Journal of Ancient Topography

n. VII 1997


]AT VII (1997)


GUIDO ROSADA, Roman Histria: urban topographical notes.

Contacts that had never been entirely interrupted with former Jugoslavia became more frequent in the 1980s, partly due to the new political dimate and exchangcs and cooperation between the University of Trieste and the Arheoloski Muzej Istre u Pulu in Pula. More recently, in the 1990s, two intemational agreements between the Pula museum, the University of Bordeaux III (Maison de l'Archéologie) and the University of Padua (Department of Ancient Topography) for the areas of Luka ârvar near Poreã and Nesactium (Visaãe by Valtura not far from Pula) have greatly increate contacts with Istria by means of archaeological surveys and soundings. However, despite these considerable new openings for a rather limited area such as Istria, which have been supported by importantcongresses (cf. Tri Arene: Pula, Verona, Rim in June 1988- in "Materijali", 5, 1988 and the XIIl Congressus lnternationalis Archaeologiae Christianae in Split and Poreã in September-October 1994), as well as recently set up research centres such as the International Centre of Croatian Universities in Istria (ICCUI), International Research Centre of Archaeology (IRCA) in Medulin, thug connected to the Pula museum (cf. the congress organized by this centre in December 1995 on Urban and Landscape Archaeology - cf. "Materijali ", 7,1995, now "Historia Antiqua", 1, 1995), many aspects of the importance of Istria in Roman times and in particolar the main characteristics of urban development of its main centres are still not well known enough. Actually a two way relationship between landscape characteristics and urban settlements, which knew different environmental circumstanccs, can be seen in the better known Istrian centres from the archaeological point of view (Poreã, Pula, Nesaetium). Parentium sits on a flat peninsular sticking out from the west coast of Istria, while Pola in an open bay "spread out like a spider's web around a hill" to use the words of Bruna Forlati Tamaro; finally Nesactium reveals its origin, and character as a well defended Istrian fortress, on the top of its hill overlooking a deep valley soon reaching the sea. In all three cases the maritime vocation of the Roman towns is dear though the the urban solutions adopted were very different. It is probably only the geographical positions of Poreã and Pula led them to become fortified centres overlooking the sea. There is another aspect of Roman settlement in Istria which deserves highlighting. It appears that a kind of correlation between types of motivation behind topographical choices, kinds of subsequent urban development and continuity or the lack of it with the medieval and modern periods. The cases of Poreã and Pula on the one hand and that of Nesaetium on the other are particularly significant.

PIER LUIGI DALL'AGLIO, Fidentia – Borgo San Donnino - Fidenza.

Linle is known about the Roman town of Fidentia. What we do know is that it was situated along the Via Aemilia, on the right bank of the River Stirone, 15 miles from Parma and 25 miles from Placentia. By the 4th. century A.D. it had lost its status as a municipium and had become a mere vicus. The initial repercussions of the disappearance of the Roman town were a westward shift of population and replacement of the original piace name by that of Borgo San Donnino. These two factors are linked with the cult of the martyr Domninus, who, legend has it, was decapitated along the "Via Claudia" (i.e. the Via Aemilia) on the left bank of the Stirone. He then crossed the river with his head in his hands, collapsed and was buried on the very spot. A church, later to become the present cathedral, was built on the site, which was revealed by a miraculous light in the wood. Domninus was presumably buried in the burial area of the Roman settlement and the church became the centre of attraction for a new population. All this is confirmed by medieval place names. A Castrum Vetus, corresponding to the urban area surrounding the church dedicated to Domninus and a Burgo Novo posito extra Castrum Burgi Sancti Domnini on the site of the former Roman town. Despite new development of the Roman town, archaeological finds and the town plan features favour the hypothesis that the centre of Roman Fidentia was between the present day Via Amendola-Vicolo Zuccheri-Via Dal Verme split up into four rectangles of 3.5x2 aetus by Via Berenini, the urban stretch of the Via Aemilia and the modern Via Gramsci.

MANLIO LILLI, The Port of Ancona in the Roman period: archaeological and archive evidence.

