(Assisi) Umbria, Italy.
On a W
foothill of the Appenines, it is best known for its mediaeval son St. Francis but was probably also the birthplace
of the Roman poet Propertius. It belonged in Roman
times to the Tribus Sergia and was a municipium. From
epigraphic evidence it is known that its chief magistrates
retained the old Umbrian title of Marones. The town
enjoyed modest prosperity under the Empire, when its
public buildings multiplied. Totila destroyed most of it
in A.D. 545.
The Roman town, built over a previous Umbrian settlement, was surrounded by a substantial wall of rectangular
blocks of local limestone. Ruins of one of the gates survive. Houses and civic buildings on the acropolis hill were
supported by a series of terraces with strong substructures of travertine.
The forum had porticos except to the N where a temple faced it from a somewhat higher level. Remnants of
the forum's limestone-block pavement have been found,
and the foundations of its tribunal and of a small temple-like shrine to the Dioscuri.
The temple, traditionally ascribed to Minerva, had six
Corinthian monolithic columns across the front, with its
approach stairs built between their bases, and a molding
around the pediment above. These extant elements of the
facade, and some of the interior, are now incorporated
into the Church of Santa Maria, which stands on the site
of the temple. Greek influence on the style is manifest.
The temple probably dates to the late 1st c. A.D.
Considerably to the E are the remains of a theater,
its cavea facing E. Nearby is a large Roman cistern, under the campanile of the present Church of San Rufino,
built of large travertine blocks and with a barrel vault.
An inscription in place ascribes its construction and that
of some other buildings to the Marones, seemingly in the
2d c. A.D.
To the NE, outside the city wall, was the small amphitheater, built of brick with a veneer of local stone. Not
much of it survives.
Some houses have been traced within the limits of the
modern town, especially near the Bishop's palace. One of
these has yielded some good frescos, including a charming scene of birds among leafy branches. Some of the
paintings carry epigrams in Greek.
Excavations since 1956 promise further data on this
rather neglected site.
(calling the town “Aision”); Plin. NH
3.113; Ptol. Geogr
E. Zocca, Assisi and its Environs
(1950); G. Antolini,
Il Tempio di Minerva in Assisi
(1828); guidebook: Assisi
1 (1958) 741 (C. Pietrangeli)P
R. V. SCHODER