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BRI´XIA

BRI´XIA (Βριξία, Ptol.; Βρηξία, Strab.: Eth. Brixianus: Brescia), a city of Cisalpine Gaul, in the territory of the Cenomani, between Bergomum and Verona. It was situated on the small river Mela or Mella, at the very foot of the lowest underfalls of the Alps; and about 18 miles W. of the lake Benacus. Both Justin and Livy agree in describing it as one of the cities founded by the Cenomani, after they had passed the Alps and occupied this part of Italy; and the latter author expressly calls it their capital. (Just. 20.5; Liv. 5.35, 32.30.) Pliny and Ptolemy also concur in assigning it to the Cenomani: so that Strabo is clearly mistaken in reckoning it, as well as Mantua and Cremona, a city of the Insubres. (Strab. v. p.213; Plin. Nat. 3.19. s. 23; Ptol. 3.1.31.) The “Brixiani Galli” are mentioned by Livy in B.C. 218, as assisting the Romans against the revolt of the Boii (21.25); and on a later occasion they appear to have held aloof, when the greater part of the Cenomani were in arms against Rome. (Id. 32.30.) But this is all we hear of it previous to the Roman conquest, and the incorporation of Gallia Transpadana with Italy. Under the Roman Empire we find Brixia a flourishing and opulent provincial town. Strabo (l.c.) speaks of it as inferior to Mediolanum and Verona, but ranks it on a par with Mantua and Comum. Pliny gives it the title of a colony, and this is confirmed by inscriptions: in one of these it is styled “Colonia Civica Augusta,” whence it appears that it was one of the colonies founded by Augustus, and settled with citizens, not soldiers. (Plin. l.c.; Orell. Inser. 66; Gruter, Inser. p. 464. 5; Donat. Inser. p. 210. 7; Zumpt, de Colon. p. 351.) Numerous other inscriptions record its local magistrates, sacerdotal offices, corporations or “collegia” of various trades, and other circumstances that attest its flourishing municipal condition throughout the period of the Roman Empire. (Orell. Insecr. 2183, 3744, 3750, &c.; Rossi, Memorie Bresciane, p. 230--324.) It was plundered by the Huns under Attila in A.D. 452 (Hist. Miscell. xv. p. 549), but recovered from this disaster, and under the Lombard rule was one of the principal towns of this part of Italy, and the capital of one of the duchies into which their kingdom was divided. (P. Diac. 2.32, 5.36.)

Catullus terms Brixia the mother-city of Verona, a strong proof of the belief in its antiquity. He describes it as traversed by the river Mela (Flavus quam molli percurrit flumine Mela, Carm. 67.33); but at the present day that river (still called the Mella) flows about a mile to the W. of it; while, Brescia itself is situated on a much smaller stream called the Garza. Existing remains prove that the ancient city occupied the same site with the modern one; nor is it likely that the river has changed its course: and Philargyrius, writing in the fourth century, correctly describes it as flowing near Brixia. (Philarg. ad Georg. 4.278.) The “Cycnea Specula” mentioned by Catullus in the same passage, was probably a tower or mounument on one of the hills which rise immediately above Brescia, and which are of moderate elevation, though immediately connected with more lofty ridges, and form one of the last offshoots of the Alps towards the plain of Lombardy.

The remains of antiquity still extant at Brescia are of considerable importance. Of the buildings the most remarkable is that commonly called the temple of Hercules, though it is very doubtful whether it was [p. 1.444]not a basilica or court-house, rather than a temple. Some portions of the theatre may also be traced, though buried under modern buildings, as well as some Corinthian columns supposed to have been part of the forum. The beauty, number, and variety of other architectural fragments, which have been discovered in different parts of the town, is such as to give a very high opinion of the condition of this art in a second-class provincial town under the Romans Empire. Some ancient works in bronze have also been found here, among which a statue of Victory is deservedly celebrated. The collection of inscriptions is unusually extensive, having been commenced as early as the year 1480, and all that have been found, diligently preserved. (The monuments recently discovered at Brescia, have been described and published by Labus, in 1834; see also the Ann. dell' Inst. Arch. 1839, pp. 182--183. The older work of Rossi, Memorie Bresciane, 4to. Brescia, 1693, contains many fables and fancies, but has still preserved much that is valuable.)

Brixia appears in ancient times to have possessed an extensive territory or “ager,” of which it was the municipal head; and several of the Alpine tribes who inhabited the neighbouring vallies were subjected to its rule. Among these we may certainly include the TRIUMPILINI who occupied the upper valley of the Mela, still called the Val Trompia; the SABINI who inhabited the Val Sabbia, or valley of the Chiese; and the inhabitants of the western bank of the Lake Benacus. Among the smaller towns which were dependent on Brixia, we find mentioned in inscriptions: Voberna, still called Vobarno, in the valley of the Chiese; Edrum (Edrani), now Idro, which gives name to the Lago d'Idro; and Vargadum (Vargadenses), the name of which is slightly distorted in that of the modern Gavardo, a small town on the river Chiese, about 12 miles E. of Brescia. (Plin. Nat. 3.20. s. 24; Cluver. Ital. pp. 107, 108, 252; Rossi, Mem. Bresciane, pp. 196, 271, 279.)

[E.H.B]

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