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AU´FIDUS (Αὔφιδος: Ofanto), the principal river of Apulia, and one of the most considerable of Southern Italy, flowing into the Adriatic Sea. Polybius says (3.110) that it is the only river of Italy that traverses the central chain of the Apennines, which is a mistake; but its sources are at so short a distance from the Tyrrhenian Sea, as to have readily given rise to the error. It actually rises in the Apennines, in the country of the Hirpini, about 15 miles W. of Compsa (Conza), and only 25 from Salernum, on the Tyrrhenian Sea. From thence it flows through the rugged mountain country of the Hirpini for a distance of above 40 miles to the frontiers of Apulia, which it crosses between Asculum and Venusia, and traverses the broad plains of that province, till it discharges itself into the Adriatic, about half way between Sipontum and Barium. Like most of the rivers of Italy, it has much of the character of a great mountain torrent. Horace, whose native place of Venusia was scarcely 10 miles distant from the Aufidus (whence he calls himself “longe sonantem natus ad Aufidum,” Carm. 4.9. 2), alludes repeatedly to the violent and impetuous character of its stream, when swollen by winter floods or by heavy rains in the mountains of the Hirpini; nor has it in this respect degenerated from its ancient character. (Hor. Carm. 3.30. 10, 4.14. 25, Sat. 1.1. 58.) But in the summer, on the contrary, it dwindles to a very inconsiderable river, so that it is at this season readily fordable at almost any point; and below Canusium it is described by a recent traveller as “a scanty stream, holding its slow and winding course through the flat country from thence to the sea.” (Craven, Travels, p. 86.) Hence Silius Italicus, in describing the battle of Cannae, speaks of the “stagnant Aufidus” (stagna Aufida, 10.180; see also 11.510), an epithet well deserved where it traverses that celebrated plain. So winding is this part of its course, that the distance from the bridge of Canusium to the sea, which is only 15 miles in a direct line, is nearly double that distance along the river. (Lupuli, Iter Venusin. p. 176; Swinburne, Travels, vol. i. p. 165; Giustiniani, Diz. Geogr. pt. ii. vol. iii. p. 44.) Strabo speaks of it as navigable for a distance of 90 stadia from its mouth, at which point the Canusians had an emporium. But this could never have been accessible to any but very small vessels. (Strab. vi. p.283; Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Mela, 2.4; Ptol. 3.1.15.)

There are at the present day only three bridges over the Aufidus, all of which are believed to have been originally of ancient construction; the one called the Ponte di Canosa, 3 miles W. of that city, was traversed by the Via Trajana from Herdonia to Canusium; that called the Ponte di Sta. Vesnere, about 7 miles from Lacedogna, is clearly the PONS AUFIDI of the Itin. Ant. (p. 121), which places it on the direct road from Beneventum to Venusia, 18 M. P. from the latter city. The ancient Roman bridge is still preserved, and an inscription records its restoration by M. Aurelius. (Pratilli, Via Appia, 4.100.5, p. 469; Lupuli, Iter Venusin. p. 178; Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 230, 231.)

The Itineraries also notice a station at the mouth of the river where it was crossed by the coast road from Sipontum to Barium; but its name is corrupted into Aufidena (Itin. Ant. p. 314) and Aufinum (Tab. Peut.)


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