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


Velletri (anc. Velitrae), a town and episcopal see of the province of Rome, Italy, at the south-east foot of the outer ring wall of the Alban crater, 26 m. SE of Rome by rail, 1155 ft. above sea-level. Pop. (1901) 14,243 (town), 18,734 (commune).​a It is the seat of the bishop of Ostia, and has a statue of Pope Clement VIII. Good wine is made in the fertile vineyards of the district, and there is a government experimental station for viticulture. Velletri is the junction of the Terracina line and a branch to Segni on the main line to Naples.​b Velletri has a fine view of the Volscian mountains and over the Pomptine Marshes to the Circeian promontory. The town contains a few objects of interest; at the highest point is the prominent municipal palace, containing a few ancient inscriptions, among them one relating to a restoration of the amphitheatre under Valentinian and Valens. The internal façade of the Palazzo Ginetti is finely decorated with stucco, and has a curious detached baroque staircase by Martino Lunghi the younger, which Burckhardt calls unique if only for the view to which its arched colonnades serve as a frame. The lofty campanile of S. Maria in Trivio, erected in 1353 in gratitude for the liberation of the city from a plague which devastated it in 1348, is in the style of contemporary brick campanili in Rome, but built mainly of black selce, with white marble columns at the windows. The cathedral (the see of the titular bishop of Ostia) was reconstructed in 1660, but contains traces of the older structure. Of the ancient town nothing practically remains above ground; scanty traces of the city walls have been excavated (and covered again) near the railway station, and the present walls are entirely medieval.

The ancient city of Velitrae was Volscian in Republican times, and it is the only Volscian town of which an inscription in that language is preserved (4th century B.C.). It mentions the two principal magistrates as medix. It was, however, a member of the Latin League in 499 B.C., so that in origin it may have been Latin and have fallen into Volscian hands later. It was important as commanding the approach to the valley between the Alban and Volscian mountains. In 494 it was taken from the Volscians and became a Roman colony. This was strengthened in 404, but in 393 Velitrae regained its freedom and was Rome's strongest opponent; it was only reduced in 338, when the freedom of Latium finally perished. Its resistance was punished by the destruction of its walls and the banishment of its town councillors to Etruria, while their lands were handed over to Roman colonists. We hear little or nothing of it subsequently except as the home of the gens Octavia, to which the Emperor Augustus belonged. The neighbourhood contains some remains of villas, but not proportionately very many; there are more on the side towards Lanuvium (W). The Via Appia passed considerably below the town (some 5 m. away), which was reached by a branch road from it, diverging at the post station of Sublanuvio. During the whole of the middle ages it was subject to the papacy.

[T. As.]

Thayer's Notes:

a In 2000, the official census figures gave Velletri 48,645 inhabitants.

b No longer. There is currently (since at least 2003, and probably much earlier) no rail line from Velletri to Segni, nor from Segni to anywhere else, nor is Velletri on the line from Rome to Terracina, which detours around Velletri to the west. Velletri is, however, the terminus of a busy suburban train line that among other places takes you to the small Roman airport of Ciampino and a skating rink at S. Maria delle Mole where I've spent many happy hours.

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Page updated: 4 Dec 17