Ocriculum

The archaeological area of Ocriculum is located in the southern tip of Umbria, where the ancient Via Flaminia once crossed the river Tiber to enter Roman Umbria, the Sexta Regio (“6th Region”) of the division of Italy made by Augustus. Allied with Rome in 308 BC after the battle of Mevania, Ocriculum played a strategic and commercial role as a border town between Umbria and Sabine territory and as a point of exchange between the fluvial and terrestrial roads along the Flaminian Way.

Coordinates: 42°24’40.6″N 12°28’01.5″

The original pre-Roman settlement dates back to the Early Iron Age and stood on a hill. It was destroyed during the social war (91–88 BC) as the town sided with the Italics. It was probably at this time that the city was moved from the hill to the river plain, was reorganized and then inscribed in the tribus Arnensis. It later became a municipium and assigned to the Regio VI.

The Flaminian Way, together with the river traffic on the Tiber, allowed the city to flourish considerably in the Imperial Age and contributed significantly to the development of trade and the economy. Its river port, known as the “Porto dell’Olio” (Oil Port), was used until the end of the 18th century, mainly for shipping agricultural products and locally made handcrafts.

Ocriculum was famous for the beauty of his landscape and his surrounding nature and was a vacation destination of some Roman patricians. Titus Annius Milo, a friend of Cicero and a prominent politician in the 1st century BC, had a villa in Ocriculum, as well as Pliny’s mother-in-law Pompeia Celerina.

The city was destroyed between AD 569 and 605 during the Lombard invasion, and by the 13th century, the community had transferred itself back to its more defensible hilltop.

Jupiter of Otricoli.

Today the archaeological area of the ancient city of Ocriculum is one of the most important in Umbria, with its amphitheatre, baths, theatre, forum area, funerary monuments and other public buildings. Ocriculum was partly excavated in the 18th century by the Vatican under the patronage of Pope Pius VI. As a result, many of the finely crafted statues, including portraits of members of the Julio-Claudian family and of Jupiter and Venus are on display in the galleries of the Vatican Museum. The octagonal mosaic pavement in the Sala Rotonda of the Vatican comes from Ocriculum. Other artefacts of great value are exhibited in the Otricoli Municipal Antiquarium.

Since 2012, a three-day Roman Festival –Ocriculum AD 168– brings the visitors back to the year AD 168 for a spectacular journey through time when Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus were reigning. The event, held annually, offers an exciting full immersion in history, art, cuisine and historical re-enactment that relive the daily life in the flourishing river-port of the ancient city.

PORTFOLIO

The first monument found when entering the ancient city of Ocriculum is the so-called Niche Tomb from the Imperial age. It was constructed in concrete (opus caementicium) and had a brick facing of which only some parts remain.
The so-called Tower Tomb overlooking the excavated part of the Via Flaminia with a public fountain along its eastern side.
The so-called Tower Tomb has a square plan and is surmounted by a circular body. This type of tomb, very common in the East, follows some Hellenistic prototypes from Asia Minor.
This stretch of the Via Flaminia was brought to light the years 1992-94. It is about 6 m wide and 25 m long, and is made of large leucite slabs coming from the nearby ancient Borghetto quarries.
The public fountain, opening onto the Via Flaminia. Behind it stands a drum-type mausoleum dating to the early Augustan period (ca. 27 BC). An inscription reveals that it belonged to Lucius Cominus Tuscus, son of Caius, of the Arnensis tribe.
In front of the Via Flaminia stands a circular funeral monument with a drum and a huge square podium built in concrete.
The Amphitheatre, excavated in 1958, is located on the left side of Via Flaminia and is one of the most imposing monuments of Ocriculum. It was built in opus reticulatum and measured approximately 128 x 98 m. The structure can be dated to the first half of the 1st century AD.
The thermal bath complex is the only ancient monument of the city recorded in epigraphic sources. Constructed around the second half of the 2nd century AD by Iulius Iulianus, it occupies a vast area made suitably flattened just for this purpose.
The so called “octagonal room” of the thermal bath complex. The polychrome mosaic floor (4th century AD?) that adorned this room is now preserved in the Sala Rotonda of the Vatican Museums. The scenes depict the battle of the Greeks and the centaurs with the head of Medusa in the middle.
These imposing substructures consist of twelve vaulted rooms on two levels that supported a large terrace probably belonging to a grand sanctuary of which there are no traces left.
The theatre, dating to the late 1st century BC / early 1st century AD. Most of the surviving structure is in opus reticolatum and was originally faced in marble.
The Tiber river. Unfortunately, there are no visible traces of the so-called “Port of Oil”, the ancient river port on the Tiber.

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