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SIPONTUM

SIPONTUM or SIPUNTUM, but in Greek always SIPUS (Σιποῦς,--οῦντος: Eth. Σιπούντιος, Sipontinus: Sta Maria di Siponto), a city of Apulia, situated on the coast of the Adriatic, immediately S. of the great promontory of Garganus, and in the bight of the deep bay formed by that promontory with the prolongation of the coast of Apulia. (Strab. vi. p.284.) This bay is now called the Gulf of Manfredonia, from the city of that name which is situated within a few miles of the site of Sipontum. The Cerbalus, or Cervaro, and the Candelaro fall into this bay a short distance S. of Sipontum, and form at their mouth an extensive lagune or saltwater pool (στομαλίμνη, Strab. l.c.), now called the Pantano Salso. Like most places in this part of Apulia the foundation of Sipontum was ascribed to Diomed (Strab. l.c.): but with the exception of this vague and obscure tradition, which probably means no more than that the city was one of those belonging to the Daunian tribe of Apulians, we have no account of its being a Greek colony. The name is closely analogous in form to others in this part of Italy (Hydruntum, Butuntum, &c.): and its Greek derivation from σηπία, a cuttle-fish (Strab. l.c.), is in all probability fictitious The Greek form Sipus, is adopted also by the Roman poets. (Sil. Ital. 8.633; Lucan 5.377.) The only mention of Sipontum in history before the Roman conquest is that of its capture by Alexander, king of Epirus, about B.C. 330. (Liv. 8.24). Of the manner in which it passed under the yoke of Rome we have no account; but in B.C. 194 a colony of Roman citizens was settled there, at the same time that those of Salernum and Buxentum were established on the other sea. (Liv. 34.45.) The lands assigned to the colonists are said to have previously belonged to the Arpani, which renders it probable that Sipontum itself had been merely a dependency of that city. The new colony, however, does not seem to have prospered. A few years later (B.C. 184) we are told that it was deserted, probably on account of malaria; but a fresh body of colonists was sent there (Liv. 39.22), and it seems from this time to have become a tolerably flourishing town, and was frequented as a seaport, though never rising to any great consideration. Its principal trade was in corn. (Strab. vi. p.284; Me]. 2.4.7; Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Ptol. 3.1.16; Pol. 10.1.) It is, however, mentioned apparently as a place of some importance, during the Civil Wars, being occupied by M. Antonius in B.C. 40. (Appian, App. BC 5.56; D. C. 48.27.) We learn from inscriptions that it retained its municipal government and magistrates, as well as the title of a colony, under the Roman Empire (Mommsen, Inscr. R. N. 927--929); and at a later period Paulus Diaconus mentions it as still one of the “urbes satis opulentae” of Apulia. (P.Diac. Hist. Lang. 2.21.) Lucan notices its situation immediately at the foot of Mount Garganus ( “subdita Sipus montibus,” Lucan 5.377). It was, however, actually situated in the plain and immediately adjoining the marshes at the mouth of the Candelaro, which must always have rendered the site unhealthy; and in the middle ages it fell into decay from this cause, till in 1250 Manfred king of Naples removed all the remaining population to a site about a mile and a half further N., where he built a new city, to which he gave the name of Manfredonia. No ruins of the ancient city are now extant, but the site is still marked by an ancient church, which bears the name of Sta Maria di Siponto, and is still termed the cathedral, the archbishop of Manfredonia bearing officially the title of Archbishop of Sipontum. (Craven's Southern Tour, p. 67; Romanelli, vol. ii. p. 209.) The name of Sipontum is found in the Itineraries (Itin. Ant. p. 314; Tab. Peut.), which give a line of road proceeding along the coast from thence to Barium, passing by the Salinae at the mouth of the Palus Salapina, and therefore following the narrow strip of beach which separated that lagune from the sea. There is still a good horse-road along this beach; but the distances given in the Itineraries are certainly corrupt.

[E.H.B]

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