(Ascoli Piceno) Marche, Italy.
The principal city of the Piceni (Flor. 1.14),
it was founded by the Sabines (Festus Gloss. Lat
in the center of the valley of the Tronto river at its confluence with the Castellano. An ally of the Romans in
299 B.C., it was subjugated by them in 268 (Fast. Triumph. 486 a.u.c.; Flor. cit. Eutr. 2.16). In 91 B.C., the
social war began at Ascoli (Livy Per
. 72; Vell. Pat.
2.15.1; App. BCiv
. 1.38; Flor. 2.6.9; Oros. 5.18.8) and
was concluded in 89 with the capture of the city under
the command of Pompeius Strabo (Fast. Triumph. 665
a.u.c.; Livy Per. 74, 76; Vell. Pat. 2:21.1; App. BCiv.
1.47-48; Plin. HN 7.135; Frontin. Str. 3.17.8; Gell. NA
). Specific documentation of the long siege is found
in the thousands of missiles discovered around Ascoll
IX, pp. 631-47; Eph. Epigr
. 6  5-47; A. DeGrassi, Inscript. Lat. lib. reipubl
., II, 298ff). The city
subsequently became a municipium (Cic. Sull
. 25) and
was enrolled in the tribus Fabia. It sided with Caesar
in 49 (Caes. BCiv
. 1.15; Luc. 2.468) and became a triumviral or Augustan colony (Plin. HN
3.111), gaining a
territorial increase in the S sector (Grom. Vet. pp. 18-19,
Lachinana). It was an Early Christian diocesan seat.
The Via Salaria (It. Ant
. 307-8; Tab. Peut
p. 582) passed through the settlement, entering (W)
from the Porta Gemina and leaving (SE) by the Ponte
di Cecco. A diverticulum (It. Ant
. 316-17; CIL
479), passing over the Ponte Solestà (or dei Cappuccini),
was a direct route to Firmum and to N Piceno.
Even the ancients (Strab. 5.241
) emphasized the characteristics of security and defensibility of the site. There
is, in fact, a rocky terrace isolated on three sides by
streams and closed off (SW) by the Colle dell'Annunziata. This eminence, where the Capitolium probably
rose, represented the arx, whose fortifications seem to be
linked to the lower defensive system of Porta Gemina.
From that point, the circuit wall must have followed (as
in the Middle Ages) the irregular course dictated by the
eroded banks of the Tronto and Castellano. The reticulate Roman road is substantially maintained in the modern roadway: Corso Mazzini corresponds to the decumanus maximus and Via Pretoriana and Via Malta
correspond to the cardo maximus. The forum was at the
intersection of these two axis streets, between Piazza del
Popolo and Via del Foro (rather than at Piazza Arringo
where the center of the city moved in the Middle Ages).
The urban plan, perhaps prior to the social war, was
refurbished in the Augustan Age. To that period date
the major remaining architectural works: the so-called
Temple of Vesta (21 x 11 m, prostyle, tetrastyle, with
Corinthian columns) now transformed into the Chiesa
di San Gregorio Magno; the Porta Gemina; the Ponte
di Cecco (with two vaults, 14.5 m and 7.15 m); and the
Ponte Solestà (with a single vault 22.2 m). The theater
(at the foot of Colle dell'Annunziata) and the amphitheater (in the NW sector of the city) have not yet been
Pre-Roman and Roman artifacts from Ascoli and its
vicinity are preserved in the Civic Museum.
C. L. Agostini, Asculum
(1947); M. E.
Blake, Ancient Roman Construction in Italy
201, 212, 216, 233; F. Castagnoli, Ippodamo di Mileto
(1956) 93; G. Lugli, La tecnica edilizia romana
350, 357, 634; EAA
I (1958) 705-6 (N. Alfieri); L.
Crema, L'architettura romana
(1959) 220; P. Gazzola,
I ponti romani
(1963) 65-66; G. Annibaldi, “L'architettura dell'antichithà nelle Marche,” Atti XI Congresso di