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This webpage reproduces an article in
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr.‑Jun. 1911), pp170‑194.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p170 Privernum

II. The Roman City1

The history of Privernum after 329 B.C. presents a different problem from that offered by the history of the Volscian city. The literary sources for the Roman period are scanty, the inscriptions are few, and give us information only about the Privernum of the late Republic and the Empire.

We lack also archaeological evidence regarding the location or the history of any Roman settlement before the last century of the Republic. The supposed Volscian walls, as has already been shown,2 may belong to the earlier centuries of the Roman domination; but we have seen that none of these remains marks the site of a city.3 Perhaps the Privernates were allowed to live in their ruined city on Monte Macchione under the watchful eyes of the Roman guard that was stationed there; but I am rather of the opinion that they were moved to a less threatening position in the plain,4 where a straggling town was built which has left no traces of its location.

Almost all the important passages in the ancient authors that refer to the Roman period tell us the political status of the earlier settlement. I have previously stated that the Romans gave the defeated Privernates the civitas sine suffragio, and that they seized two-thirds of their territory, which was soon occupied by enough Romans to form a new tribe.5 We learn from Festus that the Romans made the town a prefecture,6 which was the common form of government for towns that had restricted rights of citizenship.7 The territory that was seized, p171however, remained ager publicus for at least two centuries, and it is probable that it was still inhabited by Roman settlers; for the prodigia which occurred at Privernum were regularly reported to Rome and expiated there.8

The ancient writers, as I have shown elsewhere,9 are incorrect in their statement that full rights of citizenship were given to the Privernates in 329 B.C., and the opinions of modern authorities differ on this point. Beloch and De Sanctis believe that Privernum must have had full citizenship before 188 B.C., when similar rights were granted to three places farther from Rome, — Fundi, Formiae, and Arpinum.10 Mommsen, however, in his latest utterances on the subject, says that the question cannot be decided, and points out that most prefectures became municipia with full civil rights only after the Social War.11 The theory of Beloch and De Sanctis is reasonable, for the history of Fundi, Formiae, and Arpinum took the same course in other respects as that of Privernum. All four were Volscian cities, they all received the civitas sine suffragio in the fourth century,12 and all were prefectures.13 To be sure, Fundi and Formiae occupied strategic positions on the Via Appia, and Rome might have found it necessary to give them full citizenship, in order to keep their friendship, long before this honor was granted to the obscure town of Privernum; but Arpinum had no more claim to consideration than Privernum, as it too was an unimportant place, away from the main lines of traffic. If then Arpinum secured complete civic rights in the same year that the important cities of Fundi and Formiae received them, we p172might expect that Privernum also would obtain the same privileges at about the same time. I therefore agree with Beloch and De Sanctis in supposing that the town of Privernum was granted full citizenship not later than 188 B.C. How long after this date it remained a prefecture it is impossible to say; in any case, this form of government must have ceased at Privernum after the Social War.14

Further discussion of the history of this earlier Roman settlement is impossible, as we have no other literary evidence which bears on the subject; accordingly we now take up the history of Privernum from the first century B.C., through the late Republic and the Empire, until the disappearance of the Roman city. The evidence for this period is for the most part archaeological, and the remains are not abundant; in spite of this, we are able to obtain much more detailed information about the later history of Privernum than any which was gained from the literary evidence about the earlier history of the Roman city.

To begin with, the ruins of the later Roman settlement have long ago been identified by the discovery among them of honorary inscriptions in which the Privernates are mentioned.15 These remains are situated in the plain, at a distance of 1.60 km to the northeast of modern Piperno, on the high road to Prossedi and Frosinone; the place is now called Piperno Vecchio (Fig. 1).


[image ALT: A plan of a small area of ruins and buildings, with a road running thru it right and left, crossing an intermittent brook running thru the plan top to bottom. It is a plan of the Roman vestiges of Privernum near Piperno, a small town in Italy.]

Figure 1: Plan of the Roman Colony of Privernum at Piperno Vecchio.

[A fully readable large version opens here.]

Moreover, we have several lines of evidence regarding the political status of this later settlement, which show that during its entire history it was a colonia. The liber coloniarum in one of its most trustworthy portions says: Privernum, oppidum muro ductum, colonia. Miles deduxit sine colonis.16 This statement is confirmed by the three inscriptions from Piperno Vecchio. Two of them belong to the fourth century A.D.,17 and their p173testimony is of little value, as at that period the title of colonia was given to municipia as a mark of honor;18 but the third, though only a fragment, is not later than the first century B.C., and on it the letters colo are certain.19 But the conclusive proof is furnished by the remains at Piperno Vecchio. The structures there were all built at the same time and have the same orientation, either exactly or within a few degrees, as a p174road that ran almost due east and west and passed through an arch which marks the western boundary of the town. This road forms also the northern boundary of the forum; and it can be nothing else than the decumanus maior of a colony laid out according to the regular plan.20

Archaeological evidence fixes also the date when the colony was founded.21 The concrete walls are faced with opus incertum exactly like the opus incertum facing of many walls at Praeneste. Since Sulla founded the colony of Praeneste, and since no walls faced with opus incertum are much later than his time, I think that Sulla must also have founded the colony of Privernum. The same conclusion is suggested by the words of the liber coloniarum, "miles deduxit sine colonis," namely, that Privernum was one of the many colonies of his veterans which Sulla established in Italy.

