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.
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.