Journal of Ancient Topography

n. VIII 1998


JAT VIII (1998)


ANDREA STAFFA, Roman Towns near the Adriatic Coast of Abruzzo

New research provides initial information on the town planning of five hitherto unknown towns: Castrum Truentinum, Ostia Atemi, Pinna Vestinorum, Hortona and Anxanum and more details on that of Interamnia Praetuttiorum and Histonium. Five of the towns are of Italic origin and follow land contours. developing around a central ridge axis. Their town planning antedates the establishment of the Roman municipium.The other two replaced hilltop settlements and moved to lower lying land at the principal river mouths (Castrum Truentinum on the River Tronto and Ostia Atemi on the River Pescara). Generally speaking, a large number of public buildings appeared between the 1st. century B.C. and the 1st. century A.D., on a regular expansion basis, followed by reduction of the urban area and rebuilding of public buildings between the 3rd. and 4th. centuries A.D. The main public buildings were abandoned between the 5th. and 6th. centuries A.D., building materials were re-used, open spaces and wooden huts appeared. In the 8th. and 9th. centuries the only stone buildings were churches and centres of local power, while removal of building materials reached ancient foundation levels. Thus all the towns survived. with the exception of Castrum Truentinum and Ostia Atemi, which lay on lower ground on sea shores that had become dangerous.

ERMANNO ARSLAN, Town Planning of Scolacium

The Greek town of Skylletion (near 'La Roccelletta' in the territory of Borgia. province of Catanzaro, Calabria), later occupied by the indigenous Bretti, after that the site of Minervia Scolacium, the colony established by Gaius Gracchus in 123 B.C., finally an Imperial colony founded by Nerva, has been under excavation since 1965. The Roman town grid seems to have been oriented at 16° north east of the Greek settlement. Between 1982 and 1995 the Roman forum was excavated. It consists of a brick paved 38xc84 m. area, with its shorter upper side alongside the decumanus maximus, which is about 1 m. higher, linked by steps and a ramp, crowned by a bronze lettered (16 cm letters) inscription embedded in the granite paving (L. Decimius Secundio / gradus via s. p. f). There is a raised platform, a fountain-sacellum and sacellum in antis. The eastem long side of the forum is flanked by a canal and wide Tuscan order portico (rebuilt in brick), onto which the public buildings open: a building devoted to the cult of the Emperor (with a later apse) and the curia, identified by two wide steps. On the lower shorter side a building with columns could have been the basilica. Uphill from the decumanus maximus a large opus quadratum wall supports a terrace at a height of 4.30 m. in respect of the forum level. The Capitolium, with its moulded base, stood at a distance of 21 m. from the road.  A pedestrian way far sacred and governmental use led up to the Capitolium. The main road axis, which was originally the decumanus maximus, leading to the theatre, must have been raised in Nerva's reign and substituted for cart traffic by one downhill from the modern main road n. 106, flange by mausoleums.

OSCAR BELVEDERE, Aspects of Roman Town Planning in Sicily

Roman intervention in cities with a long history of continuous settlement and many archaeological strata mainly consisted of new public buildings and the transformation of an agorà into a forum. Augustus was responsible for major political and ideological interventions in the form of colony foundation in Sicily (20 B.C.). In Syracuse the Greek Neapolis was turned into an area for public entertainment with the insertion of an amphitheatre beyond the city limits represented by the construction of a triumphal arch. Work on forums is best observed in Catania, with a 45 m. square with its Augusteum and tabernae and in Termini Imerese, with the establishment of the cult of the Emperor on the longer south side and a macellum to the west. In the 2nd. century A.D. theatre-odeion complexes were erected in Catania and Taormina and the porticos in the forum rebuilt in Catania and Syracuse.