I shall now describe and identify, as far as possible, the remains of this colony at Piperno Vecchio. The arch just mentioned marks its western boundary; this is situated on the modern high road, 188.30 m to the west of the centre line of the Madonna di Mezzo Agosto (Fig. 1, 1; Fig. 2).22 The extensive remains to the east of this arch are all of the mediaeval period and will be briefly discussed later.


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Figure 2: Colony Arch of Privernum, with the Site of the Ancient Colony beyond to the East; Wall of the Mediaeval Town at the Right.

The arch, which is built of local limestone, is buried to within 0.70 to 0.75 m of the impost moulding. The distance between the piers is exactly 4 m; to judge from the proportions of the well-preserved arch at Cabanes in Spain, which is of nearly the same size,23 the distance down to the base of the piers must be a little less than 2 m. The piers, of four blocks each, are 1.48 m in width and 1.21 m in depth; their only visible ornament is the heavy impost moulding which extends p175entirely around them, composed of the three blocks, 0.30 m in height. Above the impost on the northern side only one large block remains, 0.92 m in height; three broken blocks, which probably came from this side, lie on the ground outside the northern pier. On the southern side parts of three courses are left above the impost, namely: a complete first course of three blocks, varying in width from 1.27 m to 1.40 m, in height from 0.62 m to 0.80 m, and all about 1.30 m in depth; three blocks of the second course, with an extreme height of 0.75 m; and one large block of the third course, 0.89 m in height.

Frothingham, in his list of arches, calls this a "city arch," and is inclined to assign it to the Republican period.24 I believe that he is right and that the arch dates from the time of the founding of the colony by Sulla. In other words, it is the p176"colony arch"25 of Privernum, which marked the spot where the main road crossed the pomerium line of the colony. If this be true, the arch at Privernum is the earliest "colony arch" known. It is also probably the earliest example of the uncommon type of arch which consists of a single opening unadorned by pilasters or columns. Of the other arches of this type, only that of Cabanes, which is not later than the time of Augustus, approximates the age of the arch at Privernum.26 As this arch is well preserved and almost duplicates the dimensions and architectural features of the arch at Privernum, we can reconstruct from it the details of our arch.

In the ditch 1.65 m to the north of the arch is a bit of concrete wall faced with opus incertum of limestone, the course of which, parallel to the side of the arch, can be traced for about 3.05 m to the east; the purpose of this fragment cannot be determined (Fig. 1, 2).

A more important group of remains begins 60.30 m to the p177east of the arch.27 Here, 10 m to the south of the modern bridge, in the western bank of the brook, is a fine wall of concrete faced with opus incertum, which can be traced for 35.20 m (Fig. 1, 3; Fig. 3). Across the brook, at a distance of 6 m from the first wall, is a similar wall parallel to it, which begins 34.20 m to the south of the bridge; its course can be followed for 13.80 m, to the point where the brook intercepts it (Fig. 1, 4). We might suppose that these were retaining walls for an ancient channel of the stream, were it not for some additional information given us by a plan of the ruins made in 1895, when the level of the modern road was raised.28 At that p178time, according to the plan, the top of an arched sewer was found under the bed of the brook. If this statement is correct, in ancient times these walls did not form the sides of a channel for the brook, but bounded a street or road, and there was no brook or drainage ditch above ground, as at present, but the water now carried off by the stream was disposed of by a sewer under the road. Whatever may be the purpose of these walls, they date from the period when the colony was founded and form a part of the original plan.


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Figure 3: Wall in the Western Bank of the Brook.

The eastern wall served also as part of the western boundary of a fourth legion area to the east of the brook, which is now covered with an olive orchard (Fig. 1, 5; Fig. 4). The line of the other walls that enclose this area can be easily traced. About 18.40 m to the south of the wall just described, another fragment of the western boundary wall, 1.70 m in length, projects above the surface (Fig. 1, 6). From this point, for a distance of 54.50 m the line of the wall can be traced only as a grass-grown ridge; for the greater part of this space the brook also disappears underground, since the rubbish from the wall above has choked it. Then the wall emerges in the bank for 1.31 m (Fig. 1, 7); and from the end of this piece its line can be traced for about 15 m farther (Fig. 1, 8). All of these walls are made of concrete faced with opus incertum of limestone.


