Carsulae is an ancient Roman town situated in the region of Umbria in central Italy, on a plateau crossed by the western branch of the Via Flaminia which path travelled through the town. Its urban development began in the 2nd century BC when indigenous communities moved and joined together, thereby facilitating the Romanisation of Umbria. The town became a Roman municipium of the tribus Clustumina in the middle of the 1st century BC when a number of major works were initiated, including the amphitheatre and most of the forum.
Carsulae was first mentioned in the surviving sources by Strabo in the late 1st century BC.
The cities this side the Apennine Mountains that are worthy of mention are: first, on the Flaminian Way itself: Ocricli, near the Tiber and theº Larolon, and Narna, through which the Nar River flows (it meets the Tiber a little above Ocricli, and is navigable, though only for small boats); then, Carsuli, and Mevania, past which flows the Teneas. Strabo Geography 5:2:10
Carsulae probably originated as a mansio, a rest stop and watering place for travellers, traders and soldiers along the Via Flaminia. The road was constructed for military purposes by the censor Gaius Flaminius in 220 BC. It ran from Rome to the Adriatic coast and then turned north towards the colony of Ariminum (Rimini). Its path travelled through Carsulae and became the cardo maximus, the north-south street of the town running between the forum and the amphitheatre and theatre.
During its golden age, Carsulae, supported by agricultural activity in the surrounding area, was prosperous and wealthy. Its bucolic setting, its large complex of thermal mineral baths and other public amenities, attracted wealthy and even middle class “tourists” from Rome.
Recovered inscriptions document the vibrant civic life of Carsuale until at least the reign of the Emperor Vespasian who camped here in AD 69 as he prepared to march on Rome to secure the Imperial title for his master (Tac. Hist. 3. 60).
On arriving at Carsulae, the leaders of the Flavian party rested a few days and waited for the eagles and standards of the legions to come up. They also regarded with favour the actual situation of their camp, which had a wide outlook, and secured their supply of stores, because of the prosperous towns behind them. Tacitus Histories 3:60
The city lost its importance when the western branch of Via Flaminia fell into disuse at the end of the 3rd century AD in favour of its faster east branch. Carsulae was abandoned in the middle of the 4th century AD, perhaps after an earthquake, and its people probably moved to nearby San Gemini. However, a church was built in the 11th century on the foundations of a Roman building many centuries after the site had been abandoned.
Excavations at the site unearthed a large number of monuments, buildings and inscriptions, forming a picture of a wealthy and politically active municipium. However, the town has still not been completely brought back to life and excavations are still underway. The excavations are conducted by Emerita Professor Jane Whitehead of Valdosta State University, USA.