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VIA LATINA ( Λατινὴ ὁδός) was one of the principal of the numerous highroads that issued from the gates of Rome, and probably one of the most ancient of them. Hence we have no account of the time of its construction, and it was doubtless long in use as a means of communication before it was paved and converted into a regular highroad. Some road or other must always have existed between Rome and Tusculum; while again beyond the Alban hills the valley of the Sacco (Trerus) is one of the [p. 2.1302]natural lines of communication that must have been in use from the earliest times. But it is not probable that the line of the Via Latina was completed as a regular road till after the complete reduction of both the Latins and Volscians under the Roman authority. It is true that Livy speaks of the Via Latina as if it already existed in the time of Coriolanus (2.39), but he in fact uses the name only as a geographical description, both in this passage and again in the history B.C. 296, when he speaks of Interamna as a colony “quae via Latina est” (10.36). Neither passage affords any proof that the road was then in existence; though there is no doubt that there was already a way or line of communication. The course of the Via Latina is, indeed, more natural for such a line of way than that of the more celebrated Via Appia, and must have offered less difficulties before the construction of an artificial road. Nor did it present any such formidable passes in a military point of view as that of Lautulae on the Appian Way, for which reason it was the route chosen both by Pyrrhus when he advanced towards Rome in B.C. 280, and by Hannibal in B.C. 211. (Liv. 26.8, 9.) On the latter occasion the Carthaginian general seems certainly to have followed the true Via Latina across Mount Algidus and by Tusculum (Liv. l.c.); Pyrrhus, on the contrary, turned aside from it as he approached Praeneste, which was the farthest point that he reached in his advance towards Rome.

Whatever may have been the date of the construction of the Via Latina, it is certain that long before the close of the Republic it was one of the best known and most frequented highways in Italy. Strabo speaks of it as one of the most important of the many roads that issued from the gates of Rome (v. p. 237), and takes it as one of the leading and most familiar lines of demarcation in describing the cities of Latium. (lb.) It was, however, in one respect very inferior to its neighbour the Via Appia, that it was not capable of any considerable extension, but terminated at Casilinum, where it joined the Via Appia. (Strab. l.c.) There was, indeed, a branch road that was continued from Teanum by Allifae and Telesia to Beneventum; but though this is given in the Itineraries in connection with the Via Latina (Itin. Ant. pp. 122, 304), it certainly was not generally considered as forming a part of that road, and was merely a cross line from it to the Appian. On the other hand, the main line of the Via Latina, which descended the valley of the Sacco, received on its way the two subordinate lines of road called the VIA LABICANA and VIA PRAENESTINA which issued from Rome by a different gate, but both ultimately joined the Via Latina, and became merged in it. (Strab. l.c.) Such at least is Strabo's statement, and doubtless was the ordinary view of the case in his time. But it would seem as if at a later period the Via Labicana came to be the more frequented road of the two, so that the Antonine Itinerary represents the Via Latina as joining the Labicana, instead of the converse. (Itin. Ant. p. 306.)

The stations, as given in the Itinerary just cited, are as follow:--

Ad Decimum x. M. P.
Roboraria iii. (vi.)
Ad Pictas xvii.  
Compitum Anagninum xv.  
Ferentinum (Ferentino viii.  
Frusino (Frosinone vii.  
Fregellanum (Ceprano xiv. M.P.
Fabrateria (S. Gionanni in Carico iii.  
Aquinum (Aquino viii.  
Casinum (S. Germano vii.  
Teanum (Teano xxvii.  
Cales (Calvi vi.  
Casilinum (Capoua vii.  
Capua (Sta Maria iii.  

(The four last stages are supplied from the Tabula. The Antonine Itinerary gives only the branch of the road that led, as above noticed, to Beneventum.)

It will be observed that, in its course, as above set down, from Rome to Ferentinum, the Via Latina did not pass through any town of importance, the stations given being mere Mutationes, or places for changing horses. But, on account of the importance of this line of road, it will be necessary to describe it somewhat more in detail.

