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SPOLE´TIUM (Σπωλήτιον: Eth. Spoletinus: Spoleto), a city of Umbria, situated between Interamna (Terni) and Trebia (Trevi), about 9 miles S. of the sources of the Clitumnus. Its name is not mentioned in history as an Umbrian town, nor have we any account cf its existence previous to the establishment of the Roman colony, which was settled there in B.C. 240, just after the close of the First Punic War (Liv. Epit. xx.; Vell. 1.14). It was a Colonia Latina, and its name is repeatedly mentioned during the Second Punic War. [p. 2.1033]In B.C. 217, just after the battle at the Lake Trasimenus, Hannibal advanced to the gates of Spoletium, and made an assault upon the city, but was repulsed with so much vigour by the colonists, that he drew off his forces and crossed the Apennines into Picenum. (Liv. 22.9.) A few years later (B.C. 209) Spoletium was one of the colonies which distinguished themselves by their fidelity and zeal in the service of Rome, at the most trying moment of the war. ( Id. 27.10.) For some time after this we hear but little of Spoletium, though it seems to have been a flourishing municipal town. In B.C. 167 it was selected by the senate as the place of confinement of Gentius, king of Illyria, and his sons; but the citizens declined to take charge of them, and they were transferred to Iguvium (Liv. 45.43). But in the civil war between Marius and Sulla it suffered severely. A battle was fought beneath its walls in B.C. 82, between Pompeius and Crassus, the generals of Sulla, and Carrinas, the lieutenant of Carbo, in which the latter was defeated, and compelled to take refuge in the city. (Appian, App. BC 1.89.) After the victory of Sulla, Spoletium was one of the places severely punished, all its territory being confiscated, apparently for the settlement of a military colony. (Flor. 3.21; Zumpt, de Colon. p. 254.) Floras calls Spoletium at this time one of the “municipia Italiae splendidissima;” but this is probably a rhetorical exaggeration. Cicero, however, terms it, in reference to a somewhat earlier period, “colonia Latina in primis firma et illustris.” (Cic. pro Balb. 21) It became a municipium (in common with the other Latin colonies) by virtue of the Lex Julia; and does not appear to have subsequently obtained the title of a colony, though it received a fresh accession of settlers. (Lib. Col. p. 225; Zumpt, l.c.) It is again mentioned during the Perusian War (B.C. 41), as affording a retreat to Munatius Plancus when he was defeated by Octavian (Appian, App. BC 5.33); and seems to have continued under the Empire to be a flourishing municipal town, though rarely mentioned in history. (Strab. v. p.227; Plin. Nat. 3.14. s. 19; Ptol. 3.1.54; Orell. Inscr. 1100, 1103, 3966.) It was at or near Spoletium that the emperor Aemilianus was encamped, when the death of his rivals Gallus and Volusianus gave him temporary possession of the empire; and it was there also that he was himself put to death by his soldiers, after a reign of only three months. (Vict. Epit. 31.) Spoletium is again mentioned during the Gothic Wars, after the fall of the Western Empire, when it was taken by the Gothic king Totila (Procop. B. G. 3.12), who partially destroyed its fortifications; but these were restored by Narses (Ib. 4.33). It was at this time regarded as a strong fortress, and was a place of importance on that account. Under the Lombards it became the capital of a duchy (about A.D. 570), the dukes of which soon rendered themselves altogether independent of the Lombard kings, and established their authority over a considerable part of Central Italy. The duchy of Spoleto did not cease to exist till the 12th century.

Spoletium was not situated on the Via Flaminia, properly so called. That line of highroad proceeded from Narnia to Mevania (Bevagna) by a more direct course through Carsulae, thus leaving on the right hand the two important towns of Interamna and Spoletium. (Strab. v. p.227.) We learn from Tacitus that this continued to be the line of the Flaminian Way as late as the time of Vespasian (Tac. Hist. 3.60); but at a later period the road through Interamna and Spoletium came into general use, and is the one given in the Itineraries. (Itin. Ant. p. 125; Itin. Hier. p. 613.) This must have followed very nearly the same line with the modern road from Rome to Perugia, which crosses a steep mountain pass, called Monte Somma, between Spoleto and Terni; and this was probably the reason that this line was avoided in the first instance by the Via Flaminia. But there must always have been a branch road to Spoletium. and from thence, as we learn from Suetonius (Vesp. 1), another branch led to Nursia in the upper valley of the Nar.

Spoleto is still a tolerably flourishing place, with the rank of a city. It has several Roman remains, among which the most interesting is an arch commonly called the Porta d'Annibale, as being supposed to be the gate of the city from whence that general was repulsed. There is, however, no foundation for this: and it is doubtful whether the arch was a gateway at all. Some remains of an ancient theatre are still visible, and portions of two or three ancient temples are built into the walls of modern churches. A noble aqueduct, by which the city is still supplied with water, though often ascribed to the Romans, is not really earlier than the time of the Lombard dukes. Some remains of the palace inhabited by the latter, but first built by Theodoric, are also visible in the citadel which crowns the hill above the town.


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