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ABELLA (Ἀβέλλα, Strab., Ptol.: Eth. Abellanus, Insert. ap. Orell. 3316, Avellanus, Plin.: Avella Vecchia), a city in the interior of Campania, about 5 miles NE. of Nola. According to Justin (20.1), it was a Greek city of Chalcidic origin, which would lead us to suppose that it was a colony of Cumae: but at a later period it had certainly become an Oscan town, as well as the neighboring city of Nola. No mention of it is found in history, though it must have been at one time a place of importance. Strabo and Pliny both notice it among the inland towns of Campania; and though we learn from the Liber de Coloniis, that Vespasian settled a number of his freedmen and dependants there, yet it appears, both from that treatise and from Pliny, that it had not then attained the rank of a colony, a dignity which we find it enjoying in the time of Trajan. It probably [p. 1.3]became such in the reign of that emperor. (Strab. p. 249; Plin. Nat. 3.5.9; Ptol. 3.1.68; Lib. Colon. p. 230; Gruter. Inscr. p. 1096, 1; Zumpt, de Coloniis, p. 400.) We learn from Virgil and Silius Italicus that its territory was not fertile in corn, but rich in fruit-trees (maliferae Abellae): the neighbourhood also abounded in filberts or hazelnuts of a very choice quality, which were called from thence nuces Avellanae (Verg. A. 7.740; Sil. Ital. 8.545; Plin. Nat. 15.22; Serv. ad Georg. 2.65). The modern town of Avella is situated in the plain near the foot of the Apennines; but the remains of the ancient city, still called Avella Vecchia, occupy a hill of considerable height, forming one of the underfalls of the mountains, and command an extensive view of the plain beneath; hence Virgil's expression “despectant moenia Abellae.” The ruins are described as extensive, including the vestiges of an amphitheatre, a temple, and other edifices, as well as a portion of the ancient walls. (Pratilli, Via Appia, p. 445; Lupuli, Iter Venusin. p. 19; Romanelli, vol. iii. p. 597; Swinburne, Travels, vol. i. p. 105.) Of the numerous relics of antiquity discovered here, the most interesting is a long inscription in the Oscan language, which records a treaty of alliance between the citizens of Abella and those of Nola. It dates (according to Mommsen) from a period shortly after the Second Punic War, and is not only curious on account of details concerning the municipal magistrates, but is one of the most important auxiliaries we possess for a study of the Oscan language. This curious monument still remains in the museum of the Seminary at Nola: it has been repeatedly published, among others by Passeri (Linguae Oscae Specimen Singulare, fol. Romae, 1774), but in the most complete and satisfactory manner by Lepsius (Inscr. Umbr. et Osc. tab. xxi.) and Mommsen (Die Unter-Italischen Dialekte, p. 119).


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