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.

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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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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 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.

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 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.

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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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