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Figure 4: Piazza della Regina, looking Southeast; Roccasecca above at the Left.

The complex of walls on the southern side of the enclosure (Fig. 1, 9) is very puzzling, especially since all the walls are destroyed almost to the level of the ground. We can distinguish an outer line with outside buttresses, which begins at a distance of 6 m from the western enclosure wall and forms an angle of 80 degrees with it; the length of this buttressed wall is about 10.50 m. Farther to the north, in front of two ancient vaults (?) buried in the ground (Fig. 1, 10), there seems to be another wall that begins 12.80 m to the southeast of the corner marked a; along the supposed line of this wall, at a distance of 17.70 m to the east, another wall begins, parallel to the buttressed wall, and extends for 14.50 m farther to the east. All these bits have a facing of opus incertum similar to that of the walls previously described.

p179 There are no ancient walls visible on what I assume to be the eastern side of this area, but this is probably due to the fact that a road and a stone fence occupy the site of them for the whole distance of about 120 m.

The remains on the northern side are (and were) quite different. We find the pavement of an ancient road in the southern ditch of the present high road, about 8.60 m to the south of it, and about 2 m below the present level. The eastern end of the continuous pavement is 136.60 m from the arch; from this point we can trace the road for about 50 m in the direction of the arch before it is hidden by the mud of the ditch (Fig. 1, 11; Fig. 5).29 It is made of large polygonal p180blocks of limestone, like the pavements of the Sullan roads at Praeneste.30


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Figure 5: Northern Side of Piazza della Regina, with Remains of the Ancient Road.

A glance at Fig. 1 will show how much more important were the remains which were visible in 1895. At that time the road was practically intact as far as the brook, that is to say, all along the northern side of this area, a distance of 68 m. It was ascertained at that time that the blocks rested on a concrete foundation 0.80 m in depth; under this were found two lines of lead pipe crossing the line of the road (Fig. 1, 12). An open (?) portico bordered the southern side of the ancient road, or at least the western half of it; there were discovered, in the order named, beginning with the eastern end of the portico, two square bases for columns (?) made of peperino, four round bases of columns made of limestone, and another square peperino base (Fig. 1, 13).31 Back of these bases the pavement apparently continued for a short distance. All these discoveries have now disappeared.

The modern name of this area, Piazza della Regina, suggests what its character may have been in ancient times; and we get conclusive evidence of its purpose when we note the results of the two excavations that were once conducted at and near it. The first excavation, made by Giuseppe Petrini in 1795 and 1796, is known to me only from the accounts of it given by Fea, Guattani, Marocco, and De Rossi,32 and the references to it in a Papal dossier of 1825, which deals with the request of Cav. Giuseppe Linotte that he be allowed to excavate at the Piazza della Regina and elsewhere.33 So far as I can decide from the conflicting statements of the authors, Petrini's principal finds were made at the Piazza della Regina or close by it. In the Papal documents the place is rather indefinitely located as being p181near the Madonna di Mezzo Agosto and the mediaeval town, in a spot where a palace or villa existed; these last words point to the area which we are discussing. Marocco says that the finds were made in the field just east of the Piazza, but his statements are often unreliable. The principal discovery was a seated statue of Tiberius, now in the Vatican.34 Fea says that this statue "stood in a niche of a side portico of a palace"; these words again suggest the ruins at the Piazza, and, in fact, local antiquarians have called the Piazza della Regina a "palazzo di Tiberio." With this statue were found a colossal head of Claudius and fragments of a seated statue to which it probably belonged;35 the writers mention other less important finds which it is unnecessary to enumerate.

In 1776 a base, which bore an inscription of 196 A.D. in honor of Septimius Severus, was found at the Piazza della Regina.36 In 1795 and 1796 two other bases, bearing three inscriptions in honor of patrons of the colony of the third and fourth centuries, were discovered at Piperno Vecchio.37 De Rossi says that Petrini found these two bases when he excavated at Piperno Vecchio, and locates the place where Petrini made all his discoveries as "almost opposite the church"; that is, in practically the spot where Marocco says that the statues were found.38 Although no one else confirms De Rossi's statements, they are undoubtedly correct, for Petrini was the only person who explored this site in 1795 and 1796, and the well-attested discovery of the other base at the Piazza della Regina in 1776 indicates that the two similar bases found by Petrini must have come from about the same spot.

