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.
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.
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.
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.