: Eth. Venusinus
), a city of Apulia, situated on the Appian Way, about 10 miles S. of the river Aufidus.
It nearly adjoined the frontiers of Lucania, so that, according to Horace, himself a native of the place, it was doubtful whether it belonged properly to Lucania or to Apulia, and the territory of the city, as assigned to the Roman colony, included a portion of that of both nations. (Hor. Sat.
2.1. 34, 35.)
This statement of Horace leaves it doubtful to what people Venusia originally belonged, though it is more probable that it was an Apulian city, and that it received only an accession of territory from Lucania. Later writers, indeed, distinctly assigned it to Apulia. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16
; Ptol. 3.1.73
; Lib. Colon.
But no mention of it is found in history till the occasion of its capture by the Roman consul L. Postumius, in B.C. 262 (Dionys. Exc. Vales.
p. 2335), when we are told that it was a populous and important town.
A large part of the inhabitants was put to the sword, and, shortly afterwards, a Roman colony was established there by order of the senate. (Dionys. l.c.;
Vell. 1.14; Hor. l.c.
) The colonists are said to have been 20,000 in number, which must be either a mistake or an exaggeration; but there seems no doubt that the new colony became a populous and flourishing place, and was able to render important services to the Roman state during the Second Punic War.
It was at Venusia that the consul Terentius Varro took refuge with 700 horse after the great defeat at Cannae (B.C. 216), and where he was gradually able to gather around him a force of about 4000 horse and foot. The Venusians vied with one another in showing them the utmost attention, and furnished them with clothing, arms, and other necessaries. (Liv 22.49, 54; Plb. 3.116
.) Again, at a later period of the war, when so many of the Roman colonies proved unable to satisfy the repeated demands of the senate, the Venusians were among those who continued steadfast, and declared themselves ready to furnish the troops and supplies required of them. (Liv. 27.10
It was after this, through several successive campaigns, the head-quarters of the Roman commanders in Apulia. (Ib.
20, 41; Appian, Annib.
But the colony suffered severely from all these exertions, and, in B.C. 200, after the close of the war, it was found necessary to recruit its exhausted [p. 2.1277]
strength with a fresh body of colonists. (Liv. 31.49
.) From this time Venusia seems to have always continued to be a flourishing town and one of the most considerable places in this part of Italy.
It bore an important part in the Social War, having early joined in the outbreak, and became one of the principal strongholds of the allies in the south of Italy. (Appian, App. BC 1.39
In the second year of the war its territory was ravaged by the Roman praetor Cosconius, but we do not learn that the city itself fell into his hands. (Ib.
At all events it did not suffer severely, as it is afterwards mentioned by Appian as one of the most flourishing cities of Italy (Ib.
4.3); and Strabo also notices it as one of the few cities in this region which retained their consideration in his time (v. p. 250).
It received a colony of veterans under the Triumvirate (Appian, App. BC 4.3
; Zumpt, de Colon.
p. 332), and seems to have retained the rank of a Colonia under the Empire, as we find it bearing that designation both in Pliny and in inscriptions. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16
; Orell. Inscr.
867; Mommsen, Inscr. R. N.
735, 745.) Its position on the Appian Way doubtless contributed to its prosperity, and it is mentioned more than once by Cicero as a customary halting-place in proceeding from Rome to Brundusium. (Cic. Att. 5.5
It appears indeed that the great orator had himself a villa there, as one of his letters is dated “de Venusino” (ad Fam.
But the chief interest of Venusia is undoubtedly derived from its having been the birthplace of Horace, who was born there in the consulship of L. Manlius Torquatus and L. Aurelius Cotta, B.C. 65. (Hor. Carm. 3.21
The works of the poet abound in allusions to the neighbourhood of his native city, the fountain of Bandusia, the forests of Mount Vultur, &c.
But it does not appear that he ever resided there in the latter years of his life, having lost his paternal estate, which was confiscated in the civil wars. (Id. Ep.
We hear nothing of Venusia under the Roman Empire, but it is certain from the Liber Coloniarum, which mentions it among the Civitates Apuliae, and from the Itineraries, that it continued to exist as a city, and apparently one of the most considerable in this part of Italy. (Ptol. 3.1.73
; Lib. Colon.
pp. 210, 261; Itin. Ant.
pp. 104, 113, 121; Tab. Pent.
) This is further confirmed by inscriptions, in one of which it is called “splendida civitas Venusinorum.” (Mommsen, I. R. N.
It retained the same consideration throughout the middle ages, and is still an episcopal city with about 6000 inhabitants. Its antiquities have been illustrated with a profusion of erudition by Italian writers, but it has few ancient remains of much interest; though fragments of ancient edifices, mosaic pavements, &c. have been found on the site, as well as numerous inscriptions.
These last have been collected and published by Mons. Lupoli, in his Marmora Venusina
|COIN OF VENUSIA.|
(added as an appendix to the Iter Venusinum,
4to Neapoli, 1797), and more recently by Mommsen, in his Inscriptiones Regni Neapolitani
(pp. 39--48). Concerning the antiquities of Venusia in general, see the work of Lupoli above quoted, and that of Cimaglia (Antiquitates Venusinae,
4to. Neapol. 1757.)