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VELITRAE

VELITRAE (Οὐέλιτραι: Eth. Οὐελιτρανός, Eth. Veliternus: Velletri), a city of Latium situated on the southern slope of the Alban hills, looking over the Pomptine Marshes, and on the left of the Via Appia. There can be no doubt that it was included within the limits of Latium, as that name was usually understood, at least in later times: but there is great uncertainty as to whether it was originally a Latin or a Volscian city. On the one hand Dionysius includes the Veliterni in his list of the thirty cities of the Latin League, a document probably derived from good authority (Dionys. A. R. 5.61). On the other hand both Dionysius himself and Livy represent Velitrae as a Volscian city at the earliest period when it came into collision with Rome. Thus Dionysius, in relating the wars of Ancus Marcius with the Volscians, speaks of Velitrae as a city of that people which was besieged by the Roman king, but submitted, and was received to an alliance on favourable terms. (Id. 3.41.) Again in B.C. 494, just about the period when its name figures in Dionysius as one of the Latin cities, it is mentioned both by that author and by Livy as a Volscian city, which was wrested from that people by the consul P. Virginius (Id. 6.42; Liv. 2.30). According to Livy a Roman colony was sent there the same year, which was again recruited with fresh colonists two years afterwards. (Liv. 2.31, 34.) Dionysius, on the contrary, makes no mention of the first colony, and represents that sent in B.C. 492 as designed to supply the exhausted population of Velitrae, which had been reduced to a low state by a pestilence. (Dionys. A. R. 7.13, 14.) It appears certain at all events that Velitrae received a Roman colony at this period; but it had apparently again fallen into decay, as it received a second body of colonists in B.C. 404. (Diod. 14.34.) Even this did not suffice to secure its allegiance to Rome: shortly after the Gaulish war, the Roman colonists of Velitrae joined with the Volscians in their hostilities, and after a short time broke out into open revolt. (Liv. 6.13, 21.) They were indeed defeated in B.C. 381, together with the Praenestines and Volscians, who supported them, and their city was taken the next year (ib. 22, 29); but their history from this time is a continued succession of outbreaks and hostile enterprises against Rome, alternating with intervals of dubious peace. It seems clear that they had really assumed the position of an independent city, like those of the neighbouring Volscians, and though the Romans are said to have more than once taken this city, they did not again restore it to the position of a Roman colony. Thus notwithstanding its capture in B.C. 380, the citizens were again in arms in 370, and not only ravaged the territories of the Latins in alliance with Rome, but even laid siege to Tusculum. They were quickly defeated in the field, and Velitrae itself in its turn was besieged by a Roman army; but the siege [p. 2.1269]was protracted for more than two years, and it is not quite clear whether the city was taken in the end. (Liv. 6.36, 37, 38, 42.) In B.C. 358 they again broke out, and ravaged the Roman territories, but we hear nothing of their punishment (Liv. 7.15): and in B.C. 340, on the outbreak of the great Latin War, they are represented as among the first to join in the defection. It is evident indeed that they were at this time still a powerful people: their troops bore an important part in two successive campaigns, but shared in the general defeat of the Latins on the banks of the Astura, B.C. 338. (Liv. 8.3, 12, 13; Fast. Capit.) After the close of the war they were selected for the severest punishment, on the especial ground of their having been originally Roman citizens. Their walls were destroyed, and their local senators transported beyond the Tiber, under a severe penalty in case of their return. Their place was, however, supplied by a body of fresh colonists, so that the city continued to be not less populous than before. (Liv. 8.14.)

From this time Velitrae sank into the condition of an ordinary municipal town, and we hear little of it in history. It is mentioned incidentally on occasion of some prodigies that occurred there (Liv. 30.38, 32.1, 9), but with this exception its name is not again mentioned till the close of the Republic. We hear, however, that it was a flourishing municipal town, and it derived some celebrity at the commencement of the Empire from the circumstance of its having been the native place of the Octavian family, from which the emperor Augustus was descended. The Octavii indeed claimed to be descended from the ancient Roman family of the same name; but it is certain that both the grandfather and great-grandfather of Augustus were merely men of equestrian rank, who held municipal magistracies in their native town. (Suet. Aug. 1, 2; D. C. 45.1.) According to the Liber Coloniarum, Velitrae had received a fresh body of colonists in the time of the Gracchi; but it continued to retain its municipal rank until the reign of Claudius, when it received a military colony, and from this time assumed the title of a Colonia, which we find it bearing in inscriptions (Lib. Colon. p. 238; Zumpt, de Cot. p. 383; Orell. Inscr. 1740, 3652). No mention of the city occurs in history under the Roman Empire, but its name is found in the geographers, and inscriptions testify that it continued to exist as a flourishing town down to near the close of the Empire. (Strab. v. p.237; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Sil. Ital. 8.376; Nibby, Dintorni, vol. iii. p. 450.) It appears to have subsequently suffered severely from the ravages of the barbarians, but continued to subsist throughout the middle ages: and the modern city of Velletri still occupies the site of the ancient one, though it has no remains of antiquity. Its position is very similar to that of Lanuvium (Civita Lavinia), on a projecting rock or spur of hill, standing out from the more elevated group of the Alban hills, and rising like a headland above the plain of the Pomptine Marshes, which lie stretched out beneath it. The inscriptions which have been discovered there have been published by Cardinali (Inscrizioni Antiche Veliterne, 4to. Roma, 1823). From one of these we learn that the ancient city possessed an amphitheatre, which was repaired as late as the reign of Valentinian, but no traces of it are now visible. It had also temples of Apollo, Hercules and Mars, as well as of the Sabine divinity Sancus. (Liv. 32.1.)

Pliny notices the territory of Velitrae as producing a wine of great excellence, inferior only to the Falernian (Plin. Nat. 14.6. s. 8).

[E.H.B]

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