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PO NTIA

PO NTIA or PO´NTIAE (Ποντία: Ponza), an island in the Tyrrhenian sea, situated off the coast of Italy, nearly opposite to the Circeian promontory. It is the most considerable of a group of three small islands, now collectively known as the Isole di Ponza; the ancient names of which were, PALMARIA now Palmaruola, the most westerly of the three, Pontia in the centre, and SINONIA (Zannone) to the NE. (Plin. Nat. 3.6. s. 12; Mel. 2.7.18.) They are all of volcanic origin, like the Pithecusae (Aenaria and Proclyta), nearer the coast of Campania, and the island of Pandataria (now called Vandotena), about midway between the two groups. Strabo places Pontia about 250 stadia from the mainland (v. p. 233), which is nearly about the truth, if reckoned (as he does) from the coast near Caieta; but the distance from the Circeian promontory does not exceed 16 geog. miles or 160 stadia. We have no account of Pontia previous to the settlement of a Roman colony there in B.C. 313, except that it had been already inhabited by the Volscians. (Liv. 9.28 ; Diod. 19.101.) The colonisation of an island at this distance from the mainland offers a complete anomaly in the Roman system of settlements, of which we have no explanation; and this is the more remarkable, because it was rot, like most of the maritime colonies, a “colonia maritima civium,” but was a Colonia Latina. (Liv. 27.10.) Its insular situation preserved it from the ravages of war, and hence it was one of the eighteen which during the most trying period of the Second Punic War displayed its zeal and fidelity to the Roman senate, when twelve of the Latin colonies had set a contrary example. (Ibid.) Strabo speaks of it as in his time a well peopled island (v. p. 233). Under the Roman Empire it became, as well as the neighbouring Pandataria, a common place of confinement for state prisoners. Among others, it was here that Nero, the eldest son of Germanicus, was put to death by order of Tiberius. (Suet. Tib. 54, Cal. 15.)

The island of Ponza is about 5 miles long, but very narrow, and indented by irregular bays, so that in some places it is only a few hundred yards across. The two minor islands of the group, Palmaruola and Zannone, are at the present day uninhabited. Varro notices Palmaria and Pontia, as well as Pandataria, as frequented by great flocks of turtle doves and quails, which halted there on their annual migrations to and from the coast of Italy. (Varr. R. R. 3.5.7.)

[E.H.B]

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