Detailed technical analysis of certain features of Trajan's port in Ancona has increased our knowledge. Hitherto unknown phases of the port's life after Trajan have been discovered. The recovery of excavation documentation from the archives of the Archaeological Superintendency of the Marche region has proved valuable, as has written evidence of the survival up to the early 19th. century of parts of the natural arm in the sea near the Lazzaretto (or quarantine hospice).


The aim of this paper is to collect all known data concerning the town plan of Arretium, providing a brief survey of previous research and suggestions on how to trace the development of this ancient town. From its originai site on the two hills of San Pietro and San Donato, Arretium spread outwards over the sheltered south west slopes, which are sunnier and closer to the waters of the Castro and to the outlet of the major lines of communications of the Arezzo valley. Two subsequent colonial settlements between the end of the Republic and the very early Empire, have left traces both in the land divisions of the plain and the town pian of the south eastern outskirts of the town, which at the time was equipped with public buildings: a theatre and baths on the top of the San Pietro Hill - together with a long aqueduct- and an amphitheatre and baths on the Castro plain, the route of the river being affected by the needs of these large buildings. The group of honorific inscriptions found slightly further down from the theatre/baths complex would suggest the presence of an important public area on the large terrace of Piazza Crucifera/Via Colcitrone, and there could have been a forum in the area covered by the modern Piazza Grande. . The paper also foregrounds the importance of archive searches for any useful source for the reconstruction of the long urban history of a town that has never been systematically investigated and of the stages of the unsatisfactory history of archaeological research.


A considerable amount of archaeological evidence which can contribute to the identification of the forma urbis of ancient Ameria has emerged from soundings and excavations undertaken by the private and local authority sectors. The evidence consists of: a) remains of three domus in various conditions of conservation built in opus incertum and opus reticulatum, with geometrically patterned mosaics, with a cistern or well for water supply, and, in one case, a covered gallery with three corridors; b) two paved road fragments, one in an east-west direction, the other, covering a considerable stretch in a north-south direction, with a sewer below and lined by the remains of three buildings belongs to the stretch of the Via Amerina within the walls; c) a large substructure, split up into cellars, in a cistern in three parallel rows, flanked by rooms and into a series of two level, parallel vaulted perpendicular areas. All this evidence dates from the 1st. century B.C., when, after becoming a municipium, Ameria reached the peak of its development, begun in the 3rd. century B.C., and highlighted by the polygonal town walls and buildings in opus quadratum consistently incorporated into subsequent buildings with the same orientation. This new information shows how the town plan follows the ground characteristics, through the creation of terraces, which were also used as water reservoirs, and how it followed the longitudinal axis coinciding with the stretch of the Via Amerina within the town walls and other road axes oriented in the opposite direction connected with area buildings. A more programmatic reconstruction of Ameria's forma, urbis will be attempted elsewhere.

MARIA ACCAME LANZILLOTIA, Pomponius Letus and the Topography of Rome.

Pomponius Letus' interest in the topography of Rome is highlighted through an examination of me Excerpta, Stationes Romanae, and a commentary on Varro's de Lingua Latina. He shows interest, in his position as the key scholar of Roman antiquities of the time, in both Christian and Pagan buildings, though it is the latter that he sometimes appears to know best, mostly on the evidence of the Stationes, Thcre are some mistaken identifications, in some cases due to Medieval influence, and monuments unknown to us are mentioned and certain unknown details described. Rich topographical evidence can be found in Pomponius' commentary on Varro's de Lingua Latina and in his lectures (available to us in the notes - dictata - made by his pupils and preserved in cod. Vat. lat. 3415). Of particular interest is Pomponius' attention to place name etymology and all historical information on a particular site, which he attempts to reconstruct, following his usual method, by amalgamating information from different writers. Apart from historical and literary sources, he also used inscriptions, many of which he had collected together in his house on the Quirinal, and which were lost after the house had been demolished.

GIOVANNI UGGERI, The 300th. Anniversary of the Birth of Vito Maria Amico.