Second only to Carthage in Africa the city reached a population of 100,000 and an extension of 435 hectares. It was founded by Carthage at the end of the 7th. century B.C. to the left of the mouth of the wadi Lebda, the outlet of a route across the Sahara, which became the city's main axis when it developed extensively from the 2nd. century B.C., taking on a Hellenistic appearance. The forum was a link with the ancient town and was endowed with three temples; insulae were 20 m. wide and separated by 5 m. side streets along 6 m. wide main streets parallel to the main axis. A new development in. The reigns of Augustus and Tiberius centred on the Carthage-Alexandria road, to the north of which a theatre and market were built, while to the south 26 m. wide insulae separated by 6 m. wide side streets were created. The two main streets passed under arches dedicated to Tiberius, Trajan, Antoninus Pius and the Severi. Nero built the harbour with a 17 m. wide canal along the wadi. Hadrian shut off the wadi and built grandiose baths. New monuments were built under Septimius Severus, between Hadrian's baths and the sea, including a basilica and Forum Severianum. A colonnaded street was built along the filled in canal and the two quays; the new harbour ended in two quays, the one to the west built for a lighthouse and that to the east to hold a temple. Damage caused by the earthquake of 306-310 led to the western part of the city being abandoned and reduction of the urban area to 145 hectares encircled by walls; the amphitheatre and circus were restored. The 365 earthquake was even more devastating and many public buildings were abandoned. Under the Vandals the theatre and amphitheatres were turned into forts. Justinian limited fortification to the Harbour area. After the Arab conquest of 643, Leptis was reduced to a mere village.

ELDA JOLY, Sabratha

The article opens with a brief history of research and excavations by Italian archaeologists from 1910 to the present and the tests carried out by British archaeologists between 1948 and1951. In the second part the author recounts settlement in Sabratha from the 5th. century B.C. and the Punic and Hellenistic trading post. Roman style reconstruction took place after a 1st. century B.C. earthquake. The road from Carthage to Alexandria became the decumanus maximus; the Hellenistic market place, the link between the old and new cities, became the forum, a rectangle with shops still along the longer sides, but with the Capitolium to the west and the TempIe of Liber Pater to the east. The city was rebuilt after another earthquake in the Flavian period with shorter, almost square blocks. A law court was built on the south side of the forum and it was perhaps at this time that the breakwater was constructed leading from the promontory on which the Temple of Isis was rebuilt. During the 2nd. century the city took on a splendid appearance, thanks to the Temples of Hercules, Antoninus and other unknown gods, the Baths of Oceanus, and the theatre and amphitheatre. The city was honoured by the title of colony and many of its citizens became important benefactors. Stagnation characterized the 3rd. century. There were earthquakes in 306-10, a more devastating one in 365, and raids by nomads from the hinterland. The new city was reduced to the area around the forum, with a cathedral and adjoining cemetery. Two Christian basilicas, a baptistery and cemetery were built over the baths. The walls were demolished under the Vandal occupation hetween 453 and 535. After Byzantine reconquest, Justinian fortified a small area around the harbour and seafrom basilica with towers and walls. The rest of the city became rural with some smaller nuclei and surviving churches. The fort was finally destroyed at the time of the Arab conquest. In the third part, the author examines some typical houses, the main public and private baths and the Temple of Hercules in detail.