For the second excavation we have the official reports. It p182was conducted by Cav. Pietro Ercole Visconti in 1830, and we know that he explored the Piazza della Regina.39 Unfortunately, his discoveries here were of no value; I need mention from his list of finds only two rooms with mosaic pavements.40

The probability that the public honorary inscriptions and the statues discovered by Petrini came from the Piazza della Regina, and the fact that one public dedicatory inscription was surely found here, lead me to infer that this was the forum of the colony. The presence of an enclosing wall on perhaps three sides does not militate against this identification. All the earlier fora seem to have been enclosed in this way; for example, the one at Assisi;41 and even the forum of the military colony of Timgad, which dates from the reign of Trojan, was similarly enclosed. In fact, if we compare the details of the location and the arrangement of the forum of the military colony at Timgad with similar details of the supposed forum of the earlier military colony at Privernum, the parallel is convincing.42 At Timgad also the northern side of the forum faces the decumanus maior, or main street of the colony; along the street is a portico, backed by shops, which is broken in the middle by the monumental entrance that leads to the area of the forum proper. At Timgad also the western side of the forum is bounded by a street; and there is an unbroken enclosure wall along that entire side. The southern side, too, is unbroken, except for two small gateways; and the eastern side has no exits, but has a solid boundary wall to the north of the basilica, which is buttressed on the outside in the same way as is the southern wall of the area at Privernum. The forum at Privernum, therefore, is an early example of a type which later became common, and is found afterwards, not only at Timgad p183(which I have chosen because of the especially close resemblance between the two fora, but also at Veleia and Silchester.43 Built in the time of Sulla, it continued to be the centre of Privernum's civic life until at least the fourth century A.D.


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Figure 6: Interior of the Temple, showing the Western and Southern Walls.

Opposite the forum, to the north of the modern high road, are the remains of an ancient temple (Fig. 1, 14; Fig. 6). The distance along the modern road from the arch to a point opposite the centre of this building is 91.50 m; from the southern side of the road to the front of the temple it is 25 m. The outer dimensions of the original structure are 23.30 by 17.05 m. Only the northern, western, and eastern walls are preserved to any extent; on the outside they rise to heights of 2 m, 1.50 m, and 2.75 m, respectively, above the ground, but on the inside they stand only from 0.50 m to 1 m above the level of the floor. They are constructed of concrete faced with opus incertum of the same date as the walls about the forum (Fig. 7). At the bottom of the southern wall, and at the northwestern corner, are traces of a facing of ashlar masonry composed of p184small blocks of limestone and of a local stone resembling sperone;44 this, however, belongs to a rebuilding in late Imperial or early mediaeval times. At about the same date the temple was changed into a church, and an apse was added to its northern wall. This apse is 5.50 m in width and 3.50 m in depth, and its outer wall, which is faced with a poor quality of opus incertum mixed with brick, measures 2.25 m in height on the outside.


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Figure 7: Outside of the Northern Wall of the Temple.

The plan of the temple has one unusual feature. There is a door in the western wall at a distance of 9.50 m from the northern wall; the sockets for the pivots can still be seen.

Scarcely anything can be ascertained about the interior of the temple. The foundation of the pavement, composed of opus signinum, is exposed near the northern wall. The central portion of this foundation is depressed for 3.07 m of its width; this is probably a clumsy alteration of later times, when the building was changed into a church, as the depression is not p185in the centre of the building. I discovered a bit of the pavement itself near the northern wall, a simple white mosaic of fine, thin tesserae, regularly laid. It is similar to some pavements at Praeneste and the mosaic of the rooms under the northern side of the House of the Vestals at Rome; like these, it dates from the late Republic, probably from the time when the temple was built under Sulla.

A few architectural fragments which survive may possibly belong to the temple and may help us in reconstructing its architectural details. Within the temple itself there are only a doorsill of limestone, 1.40 m in length, that does not fit the side door, a piece of moulding made of limestone, with an imbricated leaf pattern (seen in Figure 6), and large battered piece of marble, wrongly supposed by the peasants to be a fragment of a colossal statue. These fragments, however, are of no value for our purpose.

Visconti excavated here in 1830, with poor results.45 He reported the discovery in the temple of a tombstone with an inscription,46 a large broken column drum of "peperino," with a broken capital and a finely worked Doric base, a marble column drum measuring ¾ palm (0.166 m) in diameter, and other unimportant bits.

The Doric or Tuscan column he mentions undoubtedly belonged to the temple. With this as a clue, we may assume that several column drums of varying diameters (0.40 m-0.58 m), which are used as building material in the mediaeval city, and one or more of three different Tuscan capitals now at the Casino Reale, all of which are cut from the stone resembling sperone, possibly belonged to the temple. At any rate, they suggest to us the style and material of its façade.47

There is no literary or epigraphic evidence that shows to what divinity the temple was dedicated. Marocco, relying on p186the inscription found here by Visconti, calls it a temple of Isis;48 but the inscription really gives him no proof. To begin with, it is known to us only from the corrupt copy of Marocco; and then, while it names a priest of Isis, it is an epitaph, and hence the stone never stood originally in the temple precinct, but was brought here for building material at some late period.

