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ASCULUM PICENUM (Ascoli Piceno) Marche, Italy.

The principal city of the Piceni (Flor. 1.14), it was founded by the Sabines (Festus Gloss. Lat. 320) 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 15.4). Specific documentation of the long siege is found in the thousands of missiles discovered around Ascoll ( CIL IX, pp. 631-47; Eph. Epigr. 6 [1885] 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.; CIL IX, 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 IX, p. 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 sufficiently explored.

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 (1947) 76, 201, 212, 216, 233; F. Castagnoli, Ippodamo di Mileto (1956) 93; G. Lugli, La tecnica edilizia romana (1957) 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 Storia dell'Architettura (1965) 3-44.


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