Gnathia

Gnathia (present-day Egnazia) was an ancient city of the Messapii built on the border between the regions of Messapia and Peucezia. It is located near the town of Fasano, on the Adriatic coast of Apulia in southern Italy. The town is mentioned by Greek geographer Strabo (Strab. 6,3,8) for its privileged geographic location and by the Latin poet Horace who passed through in 38 BC during his famous voyage from Rome to Brindisi (Satire I, 5). In the Roman period, Gnathia became an active centre of trade and commerce along the Via Traiana and became the seat of a bishopric in the Christian period. Only partially excavated, the city preserves vestiges dating back to the Messapian, Roman and Late Roman eras.

Coordinates: 40° 53′ 16.07″ N, 17° 23′ 27.97″ E

The history of ancient Gnathia spans many centuries. The earliest evidence of organised life comes from the Acropolis and dates to the Late Bronze Age (13th-12th centuries BC) with groups of huts scattered along the coast and hinterland. In the 11th century BC, it was invaded by the Iapygians, while the Messapic (another Iapyyg tribe) era of the town began in the 8th century BC. The vitality of the town and its commercial and cultural relationship with other Messapian centres and Taranto (Taras) during the Archaic period are documented by the Peucetian pottery and the pottery imported from Greece.

Around the second half of the 4th century BC, a sharp increase in population is recorded in the Messapia. Gnathia took the appearance characteristic of a Messapian city, surrounded by powerful defensive walls made of stone blocks on its three landward sides. They enclosed an area of about 140 hectares. From this period date the necropolises with monumental chamber tombs, often containing painted frescoes and furnished with valuable vases.

Messapian earthenware found in Egnazia.

The vases attributed to the “Gnathia style” are so termed after the name of the site of Gnathia. Many potteries of this type were discovered in the tombs of Gnathia. Their production began in Apulia around 370/360 BC and consisted in decorating the traditional black glazed pottery with painted patterns, using mainly white, red and yellow color. The themes depicted include erotes, images from the life of women, theatre scenes and dionysiac motifs The vases decorated in “Gnathia style” were generally small in size (pelikes, lekythoi, alabastra, and skyphoi).

In the Roman period, especially during the Augustan period, the city prospered due to its location on the principal transit route to the Orient. The town underwent a significant modification of its urban space with new public buildings built on either side of the Via Minucia which crossed the town from the western to the eastern sector. In AD 109, Emperor Trajan improved the old Via Minucia. Starting at Benevento, the Via Traiana gave travellers from Rome to Brindisi a shorter and more comfortable alternative to the old Via Appia.

Gold coin of Trajan with the personification of the Via Traiana on the reverse, AD 112-117. © The Trustees of the British Museum

At the heart of the public space, an area was sacred to the Oriental gods. The sanctuary consisted of the temple of Cybele, of the sacellum dedicated to Attis and of the large elliptical enclosure, the so-called “amphitheatre”, for the performances enlivening the sacred rites.

In the Christian period, the city was the seat of a bishopric. The Acropolis was fortified by the Byzantines and, after the 6th century AD, embraced the settlement within a new surrounding wall. The destruction of the city has been traditionally linked to the invasion of Totila, King of the Goths, in 545 AD.

The first systematic excavations were undertaken in 1912 and 1913. Since 2001, a research programme has been carried out by the Department of Ancient and Late Antique Studies of the University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, in close collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologia of Apulia. Gnathia is famous for the discoveries made in its tombs. Also worthy of note are some stretches of the Via Traiana, the Basilica with the hall of the Three Graces, the Shrine of Eastern Divinities, the trapezoidal-shaped market square and the Sanctuary of Trajan in the area of the acropolis. The best-preserved burial chamber is the Tomb of the Pomegranate which probably belonged to a family of wealthy class who used it for many generations from the 4th to the 2nd century BC.

The Tomb of the Pomegranate was discovered In 1971 during the construction of the museum. On the walls are some paintings such as the pomegranate, a symbol of eternity. The Archaeological Museum of Egnazia is set outside the boundary walls. It showcases a permanent didactic exhibition about the history and the topography of ancient Gnathia, including a selection of mosaics and architectural fragments from the inhabited area and the necropolises.