The Via Latina issued from the Porta Capena together with the Via Appia. It was not till about half-way between that gate and the later Porta Appia (Porta di S. Sebastiano), that the two separated, and the Via Latina pursued its own course through the gate in the walls of Aurelian that derived from it the name of Porta Latina. From this gate (now long closed) to a point 2 miles from the Porta Latina, where it crosses the modern road from Rome to Albano, the line of the ancient road may be readily traced by portions of the pavement, and ruins of sepulchres, with which the Latin Way, as well as the Flaminian and Appian (Juv. Sat. 1.171), was bordered. From that point the road may be seen proceeding in a perfectly straight line, which is marked from distance to distance by tombs and other ruins, to the foot of the Tusculan hills. The only one of these ruins which deserves any notice is that commonly called the temple of Fortuna Muliebris, which is in reality a sepulchre of imperial times. About 9 miles from the Porta Capena is a farm or hamlet called Morrena, near which are the extensive remains of a Roman villa, supposed to be that of Lucullus; and about a mile farther must be placed the station Ad Decimum, the 10 miles being undoubtedly reckoned from the Porta Capena. Almost immediately from this point began the ascent of the Tusculan hills: the road still preserved nearly its former direction, leaving Grotta Ferrata on the right, and the citadel of Tusculum on the left; it then passed, as it is described by Strabo (v. p.237), between Tusculum and the Alban Mount, following the line of a deep valley or depression between them, till it reached the foot of Mount Algidus, and, passing through a kind of notch in the ridge of that mountain, at a place now called La Cava, descended to the station Ad Pictas in the plain below. The course of the ancient road may be distinctly traced by remains of the pavement still visible at intervals; the second station, Roboraria (if the distance of six miles given in some MSS. be correct), must have stood near the ruins of a mediaeval castle called Molara. Thence to Ad Pictas the distance is stated at 17 miles, which is certainly greatly above the truth. It was at this station that the Via Labicana joined the Latina; and from this circumstance, compared with the distances given thence to Ferentinum, we may place the site of Ad Pictas somewhere near the Osteria di Mezza Selva, about 10 miles beyond Roboraria. Strabo calls it 210 stadia 26 1/4 miles) [p. 2.1303]from Rome, but it is not clear whether he measured the distance by the Via Latina or the Labicana (v. p. 237). The actual distance of Ferentinum (concerning which there is no doubt) from Rome is 49 miles; and the Compitum Anagninum is correctly placed 8 miles nearer the city, which would exactly agree with the point on the present highroad where the branch to Anagnia still turns off. Both the Itinerary and the Tabula place Ad Pictas 15 miles from the Compitum Anagninum, and this distance would fix it 10 miles from Roboraria, or 26 from Rome, thus agreeing closely with the statement of Strabo. We may, therefore, feel sure that the position above assigned to Ad Pictas, a point of importance, as that where the two roads joined, is at least approximately correct.

The next stations admit of no doubt, and the distances are correct. It was at the Compitum Anagninum, 15 miles beyond Ad Pictas, that the Via Praenestina joined the Latina, which was carried thence down the valley of the Sacco, nearly in the line of the present highroad, by Ferentinum and Frusino, both of which still retain their ancient names, to Fregellanum (Ceprano) on the Liris, whence it turned S. to Fabrateria Nova (the ruins of which are still visible at S. Giovanni in Carico), on the right bank of the Liris. Here it crossed that river by a bridge, of which the ruins are still extant, whence the course of the ancient road may be traced without difficulty through Aquinum, Casinum, Teanum, and Cales to Casilinum on the Vulturnus, where it fell into the Via Appia. Portions of the ancient pavement, sepulchres, and other ruins mark the line of the ancient way throughout the latter part of its course. At a station given in the Tabula under the name of Ad Flexum (9 miles from Casinum) a branch road turned off to Venafrum, whence it ascended the valley of the Vulturnus to Aesernia, and thence into the heart of Samnium. The Antonine Itinerary represents the Via Latina as following this cross-road, and making a bend round by Venafrum, but there can be no doubt that the regular highroad proceeded direct to Teanum. The remains of the ancient road may be distinctly traced, proceeding from Teanum nearly due N. through Cajanello and Tora to S. Pietro in Fine, which was probably the site of the station Ad Flexum. This would be 18 miles from Teanum. The Tabula gives the distance as viii., for which there is no doubt we should read xviii.

The branch of the Via Latina, already alluded to, which was carried to Beneventum, quitted the main road at Teanum, crossed the Vulturnus to Allifae, and thence was carried up the valley of the Calor by Telesia to Beneventum. The distances are thus given in the Antonine Itinerary (p. 304):--

Teanum to Allifae (Alife xvii. M.P.
  Telesia (Telese xxv.  
  Beneventum xvii.  

(The first part of the Via Latina from Rome to the valley of the Liris is examined and discussed in detail by Westphal, Röm. Kamp. pp. 78--97; and Nibby, Vie degli Antichi, pp. 110--119.)


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