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Bill Thayer

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Carsulae: The Via Flaminia

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The Via Flaminia is the cardo or main street of Carsulae. Indeed, it is one of the town's most noticeable features. In other small Roman towns, such as Rusellae for example, previous history or topography have produced a more confused layout. But just as in our own day a newer town will have a clearer plan, often along a single main street as in Siberia or the American West, so in Roman times you have places like Carsulae, that feel more organised.

Here you are standing just south of the forum, looking down the Flaminia away from the center of town, toward the vanished south gate. This stone street traverses all of Carsulae, and is a key factor in the urban zoning: for example, there is a definite entertainment quarter with a carefully planned theatre and amphitheatre, built as a unit to the east of it (to your left in this picture).

At Carsulae, there's also not much 'competition': only one wide street is equally prominent, and it's a short one, leaving the Flaminia perpendicularly at the NE corner of the forum. I like to think of as it as the decumanus major, but that's really just a tag and not all cities, even Roman, necessarily fit preset schemes.

And yes, the town is believed to have been founded after the consular road was built. Just as many towns in Siberia or the American West owe their existence to the railroad, so Carsulae is probably the child of the Flaminia.

clickmap of the Via Flaminia as it traverses Carsulae; everything is also linked below

[image ALT: a stony path thru some grass]

The road creeps inconspicuously into town up a small slope.

[image ALT: a small stone building with a columned narthex]

This temple-like building, the first extant monument along the road as you come from Rome, is the very old Christian church of S. Damiano: it is closed — the price you pay for Carsulae's being unfenced and accessible to all. Judging from the most unusual iconography of some of the carving on the exterior, the inside may well be of great interest.

[image ALT: ruins next to a field with a small oak tree]

The center of town is of course the forum about 100 m to the north. I found the area hard to read: bits and pieces of buildings, long rooms with opus sectile floors, the elegant remains of twin quadrifrons arches, and an equally geminate temple on the S side; the W side apparently unexcavated meadowland. Visually, the most striking component for me was the actual pavement of the forum, in subtly different shades of pink marble.

Along the road north of the forum, this is what greets the visitor today: a pastoral scene of fields and woods. A few extremely weathered stones still stand here and there, their carved inscriptions long eroded away into oblivion by the rains of Umbria. Over the centuries, anything more usable, attractive, or readable has been carted off to churches, private houses and now museums. Yet well within the city limits, this must have been a densely populated area.

Now we're obviously at the ground level of Roman times, so there mustn't be much to excavate. The road is all that's left. You are walking north out of the city.

[image ALT: an old stone-paved road in a forest]

[image ALT: a large cylindrical stone structure]

The Flaminia leaves town with a bang, so to speak, thru the rather imposing North gate (sometimes confusingly called the Gate of S. Damiano) just outside which stand two very large, attractive and well-preserved tombs. Then suddenly, a few yards beyond, nothing: the great road disappears down a hill into the woods, not a stone to be seen. Beautiful, but sad.

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Page updated: 3 Jan 03