My own view is that this temple was the Capitolium of the colony. It is well known that most Roman colonies considered it necessary to have a Capitolium, and it is natural to assume that Privernum followed the rule. Further, since the Capitolium was believed to be the most important temple in a colony, it was usually in the forum or near it in a commanding position; the temple at Privernum is near the forum and overlooking it, and there are no traces of any other structure of like importance in the vicinity. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, therefore, we may at least consider it possible that Sulla built the temple for the Capitolium of his colony.49

The remains to the east of the forum and the temple are not important. About 32 m to the east of the temple a mass of concrete projects above the ground (Fig. 1, 15); it is approximately oblong, and measures 5 m east and west and 8.70 m north and south. The size and purpose of the original structure can no longer be determined.

The plan of 1895 marks a paved "platea sotterrata" and the "basamento e piedestallo di una statua" beyond the road and ditch that bound the eastern side of the vineyard in which the temple and the last-named structure are situated (Fig. 1, 16). A stable now covers the site, and we cannot say what these remains were, as the designations of the plan are sometimes incorrect.

To the east of the stable are an osteria and the church of the Madonna di Mezzo Agosto, which has already been mentioned; the latter has yielded several important finds. When the church was built, in 1820, two inscriptions were found on the site, one of which is the only Christian inscription from p187Piperno.50 Further, on April 8 and 9, 1831, when an excavation was being made for the foundations of a sacristy on the northern side of the church, a semicircular wall of poor construction, apparently an apse, was uncovered. In this wall the following objects, which had been used as building material, were found: a marble bust, with ornaments of alabaster, on a small round base (in one piece), the breast bare except for a zona from the right shoulder to the left armpit; two marble heads, one of them colossal; and two fragments of a colossal marble foot. The bust was named by a certain Martelli as "probably a philosopher, possibly a Cicero," by others, as a Galba; the heads were called by the canon De Bonis, who reported the discovery, Apollo and Drusus.51 In 1837 the bust was sold to the Vatican, but it seems to have disappeared.52 De Bonis gave the heads to the Capitoline Museum in 1839; they are the "Alexander" head of the Stanza dei Filosofi53 and a bust of Tiberius in the Stanza degl' Imperatori.54

These marbles were used merely as building material, and were surely brought from some other neighboring site, presumably the forum; hence their discovery does not prove that the church stands on the site of an ancient building.55 Besides, a careful examination of the foundations of the church has made it clear to me that there are no traces of Roman work underneath it. It seems to me, therefore, that Marocco56 and the plan of 1895 are wrong in asserting that the church is built on the ruins of a pagan temple. On the contrary, I believe p188that discovery of an ancient apse below the surface supports the old Pipernese tradition,57 and that on this site was an early mediaeval church of the Madonna, which was partly built of ancient material.58 If the early mediaeval city was pillaged and burned, the church undoubtedly met the same fate;59 at any rate, it must have fallen into ruin after the early mediaeval city in the plain was abandoned.

The field in which, according to Marocco and De Rossi,60 Petrini made his discoveries, lies across the high road from the church and to the east of the area of the forum (Fig. 1, 17; Fig. 8). In 1895, according to the plan of that date, another discovery was made here of three rooms on the southern side p189of the high road, at a depth of 2 m (Fig. 1, 18). The eastern end of these rooms was opposite the eastern end of the church, from which point they extended about 23.60 m to the west; they had the same orientation as the ancient road, which perhaps was continued past them.61 They are no longer visible. At present we can find in this area only a few blocks of the stone resembling sperone, to be seen at intervals in the ditches; they seem to be laid in regular courses.62 We may conclude, then, that this area contained no important buildings in ancient times.63


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Figure 8: Field opposite Madonna di Mezzo Agosto; Roccasecca in the Distance.

This completes our survey of the ruins on the site of the Roman colony; let us now summarize briefly the historical results so far obtained. The site of the town of Privernum during the first two and a half centuries of the Roman occupation is unknown. Its citizens at first had only the civitas sine suffragio, but probably gained full citizenship by 188 B.C.; a tribe of Roman citizens, the Oufentina, had existed in their territory since 318 B.C., but this was composed of Roman citizens who had settled on the lands taken from the Privernates. The town was governed as a prefecture, under the direction of the praetor urbanus. In the time of Sulla a colony of veterans was settled in this territory, and a new town was laid out. The remains of this colony are at Piperno Vecchio; there can be identified the colony arch, the main street or decumanus maior, the forum, of which only a part of the surrounding walls is left, and a temple that may be identified as the Capitolium, all dating from Sulla's time. The discoveries made here seem to show that the colony especially honored the emperors Tiberius and Claudius, and that they benefited it in some way; Septimius Severus also received a public dedication. The p190colony was in existence on the same site as late as the fourth century A.D., at least. At some unknown time Christianity was introduced; our earliest knowledge of it dates from the fourth century, when the colony already had its local martyrs.64 Not long after this the temple was turned into a church, and another church was built, perhaps not later than the seventh or eighth century, on the site where the Madonna di Mezzo Agosto now stands.65

