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VENAFRUM

VENAFRUM (Οὐέναφρον: Eth. Venafranus: Venafro), an inland city of Campania, situated n the upper valley of the Vulturnus, and on the Via Latina, 16 miles from Casinum and 18 from Teanum. (Itin. Ant. p. 303.) It was the last city of Campania towards the N., its territory adjoining on the W., that of Casinum (S. Germano), which was included in Latium, in the more extended sense of that name, and that of Aesernia on the NE., which formed part of Samnium. It stood on a hill rising above the valley of the Vulturnus, at a short distance from the right bank of that river. (Strab. v. p.238.) No mention is found in history of Venafrum before the Roman conquest of this part of Italy, and it is uncertain to what people it originally belonged; but it is probable that it had fallen into the hands of the Samnites before that people came into collision with Rome. Under the Roman government it appears as a flourishing municipal town: Cato, the most ancient author by whom it is mentioned, notices it as having manufactures of spades, tiles, and ropes (Cato, Cat. Agr. 135): at a later period it was more noted for its oil, which was celebrated as the best in Italy, and supplied the choicest tables of the great at Rome under the Empire. (Hor. Carm. 2.6.16, Sat. 2.4. 69; Juv. 5.86; Martial, 13.98; Strab. v. pp. 238, 242; Varr. R. R. 1.2.6; Plin. Nat. 15.2. s. 3.)

The only occasion on which Venafrum figures in history is during the Social War, B.C. 88, when it was betrayed into the hands of the Samnite leader Marius Egnatius, and two Roman cohorts that formed the garrison were put to the sword. (Appian, App. BC 1.41.) Cicero more than once alludes to the great fertility of its territory (Cic. de Leg. Agr. 2.2. 5, pro Planc. 9), which was one of those that the tribune Rullus proposed by his agrarian law to divide among the Roman citizens. This project proved abortive, but a colony was planted at Venafrum under Augustus, and the city continued henceforth to bear the title of a Colonia, which is found both in Pliny and in inscriptions. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Lib. Col. p. 239; Zumpt, de Colon. p. 347; Mommsen. Inscr. R.N. 4643, 4703.) These last, which are very numerous, sufficiently attest the flourishing condition of Venafrum under the Roman Empire: it continued to subsist throughout the middle ages, and is still a town of about 4000 inhabitants. It retains the ancient site as well as name, but has few vestiges of antiquity, except the inscriptions above mentioned and some shapeless fragments of an edifice supposed to have been an amphitheatre. The inscriptions are published by Mommsen. (Inscr. R. N. pp. 243--249.)

[E.H.B]

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