, Strab.; Ἄλβα φούκεντις
, Ptol.; the ethnic Albenses, not Albani; see Varr. de L. L
. 8.35), an important city and fortress of Central Italy, situated on the Via Valeria, on a hill of considerable elevation, about 3 miles from the northern shores of the Lake Fucinus, and immediately at the foot of Monte Velino.
There is considerable discrepancy among ancient writers, as to the nation to which it belonged: but Livy expressly tells us that it was in the territory of the Aequians (Albam in Aequos,
10.1), and in another passage (26.11) he speaks of the “Albensis ager” as clearly distinct from that of the Marsians. His testimony is confirmed by Appian (Annib.
39) and by Strabo (v. pp. 238, 240), who calls it the most inland Latin city, adjoining the territory of the Marsians. Ptolemy on the contrary reckons it as a Marsic city, as do Silius Italicus and Festus (Ptol. 3.1.57
; Sil. Ital. 8.506
; Festus v. Albesia,
p. 4, ed. Muller): and this view has been followed by most modern writers.
The fact probably is, that it was originally an Aequian town, but being situated on the frontiers of the two nations, and the Marsians having in later times become far more celebrated and powerful than their neighbours, Alba came to be commonly assigned to them. Pliny (Plin. Nat. 3.12
) reckons the Albenses as distinct both from the Marsi and Aequiculi: and it appears from inscriptions that they belonged to the Fabian tribe, while the Marsi, as well as the Sabines and Peligni, were included in the Sergian. No historical mention of Alba is found previous to the foundation of the Roman colony: but it has been generally assumed to be a very ancient city. Niebuhr even supposes that the name of Alba Longa was derived from thence: though Appian tells us on the contrary that the Romans gave this name to their colony from their own mother-city (l.c.
It is more probable that the name was, in both cases, original, and was derived from their lofty situation, being connected with the same root as Alp.
The remains of its ancient fortifications may however be regarded as a testimony to its antiquity, though we find no special mention of it as a place of strength previous to the Roman conquest.
But immediately after the subjugation of the Aequi, in B.C. 302, the Romans hastened to occupy it with a body of not less than 6000 colonists (Liv. 10.1
; Vell. 1.14
), and it became from this time a fortress of the first class. In B.C. 211, on occasion of the sudden advance of Hannibal upon Rome, the citizens of Alba sent a body of 2000 men to assist the Romans in the defence of the city.
But notwithstanding their zeal and promptitude on this occasion we find them only two years after (in B.C. 209) among the twelve colonies which declared themselves unable to furnish any further contingents, nor did their previous services exempt them from the same punishment with the rest for this default. (Appian, Annib.
39; Liv. 27.9
.) We afterwards find Alba repeatedly selected on account of its great strength and inland position as a place of confinement for state prisoners; among whom Syphax, king of Numidia, Perseus, king of Macedonia, and Bituitus, king of the Arverni, are particularly mentioned. (Strab. v. p.240
; Liv. 30.17
; V. Max. 9.6.3
On the outbreak of the Social War, Alba withstood a siege from the confederate forces, but it was ultimately compelled to surrender (Liv. Epit. lxxii.). During the Civil Wars also it is repeatedly mentioned in a manner that sufficiently attests its importance in a military point of view. (Caes. B.C.
1.15, 24; Appian, Civ.
3.45, 47, 5.30; Cic. Att. 8.1. 2
, A, 9.6; Philipp.
3.3, 15, 4.2, 13.9).
But under the Empire it attracted little attention, and we find no historical mention of it during that period: though its continued existence as a provincial town of some note is attested by inscriptions and other extant remains, as well as by the notices of it in Ptolemy and the Itineraries. (Ptol. l.c.;
Itin. Ant. p. 309; Tab. Peut.; Lib. Colon. p. 253; Muratori, Inscr.
1021. 5, 1038. 1; Orell. no. 4166.) Its territory, on account of its elevated situation, was more fertile in fruit than corn, and was particularly celebrated for the excellence [p. 1.87]
of its nuts. (Sil. Ital. 8.506
; Plin. Nat. 15.24
.) During the later ages of the Roman empire Alba seems to have declined and sunk into insignificance, as it did not become the see of a bishop, nor is its name mentioned by Paulus Diaconus among the cities of the province of Valeria.
At the present day the name of Alba
is still retained by a poor village of about 150 inhabitants, which occupies the northern and most elevated summit of the hill on which stood the ancient city.
The remains of the latter are extensive and interesting, especially those of the walls, which present one of the most perfect specimens of ancient fortification to be found in Italy. Their circuit is about three miles, and they enclose three separate heights or summits of the hill, each of which appears to have had its particular defences as an arx
or citadel, besides the external walls which surrounded the whole. They are of different construction, and probably belong to different periods: the greater part of them being composed of massive, but irregular, polygonal blocks, in the same manner as is found in so many other cities of Central Italy: while other portions, especially a kind of advanced outwork, present much more regular polygonal masonry, but serving only as a facing to the wall or rampart, the substance of which is composed of rubble-work.
The former class of construction is generally referred to the ancient or Aequian city: the latter to the Roman colony. (See however on this subject a paper in the Classical Museum, vol. ii. p. 172.) Besides these remains there exist also the traces of an amphitheatre, a theatre, basilica, and other public buildings, and several temples, one of which has been converted into a church, and preserves its ancient foundations, plan, and columns.
It stands on a hill now called after it the Colle di S. Pietro,
which forms one of the summits already described; the two others are now called the Colle di Pettorino
and Colle di Albe,
the latter being the site of the modern village. (See the annexed plan). Numerous inscriptions belonging to Alba have been transported to the neighbouring
|PLAN OF ALBA FUCENSIS.|
A. Colle di Albe (site of the modern village).
B. Colle di S. Pietro.
C. Colle di Pettorino.
town of Avezzano,
on the banks of the lake Fucinus: while many marbles and other architectural ornaments were carried off by Charles of Anjou to adorn the convent and church founded by him in commemoration of his victory at Tagliacozzo,
A.D. 1268. (Promis, Antichità di Alba Fucense.
8vo. Roma, 1836; Kramer, Der Fuciner See.
p. 55--57; Hoare's Classical Tour,
vol. i. p. 371).