later ALERIA Corsica, France.
way down the E coast of Corsica, opposite the W shores
of Etruria, it was first a Greek, then a Roman colony.
According to Herodotos (1.162-67
), a group of settlers
from Phokaia established themselves on the site about
twenty years before the campaigns conducted by the
Persian king Cyrus against the Greek cities of Ionia, in
other words about 565-560. They were joined around
545-540 by part of the population of the besieged Phokaia. By practicing piracy in Etruscan territory and
among the Carthaginian possessions in Sardinia, the
Greeks of Alalia provoked a punitive expedition by the
Punic and Etruscan fleets. The battle of Alalia (about
535) was a costly Pyrrhic victory for the Phokaians.
Contrary to Herodotos' assertions, it does not appear that the whole population then left Alalia, first for
Rhegion, then Velia (Elea). Certainly Etruscans, and
possibly Carthaginians, came to join the Greek and
native elements. They made Alalia a very active, cosmopolitan port. After a short period of Carthaginian
control, Rome took the town ca. 259 B.C. (the epitaph
of L. Cornelius Scipio: HEC CEPIT CORSICA(M) ALERIA
(M)QUE URBEM: CIL
1.32). In 81 Aleria
, which had
resisted Sulla, became a military colony. First Caesar,
then Augustus made new settlements and the town took
the name of Colonia Veneria Julia Pacensis Restituta
. Augustus established a detachment
of the Misenum fleet there. The development of the
port of Ostia led little by little to the economic decline
, but it remained the political and administrative capital of Corsica under the Empire.
The town and its vicinity have been systematically explored since 1955. The first phase of occupation of the
site by the Phokaians has left no remains except for a
stratigraphic level found in deep test pits made under
the Roman town. It corresponds to the 6th c. B.C. and
is characterized by sherds of Ionian, Phokaian, Rhodian,
and Attic black-figure ware. Neither the dwellings nor
the tombs of this period have been brought to light as
yet. However, the excavation of the necropolis of Casabianda, whose access road has been cleared, has permitted the discovery of tombs cut into the rock. They include a dromos, an antechamber (sometimes double),
and a chamber furnished with benches. Low brick walls
blocked the entrances. Some of these tombs retain traces
of pictorial decoration. The oldest goes back to the end
of the archaic or the beginning of the Classical period.
The grave goods include works of the very first rank:
jewels, weapons, metal artifacts, bronze and ceramic
plates and dishes—in particular, Attic cups, rhytons,
kraters with little columns, etc. They are decorated by
artists such as the painters of Pan, Alkimakos, Kalliope,
Myson, and many others. They are all exceptional works
which are not found in such abundance except on the
largest Etruscan sites, and can be seen in the Aleria
In addition to the Casabianda necropolis, others prove
the continuity of occupation. No break appears in the
material from the 5th c. B.C. until the 3d or 4th c. A.D.
Even more, the enormous quantity and high value of
the grave goods show that before the Roman conquest
Alalia was a center of importance. Further excavations
should permit the extrication of the sites and architecture of the Greek and Hellenistic town. At the same
time, they should provide an answer to a difficult problem: what importance should be assigned to an Etruscan
presence, attested until now only by a very small proportion of the finds and by graffiti still under study.
The Roman town (no doubt like the earlier settlements) grew up on a plateau ca. 3 km long. At its foot
the river Tavignano describes a large curve, and the
commercial port was established inside this elbow. In
relation to the port a mansio was created, the baths of
which have been discovered (the so-called Baths of
Santa Laurina). The war fleet anchored in the pool of
The Roman colony is still only incompletely excavated. A part of the ramparts is visible to the W, on
both sides of the Praetorian Gate which passed over
the decumanus. This last has been followed until it
crosses the cardo just outside the forum on its S side.
The forum has the shape of a slightly irregular trapezoid
92 m long, orientated E-W. After its founding by Sulla,
it underwent numerous rearrangements.
The E side is occupied by a temple, whose podium
in opus incertum has survived. Probably it was a Temple
to Augustus and Rome (an inscription to a flamen of
Caracalla), and raised in the time of Hadrian. The N
and S sides of the square are adorned with porticos
with brick columns. The W ends of the porticos stand
against two monuments of uncertain nature (a small
temple to the N and an office of the aediles to the S ?).
Near them are two arches: a S arch marking the beginning of the cardo and a second one, to the N and
orientated to the W, which gives access to the praetorium. This edifice occupies all of the W part of the
forum, to a depth of about 50 m. There are three porticos surrounding a vast central court with a complex
system of basins, cisterns, and nymphaea. The NW corner contained chambers possibly used as strong rooms.
The W portico was altered at a late date in order to
permit the construction of a new tribunal.
Several buildings have been excavated outside the
forum. The most important of these is located N of the
praetorium and stands 5 m higher than it. It includes
two large cisterns, chambers adorned with mosaics,
tabernae, and bath pools with hypocausts. Tradition
places the apartments of the governor there; it is certain that this bath could not have been public. Perhaps
it was the theater of the events reported by Tacitus
. 2.16), the assassination in the baths of the procurator Decimus Pacarius. To the W was an establishment which included many basins and contained an enormous quantity of shells; it must have been a preserving and salting factory. North of the Temple of
Augustus and Rome, the so-called House of the Dolium
has been excavated. Its oldest level has pavings of opus
signinum decorated with white lapilli and goes back to
the period of Sulla. A second level dates to the 1st c.
A.D. and contains the outline of a house with a peristyle.
South of the temple another house (the House of the
Impluvium) has been only partly excavated. Also noteworthy are the foundations of a small Early Christian
chapel with an apse, on top of the remains of the N
portico and virtually touching the temple. Other monuments have been identified but not cleared. Notable examples are the amphitheater, near the S gate of the
ramparts, and a mausoleum situated outside the W
sector of the fortifications.
In the modern village the fort of Matra contains the
museum, where the rich collections from the necropoleis
and the products of the excavations in the town are
J. Jehasse, Aleria grecque et romaine,
Hist. et visite des fouilles
; id., “Les fouilles d'Aleria: le
plateau et ses problèmes,” Gallia
21 (1963); “Chroniques arch.,” Gallia
, since 1958; J. & J. Jehasse “La nécropole préromaine d'Aleria,” Gallia
, Suppl. 25 (1973).