Plut. Dionys.: Eth. Ἀσκλαῖος,
Appian., Asculanus: Ascoli
), a city of Apulia, situated in the interior of the province, about 10 miles S. of Herdonia, and 27 SW. of Canusium.
It was celebrated for the great battle between Pyrrhus and the Romans, which was fought in its immediate neighbourhood, B.C. 269. (Flor. 1.18.9
; Plut. Pyrrh. 21
; Zonar. 8.5
; Dionys. xx. Fr. nov. ed. Didot.) No mention of it is found in history previous to this occasion, but it must have been a place of consequence, as we learn from its having struck coins as an independent city. From these it appears that the proper form of the name was AUSCULUM or AUSCLUM (written in Oscan AUHUSCLUM), whence we find OSCULUM and “Osculana, pugna” cited by Festus from Titinius. (Friedländer, Oskische Münzen,
p. 55; Festus, p. 197, v. Osculana pugna.
) It is again mentioned during the Social War in conjunction with Larinum and Venusia (Appian. B.C.
1.52), and we learn from the Liber Coloniarum
(p. 260) that its territory was portioned out to colonists, first by C. Gracchus, and again by Julius Caesar.
An inscription preserved by Lupoli (Iter Venusin.
p. 174) proves that it enjoyed the rank of a colony under Antoninus Pius, and other inscriptions attest its continued existence as a considerable provincial town as late as the time of Valentinian.
It is therefore not a little singular that no mention of it is found either in Strabo, Pliny, or Ptolemy. We might, indeed, suspect that the AUSECULANI of Pliny (3.11. s. 16
) were the people of Asculum, but that he seems (so far as his very confused list enables us to judge) to place them among the Hirpini.
The modern city of Ascoli
retains nearly the ancient site, on the summit of a gentle hill, forming one of the last declivities of the Apennines towards the plain of Apulia. Considerable remains of the ancient city are still visible among the vineyards without the modern walls; and many inscriptions, fragments of statues, columns, &c. have been found there.
The battle with Pyrrhus was fought in the plain beneath, but in the immediate vicinity of the hills, to which part of the Roman forces withdrew for protection against the cavalry and elephants of the king. (See the newlydiscovered fragment of Dionysius, published by C. Miller at the end of Didot's edition of Josephus, Paris, 1847.)
The name of Asculum is not found in the Itineraries, but we learn from an ancient milestone discovered on the spot that it was situated on a branch of the Appian Way, which led direct from Beneventum to Canusium. (Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 248--251; Lupuli, Iter Venusin. pp.
157--175; Pratilli, Via Appia,
Strab.), a city of Picenum, situated on the river Truentus or Tronto,
about 20 miles from its mouth, and still called Ascoli.
It was frequently termed Asculum Picenum, to distinguish it from the city of the same name in Apulia. (Caes. B.C.
1.15.) Strabo speaks of it as a place of great strength, from its inaccessible position, and the rugged and difficult character of the surrounding country (v, p. 241); and we learn from Florus that it was, prior to the Roman conquest, the capital city of the Piceni. Hence its capture by the consul P. Sempronius Sophus in n. 100.268 appears to have led to the submission of the whole nation. (Flor. 1.19
It bore an important [p. 1.232]
part in the Social War, the massacre of the proconsul Q. Servilius, his legate Fonteius, and all Roman citizens in the town by the people of Asculum, having given the first signal for the actual outbreak of hostilities. Pompeius Strabo was in consequence sent with an army to reduce the refractory city, but was defeated by the Picentians; and even when the tide of fortune was beginning to turn in favour of the Romans, in the second year of the war, Pompeius was unable to reduce it till after a long and obstinate siege. The Italian general Judacilius, himself a native of Asculum, who had conducted the defence, put an end to his own life; and Pompeius, wishing to make an example of the city, put to death all the magistrates and principal citizens, and drove the other inhabitants into exile. (Appian. B.C.
1.38, 47, 48; Oros. 5.18
; Vell. 2.21
; Flor. 3.19
; Liv. Epit.
lxxii., lxxvi.) If we may trust the expressions of Florus, the city itself was destroyed; but this is probably an exaggeration, and it would appear to have quickly recovered from the blow thus inflicted on it, as we find it soon after mentioned by Cicero (pro Sull.
8) as a municipal town, and it was one of the places which Caesar hastened to seize, after he had passed the Rubicon. Lentulus Spinther, who had previously occupied it with 10 cohorts, fled on his approach. (Caes. B.C.
Pliny terms Asculum a colony, the most illustrious in Picenum (3.13. 18); and its colonial dignity is further attested by inscriptions; but the period at which it attained this rank is uncertain, It was probably one of the colonies of Augustus. (Lib. Colon.
p. 227; Gruter, Inscr.
p. 465. 5, 10; Orelli. Inscr.
3760; Zumpt. de Colon.
p. 349.) We learn from numerous inscriptions, that it continued to be a place of importance until a late period of the Roman empire; during the Gothic wars it was besieged and taken by Totila; but is again mentioned by P. Diaconus, as one of the chief cities of Picenum. (Procop. 3.11; P. Diac. 2.19.)
The modern city of Ascoli,
which retains the ancient site, is still an important place, and the capital of a province, with a population of about 8000 inhabitants.
The Itineraries place Asculum on the Via Salaria, which from thence descended the valley of the Truentus to Castrum Truentinum at its mouth, and thence proceeded along the coast to Ancona. (Itin. Ant. pp. 307, 317.) [E.H.B