It is impossible to give the exact date when this Roman colony was abandoned; but it is certain that by the eighth century it had been supplanted by a strongly fortified town. The circuit walls of this later settlement form an irregular circle about 250 m in diameter; its eastern boundary is the colony arch, its western, the junction of the main high road and the road to Maenza. To the south of the modern high road the wall is p191in places well preserved, but scarcely a building remains; to the north of the road, the wall is almost all gone, but several buildings are left (Figs. 9 and 10). One apse still standing shows brick laid in the herringbone pattern that is characteristic of ninth and tenth century Lombardic exteriors;66 and I have found near by three decorative fragments with guilloche patterns and strange animals and birds that belong to the same period.67 This settlement must have been quite important, as, during the period when we know that it was inhabited, we learn of the first bishops of Privernum, in 769, 826, 853, and 861 A.D.68


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Figure 9: Part of the Southern Wall of the Mediaeval Town.


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Figure 10: Part of the Mediaeval Town; Roccagorga in the Distance.

If we examine the ruins of this town, we see why the remains of the Roman colony are so scanty. Wherever it is possible, ancient material has been used in the buildings. The circuit wall contains many ancient blocks of the stone resembling sperone p192and limestone, and paving stones from the road; in one place its outer facing is composed of ancient pieces of opus incertum, so that it has the outward appearance of antiquity. Many Roman architectural fragments are built into the mediaeval structures, or lie about in the heaps of rubbish that are piled up in the fields. Even pieces of inscriptions are occasionally found that must have served as material for building.69

This early mediaeval settlement was, in its turn, abandoned for several better sites in the neighborhood. The exact reason for this change is not known. The malarial climate of the plain may have been the cause, though this plain does not get the malarial exhalations of the Pontine Marshes, as does Ninfa.70 The old tradition, however, asserts that the town was destroyed by a hostile attack, and that the inhabitants founded new settlements on the hills.71 All modern writers believe that such an attack caused the desertion, if not the destruction, of the town in the plain;72 and I agree with them. There is much difference of opinion, however, about the date of this event. Valle, copying the earlier writer Biondo, merely says the place was destroyed by "Teutons and Britons," and refuses to discuss the date, as none of his sources have it.73 Later writers have suggested an attack of the Germans under Charlemagne,74 or of the Saracens;75 but the dates of these are too early.76

p193 Others have made Frederick Barbarossa the destroyer;77 this is too late, as the villages of Maenza, Roccasecca, Prossedi, and Sonnino, which were surely founded by fugitives from Piperno Vecchio, are known as early as 1120‑1125 A.D.78 My own opinion is that the place was abandoned in the eleventh century, during one of the many plundering expeditions that were conducted by Germans, Normans, and the different factions of the Italians themselves during this century. The fact that we hear of no bishops of Privernum after 1036, and that the bishopric is soon after united to that of Terracina,79 supports this view.80 In any case, the towns already named that were p194founded by fugitives from the plain were important in the early twelfth century, as were probably Roccagorga and Asprano; and even earlier the town that inherited the name of the ancient city, the modern Piperno, must have been established on its hill to the south (Fig. 11).

Henry H. Armstrong.

Princeton, New Jersey,

February 10, 1911.


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Figure 11: Priverno, viewed from the North.


The Author's Notes:

1 See pp44‑59 of this volume.

2 See above, p56.

3 See above, p55.

4 As an instance of the removal of an entire town, may be noted the transfer of Falerii to a new site in 241 B.C.

5 See above, pp45 f.

6 P233 M.

7 Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, Vol. III, Pt. I, p977.

8 Such prodigia are given for 209 B.C. (Livy, XXVII.11.4), 200 B.C. (Livy, XXXI.12.5), 173 B.C. (Livy, XLII.2.4), 163 B.C. (Iulius Obsequens 14), 117 B.C. (Obseq. 36), and 113 B.C. (Obseq. 38). For the proof that only those prodigia were expiated at Rome that occurred on ager publicus, see Mommsen in Jahn's edition of Livy's Periochae, pp. xviii ff.

9 Above, pp45 f.

10 Beloch, Der italische Bund unter Roms Hegemonie, p76; De Sanctis, Storia dei Romani, Vol. II, pp282‑283.

11 CIL X, p637; Staatsrechtl.c. In Jahn (op. cit.), p. xxiii, he names Privernum among the cities that certainly or probably gained full citizenship before the Social War.

12 Fundi and Formiae in 338 B.C. (Livy, VIII.14.10); Arpinum in 303 B.C. (Livy, X.1.3, with Weissenborn's note); cf. Livy, XXXVIII.36.7.

13 Festus, l.c.

14 See Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, Vol. III, Pt. I, p582, note 1, and p797.

15 CIL X, 6437, 6439, 6440, 6441.

Thayer's Note: CIL X.6441 seems to be of wider significance for Roman religious history; see Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, p165.

