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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.

Vol. X
p668
Formia

Formia (anc. Formiae, called Mola di Gaeta until recent times), a town of Campania, Italy, in the province of Caserta,a from which it is 48 m. WNW by rail, Pop. (1901) 5514 (town); 8452 (commune). It is situated at the NW extremity of the Bay of Gaeta, and commands beautiful views. It lay on the ancient Via Appia, and was much frequented as a resort by wealthy Romans. There was considerable imperial property here and along the coast as far as Sperlonga, and there are numerous remains of ancient villas along the coast and on the slopes above it. The so‑called villa of Cicero contains two well preserved nymphaea with Doric architecture. Its site is now occupied by the Villa Caposele, once a summer residence of the kings of Naples. There are many other modern villas, and the sheltered hillsides (for the mountains rise abruptly behind the town) are covered with lemon, orange and pomegranate gardens. The now deserted promontory of the Monte Scauri to the E is also covered with remains of ancient villas; the hill is crowned by a large tomb, known as Torre Giano. To the E at Scauri is a large villa with substructions in "Cyclopean" work. The ancient Formiae was, according to the legend, the home of the Laestrygones, and later a Spartan colony (Ὁρμίαι διὰ τὸ εὔορμον, Strabo V.3.6, p233). It was a Volscian town, and, like Fundi, received the civitas sine suffragio from Rome in 338 (or 332 B.C.) because the passage through its territory had always been secure. This was strategically important for the Romans, as the military road definitely constructed by Appius Claudius in 312 B.C., still easily traceable by its remains, and in part followed by the high-road, traversed a narrow pass, which could easily be blocked, between Fundi and Formiae. In 188 B.C., with Fundi, it received the full citizenship, and, like it, was to a certain extent under the control of a praefectus sent from Rome, though it retained its three aediles. Mamurra was a native of Formia. Cicero possessed a favourite villa here, and was murdered in its vicinity in 43 B.C., but neither the villa nor the tomb can be identified with any certainty.b It was devastated by Sextus Pompeius, and became a colony, with duoviri as chief magistrates, under Hadrian. Portus Caietae (the modern Gaeta) was dependent upon it.

See T. Ashby, "Dessins inédits de Carlo Labruzzi," in Mélanges de l'école française de Rome (1903), 410 seq.

[T. As.]


Thayer's Notes:

a No longer. Formia is now part of the neighboring province of Latina, which is not in Campania, but in the Lazio. In 2000, the official census figures gave Formia 36,702 inhabitants — a fourfold rise in population in less than a century very likely due to continued drainage of the marshes between Formia and Rome and the town's higher profile as a beach resort.

b For his last days, his murder by Augustus, and a photograph of what may be his tomb, see Plutarch (noting that "Caesar" in his account refers to Augustus).


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Page updated: 4 Mar 05