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Triponzo (Perugia province)

A town of East Central Umbria: 42°58.5N, 12°31E.

[image ALT: A natural stone surface with a squarish area smoothed out in it and bearing a brief inscription, which is given on this page. It is the famous Roman inscription on a cliff at Triponzo, Umbria (central Italy).]
The celebrated Roman inscription.

Triponzo is a largish village, part of the comune of Cerreto di Spoleto, 3 km WSW, which is also the nearest town. It sits surrounded by low mountains at the confluence of the Nera and its tributary the Corno; three roads also meet there, each following its river valley, and both today and in Antiquity its importance lies in those roads and the three bridges over which they cross the rivers: the name of the town, in Latin *Tripontium, derives from tres (or tris) pontes, "three bridges."

To students of Roman archaeology, Triponzo is famous the world over because of the inscription you see above (to scholars: CIL IX.4541ILLRP 1275a), carved in the live rock on the outer face of the modern SS 209 road tunnel a few hundred meters W of the town, which records the building of the Roman road:

Caius POMPONIUS Caii Filius
Lucius OCTAVIUS CNaei Filius
Quaestores
De Senatus Sententia
Gaius Pomponius, son of Gaius
and Lucius Octavius, son of Gnaeus,
quaestors,
acting on the order of the Senate.

The style of the lettering points to the 2c B.C.: the Roman road, which is no longer visible, was therefore built at that time — or earlier. The terminus of the road seems to have been the town of Nursia, now Norcia, about 18 km ESE of Triponzo, recorded to have been an ally of Rome in 205 B.C. and a municipium, or a town of non-Romans but controlled by Rome, a few years later; so the dates fit well.

Small as it is, and in addition to the church of S. Caterina (which I have not seen, but variously said in the guidebooks to have a 14c door or one dating to 1543), Triponzo is interesting for its sulphureous springs, about a mile NE of town: upstream, fiercely protected by the authorities against pollution, the Nera is crystalline; below the springs, the river is of a most characteristic olive-grey color, sung by the poet Claudian, and to this odd tint it seems to owe its name; nera = "black" in Italian; but its very ancient, pre-Roman, name was Nar which may have nothing to do with its color, although Claudian already thought it did in the 4c A.D. The water is considered to have therapeutic properties; a combination spa and hydroelectric facility have been under construction for many years now, and can be seen along the left side of the road to Belforte. The road continues to follow the Nera up past the ruined medieval leprosarium of S. Lazzaro in Valloncello in the comune of Preci, and on to Visso in the Marche, 19 km NE.


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Site updated: 2 Aug 12