16 Liber coloniarum, 1, p236, in Lachmann et al., Gromatici Veteres, Vol. I. Mommsen in Vol. II, p184, points out that only the epitomator of the data about Campania, which includes Privernum, knew the distinction between a real colonia and the territory of municipia set aside for various purposes.

17 CIL X, 6440, 6441.

18 Pauly-Wissowa, Coloniae, pp566‑567.

19 I have carefully examined this inscription, which is published in Not. Scav. 1899, p99.

20 Cf. Daremberg and Saglio, Vol. I, p1312.

21 Concerning this date previous writers have made guesses ranging from about 60 B.C. to the time of Trojan.

22 Figs. 2‑11 are from photographs taken by Mr. J. H. Ten Eyck Burr, to whom I am as deeply indebted for his invaluable assistance in illustrating this description of Roman Privernum as I was in the preparation of the chapter on the Volscian city.

23 For a description and complete measurements of the arch at Cabanes, see Alexandre de Laborde, Voyage pittoresque et historique de l'Espagne, Vol. I, Pt. I (Paris, 1806), p91 and pl. 110.

24 A. J. A. Vol. VIII (1904), p18.

25 I have taken this term from Frothingham, Roman Cities in Italy and Dalmatia, p216, where its meaning is fully explained.

26 See Graef in Baumeister's Denkmäler, p1888, and Frothingham in A. J. A. Vol. VIII (1904), p12.

27 Note that the liber coloniarum is mistaken in calling Privernum an oppidum muro ductum. There are no traces of ancient city walls near the arch, or between it and the buildings that we are about to discuss, which were within the limits of the colony.

28 This plan was drawn for the local inspector of antiquities, Signor Jannicola, who allowed me to have a tracing of it made. In Fig. 1 I have distinguished by shading all the remains discovered in 1895 which are not now visible.

29 The peasants assert that other traces of this road, extending for some distance farther east, were found when the ditch was dug eight or ten years ago; but I could find no remains of the road anywhere in the vicinity except those which I have mentioned.

30 I noted one lava block, which was probably used for patching the road in later times.

31 Signor Jannicola told me most of these details.

32 Fea, Relazione di un viaggio ad Ostia, etc. (Rome, 1802), p7; Guattani, Memorie enciclopediche sulle antichità e belle arti di Roma per il MDCCCXVII (Rome, 1819), p77; Marocco, Descrizione topografica e cenni storici di Piperno (Rome, 1830), pp11‑12; De Rossi, l.c. (p181).

33 Atti Camerlengato, Tit. IV, Fasc. 234, Anno 1825; Director Thomas Ashby, of the British School in Rome, kindly placed his copies of these Papal documents at my disposal. Linotte apparently never conducted the excavations for which he asked permission.

34 Museo Chiaramonti, no. 494; see Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Band I, pp632‑633 and pl. 67.

35 Now in the Vatican, Braccio Nuovo, no. 18, and Galleria Lapidaria, no. 203; cf. Amelung, op. cit. pp31, 305, pls. 3 and 30.

36 CIL X, 6437.

37 CIL X, 6439‑6441. In the municipal archives of Piperno, under date of February 9, 1796, we read that a payment of 2 scudi and 20 bajocchi was made to Alessandro Nardelli for having carted from Piperno Vecchio to the city "due piedestalli con iscrizione concernenti antichità"; probably these were the two bases bearing the above-mentioned inscriptions.

38 In Bull. Crist. 3d Series, Vol. III (1878), p98.

39 Atti Camerlengato, Tit. IV, Fasc. 1242, Anno 1830.

40 It is possible that Visconti's excavations may have yielded more important results, which he concealed; for his report was so unsatisfactory that he was threatened with official remonstrance. It is still believed by some of the inhabitants of Piperno that he conducted secret excavations for the Duchesse de Berri, working at night and covering up his excavations in the daytime, and that he found an equestrian statue and one of gilded bronze.

41 See Frothingham, Roman Cities in Italy and Dalmatia, p178.

42 A complete description and plan of the forum at Timgad are given in Boeswillwad, Cagnat, and Ballu, Timgad, Une Cité Africaine sous l'Empire Romain, pp2 ff. and pl. vi.

43 See the work just cited, pp15‑16, 83‑87.

44 This stone is usually referred to in the reports of excavations as "peperino."

45 See the Atti Camerlengatol.c.

46 CIL X, 6445.

47 There are many other architectural fragments of limestone, mostly anta capitals and pieces of a cornice, in the mediaeval city, at Casino Reale, and elsewhere; but it would be futile to speculate on their probable relation to the forum or temple. Of course the temple might well have had columns and entablature of different materials; compare details from the Tabularium, and especially at Praeneste, in Delbrueck, Hellenistische Bauten in Latium (Strassburg, 1907), pp33, 62‑63, 67, 77, 85.