MASSIMO VITTI, Thessaloniki: Overview and Update

Recent archaeological research in Thessaloniki provides a more accurate picture of the ancient city, with particular reference to Dikitiriou Square, the agorà and Galerius' palace. The discovery of Roman streets in Dikitiriou Square confirmed the 102x58.5 town grid module. Hellenistic remains also appear to confirm the Hellenistic origin of the Hippodamian town plan. The most important building unearthed is a house with peristyle measuring 24x12m.  The oldest phase dates back to the 1st. century B.C., and the most recent to the 4th. century A.D. For the 1st. century phase we may be in the presence of the esedran ten en to peristilo katà ten aulen mentioned by Diodorus Siculus, while the Roman building is more likely to be the quaestorium mentioned by Cicero, rather than the praetorium. Though a (commerciai) street acting as the southern boundary of the agorà was unearthed, it is still uncertain whether there was another square (or Megaphoros) to the south of it. However, evidence for another monumental public area between the agorà and Via Egnatia seems to be provided both by the presence of Las Incantadas in this area and the inscription near the church of Panaghia Chalcheon calling the place Bebelos topos. Mystery still surrounds the presence of the Hellenistic agorà here, since no remains of a Hellenistic square have come to light under the paving of the Roman square, but only clay quarries and pot sherd dumps dating from the period late 3rd. - 1st. century B.C. Nevertheless these finds do not exclude the possibility that there was an open space performing the functions of a public square here in the Hellenistic period. The oldest structures date back to the 2nd. - 1st. century B.C., and belong to housing unearthed below the eastern arcade. The tabularium, mint and possible temple have been identified on this side. These buildings, together with the odeon, are part of the monumental rebuilding under the Severi of a previous Augustan complex, to which a rcctangular hall, identified as the bouleuterion, unearthed under "the odeon, may well belong. Finally, in the area of the Imperial Palace, there is evidence that building work under Galerius was carried out over a previously developed 'industriai' zone, probably outside the city limits. Starting from the sea front, the palace consisted of a large peristyle onto the northern side of which the vestibule of the Octagon (audience chamber/triclinium) opened. Behind the Octagon stood another peristyle with the Empcror's private apartments. The Imperial box in the hippodrome was reached through thc Palatine Hall from the smal1 peristyle. The hippodrome was situated between the palace and walls, with the carceres up against the Via "Egnatia. To the north of the small peristyle stood the Imperial mausoleum surrounded by a temenos. There was a small apsed building (probably a small private triclinium) between the latter and the Via Egnatia. The Palace north side rectangular vestibule stood in from of the Arch of Galerius.

GIOVANNI UGGERI, The Town Planning of Antioch on the Orontes

The town planning of this Hellenistic and Roman metropolis is still not very well known, owing to objectivc difficulties for archaeological research, earthquakcs, floods and plundering of visible remains. Antioch was founded by Seleucus I on the River Orontes in 300 B.C., between the rich plain of Amyke and the mouth of the river, controlling the Eastern caravan routes. It underwent rapid development and, already by the 2nd. century had four urban nuclei, thus earning the name of Tetrapolis. Two nuclei were situated on the left bank of thc Orontes and the caravan route along the foothills, which reached the port of Seleucia Pieria. They had a strictly right angular plan. The third nucleus covered the river island opposite, while the last one (Epiphaneia) the scope of Mount Silpius. Roma did not interfere with the established town plan, while urban decor was enriched, with a consistent policy of construction of grandiose public buildings typical of Roman cities, replacing the old polis; within the existing urban set up. From 47 B.C. additions included the Kaisareion basilica, theatre, amphitheatre, circus, large public baths, aqueducts, cisterns, the magnificent colonnaded street commissioned by Herod the Great and later lengthened by 3 kilometres and adorned with honorific monuments and arches, other colonnaded streets, walls, gates, streets, bridges and canals. These transformations did not only affect buildings but also customs and mentalities. The numerous baths had a crucial impact on the refined, cultured and heterogeneous population, to the extent that we can see them as playing an essential role in the process of Romanization. Under Agrippa and Tiberius the urban area was enlarged and the suburbs expanded under Trajan. After the considerable building activity under Dioclctian, it was left to the Emperor Valens to undertake substantial town planning with the reclaiming of the low lying central area by channeling the Parmenios stream under two large underground vaults below the new forum. It was Justinian who intervened decisively in the area constructing the Iron Gate dam to block the river. He also modernizcd the ancient metropolis by abandoning the island and cutting off the Theoupolis with massive fortifications.

