During the 13th century, to control access to the city from the ancient Via Latina road, a 98-foot-tall (30-meter-tall) tower was built at the intersection of the ancient Roman aqueducts of the Aqua Claudia and the Aqua Marcia. Today, this preserved tower stands as a testimony to the era when the more powerful families of Rome built castles, towers, and fortifications to control trade routes and access points to the city.
People have used the area where the two aqueducts intersect for more than 1,000 years, long before the park’s namesake tower was erected. The Ostrogoths used it in 537, when they were laying siege to the city of Rome, which was being held by the Byzantine troops of General Belisarius during the Gothic Wars. King Witiges and his troops closed off the arcades and built a makeshift camp, which effectively blocked access to the city from the Via Latina and the Appia Antica. Ever since this episode, the area has been known as Campus Barbaricus (Barbarian Camp).
The area was also occupied by Robert Guiscard’s Norman troops in 1084 to assist Pope Gregory VII in his struggle against Emperor Henry IV, and later by Neapolitan troops in the early 15th century. These turbulent events led to the eventual abandonment of the Via Latina and the maintenance of the aqueducts.
The tower still stands at the junction of the two aqueducts (though the Aqua Marcia has been replaced by the Papal aqueduct of the Aqua Felice, built by Sixtus V at the end of the 16th century). The tower’s structure is simple but strong, consisting largely of tuff stone and bricks. It was most likely surrounded by a rampart when the area became a castle of the Annibaldi family.
Other than the arcades of the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Marcia, the park also preserves the remains of a late Republican Roman villa and quarries which were also used as Christian catacombs.