Click on any of the markers for a fort's name and link to its picture and/or page.

Forte Antenne: 1882-1891
Forte Appio: 1887-1880
Forte Ardiatino: 1879-1882
Forte Aurelio: 1877-1881
Forte Boccea: 1877-1881
Forte Braschi: 1877-1881
Forte Bravetta: 1877-1883
Forte Casilino: 1881-1882
Forte Monte Mario: 1877-1882
Forte Ostiense: 1882-1884
Forte Pietralata: 1881-1885
Forte Portuense: 1877-1881
Forte Prenestino: 1880-1884
Castel Sant'Angelo: 16th century starfortification
Forte Tiburtino: 1880-1884
Forte Trionfale: 1882-1888
Vatican City: 16th century starfortification

Rome being as important to western civilization as it was, you may be assured that it was heavily fortified at several points of its development. Beginning in the 3rd century BC, efforts were made to encircle the city with walls. Rome's first real fort came about from the semi-repurposement of Hadrian's Mausoleum, which had been built in the second century AD, but became a fort in the 14th century, when it heroically transmogrophied into Castel Sant'Angelo.

The Vatican was first surrounded by walls in the 9th century, and was extensively starfortified in the 16th century: You can read more about Rome's early fortifications at this site's Vatican City page.

French troops were stationed in Rome for much of the bloody process of Italy's mid-19th-century unification, guaranteeing the safety and sovereignty of the Pope and his hold on the city. Those French troops were forced to depart at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), and sure enough, in their absence Rome was taken by the new Kingdom of Italy for its own (understandably Italian) purposes.

A selection of Rome's more photogenic artillery forts as they stand today. Top: Forte Aurelio and Forte Ostiense; Center: Forte Braschi and Forte Pietralata; Bottom: Forte Boccea and Forte Trionfale.
As soon as Italy had wrested Rome from the Pope, there was a perceived threat of the French returning and setting things back as they had been. Was such a threat realistic? France had been comprehensively defeated in the Franco-Prussian War, with Napoleon III imprisoned for a time in Germany, and Prussian troops nestled comfortably in the ring of forts around Paris. The Prussians eventually took everything of value and left, however, and France resumed its usual military thrashing about, particularly in the Scramble for Africa in the early 1880's.

Whatever the state of France or its actual intentions, the Italians felt compelled to upgrade Rome's fortifications. Artillery had eclipsed the starfort, however, and the manner in which large cities were defended in the last three decades of the 19th century was with a series of artillery forts. These relatively small, chevron-shaped forts (really little more than fortified batteries) were built in a circle around their city at a distance of two to three kilometers from one other, which was the effective range of the guns they mounted. The forts were mutually supporting, which had been the role of a starfort's bastions.

From 1877 to 1891, a series of fifteen artillery forts were built in a ring around Rome. Interestingly, the same defensive scheme had been utilized to defend the mighty French city of Strasbourg, but that city fell to the Prussians anyway, in September of 1870. While that outcome may have had little to do with the worthiness of a ring of artillery forts as a defensive concept (it would have taken a miraculous force indeed to defeat the war machine that was the Prussian Army in 1870), surely in the mid-1870's there were some Romans pointing out that such fortifications did Strasbourg little good once under siege.

Still, you had to do something to protect your important cities, and the ring of artillery forts was favored in Europe, whose major cities were always seemingly just an offended king or queen away from being attacked.

Rome's ring o' forts was never challenged. The city was fortunate enough to avoid damage by enemy action during the First World War (1914-1918), and by 1919 Rome's ring of forts was recognized as the expensive, relatively worthless collection of dinosaurs that it was: Revelations of the power of artillery during the war made it clear to anyone paying attention that the days of the proud, static fortification were over. Additionally, Rome's urban growth reached and surpassed the defensive belt, rendering it useless for defending the city that now surrounded it.

The interior of Forte Aurelio

Forts are built to last, however, and Rome's artillery forts continued to be used by Italy's military for storage and a variety of other uses, up to the present day. Almost all of Rome's fifteen artillery forts are still in use by the military: Forte Boccea was used as a military prison; Forte Braschi is presently the headquarters of the Italian Foreign Intelligence Service; Forte Ostiense houses an outpost of the State Police. A few of the forts are dedicated to non-military endeavors: Forte Bravetta has a memorial to victims of the Nazis in the Second World War, and Forte Prenestino houses an "Alternative Cultural Center."