CRISTINA CORSI,  Roman Rural Settlement in the Area between Tarquinia and Vulci

A thorough survey of the area included in square IV of the F.° 142 (I.G.M.I. map, including the Tyrrhenian coast between the mouths of the Rivers Marta and Fiora) permitted a diachronic reconstruction of the settlement on the basis of data collected and comparison with the small amount of historical sources. This article deals with the Roman period during which three major phases can be identified, each of which can be divided in two sub-phases. Tbe first phase covers the period IV-III centuries B.C. (sub-phase "a", fig. 4), during which there is some continuity with the pre-Roman conquest period, although population density increased. Particularly important is the fact that settlement was already dense around the straight Via Aurelia "Nova". This suggests a rather early date, among those proposed, for the building of the road (I suggest 241 B.C.). Almost all visible remains in all periods concern farming activities and surrounding burial areas. Sub-phases "b" (II-late I cent. B.C., fig.5) and "c" (late I cent. BC. - mid I cent. A.D., fig.6) saw continued settlement density, in contrast with expectations from historical sources, prosperity being based on small and medium sized farms. Sub-phase "d" (late I cento A.D. - II cent. A.D.,fig. 7) saw a gradual reduction of farming units, due to the creation of larger estates. The III and IV centuries A.D. (sub-phase "e", fig.8) saw economic decline, which became more serious at the end of the Empire (V-VII centuries A.D., sub-phase "f", fig. 9), when the only surviving settlements are along the main roadway (i.e. the straight Via Aurelia "Nova") and the coastal road, though the villae maritimae could also be connected with coasting trade.

GIOVANNI UGGERI, Tommaso Fazello Founder of the Topography of Ancient Sicily

On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Fazello (Sciacca 1498 - Palermo 1570) a brief biography is provided. Particular attention is devoted to the first ten books of De  rebus Siculis (Panormi 1558), which deal with the reconstruction of ancient Sicily. Fazello's precision as a scholar, rigorous topographical method and original contribution to the reconstruction of the topography of Greek Sicily are foregrounded. His starting point is a profound knowledge of Greek and Latin sources, of inscriptions and coins, preliminaries to continuous field work on geomorphology and surviving remains. His discoveries of the forgotten Greek cities of Naxos. Megara Hyblaea, Acme, Heraclea Minoa, Selinus. Himera and the indigenous Segesta are especially important.

GIOVANNI UGGERI,  The Geography by Edrisi

On the occasion of the 900th anniversary of the birth of al-Idrisi (Ceuta 1098 - e. 1J65) a brief biography is provided. Particular attention is devoted to the chapter of his geographical work (the so called Book of Roger, 1154 A.D.) which deals with the geography of Sicily, which is treated with great accuracy and is also useful for the reconstruction of the ancient topography of the island.

ALESSANDRO CASSATELLA, Rome. The Domus Aurea on the Palatine

Two pre-palace phases, which can be attributed to the reign of Nero, or the period between Nero and Vespasian can be identified in the strata of the Domus Flavia area. Absolute certainty in dating is, however, impossible. A circular building over the remains of foundations obliterated by the Domus Flavia triclinium has been identified and this makes dating of the previous Baths of Livia below them to the reign of Vespasian impossible. This earlier dating was based on brick stamps found in the loose stone foundation of the Baths. A date in the reign of Vespasian and identification with a temple of Vesta have recently been suggested (by C. Cecamore, in BCom, 1995, 9-32) for this circular building from the period before Domitian resting on the Baths of Livia and obliterated by the triclinium of the Domus Flavia. On the basis of a sketch by Pirro Ligorio the building had been considercd a thòlos in the Domus Aurea (perhaps the rotunda cenationum mentioned by Suetonius). The new dating is based on the attribution to the quadrangular pool surrounding  the building of a Flavian brick stamp. This stamp, however, belongs to a subsequent building phase, as can be gathered from information from the time of its finding (cf. NSc 1971, l, 323), thus making the above hypothesis unacceptable. S. Gibson (in PBSR, 1994, 67-97), on the basis of the relationship between the overall size of the circular building and that of its foundations, suggests that the building was light, without cement vaults. On the basis of the above considerations and the sketches by Pirro Ligorio, Pietro Picca and S. Gibson, a tentative reconstruction of the circular building, following Vitruvius' model of a thòlos is presented. It is suggested that the building was part of a c. 43 m. sided piscina with a peristasis of 36 columns and separate covering for portico and cella, which could have been surmounted by a wooden dome with lacunars.

FRANCESCO MORICONI, The “Villa dei Quattro Venti” at Circeo

A detailed study of the visiblc remains of a late Republican villa near S. Felice Circeo. The building can be found in Lugli's Forma Italiae with an excellent survey by Gismondi. In this article it is newly interpreted on the basis of a new survey, which considers the work of previous scholars. The author also attempts to draw conclusions on the basis af architectual and town planning data for knowlegde of late Republican architecture in the area.