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COMUM

COMUM (Κῶμον: Eth. Κωμίτης, Eth. Comensis: [p. 1.653]Como), an important city of Cisalpine Gaul, situated at the southern extremity of the Lacus Larius, immediately at the foot of the Alps; and distant 28 miles from Milan. (Itin. Ant. p. 278, where we should certainly read xxviii. for xviii. The Tab. Peut. gives xxxv., which considerably exceeds the truth.) It was included in the territory of the Insubrian Gauls (Ptol. 3.1.33); though according to Pliny, Cato assigned the foundation of Comum as well as Bergomum to a people called the Orobii, who are not mentioned by any other author, and would seem to have been extinct in the time of Pliny himself. (Cato ap. Plin. Nat. 3.17. s. 21.) Justin mentions Comum among the cities founded by the Gauls after their occupation of this part of Italy, but without indicating the particular tribe. (Just. 20.5.) Its name occurs only once during the wars of the Romans with the Gauls, in B.C. 196, when the Comenses joined their arms with those of the Insubrians; but their united forces were defeated by Marcellus, and the town of Comum itself taken. (Liv. 33.36.) After the reduction of Cisalpine Gaul, it appears early to have been occupied by a body of Roman settlers; but these having suffered severely from the incursions of the neighbouring Rhaetians, a more considerable body of colonists was established there by Pompeius Strabo, to which 3000 more were soon after added by C. (?) Scipio. A still more important accession to their numbers was made by Julius Caesar, who settled there 5000 new colonists, of whom 500 were Greeks of distinction. (Strab. v. p.213.) Whether the site of the town was changed at this time does not appear, but the new colony assumed the title of Novum Comum, by which it is designated by Catullus (35.3): Greek writers term it Νεόκωμον, and the inhabitants Νεοκωμῖται (Appian, App. BC 2.26; Strab. l.c.; Ptolemy has ϝέα κώμη, but this is probably erroneous). The new colonists had obtained the Latin franchise; but just before the outbreak of the civil war, the enemies of Caesar endeavoured to cancel this privilege; and the consul C. Marcellus even went so far as to order a magistrate of the colony to be scourged, by way of an insult to Caesar. (Appian, l.c.; Suet. Jul. 28; Plut. Caes. 29; Cic. Att. 5.1. 1) But after the victory of the latter, the citizens of Comum obtained the full Roman civitas, in common with the rest of the Transpadane Gauls (B.C. 49); and it from this time ceased to be a colony, ranking only as a municipium, though it was one of the most populous and flourishing towns in this part of Italy. The name of New Comum seems to have been early laid aside, and it was called simply Comum. It is probable that it was the birthplace of both the elder and the younger Pliny, though we have no direct testimony to this effect; the latter certainly made the adjoining lake his favourite place of residence, and had several villas on its banks, one of which, about five miles from Como, is still known as the Pliniana. There is little doubt that his native place (patria), to which he repeatedly alludes, and which he enriched with public works, as well as with a library and other institutions for purposes of education, is no other than Comum. (Plin. Ep. 1.3, 8, 3.6, 4.13; Orell. Inscr. 1172.) With this exception, however, we hear little of it under the Roman Empire: inscriptions prove that it continued to be a flourishing municipal town, and one of these, in honour of a grammarian named Septicianus, shows that the efforts of Pliny to render it a school of learning were not altogether fruitless. (Orell. Inscr. 1197, 3898.) It was, however, more noted for its iron foundries, which were among the most celebrated in Italy. (Plin. Nat. 34.14. s. 41.) Its position at the southern end of the Lacus Larius, the fertile and beautiful shores of which were comprised, in great part at least, within its territory, must, in itself, have secured its prosperity: it was also the point from whence travellers, proceeding across the Rhaetian Alps, used to embark on the lake; a route which appears to have been one very much frequented during the latter ages of the Empire. (Itin. Ant. p. 279; Claudian. B. Get. 319; Cassiod. Var. 11.14.) It appears to have retained its prosperity down to the close of the Roman Empire, and is still mentioned as a flourishing city under the Goths and Lombards. In the 4th century we find that a fleet was stationed there for the protection of the lake; and Cassiodorus speaks of it as one of the bulwarks of Italy in a military point of view, while he extols the beauty of its situation, and the richness of the villas or palaces with which the neighbouring shores were adorned. (Not. Dign. ii. p. 118; Cassiod. l.c.; P. Diac. 5.38.) Comum continued to be a city of importance in the middle ages, and is still a populous and flourishing place; but contains no remains of antiquity, except numerous inscriptions, several of which relate to the family of the two Plinies.

The Lacus Larius, now called the Lake of Como, was already under the Roman Empire sometimes termed Lacus Comacinus. (Itin. Ant. p. 278.) P. Diaconus (5.38) calls it Comatianus Lacus.

[E.H.B]

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