PORTFOLIO

The western necropolis was used from the Messapian period (4th Century BC – 2nd Century BC) through the middle ages, and belonged to the following types: pit graves, semi-chamber tombs and chamber tombs.
A chamber tomb in the western necropolis cut into the bedrock. It consisted of a burial chamber accessed through a stepped corridor-like entrance (dromos). The chamber was closed with large doors that were made of two stone blocks and in some cases that were equipped with hinges.
The inside of the chamber tomb. The tombs hey had frescoes reproducing the typical wall decorations of the houses such as marble slabs on the walls and wooden beams in the covering slabs.
Wall painting from a Messapian tomb depicting a young warrior with a horse, 5th century BC.
A 5th Century BC old road with ruts crossing the western necropolis. It fell into disuse in the 3rd century BC when it was interrupted by the construction of two semi-chamber tombs.
The western acropolis.
A domus (private house) south of the forum with an atrium floored with a white mosaic pavement.
The residential and production district located south of the forum.
The Via Traiana crossing the urban centre of the town and partly built upon the route of the former late Republican Via Minucia.
The entrance to trapezoidal-shaped market square. The square was first built in the Messapian period (4th Century BC – 3rd Century BC). It was probably re-organised in the time of Augustus but the majority of the surviving buildings were built under Trajan when the Via Traiana was established.
The market square was paved with regular blocks of tufa and enclosed by a portico with Doric columns.
The market square with a small square rostrum.
The so-called Amphitheatre, an elliptical enclosure with a monumental entrance leading to the temples of the Cybele and Attis. It may have been used for religious festivals and houses performances and games held in honour of the Oriental gods (Cybele, Attis and Dea Syria/Atargatis).
The elliptical enclosure was made of Opus Africanum (a form of ashlar masonry characterized by pillars of vertical blocks of stone alternating with horizontal blocks), a uncommon type of masonry in Apulia.
The small Temple of Cybele. It had two columns at the front and yielded objects of Cybele’s worship, such as carved lions. It also had a room with a tank perhaps used for breeding fish sacred to Atargatis or to purify the believers (lavatio).
The Sacellum (shrine) of Attis, opening onto the Via Traiana, occupies a former late Republican portico. It was decorated with frescoes (now lost) and floored with precious marbles. It housed the statue of Attis made of Greek marble, of which the head and part of the hand holding a pan flute (syrinx) are the only remains.
Marble head of the god Attis wearing the characteristic Phrygian cap. It is dated to the Hadrianic period based on comparisons with the portraits of Antinous.
The sacred area with a copy of the base on which the statue of Attis probably stood. It decorated with the musical instruments that would accompany the ceremonies in honour of Cybele.
Statue base bearing the dedication of Flavia Cypare, priestess of Magna Mater and goddess Dea Syria/Atargatis, 2nd century AD (AE 1989, 0192).
Flavi[a] C L Cypa[re] sace[rd]os Matris Magn[ae] et Syriae dea[e] ex imp[er]io fecit l[aeta] l[iberris] d[ono] d[edit].
The urban stretch of the Via Traiana.
The Civil Basilica, used for meetings, administration of justice and business. With its rectangular plan and an inside quadriporticus supported by 4 x 8 columns, it had its main front and entrances on the broader south-east side.
Part of the mosaic floor decorating an area connected to the Basilica Civile, 4th century AD.
The urban stretch of the Via Traiana with the Civil Basilica in the background.
The Forum Baths, built together with the forum in the Augustan age.
The urban stretch of the Via Traiana next to the Forum Baths.
The production area adjacent to the Forum Baths and dating to the 5th century AD.
The public and private buildings south of the forum.
The Episcopal Basilica built in the last years of the 5th century AD on the initiative of bishop Rufensius who signed the acts of the Roman synods of 501 and 502.
The Southern Basilica dating to the Late Roman period.
The cryptoporticus was built in the southern area in the Augustan period. It was a large underground corridor with a quadrangular plan, likely surmounted by a collonnade and a temple (now gone).
The underground tunnel network below the temple complex.
The Sanctuary of Trajan in the area of the acropolis.
The Museum

Links:

  • Egnazia.eu
  • GNATHIA (Egnatia) Apulia, Italy – The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

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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