This contribution is a brief tribute to Abbé Amico (Catania 1697-1762), who, after some early work of the church in Sicily and the Benedictine Order in particular, published a history of Catania in four volumes (1740-46), showing particular interest in monuments and inscriptions. He also edited a new edition, to which he added copious notes, of the indispensable work on ancient Sicily by Tommaso Fazello (1749-53). His most important scholarly contribution followed: the Lexicon Topographicum Siculum (1757-60), in which, for the first time, all ancient and modern Sicilian sites were presented historically and topographically in alphabetical order. Amico made use of the results obtained by Fazello, Philip Cluver and  other eruditi and contributed new critical, topographical, archaeological, numismatic and epigraphic arguments.

IVO BABIČ, The Fate of the Roman Settlements in Croatia and the Neighbouring Sclaviniae

In Late Antiquity and especially during Justinian's reconquista there were several changes in the territorial organization of this area and the strategic points of ancient Illyrian forts gained in importance once more. A series of new fortifications were built on hills and mountain tops and on strategic locations controlling land and sea routes. The crisis of the world of Antiquity, the great migrations, and especially the influx of the Slavs, caused the disappearance of a large number of settlements. Many of thee, especially the smaller ones, although mentioned in the classical sources, have never been located. Among the forts one must mention Knin (the Ninia of Antiquity) which also played an important role during the Goth-Byzantine wars. In the wider periphery of this fort, its wide surrounding plain, stood several churches related to the "lives of the Croatian kings - whose centres of operation in the tenth and eleventh century were on this territory. One of the centres of Hum, was the hill with the church of St Michael watching over the Ston Valley where several churches had been built on the remains of their Early Christian predecessors. In the Middles Ages life also came back to some former centres of Antiquity, such as Nin (the ancient Aenona). although most of the ancient town inside the city walls remained uninhabited, and its remains were invaded by fields. The walls of Solin (ancient Salona) now enclosed only fields, and the Croatian settlers built their new churches endowed by Croatian kings only at the eastern city limits. The same can be said of Klis, which was also reactivated in Late Antiquity.

MARCELLO RANIERI, Triads of  integers: how Space was Squared in Ancient Times

In the architectural and topographic contexts of antiquity (more and more accurate and reliable plans are available nowadays) right-angled segmentations of space are far more numerous than other types of division and in the majority of the cases they are extremely precise. The question of how such precision could be achieved in ancient times, has been substantially dismissed in the past by scholars, their attitude ranging from attributing to the ancients special practical cleverness, to claiming that they used high degrees of mathematics and geometry. . . As a matter of fact, an easy method for achieving right angles, does exist and was known in ancient times. It is documented in few but remarkable ancient literary sources: Mesopotamian cuneiform tabIet Plimpton 322 (second half of 2nd millennium BC), Chinese Chou-pei-suan-king (beginning of the 1st millennium BC), Hindu Sulva-Sutra (second half of 1st millennium BC), Vitruvius's De Architectura. The method relies on knowledge of the three integer numbers (triads) to be reported as lengths of the sides of right-angled triangles and this paper demonstrates to what extent this method was widespread in the ancient world for the solution of the great majority of squaring problems. To do our job of establishing a coherent link between the proportions measured on the plans and those expressed by the triads of integers, we have gone through the mathematical properties of triads: this has led us to know that even on a small numerical base (<30) there exist "in nature" a sufficient multitude of easy-to-remember triads for solving the majority of squaring problems in antiquity. Also it results that the existing ensemble of triads is well suited to approach rational and non-rational proportions with such a high approximation that we need no more to imply the use of complex mathematics to explain the many noteworthy  proportions of ancient artifacts. We have also clarified that squaring with triads do not require the use of length-units, that there is no contradiction between the use of triads and the employment of  length-units or architectural modules and that a higher precision is achieved by using fractions. In this case the sexagesimal system is the best suited. Because of the harmonic properties of the existing triads, an architectural language emerges, which is often recognizable in the plans, articulated from single triads (phonemes) up to complex schemes (sentences). On plans from the scientific literature, we have surveyed thousands of segments of a large variety of archaeological sites in the world, ranging from about the 7th millennium BC to 1st millennium AD. Triadic values and schemes have been found substantially in all the sites surveyed, in some cases allowing the identification of the construction sequence. For the evident potential intrinsic and comparative value in the descriptions  of design and construction techniques, new classification parameters in Archaeology might possibly result.