Carsulae

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 developement began in the 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.

3D reconstruction of the town.

Coordinates: 42° 38′ 23.25″ N, 12° 33′ 25.75″ E

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 69 AD 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.

PORTFOLIO

The amphitheatre and the theatre, located on the eastern side of the town.
The amphitheatre was partially built into a natural cavity in the ground. It is thought to date back to the first century AD.
The theatre was entirely reconstructed above the ground and was dated before the amphitheatre.
The cavea of the theatre was supported by 15 vaulted rooms.
The remains of the scaena of the theatre.
There are four cisterns in Carsulae: two are in the north and upstream of the thermal system (one has now been transformed in Antiquarium). The others are in the north of the amphitheatre and in the south of the theatre.
The cardo maximus, the main or central north–south-oriented street crossing the municipium. The arch on the left, which was recently reconstructed, marked the entrance to the forum.
The northern four-sided arch (tetrapylon) marking the entrance to the Forum, it is located at the intersection of the main two roads (decumanus & cardo maximus), built in opus quadratum made in block of solid limestone.
The Forum, facing the west side of the urban road route of the Via Flaminia with the so-called twin temples, of which only the podiums lined with pink stone slabs remain. The access of the temples was by a flight of steps partly reconstructed: the lack of ancient sources make difficult the identification of the divine couple.
The northern side of the Forum consisted on four apsidal rectangular rooms: the largest one is identified with the Curia (the Seat of the municipal senate), the smallest ones were for the administrative and political activities. Marble decorations are visible.
Overview of the Forum.
As of 2017, the excavation at Carsulae is led by Massimiliano Gasperini and Luca Donnini, with the involvement of the Australian Carsulae Archaeology Project from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
The Forum.
Fragments from a statue of Claudius (ca. 50 AD). This colossal statue (twice life-size) stood in the forum of Carsulae (Umbria, Italy). Only the head and a knee survive.
The excavations of 2012 – 2014 brought to light a well-preserved paved floor as well as different wall structures commercial uses and a cistern. The first building phase is of the 2nd century BC with some modifications dated back to the Augustan Age.
The Via Flaminia went through the town (north–south axis) and became the main road or the cardo maximus of which 400 metres are still visible.
The so-called San Damiano Arch was build during the reign of Augustus. The arch was located at the northern entrance of the town. It was originally an arch with three fornices (the two lateral minor ones have collapsed).
Three funeral monuments that belong to the prestigious Carsulae’s families stood outside the town boundaries. Two are restored and dated back between the 1st century BC and the 1stI century AD.
The first is a drum shaped funeral tomb on a rectangular base.
The second mausoleum is of tower type on a rectangular base. The cylindrical body has skylights and above a Doric frieze.
The Church of S. Cosma and Damiano was built in the XI century using a pre-existent building whose function is uncertain and dated between the 1st and the 2nd century AD.
The Church of S. Cosma and Damiano was built, like the portico, using many building materials of the Roman period.
The interior of the Church of S. Cosma and Damiano.

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7 thoughts on “Carsulae

  1. As you’re ordinarily quite thorough, I hate to nit-pick…but how could Emperor Diocletian have camped there for/with the Flavians in 69 when he wasn’t born until 244? Could you perhaps have meant Domitian instead, while on the way with his uncle to secure Rome for Vespasian?
    Otherwise, as always, a delightful & informative article with superb photos and illustrations!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I chuckled more than condemned – as often I’ll reverse Domitian with Diocletian myself (a tad similar in name). As said previously, it’s exceedingly rare for you to slip so; hence my inquiry. Anyway, you alerted me to a town with which I was unfamiliar….and as often happens with your introductions, sent me off on a research trip. For that I thank you!

        Like

  2. It is also worthy to note that a significant bath complex has been excavated on the site since 2005 and is ongoing. Although the bath extent has yet to be fully revealed it does exhibit some very interesting and unusual characteristics for Roman baths. The bath is quite large, and rests south of the main city area which leads us to the conclusion that a city the size of Carsulae must have had more baths central to the main civic areas, of which no evidence has been found to date. Unfortunately there are few studies done of provincial Roman baths which makes this one worthy of further investigation. Little information has come to light of the water transport system of Carsulae which does have numerous large cisterns, nearby springs, and some remaining drainage systems that warrant further exploration. This year a joint study was undertaken by the San Gemini Preservation Studies, Umbria, University Notre Dame du Lac, USA and Flinders University, Australia which looked at a number of elements of Carsulae and its surrounds within the broader Umbrian and Via Flaminia landscape, but in particular at the architectural and archaeological elements of the bath in order to assess the possible phases of bath construction and use and develop a 3D interpretation of the bath construction.

    Liked by 1 person

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