A city on a
high hill along the sea on the border of Latium and Campania, half way between Rome and Naples. Strabo derives the name from trachys
(rough)—well suiting its cliff. Prehistoric remains testify to its desirable location. After occupation by the Ausoni, it was taken over by the
Etruscans, then by the Volsci, who called it Anxur and
made it a fortress against the Romans. There is no evidence to support an ancient theory that it was colonized by Sparta in the days of Lykourgos.
Rome overpowered Anxur in 406 B.C. and in 309 sent
300 colonists to establish Colonia Anxuras, later assimilated to the Tribus Ufentina. The Samnites failed to capture the citadel in their battle against Rome in 315. A few years later, the Via Appia was built, climbing to
Tarracina on its way S. Horace took that route in 38 B.C.
and admirably describes the site: impositum saxis late
candentibus Anxur. Galba was born here in 3 B.C. The
town was greatly built up in the days of Sulla and later
by Trajan, who brought the Via Appia down to sea level
by cutting through the cliff below the citadel along the
coast. He and Antoninus Pius expanded the lower town
and drained the nearby Pomptine Marshes. Much later,
Theodonic repaired the Appia here.
The most notable monument of Tarracina is the Temple of Jupiter Anxur, situated on the edge of the high
cliff (ca. 198 m) overlooking the sea. It dates from the
days of Sulla in the early 1st c. B.C. The orientation is
N-S in the Italic manner, set at an angle on the great
courtyard which was made by cutting into the hill at the
back and building up a supporting base on the S and W
sides resting on 12 massive arches in opus incertum, still
visible from afar. The cella is almost square (13 x 14 m); its outer walls carried 6 engaged Corinthian half-columns; a deep porch with 6 columns along the front
and 4 down the sides was reached by a flight of steps at
the center. The base of the Jupiter statue survives at the
back of the cella.
Behind, on a higher level, was a U-shaped ambulatory.
Just E of the temple was an oracular site: a hollowed-out
rock surrounded by a wall. A small square structure (the
“Little Temple”) at the S corner of the temple courtyard
was probably for civic use. In a votive pit near the Oracle
were found many small representations of Jupiter, usually as an infant, most of them of lead.
West of the Jupiter Temple, on the rest of the hilltop,
lay the original town, surrounded by fortification walls
of various dates, of which massive towers and a gate exist.
Much of this acropolis development dates to the age
of Sulla. The Via Appia served as decumanus, the main
longitudinal street. A stone arch, four-sided, stood at the
entrance from Campania. The basilica was nearby. The
forum area (modern Piazza Municipio) still has its ancient pavement, which was laid at the expense of Aulus
Aemilius. A massive substructure of arches supports the
edge of the forum facing the sea. The medieval Romanesque cathedral stands on the site of a Roman temple (perhaps of Rome and Augustus) and incorporates some of its columns.
Another temple, probably the Capitolium since it has
a triple nave, survives rather extensively. In opus reticulatum, it probably dates to ca. 40 B.C., replacing a much
earlier one. Raised on a podium, it had four columns
across the front, with projecting antae behind the corner
ones and a door leading into each of the three naves.
The general plan is square (16.57 m on each side) with
pillars 2.33 m high. The naves are each 9.25 m long and
half as wide. Under each of them was a covered treasury
of opus reticulatum. A ramp of 11 steps led up the front
through the central intercolumniation. To the W was
another temple, possibly of Minerva. Its massive podium
survives (25 m long, 7 high). There is some evidence of
a theater N of the Capitolium near the Porta Nova.
The lower town, between the sea and the relocated
Via Appia below the cliff, is mostly of 2d and 3d c.
construction, though the amphitheater (its arena 90 x 68 m) is somewhat earlier—built mostly in opus reticulatum.
A large baths structure, of the mid 2d c., stands near the
sea. Other baths, more elaborate and of earlier and later
construction periods, are at the SE edge of the lower
The harbor, going back to Volscian times but thereafter silted up, was much improved and enlarged by Trajan and reworked by Antoninus Pius. The mole was an arc from W to E, with extensive dock areas on each side
and a curving breakwater at the entrance, on which probably stood a lighthouse.
Three aqueducts have been traced. Numerous villas
have been located in the vicinity, a proof of the site's
attractiveness. A small Museum holds local finds.
About 5 km from the city, at the foot of Mt. Leano,
was a Sanctuary of Feronia—a goddess of agriculture
and patroness of freed slaves—which Horace mentions
visiting. It comprised a sacred grove, a fountain, and a
small temple. A fine stretch of the old Via Appia used
to be visible between the sanctuary and Tarracina.
; Dion. of Hal. Ant.Rom
2.49; Tac. Hist
. 3.57-61; Plin. HN
3.5.9; Cic. Att
. 7.23.3; Hon. Sat
. 1.5.24-26; Verg. Aen. 7.799-800
; Pomp. Mela 2.4.
M. de la Blanchère, Terracine: Essai d'Histoire Locale
(1884); L. Borsari, “Terracina: Tempio di Giove Anxure,”
(1894) 96-111; R. Fish, Tarracina-Anxur und Kaiser
(1889); G. Lugli, I Santuari Celebri del Lazio
(1932) 111-14; id., La Tecnica Edilizia Romana
(1957) 144-48; S. Aurigemma, Circeo, Terracina, Fondi
(2d ed., 1966)PI
7 (1966) 729-32 (B. Conticello)P
R. V. SCHODER