(the name is variously written both in MSS. and even inscriptions, but Saepinum is probably the most correct form: Σαίπινον
, Ptol.: Eth. Saepinas
), a city of Samnium, in the country of the Pentri, on the E. slope of the great group of the Monte Matese,
and near the sources of the Tamaro
It seems to have been in early times one of the chief towns of the Samnites, or rather one of the few which they possessed worthy of the name. From its position in the heart of their country it was not till the Third Samnite War that it was attacked by the Roman arms; but in B.C. 293 it was besieged by the consul L. Papirius Cursor, and though vigorously defended by a garrison amounting almost to an army, was at length carried by assault. (Liv. 10.44
.) From this time the name of Saepinum disappears from history, but it is found again at a later period among the municipal towns of Samnium under the Roman Empire. Its name is not indeed mentioned by Strabo, among the few surviving cities of Samnium in his day: but it received a colony under Nero (Lib. Colon.
p. 237), and appears for a time to have recovered some degree of importance. Its name is found both in Ptolemy and Pliny among the municipal towns of Samnium; and it is certain from inscriptions that it did not bear the title of a Colonia. (Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17
; Ptol. 3.1.67
; Orell. Inscr.
140; Mommsen, Inscr. R. N.
4918, 4929, 4934, &c.) Its name is mentioned also in the Tabula, which places it 30 M. P. from Beneventum, the intermediate station being a place called Sirpium, the site of which is unknown. (Tab. Peut.
Saepinum became an episcopal see before the fall of the Roman Empire; it had, however, fallen into great decay in the time of the Lombards, but was repeopled by Romoaldus, duke of Beneventum (P. Diac. 5.30), and survived till the 9th century, when it was taken and plundered by the Saracens; after which it seems to have been abandoned by the inhabitants, who withdrew to the site occupied by the modern town of Sepino,
about 2 miles from the site of the ancient one.
The ruins of the latter, which are now called Altilia,
are evidently of Roman date, and, from their regularity and style of construction, render it probable that the town was entirely rebuilt at the time of the establishment of the Roman colony, very probably not on the same site with the ancient Samnite city.
The existing walls, which remain in almost complete preservation throughout their whole circuit, and which, as we learn from an inscription over one of the gates, were certainly erected by Nero (Mommsen, I. R. N.
4922), enclose a perfect square, with the angles slightly rounded off, and four gates, placed at the four cardinal points, flanked by massive square towers.
The masonry is of reticulated work, the arches only of the gates being of massive stone. Within the enclosure are the remains of a theatre, besides the substructions and vestiges of several other buildings, and numerous fragments of an architectural character, as well as inscriptions. Of these last the most interesting is one which is still extant at the gate leading to Bovianum, and has reference to the flocks which then, as now, passed annually backwards and forwards from the thirsty plains of Apulia to the upland pastures of Samnium, especially of the Matese;
and which appear to have even then followed the same line of route: the tratturo
or sheep-track still in use passing directly through the ruins of Altilia.
vol. ii. pp. 130--135; Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 444--448; Mommsen, I. R. N.