He sleeps better after assaults. But however young and stupid
And stoned he is, he'll shy from the man whom purple robes,
A long train of companions, and the slaves who light his way
With torches and bronze candelabras protect untouched.
But me, scraping along in the dark lit only by moonlight
Or the guttering flame I coax from a little homemade lamp,
He despises, and starts a quarrel designed to end in a fight—
If you can call it a fight, when one man does all the
[Epitaph] Quintus Gavius Primus, freedman of Gavius, a
bootmaker from the Subura, lived 25 years.
7547 = CIL
[Epitaph] This stone marks the double grave-plot of
Donatus, a linen-maker who lived in the Subura near the monumental
7565 = CIL