48 Marocco, op. cit. p12.

49 For the Capitolium in the colonies, cf. Pauly-Wissowa, Capitolium, pp1538‑1540.

50 CIL X, 6451, 6460. De Rossi comments at length on the Christian inscription (6460) in Bull. Crist. 3d Series, Vol. III (1878), pp86 ff. On p97 he says that his informant, Vincenzo Oliva of Piperno, wrote that two pagan inscriptions were found with X, 6460; but this statement is not to be trusted, as Oliva has confused the discoveries of 1820 and 1831, placing all of them in 1820.

51 Atti Camerlengato, Tit. IV, Fasc. 1492; Bull. Inst. 1832, p4; 1834, p227. This last reference says that an amphora and forty-one coins (three of them silver) were found at the same time.

52 See Atti Camerlengatol.c. Bernoulli, Römische Ikonographie, Vol. II2, p5, says it is unknown to him.

53 No. 28; cf. Nuova descrizione del Museo Capitolino (Rome, 1882), p154.

54 No. 5; cf. op. cit. p208. Helbig, Führer, Vol. I, p313, thinks this is probably a Germanicus. Notice of the acquisition of both heads by the museum is given in Ann. Inst. 1840, p97, note 2.

55 Cf. De Rossi, op. cit. p98.

56 Marocco, op. cit. p11.

57 Mentioned in Valle, La regia et antica Piperno città nobilissima di Volsci (Naples, 1637), pp257 ff.

58 See De Rossi, l.c.

59 Such is the tradition as given by Valle, l.c., and by the authors who follow his statements.

60 Marocco, l.c.; De Rossi, l.c.

61 Cf. p179, note 1.

62 These blocks are marked on Figure 1 (19), and their location is indicated in part on Figure 8 by the standing figure.

The same peasant who told me that he had found the ancient road in the southern ditch of the modern high road to the east (see p179 note 1) said that this entire area had under it other blocks of the stone resembling sperone. I believe he was mistaken, as there are no traces of such an extensive pavement in the ditches.

63 There are many tile fragments strewn over the area, and I have noticed one large architectural fragment of limestone and a few pieces of marble, but these remains give us no clues.

64 See De Rossi's comments on CIL X, 6460, as cited on p187.

65 This article has omitted any treatment of the Roman remains in the territory of Privernum outside of the site of the Roman settlement, some of which have been casually noted in 'Privernum I: The Volscian City' (pp44‑59, above). I shall discuss these remains briefly in a later article, entitled: 'Privernum: III: Roman Remains in the Territory of the Roman Colony.'

66 See Rivoira, Lombardic Architecture (London, 1910), Vol. I, p165.

67 Examples of the eighth to tenth centuries are common; see Rivoira, op. cit. See Not. Scav. 1901, pp544‑545 for similar fragments of this period from the neighboring Norba.

68 See Gams, Series Episcoporum (Ratisbon, 1873), p732.

69 See A. J. A. Vol. XIV (1910), pp318‑323.

70 I have not observed that the climate is especially unhealthy. See, however, a manuscript work of Federico Zaccaleoni, Memorie istorico-politiche sul' agricoltura della città di Piperno (1789), which I know from MS. notes of the late Vincenzo Oliva; he calls the climate unhealthy and describes the "autumnal epidemics." See also G. Grandi's article on Piperno in Natura ed Arte, Vol. III (1893‑94), p258.

71 Given by Valle, op. cit. pp272 ff.

72 All of them, however, who have mentioned the ruins at Piperno Vecchio, have called the mediaeval town in the plain a part of the ancient city.

73 Valle, l.c.

74 Marocco, op. cit. pp18‑19; Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica, Vol. LIII (Venice, 1851), p245; cf. Westphal, Die römische Kampagne (Berlin, 1829), p54, and Natura ed Artel.c. p256.

75 Smith's Dictionary of Geography, p670.

76 The Saracen invasions of this part of Italy were ended in 916 A.D.; see Oman, The Dark Ages (London, 1895), p466.

77 Castellano, cited by Moroni, l.c.; Abbate, Guida della Provincia di Roma (Rome, 1894), p502, though on p506 he rather favors the time of Charlemagne.

78 See Annales Ceccanenses for 1123 and 1125, in Mon. Germ. Hist. Scriptorum, Vol. XVIIII (Hannover, 1856), p282; and a bull of Calixtus II, cited by Kehr, Italia Pontificia, Vol. II (Berlin, 1907), p124.

79 See Gams, l.c.; Kehr, op. cit., p123.

80 Berti, Paludi Pontine (Rome, 1884), p87, and Giovenale and Mariani in Not. Scav. 1899, p92, put the destruction of the town in the plain in the tenth century; this seems to me a little too early.


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