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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. XXIII
p325
Rieti

Rieti (anc. Reate), a city and episcopal see of Italy, in the province of Perugia, 25½ m. by rail and 15 m. direct SSE of Terni, which is 70 m. by rail from Rome. Pop. (1901) 14,145 (town), 17,716 (commune).a It occupies a fine position 1318 ft. above sea-level on the right bank of the Velino (a torrent subtributary to the Tiber), which at this point issues from the limestone plateau; the old town occupies the declivity and the new town spreads out on the level. While with its quaint red-roofed houses, its old town walls (restored about 1250), its castle, its cathedral (13th and 15th centuries), its episcopal palace (1283), and its various churches and convents Rieti has no small amount of medieval picturesqueness; it also displays a good deal of modern activity in vine and olive growing and cattle-breeding. The fertility of the neighbourhood is celebrated both by Virgil and by Cicero. A Roman bridge over the Turano, and the Palazzo Vincentini by Vignola deserve to be mentioned.


[image ALT: A mass of ruined masonry, the top of which appears somewhat rounded, sunk in a small river. It is the Roman bridge of Rieti, Lazio (central Italy).]

Since Ashby wrote, the bridge has collapsed into the river. I don't know of any plans to raise it, but I hope it will be soon.

Reate was reached from Rome by the Via Salaria (q.v.), which may originally have ended there, and a branch road ran from it to Interamna. While hardly mentioned in connexion with the Punic or Civil Wars, Reate is described by Strabo as exhausted by these long contests. Its inhabitants received the Roman franchise at the same time with the rest of the Sabines (290 B.C.), but it appears as a praefectura and not as a municipium down to the beginning of the empire. It was never made a colonia, though veterans of the Praetorian guard and of the eighth (Augusta) and ninth legions were settled there by Vespasian, who belonged to a Reatine family and was born in the neighbourhood.b For the contests of the Reatines with the people of Interamna see Terni. In 1148 the town was besieged and captured by Roger I of Sicily. In the struggle between church and empire it always held with the former; and it defied the forces of Frederick II and Otho IV. Pope Nicholas IV long resided at Rieti, and it was there he crowned Charles II of Anjou king of the Two Sicilies. In the 14th century Robert, and afterwards Joanna, of Naples managed to keep possession of Rieti for many years, but it returned to the States of the Church under Gregory IX. About the year 1500, the liberties of the town, long defended against the encroachments of the popes, were entirely abolished. An earthquake in 1785c was in 1799 followed by the much more disastrous pillage of Rieti by the papal troops for a space of fourteen days.


Thayer's Notes:

a In 2003, the official census figures gave Rieti 44,500 inhabitants.

b The origins of Vespasian's family are debated. The general area is certain, but he may have been from a part of the Sabine territory now in Umbria: see Suetonius, Vesp. I.3 and my note there.

Rieti is also often given as the home of the Roman writer Varro, author of a famous treatise on agriculture, the de Re Rustica, and he is sometimes even referred to as Varro Reatinus to distinguish him from another Varro. He was definitely from the area, and had a large country estate in the Reatine plain, probably near the Lago di Ripa Sottile a few miles north of the town of Rieti; but that's as much as can be said with certainty.

c The most recent serious earthquake was in 1979.


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Page updated: 12 Jul 08